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Another Blast of Winter in a Frigid Fall; Kim Jong Un Executes Uncle; FCC Votes to Consider Phones; Montana Newlywed Pleads Guilty; Mega Anticipation

Aired December 13, 2013 - 08:00   ET




It's Friday, December 13th, 8:00 in the East, Chris is having his breakfast.

We're going to begin, though, with what's expected to be a wet, snowy weekend, a winter storm expected to dump snow across a thousand-mile swathe of the country, from the Midwest to the Northeast.

Let's get straight over to Indra Petersons to look at the tracks.

INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: This is where I do no make a friend. This is the weekend, guys. And more snow is headed our way. And yes, even more of that Arctic blast.

Look at these temperatures again this morning, so many of you below freezing. If that's not bad enough, here comes the snow and the wind.


PETERSONS (voice-over): It's a third round of wintry weather for the Midwest and the Northeast this morning.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's been one storm after another.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Frigid wind chills that were as low as 31 below in parts of the area last night.

PETERSONS: Another blast of biting cold and lake-effect snow on the way.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This has been constant all day.

PETERSONS: Already walloping towns like Hamburg, New York, and causing multiple trucks to overturn on this Buffalo, New York, highway.

The icy roads even causing a 40-car pile-up in Michigan.

Take a look at this police dash cam video, a semi hitting the cruiser, another SUV near colliding.

A develop storm will bring a wintry mix of freezing rain and sleet across the Mississippi Valley to the East Coast. As it moves into the Ohio Valley and Great Lakes region, it will change over to snow. Cities like Pittsburgh, New York and Boston anticipating more snow this weekend.

In Milwaukee, it's so frigid kids are believe it or not running into school to beat the chill. Reporters following their lead.

JONAH KAPLAN, WTMJ REPORTER: Kids about to arrive here at Racine, one degree outside wind-chill below zero. If you're 7-year-old or 27, I'm still going to listen to my mother.


PETERSONS: Yes, we're definitely talking about the winter storm impacting the Northeast, all the way back to the Midwest. Last models have really kind of upped these numbers. We're going to give you full details what to expect and the timing of this coming up in a few minutes -- Kate and Chris.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, Indra.

CUOMO: All right. So, we're going from the weather and going to another situation you need to hear about going on in North Korea, a shocking development. Leader Kim Jong-un just executed his own uncle.

Now, this comes from the state media. They announced this occurrence of an execution, calling the former top official despicable human scum and a traitor.

Chief national security correspondent Jim Sciutto is in Washington with the latest.

Good morning, Jim.


Certainly, harrowing to watch this situation. There have been shakeups at the top of North Korea before, but never so senior and certainly not a close relative of the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. North Korea unpredictable on any day, but now, real fears about political instability at the very top.


SCIUTTO (voice-over): A family feud ends in a spectacular fall for the second most powerful man in North Korea. Jang Song Thaek, senior general, uncle and mentor of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, executed, only days after he was dramatically arrested on national television, accused of corruption, drug use, gambling, womanizing and attempting to overthrow the government.

Here he is again in a picture a few feet away from his nephew, then in another image erased.

State Department spokesperson Marie Harf said, "We have no reason to doubt the official state media report. This is another example of the extreme brutality of the North Korean regime."

It is also a shocking example of deep instability at the very top of this nuclear armed dictatorship, coming a year after Kim deposed another senior military leader.

VICTOR CHA, CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: If you cannot trust your number one and number two man in the system, that clearly means you don't trust anybody. And to me, that's not a good sign.

SCIUTTO: Still, proving the North's supreme unpredictability, only last week, the leadership delivered a surprisingly positive gesture -- releasing American Merrill Newman from detention, though not before the Korean War veteran made a forced confession on state television.

MERRILL NEWMAN, KOREAN WAR VETERAN: I understand that in U.S. and Western countries, there is misleading information and propaganda about DPRK.

SCIUTTO: North Korea is holding another American, Kenneth Bae, arrested last year and sentenced to 15 years of hard labor.


SCIUTTO: Now, concerns about other ways that North Korea may lash out in response to this instability to show its strength, fears about another nuclear test, possibly an attack on South Korean forces, now the Defense Department so far telling us they have not seen any movement of North Korean forces yet. But the South Korean government held a special national security meeting this morning. They are watching this closely as is the U.S., as in China, a lot of real concern in that region right now, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Understandably. So, Jim Sciutto, thank you so much.

Now, the ban on cell phones, on planes, is up for review. The Federal Communication Commission opening up the possibility, saying phones don't interfere with technology on planes, but that doesn't mean everyone is happy about it. So, will the Department of Transportation step in?

Rene Marsh is joining us with much more on this.

A lot of people want to know the outcome of this one, Rene.


You know, the FCC wanted to serve up controversy, congratulations, it did. The commission just voted to consider ending its ban on cell use in flight, like voice calls, as well as texting. Now, shortly after that vote, multiple lawmakers, they chimed in saying bad idea. Now, there's a bill in both the Senate and the House aimed at blocking in-flight calls. Some airlines have already said voice calls are a no go and the feeling is this would be a nuisance. Some say potentially leading to fist fights in the air, but on the same day that the FCC made this move, the Department of Transportation said they're considering imposing a ban on cell calls mid-air.

The two agencies have different priorities. The FCC focuses on technology. DOT, safety in the skies, Kate.

BOLDUAN: So, Rene, what is the reality flyers need to expect here? What should flyers be looking at?

MARSH: Well, essentially for the flyer, it simply means don't start dialing just yet. Ultimately, the DOT sets aviation rules, so it has the final say, and they made it very clear that they're listening to customers who don't want to hear phone chatter on their flight. But here is an important distinction, the FCC could lift its ban on cell calls and texting and the DOT could impose a ban on in-flight calls.

In the end, it may just be that flyers will only be allowed to text -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: All right. We will see. Thanks, Rene.

MARSH: Sure.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: All right. It is seven minutes after the hour. Let's give you a look at your headlines.

Robert Levinson, the retired FBI agent who went missing in Iran in 2007 was, in fact, working for the CIA. "The Associated Press" and "The Washington Post" reporting he was working undercover gathering intelligence for the State Department and Levinson's family had longed denied that he was working for the U.S. government when he vanished.

A presidential advisory panel says the NSA's phone call data collection should continue, but it says it should do so under broad intended to increase privacy. It also recommends that White House officials, including President Obama, review the list of foreign leaders who are routinely monitored. The report also argues in favor of codifying and publicly announcing how the U.S. protects foreign citizens' privacy.

The House has given its approval to a bill increasing pay for service members and changing the way the military handles sexual assault cases. This vote was overwhelming, 350-69. It gives the troops a 1 percent salary increase. It also strips military commanders the power to overturn jury convictions in sexual assault cases. It's unclear if the Senate will also approve that bill.

Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius heading to Florida today continuing her efforts to talk up the health care overhaul. She's set to take part in a discussion about the Affordable Care Act and encourage people to sign up for coverage through This is Sebelius' third health care related visit to Florida in the last four months.

Well, Prince Harry has done it. He has successfully reached the South Pole. He and his expedition team which included injured servicemen and women just completed that grueling 200-mile journey. The competitive aspect of the trek was scrapped last week because of safety concerns, so they did it out of the spirit of collaboration. We're very proud of them and thoroughly impressed. You look at the conditions there.

BOLDUAN: Congratulations.

CUOMO: And a great message as well.

PEREIRA: Great message. And now, I bet they feel like they can overcome anything.

CUOMO: That's exactly right, and that they're cold.

PEREIRA: Yes, they're also cold. They need hot chocolate.

CUOMO: All right. A story for you now, a New York college student is dead after a suspected hazing ritual. Prosecutors are saying charges will be filed. Thirty students are being questioned in the death of 19-year-old freshman who suffered fatal injuries from major head trauma.

CNN's Fred Pleitgen joins us with that.

Fred, great to have you on the show. What do we know this?

FRED PLEITGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you know, you really wonder what goes on in these people's heads when they go through these hazing rituals. Lot of the details came out late last night. It appears they were engaged in the glass ceiling, where the young man got hurt.

And two of the things that we've been able to found out, is that first of all, a lot of these guys aren't really trying to help authorities, and the other thing is it took them a very long time to get this young man any sort of help and now, the authorities are trying to find out how that lack of help might have contributed to his death.


PLEITGEN (voice-over): It happened at this house in eastern Pennsylvania, Chun Hsieh Deng (ph), who also went by the name Michael, ran a gauntlet, blind-folded and with a heavyweight on his back, while other fraternity members tried to tackle him. It's a ritual known as glass ceiling.

Nineteen-year-old Deng suffered a head injury during the ordeal and became unresponsive, but his would-be brothers never called an ambulance, the Pocono Mountains Police chief tells CNN.

CHIEF HARRY LEWIS, POCONO MOUNTAIN REGIONAL OFFICE: There was a delay of some of his fraternity brothers taking him to the hospital, which is another 40 minutes away. So we can say a minimum of at least two hours went by before he actually received any type of medical care.

PLEITGEN: He later died. Those allegedly involved were members of the Pi Delta Psi fraternity at Baruch College in New York City.

Authorities say more than 30 members had traveled to the Pocono Mountains for a fraternity trip.

Students say they're shocked.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've heard good things about them. I'm surprised one of their members got hurt, I mean killed.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's terrible to get into something that means brotherhood resulted in that. You know, why do you have to prove yourself to call someone your friend or your brother?

PLEITGEN: Baruch College says it has a zero tolerance policy for so- called hazing rituals and in a statement, Phi Delta Psi's leadership says, "This incident occurred at an unsanctioned event that was strictly prohibited by our organization. As a result of this incident we are immediately suspending all new member education nationwide until further notice."

Both the college and the fraternity say they're cooperating with law enforcement, something some of those present at the evening in the incident did not do according to the police chief.

LEWIS: Prior to us getting to the location there were some people who left the scene and we are asking them to come forward to provide us with the information to help us figure out exactly what happened.

PLEITGEN: The district attorney tells CNN he believes criminal charge will likely be pressed in the case.


PLEITGEN: So you have criminal charges on the one hand and also of course the college and the fraternity themselves are going to also take disciplinary action, but you really wonder what goes on in these people's heads. I mean, it's just -- these rituals are so dumb, not a lot at that point definitely. Certainly, yes.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, Fred. Thanks so much.

CUOMO: All right. Coming up on NEW DAY, a stunning change of strategy from the Montana woman who pushed her husband off a cliff. We can call her that because she just admitted it, what we can call her is a killer. She changed her plea. We're going to talk to a legal analyst about why this happened, and what will it mean going forward.

BOLDUAN: Also, ahead, it is a $400 million prize. But the odds that you'll win, not in your favor. And unfortunately, it seems getting worse. But someone's going to win eventually. Keep hope alive.

More on the mega millions jackpot, coming up. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BOLDUAN: Welcome back to NEW DAY.

A stunning turn of events. After saying it was an accident, the woman accused of pushing her new husband to his death off a cliff pleaded guilty Thursday. So, why did she finally admit it? Here's CNN's Kyung Lah with more.


KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Jordan Graham, a former bride now inmate with her sentencing only months away. In a last- minute deal, Graham pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in exchange for dropping a first-degree murder charge. She came clean before the federal judge about what really happened the day her husband died at Glacier National Park.

She and the man she'd married just eight days earlier, Cody Johnson, got into a heated argument. Graham said she told her new husband that she wasn't feeling like a happy newlywed. Facing the cliff, Graham says Johnson grabbed her arm. She said "let go." Then, she pushed him, one hand on his shoulder, one hand on his back, face first off the cliff.

"I wasn't thinking of where we were," Graham told the judge. "It was a reckless act. I just pushed." Graham says she left her dead husband at the bottom of the sheer cliff without telling anyone "because I was so scared."

This is a young girl who made some poor choices, you still hold that belief?


LAH: The defense says Graham is a young girl who made poor choices in the wake of her wedding. The prosecutors believe Johnson's death was premeditated. Graham plotted to kill her husband because she regretted getting married. In court, when Graham uttered the word "guilty," her former mother-in-law wept, her parents remained silent, leaving the courthouse, their daughter in the custody of U.S. marshals.

Officers cuffed Jordan Graham in the courtroom, while Johnson's friends held hands and shook their heads in satisfaction. They left the federal court house saying few but powerful words.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: God will take care of it.

LAH: As will a judge when she's sentenced in March.

Kyung Lah, CNN, Missoula, Montana.


CUOMO: That's the big consideration now. Now that the plea has been entered, what will it mean? Let's bring in HLN legal analyst, Joey Jackson. Great to have you. So, we understand that you take a plea because you believe it will help you in the sentencing side. What do you think happens here?

JOEY JACKSON, HLN LEGAL ANALYST: You know what happens, you always have to balance the exposure. Whenever you're representing someone, look, there's a risk that things could go poorly. This is a young woman, Chris, 23 years old. And of course, under mandatory sentencing guidelines to risk a first-degree murder conviction where she'd spend the rest of her life in jail is significant.

And so, what happens is, as a defense attorney, perhaps you speak to the prosecutor, you say what really happened here, would not second- degree murder be more appropriate, wasn't this a reckless act at the end of the day and 20 years or something thereabout. It's up to the judge. Of course, the judge could give her life but isn't that more appropriate here and that's what happens after you balance the equities.

BOLDUAN: You had said all along as we were talking about this, that the defense did have a pretty decent case in talking about the intent, that the prosecution couldn't prove that she intended to completely -- to kill him to push him off the cliff like that.


BOLDUAN: Do you think this proves that?

JACKSON: You know what, Kate, you never know because you never know what happened and what was in her mind at that particular time and of course, intent could be formed in an instant. But when you look at everything, certainly, if you can establish intent, you could establish that it's reckless.

BOLDUAN: The prosecution thought maybe they didn't have a strong --

JACKSON: Exactly. Right, because, you know what, in the event that the prosecution believed and Kate you and I spoke about this, in the event the prosecution thought it was intent. It was absolutely slam dunk. They would have said no plea deal. We're on the trial. We'll go to closing argument. Let a jury determine that.

And so, therefore, for them, the prosecution, they get a win, they get a conviction, they do justice for the family. They do justice for the victim. And of course, the victim, you know, never coming back, but the defendant gets the benefit of someday seeing the light of day again.

PEREIRA: I was thinking about the fact that if it had gone to trial, she would have had to take the stand, right?

JACKSON: You know what -- you know what happened, she didn't decide to take the stand and I was questioning that, Michaela, I really was. And here's why. I would think that you would want to for a number of reasons acknowledge your lies and explain your lies, explain the circumstances surrounding the relationship. PEREIRA: She lied so many times throughout this.

JACKSON: Exactly.


JACKSON: And that would be the problem because she would be savaged under cross-examination, but at the end of the day, the jury wants to see a defendant talk about exactly what happened and to the extent that you don't do it, it damages you. But you know what, when all said and done, I think it's the right result. I do.

CUOMO: Oh what a tangled web we weave --

JACKSON: When first we practice to deceive. Yes.

CUOMO: Should we give a little bit of a nod to the initial investigators here, because if you think about it, this scenario was right out of a novel because it created a situation where she could have said, I didn't do this.


CUOMO: Somebody got her to make admissions early on that yes, she would wind up crossing over and creating different stories, but she could have just stuck to I didn't do it.

JACKSON: That's right. And even more so than that, she could have said nothing, right? And if she said nothing, then of course, you're left to piece together an investigation really circumstantially and the fact that she even opened her mouth, that the investigators goaded her into doing that I think is a big bonus for them and ultimately prove that to be very compelling for the prosecution's argument to solve this case and resolve it.

BOLDUAN: How much time is she going to serve?

JACKSON: You know what, it's up to the judge, Kate. But she could do up to life under the statute. It's highly unlikely. There are federal sentencing guidelines. But think about this, even if she gets 20, anything less than life is a win here. So, consider it a win.

PEREIRA: You've seen a lot of things in your time. Have you ever seen anything -- this one has had so many of us scratch -- eight days after their wedding.


BOLDUAN: We talked about that. It was in federal court because this happened at a national park and Sunny was making the case that the federal prosecutors there are moving right ahead.

JACKSON: It's really crazy. People do very interesting things, very malicious things before the wedding, during the wedding, after the wedding, but this is very strange. CUOMO: This could have been very rough with a jury because it would have played to somebody doing something selfish for all the wrong reasons.

JACKSON: Absolutely. And you never know, Chris, what a jury is going to do. And who knows? You can speak to that jury afterwards and you could really ask them what was on their mind, what were they thinking about in order to poll them to get a sense of what's what, but when they're back in that deliberation room, maybe they acquit her or maybe they convict her of first-degree murder which is why this wasn't such a bad deal after all.

CUOMO: What do you think? Of course, you're not as good as Joey Jackson, but it doesn't mean --


JACKSON: -- better.


CUOMO: Tweet us and use the hash tag, NEW DAY.

BOLDUAN: All right. Coming up next on NEW DAY, Mark Zuckerberg goes one-on-one with CNN. Find out why he's taking on the NSA.

CUOMO: And winning the $400 million mega millions jackpot tonight, of course, of course you know it's not the best chance in the world. They want me to tell you that your chances have gotten worse. I won't tell you. I believe in the dollar and a dream, I believe, but we'll take you through how the game has changed a little bit you want to know before you buy the ticket.


PEREIRA: And welcome back. Time now for the five things to know for your NEW DAY.


PEREIRA (voice-over): Another round of snow is on the way for the weekend. States from Missouri to Maine all in the path of that storm which could leave some areas in a foot of snow.

The bipartisan budget deal designed to prevent another government shutdown sailed through the House Thursday. The Senate will take it up next week.

Mixed messages from Washington over in-flight cell phone calls. The FCC voted to consider lifting its 22-year ban while transportation officials moved to implement their own ban.

We're now being told Prince Harry is close to the finish line. It was thought he made it to the South Pole already. Not quite there yet. He and his expedition team expected to reach it today. Overnight, Beyonce stunning the music world and her fans by announcing and dropping her new self-titled album at the very same time. It's creating quite a stir online. Check it out.


We're always updating those five things to know, so be sure to go to for the very latest -- Chris and Kate.

CUOMO: All right. Mich, someone may be hours away from being $400 million richer. Anticipation is high for tonight's mega millions drawing. Your odds of winning the prize, you don't need me to tell you that they're kind of small, but they're even smaller than in previous drawings. Why? Pamela Brown joins us from Times Square with the inside scoop. Pamela, tell us why are the chances getting worse, not better?

PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, here's some tough love, Chris. It's harder than ever to win the mega millions jackpot because the changes that were recently put into place in October. In fact, that is a big reason why this jackpot has rolled over 20 times and has now climbed to $400 million, the fifth largest jackpot in U.S. history, by the way. But even if the odds aren't so much in your favor, you still have a one in 15 chance of winning something.


BROWN (voice-over): The frenzy more mega millions tickets is reaching a fever pitch. $400 million at stake, the second largest jackpot in the game's history as players dreaming what they would do if they win.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want to be a millionaire.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'd be partying like a rock star.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Early retirement.

BROWN: Recent changes to the mega millions have inflated jackpots and they're attracting more customers to play. But the odds of winning are significantly lower after the revamp in October, that's because the five winning numbers increased to a total of 75 white balls instead of 56, and the number of gold mega balls decreased from 46 to only 15, making it that much harder to win the big prize. Chances of winning the jackpot went from one in 175 million to one in 259 million.

KEVIN ALLEXON, MEGA MILLION HOPEFUL: I saw on the news there's, you know, a list of things that are more likely to happen than winning the lottery, being struck by lightning was one of them, but hopefully, I can beat the odds.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Someone's going to be lucky, and I think it's going to be me.

BROWN: If those odds seem impossible, that's because, so far, they have been. No one has won the big prize since the switch. The last jackpot winner, a Maryland man who chose to remain anonymous. He bought a winning ticket at this store on October 1st. He matched all the numbers winning $186 million. Since then, 20 drawings and no winner.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good luck to you.


BROWN: Some good news, the minimum second prize won by hitting all numbers except the mega ball jumping from a quarter million dollars to one million. Even more enticing, jackpots are growing larger and faster. The minimum jackpot rose to 15 million from 12, guaranteed to increase by at least five million after each drawing without a winner.

VICTOR MATHESON, ECONOMICS PROFESSOR AT COLLEGE OF THE HOLY CROSS: We could see maybe in the next several years, maybe an elusive billion dollar jackpot.


BROWN (on-camera): So, we're going to find out tonight if there will be a winner. The drawing is at 11:00 p.m. eastern time in Atlanta. You can bet a lot of people are going to be paying attention to that. By the way, worth noting, it is Friday the 13th, known by a lot of people as an unlucky day, especially those who were superstitious, but we did go back and check and there have been winners on this day.