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Interview With Mike Tyson; Judge Rules NSA Phone Surveillance Unconstitutional; Family Demands FBI Meeting

Aired December 16, 2013 - 16:00   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: When a gunman burst into his school, our first guest wrote down what he feared would be his final words on this earth.

I'm Jake Tapper. This is THE LEAD.

The national lead: As shots rang out, he scrawled a goodbye note to his family on the only stationary available, his own hand. A student from Arapahoe High School will talk to us about the 30 seconds that changed his life and the lives of so many others.

Also in national news, you don't like it, too bad. That seems to have been the prevailing attitude in Washington ever since we learned that the NSA has been collecting in bulk phone and e-mail records, but will it have to stop now after the program suffered a major legal blow today?

And the sports lead. You can already know he can tell you what Evander Holyfield's ear tastes like. But did you know he tried voodoo to keep himself out of jail? I will go a few verbal rounds with Iron Mike Tyson, who's got some interesting things cooking these days.

Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to THE LEAD.

We will begin with the national lead.

Eighty seconds of sheer terror forever changed the lives of students and teachers at a Colorado high school. Police say that's how long it took 18-year-old Karl Pierson to ambush the halls of Arapahoe High, shooting a 17-year-old student and igniting a Molotov cocktail before taking his own life.

Those seconds no doubt felt like an eternity for anyone who saw Pierson try to carry out his rampage. Since Friday's shooting, we have learned that Pierson was a bright student, an athlete and even a Boy Scout, but some say he was also a self-proclaimed communist who made no secret of his political views.

There are still very few clues as to what may have pushed him over the edge, but over the weekend, investigators learned that he may have been targeting a librarian, his debate team coach, who had punished him.

Pierson never got to exact his revenge on his intended target, but he did shoot a fellow student at point-blank range, 17-year-old Claire Davis, who was sitting with a friend when she was shot in the head. She's now in a fight for her life at a Littleton hospital.

Joining me is CNN's Ana Cabrera, live from Centennial, Colorado.

Ana is standing near a tribute for Claire that has been growing over the past few days.

Ana, any updates on her condition?

ANA CABRERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Jake, everybody is just waiting, hoping for some kind of good news.

At last check, Claire Davis is still in critical condition. We're told she is stable, but she remains in a coma with severe head trauma. A lot of the folks we have been talking to today tell us they just feel helpless, they want to do more for Claire, so that's what's bringing them here to Arapahoe High School, where you can see this beautiful tribute to her, a sign here that they have made out of styrofoam cups that says "Pray for Claire" with a big heart on the end.

You can see they have brought flowers. Students and community members have brought candles and have lit those at night. They have also posted signs and notes that are like this one that say "Pray for Claire, warrior strong." It's interesting that warrior, that is the mascot of Arapahoe High School.

Clearly, that has never been more fitting or more meaningful than it is at this moment. The friends of Claire we have been talking to them describe her as somebody who is really well-loved. She was a great student and athlete, they say, and listen to this.


KARRIE MCCORKLE, STUDENT: Claire was just that person that you could always go to for help. She always had a bright smile on her face, was always there for anyone.

She had the biggest passion for her horse. She always, always talked about her horse.


CABRERA: Now, I want to read you a statement from the family who has asked for privacy during this difficult time.

They say: "The first responders got Claire to the right place at the right time. The doctors and the hospital staff are doing a wonderful job taking care of her." It says, "We appreciate your continued good thoughts and prayers and we will provide updates as her condition improves."

So there is a sense of optimism that people are holding on to. And even total strangers are really trying to send that positive energy in Claire's direction. We are seeing social media really light up with thoughts, with prayers, with well-wishes for Claire and her family all over Facebook and Twitter. In fact, there's a new campaign on Twitter in which the community is trying to get the boy band One Direction to come and visit Claire in the hospital. Apparently, that's her favorite band. And so you will see the hash tag #get1DtoClaire, again, in Claire's honor and as a tribute to her during this very difficult time -- Jake.

TAPPER: Ana Cabrera, thank you so much.

One survivor of the shooting is now telling his harrowing story. Matt Bowers, a student at Arapahoe High, was sitting in his world literature class when he heard the first gunshot. He joins me now.

Matt, you were visiting the tribute to Claire last night, visiting, putting up -- giving flowers, but let's talk about the event itself. You wrote in your blog post that your entire life had changed in the course of 30 seconds. Tell me about that 30 seconds and the note that you wrote on your hand.

What did it say?

MATT BOWERS, WITNESS: Yes, of course.

Well, it's just -- it's just so crazy that in that 30 seconds -- really, it was just a normal day when it all started. The first loud bang we heard from the hallway, we didn't really quite know what it was. We all just kind of looked outside the door and we were -- we were just wondering if someone dropped something really heavy in the hallway or, really, it was like -- it was just a really loud sound, a big bang.

So I didn't think too much of it at that point, until a few seconds later, I heard two more shots. And that's when everybody knew what was going on. I remember I looked at my teacher's face and it just became completely pale, and really, all that we did is, we just rushed to the corner of the classroom away from the doors and the window.

So we just really tried to climb to safety as fast as we could. I know I was climbing over desks to get to the corner. And, really, it's just -- I didn't know what was going on. It was really an instinct I kind of had just to get myself to safety. And, really, at the end of that 30 seconds, I was thinking, this is really happening. Like, this isn't a joke, especially when they said, this is an immediate lockdown over the intercom.

So, really, what I was thinking is, what's going on, what's going to happen to me? And I have never had such a -- just such a frightening experience in my life before like that. So, it just really kind of changed -- it really changed how I looked at my life and just my whole perspective on what life is and -- I don't know. It was just...


TAPPER: And one of the most moving things in the blog post you wrote was, later, when you were at a safe location, the local church, you looked down at your hand and you realized you had written a note to your family. Do you remember what it said? BOWERS: Right. Yes, oh, vividly, I remember.

It said: "Family, I love you all so much." And I underlined the "so much" because I really meant it. And then under that, I wrote, "I'm up here now," and I drew a little cross because I'm a Christian. And that's where I really genuinely thought I was headed if Karl happened to stumble into our classroom and actually ended it all for -- end it for all of us, really.

TAPPER: You thought that -- it's just so chilling to even think about that you're writing a note on your body for your parents to read if you're killed. It's so horrific. Do you remember writing it?

BOWERS: Honestly, I vaguely remember it.

I just remember, that moment, I was praying. And, actually, I felt around my pockets to see what I was carrying, and I found that I was carrying a pen with me, a ballpoint pen, and I -- that morning, I didn't really tell my family I loved them or anything like that. So I wrote "I love you" on my hand just so that they knew I was thinking about them and I was praying for them.

And, actually, ever since the shooting, I have been carrying the pen in my pocket the whole time. This is the one I used to write the note on my hand.

TAPPER: Well, Matt, we're so glad that you later that day were able to tell your parents you love them in person. Thank you so much for sharing your story with us. We appreciate it.

BOWERS: Yes, of course.

TAPPER: After every shooting, like the one in Colorado, we in the media and in society, we ask the same two questions. Why and could this have been prevented?

Often, we seek those answers from the parents of the killer and quite often, those answers, well, frankly, they are not forthcoming. The parents often go into hiding. Some people get angry at the parents. Nancy Lanza was one of her son's victims, but she was also the one who connected him with guns and who watched his emotional disintegration into a pit of violence and anger.

What of Adam Lanza's dad? We have heard nothing from him. What about the Klebolds or Harrises, the parents of the Columbine shooters? What about the Piersons?

In the book "Far From the Tree: Parents, Children and the Search for Identity," author Andrew Solomon interviewed the parents of Dylan Klebold from Columbine, interviewed multiple times over seven years.

And Mr. Solomon joins me now from New York.

Thanks for being here.

You have studied hundreds of families who encounter a wide range of issues with their children. How much should we hold the parents of these teen killers accountable?

ANDREW SOLOMON, AUTHOR, "FAR FROM THE TREE": I think it's very comforting to hold the parents of the killers accountable. It makes us feel like the situation can be controlled.

But I think it's often misguided. Some of these kids come from very disturbed homes, but many of them have extremely loving parents who are trying to pay close attention to them. Certainly, with the Klebolds, they were really quite wonderful parents and they had no idea what was going on inside their son's head.

TAPPER: Well, you spent a lot of time with the parents of Dylan Klebold, the mother, Sue, told you that -- quote -- "What I have learned from being an outcast since the tragedy has given me insight in what it must have felt like for my son to be marginalized. He created a version of his reality for us, to be pariahs, unpopular, with no means to defend ourselves against those who hate us."

So talk to us about what they're going through and what you have learned about their relationship with Dylan before the shooting. I think a lot of us have a tough time imagining that there were no warning signs at all.

SOLOMON: I think they had a very loving relationship with Dylan and that he appeared to be an adolescent who was a little angsty and that they had moments of thinking that he was struggling a little bit, but nothing major, nothing serious, and certainly nothing that was threatening to other people.

If they were concerned about anything, they were concerned that he was himself sad and might be a little bit depressed. And after it took place, they were in a state of complete shock. It was inconceivable to them that the child they knew would be capable of such a thing.

TAPPER: So, let's turn to the parents of Adam Lanza.

Last week, I spoke to Nicole Hockley, who lost her son Dylan at Newtown last year. I asked her what she made of the evidence that Nancy Lanza, the mother, had kept guns in the house and had even provided her son with weapons. Here's her response.


NICOLE HOCKLEY, MOTHER OF NEWTOWN VICTIM: I believe that the Sandy Hook shooting could have been avoided if proper intervention had been made, if he and his family had received help, had sought help, and had received help at an earlier stage.


TAPPER: Obviously, each one of these tragic stories is separate and distinct. What do you make of Nancy Lanza and her involvement with her son, providing him with guns, allowing him to fester in this cocoon of hatred in his room? Does she bear any responsibility for what happened at Sandy Hook?

SOLOMON: Well, look, what happened at Sandy Hook was an unspeakable tragedy, as these events are tragedies.

I think it's clear if she had thought that he was dangerous, she would not have left the guns sitting out since he used one of them to kill her and she presumably didn't want that to happen. I think she was bewildered by her own child.

We all like to think that we know our children, that we know their inner lives, but people keep secrets from their parents. People keep all kinds of secrets. The Lanzas actually did seek help. They went to a number of psychiatrists with Adam, mostly because he had Asperger's syndrome. And they were trying to figure out how to help him to function.

None of the professionals who saw him ever picked up on the possibility that he could pose an acute danger to anyone else or to himself.

TAPPER: Andrew Solomon, with insights into what it's like being a parent of one of these teen killers, thank you so much for your time.

SOLOMON: Thank you.

TAPPER: Coming up on THE LEAD: He was paid millions to throw punches and he did not always keep it in the ring. Is this a kinder, gentler Mike Tyson? My interview with him next.

And, see, this is why the NSA prefers to deal with a secret court, a federal judge making a potentially landmark ruling about your privacy. Will your phone records and e-mail records be safe from prying eyes now?


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

In our sports lead, the saga of Iron Mike Tyson has been one of the more infuriating and tragic and upsetting in American sports in the last quarter century. From a rags-to-riches heavyweight champion success story, to convicted rapist, to ear-biting mess, Tyson is now attempting a new act in his life, something no one saw coming on the streets of Brownsville back in the warriors days.

Iron Mike Tyson is now an author, working with co-author Larry Sloman of "Mike Tyson: Undisputed Truth", telling his story with a bare knuckle honesty that's both tragedy and comedy.


TAPPER: Thanks for joining us, champ. Appreciate it.

So, a new book.


TAPPER: Very thick.


TAPPER: The "Undisputed Truth." And Broadway show, HBO special, you're going to start boxing promoting.


TAPPER: What's the goal here? Is this just a redemption? Is this just the next phase of your life? What are you hoping for?

TYSON: No, I don't want anything. I want to entertain people.

I don't believe in redemption. No one can redeem themselves. It's either they want to change their lifestyle or they don't. There's no such thing as we want to redeem myself. We don't forget what happened in the past. People always say forget, forget that, forget that, but we never forget, do we? We never forget.

TAPPER: The incredibly difficult childhood that you write about, you had gotten into robbing people when you were 7. You really had no supervision, nobody teaching you right from wrong.

TYSON: The people that was over my house, you know, they were pretty much into the fast street life. I realized that was -- that was the life I was into, that was my house pretty much. Even though they were nice people, they came across as nice people, they always were into some kind of vice or something.

TAPPER: How does it shape you mentally as an athlete when Cus D'Amato trained you? You were fierce in the ring. You would get into the ring and people were scared of you. Were you channeling the anger that you had from your childhood or was it just something completely different?

TYSON: Well, it could have been that as well, you know? I think a lot of it had to do with that. A great part of it had to do with that because I never wanted to live that life again. And I realized every fight was a decision, if I'm going to go back to that lifestyle or not. I really took competition extremely serious.

It wasn't like most kids, we're going to win a trophy and my parents came, we got pop Warner softball. No. Every fight as a kid was extremely serious, to develop to the next stage of my career, my success as far as becoming a heavyweight champion.

TAPPER: Are you following at all the stories about the kids that do this knockout game? What do you think of it? What do you make of it?

TYSON: I think that's just really some bad stuff, you know? It's really bad and I believe those people should be dealt with. Only thing, I saw one guy and everybody else was women. So, you know, these guys are cowards. I'm not going to base my opinion on what should happen to them but these are really bad people and should be dealt with, the full extent of the law.

TAPPER: You're a complicated guy. You've had real highs and real lows. What do you think has been the highlight of your life so far? Your best moment?

TYSON: I don't know. Maybe getting off drugs, just living my life now, this is the highlight of my life now. Not in jail, I didn't kill anybody, no one killed me, I don't have no complicated life right now.

You know, life is not a bowl of cherries even now, you know?

TAPPER: Why not?

TYSON: Because I'm dealing with life on life's terms. I'm dealing with people, I have different children from different people. So, that's never an easy situation. I'm just happy that my children didn't turn out like I did, you know. There's always a struggle in situations like that.

TAPPER: You said I never killed anybody. It is to a degree, considering how ferocious you were in the ring and some of the troubles you've had with the law, it is kind of amazing that you never killed anyone.

TYSON: Well, it's amazing no one ever killed me, either. It goes both ways. I tried the best of my ability, the last five years, to live my life like a productive citizen in society. Residuals and residue of a life that had so much potential and just didn't reach its highest potential.

TAPPER: You feel like you didn't reach your highest potential?

TYSON: Absolutely not.

TAPPER: You were heavyweight champion of the world.

TYSON: I could have been better.

TAPPER: A better person or better fighter?

TYSON: Both.

TAPPER: You're trying now to be a better person.

TYSON: I am a better person now. I'm not trying. I am. I established that. Life has ups and downs. Anyway, hard times fall upon anybody. If I won the Nobel Peace Prize, still, I have to deal with life on life's terms.

TAPPER: So, at the peak of your career, you were convicted and sent to prison for rape. You talk about it on your Broadway show, that you did not do. In the preface of the book you lay out the case for your innocence, including some harsh words for the judge but you also say about the judge, "The little white woman judge who sent me to prison just might have saved my life."

How did she save your life?

TYSON: Well, I was no longer on the streets getting in trouble. I was just -- I was being very difficult. I was very difficult. I was very confused. I didn't really have a direction, even though I was still at the peak of my game. I just didn't have a direction in life.

And when I went to prison, even though it wasn't like, you know, the happiest moment of my life, I learned some kind of peace. I received some kind of peace. And when I came out, I became more successful than ever before.

TAPPER: What did you learn about yourself in prison?

TYSON: That I could accomplish anything I want and I could change my mind at any time I want, and I don't have to be the person that I once was before. Not necessarily anybody, even right now, I don't have to be this person now. I can change my mind any time I want and be whatever I want to be. I don't have no glass ceilings in my world.

TAPPER: And yet, you came out, you still drank a lot, you still did drugs.


TAPPER: And you're off drugs now.


TAPPER: How much money do you think you spent on drugs? You were an incredibly wealthy man.

TYSON: I don't know. I spent enough.

TAPPER: Millions?

TYSON: I don't think I spent millions on drugs. I wouldn't be here if I spent millions on drugs. I spend some money on drugs. Most of my drugs were free, you know. But yes, I had fun with drugs.

TAPPER: What was the moment that you realized, God, I need to stop doing this?

TYSON: I just had -- I believe when my daughter died when she was 4 years old. I had a 4-year-old daughter that passed away, really mysterious freak accident, and just wanted to stop. I still didn't stop but like a month after that, two months after that, due to the power (ph) of life, it started changing my life.

TAPPER: Was that the worst moment of your life?

TYSON: Yes, the worst moment of my life, yes.

TAPPER: In the documentary, you talk about something Cus told you.


TYSON: You have to face your demons, you hear me, Mike? Because if you don't, they will follow you to eternity. And you remember, Mike, to be careful how you fight your fights, because the way you fight your fights will be the way you live your life.


TAPPER: Are your demons still with you?

TYSON: They never leave. That's why they're demons. Demons don't go anywhere. Not even when exorcism and all that stuff. People tell you it's just ridiculous. Demons stay with you for the rest of your life. It's just (INAUDIBLE) that you have to deal with them.

TAPPER: Well, I wish you peace.

TYSON: Thank you very much.

TAPPER: Thanks for the interview. I appreciate it.


TAPPER: Our thanks to Mike Tyson.

Coming up on THE LEAD: in money, she's Beyonce. That's really all the publicity you're every going to need. Did her new album just change the music game all over again?


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.

In the world lead, for years his family denied that he was working for the CIA, but after reports that OK, yes, American Bob Levinson was indeed working for the agency when he disappeared in Iran back in March of 2007, his family is now demanding a meeting with the new head of the FBI, James Comey, according to ABC News.

Levinson who is now 65 years old, if he's still alive, is a former FBI and DEA agent. He's believed to be the longest held American hostage in history. And his family's attorney tells ABC that they feel Levinson's government has abandoned him.

In a move that seems to put the tiff in pontiff, Pope Francis is taking on some critics, presumably including Rush Limbaugh who says he's preaching Marxism. It all started about a month ago when the pope railed against trickle down economics, saying it does very little to help the poor. That did not sit well with some conservatives. Limbaugh called the pope's comments pure Marxism and, quote, "puzzlingly wrong."

The pope isn't sitting silent on this one. He is tackling the criticism head on.

In an interview yesterday, the pope denied claims that he's a Marxist. He went on to say that talking about economic inequality isn't preaching Marxism, but it's following the social doctrine of the Catholic Church.

Let's check in with our political panel in the green room.

Kevin Madden, yesterday, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan tried to explain an angry outburst from the speaker of the House, saying John just got his Irish up. Can I get a translation for folks at home whose ancestors do not hail from the Emerald Island?

KEVIN MADDEN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, first of all, I don't really get that because I think Boehner is French, right? That's not Irish.

TAPPER: I believe that is -- I believe the correct answer is oui.

MADDEN: But it does remind me of this plaque that my father used to have that defined Irish diplomacy as the ability to tell a man to go to hell so that he looks forward to the trip. I think that might have been it.

TAPPER: I don't know what that means but I like it.

Politics lead coming up next.