Return to Transcripts main page


Harvard All Clear; Celebrities Fight to Free UAE-Imprisoned American; Arapahoe High Remains Closed After Shooting; New Poll Shows Prospective Presidential Candidates' Favorability Rating

Aired December 16, 2013 - 11:00   ET


ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN HOST: Hello, everyone. Welcome to LEGAL VIEW. It is Monday, December 16th, nice to have you here with us as we've been working on breaking news. A bomb threat prompting evacuations at Harvard University this morning and what a busy time for them to be going through this -- final exams. The investigators have evacuated four of the buildings on campus, all of this after receiving a report that there were explosives in those buildings. So final exams for today not happening -- canceled.

Susan Candiotti has been working her sources and they are many and she joins me live now with more. So what are they saying? How serious are they taking this Susan.

SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ashleigh, brand-new information now from Harvard University police to our Alexander Field who was there in the area in Massachusetts.

She's being told that -- let's get this right again -- that they are getting an all-clear, that they are getting an all-clear at the university.

Separately, we had earlier a separate law enforcement source telling us that this appears to be a hoax, but all of this began at around 9:00 or so this morning when a threat was received on campus that there were explosives at four areas, four sites on campus, unconfirmed reports.

But in an abundance of caution, authorities, needless to say, immediately ordered an evacuation on campus. And at this hour, no explosives have been found so those reports are unconfirmed.

Ad now this information we're getting from Harvard police to our Alexander Field is that they are getting an all-clear sign.

Nevertheless, they responded as they should have responded in an abundance of caution to try to track down whether or not indeed there were four explosives on campus and three academic buildings and one was a freshman dorm.

So you had Harvard police responding, Cambridge police, the FBI, the ATF, all part of, of course, a joint terrorism task force who would have responded on campus in any case, and especially, of course, you can imagine that everyone's nerves are on edge following last April's marathon bombing, as well, at the Boston marathon. BANFIELD: Yeah. And not only that, we're only two days past the Newtown anniversary in Connecticut, and we're only three days past what happened in Centennial, Colorado, where a young woman is still clinging to life after someone stormed on to campus with a shotgun.

Susan, I'm not sure I quite understand this. Moments ago, we had hundreds of responders. These are four elaborate buildings, the science center alone, massive. The thought was that it was going to take at least the full day for them to be able to sweep and clear with bomb-sniffing dogs and personnel to make sure that this was a hoax.

And, yet, all of a sudden, I hate to say within minutes, but with within minutes, we're getting an all-clear? Honestly?

CANDIOTTI: Well, it's not really -- It's been more than two hours now, Ashleigh, since they first began responding to the scene now.

And remember, we also don't have the precise information that the authorities have.

We don't know everything about the nature of how this threat was received, what particulars they were given, were they told to look at a particular spot at these locations?

But remember, it's also important to know that final exams were going on at this time, and the point was raised early on, the suggestion, raising the question whether someone might have phoned in this threat or e-mailed in this threat because the fact that exams were going on, because, of course, as soon as it happened, the exams were called off.

So could this be a part of what prompted all of this? We don't know yet.

But, of course, authorities had to respond as a precaution and also take the added step of making sure that they restricted access on campus, Harvard University putting out a statement saying that no one is being allowed on campus unless they have an i.d. with them.

But, at least at this point, finding out that according to Harvard University police, they are getting an all-clear sign right now.

BANFIELD: All right, Susan Candiotti, there's going to be a world of hurt for someone who may have been behind this if they are ever able to ever track down that person.

But what a mess that's caused for the students there --

CANDIOTTI: Absolutely.

BANFIELD: -- who are in finals, for the responders who had to be on site within minutes, hundreds of them, as you've been reporting.

And not only that, all of the students who had to be evacuated to the freshman dining hall, the fear that probably went through many of their minds and their parents --


BANFIELD: -- I might add, very annoying and very frustrating.

CANDIOTTI: I was just going to say that.

BANFIELD: Susan, I guess it's good news, and I thank you for that.

At the same time, extraordinary, nonetheless, Susan Candiotti doing some great work for us today. Thank you.

I want to move on to some other big news as well. A Minnesota man who has been languishing in an Abu Dhabi prison for eight months is going to be staying there at least one more week.

Shezanne Cassim and four of his friends are facing charges of threatening the national security of the United Arab Emirates. And why? Their alleged crime is that they were making funny videos and posting them on YouTube.

I'm not kidding. Our Sara Sidner has the latest.

SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Ashleigh, we went to the supreme court here in the capital, Abu Dhabi. to try and see what happened.

And the family of Shezanne Cassim, otherwise known as "Shez," was hoping beyond hope that this would be the day that he and his friends finally got out of prison after eight months for making that YouTube video.

Well, it didn't happen and the fight to free Shez continues.


WILL FERRELL, ACTOR: Hi, this is Will Ferrell and Adam McKay and we are submitting this in support of Shez.

SIDNER: Will Ferrell and other well known comedians are taking up a serious cause, banding together to fight for the release of American citizen Shezanne Casim, known as Shez.

HORATIO SANZ, ACTOR: Looking people up for what they say or what they think is funny is brutal, and beyond that, it just doesn't work.

CHRISTOPHER MINTZ-PLASSE, ACTOR: So if anyone deserves to go to jail, I do. (Inaudible).

SIDNER: Cassim has been locked up for the past eight months after posting this video online.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This now, this is more than a dangerous weapon.

SIDNER: He filmed it with several friends. All are now being held. They intended it to be a parody about would-be gangsters on the not- so-dangerous streets of a Dubai suburb.

Cassim had been working an living in Dubai. Now, his concerned family in Minnesota has desperately been seeking answers as to why he's still behind bars.

SHERVON CASSIM, SHEZANNE CASSIM'S BROTHER: He's going stir crazy in that cell.

SIDNER: And for weeks CNN has been searching for answers as well.

This is Sara with CNN. Can you tell me anything about the Shezanne Cassim case?

For the first time, the UAE responded with a written statement from the embassy, confirming that Cassim is, in fact, incarcerated and charged, but would not give specifics on his case.

It said in part, "Mr. Cassim was charged under the UAE penal code. Anyone charged with a crime under the laws of the UAE is entitled to the fair trial protections contained in the UAE's constitution."

His plight has also reached Washington. This letter, first on CNN, was sent to Secretary of State John Kerry from Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton.

It says in part, "The conditions surrounding his confinement are very serious and call for immediate attention. Please take any action possible to assist Mr. Cassim."


SIDNER: Ashleigh, what happened in court today basically was they got yet another court date.

The next court date is December 23rd and we'll be there to see what happens.

Back to you.

BANFIELD: All right, Sara Sidner, reporting for us, thank you for that.

And our senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin joins me now live.

Sara mentioned in her report about the Emirate's penal code, and just thought you might shed some light on how it differs from ours when you can get locked up for satire.

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, just to state the obvious, and for starters, they don't have a First Amendment to the constitution like ours.


TOOBIN: There is not freedom of speech.

And this is one of the paradoxes of the modern world where the Internet is everywhere. You can post to YouTube, which we think of as an American company, but it's not American in the sense of where it reaches.

The UAE has a much more restrictive sense of what's allowed and what's not. And he's been held for eight months, which is a long time, and he's got to go through their legal system.

He can't --

BANFIELD: For making jokes online.

So, speaking of their legal system, they tout themselves on a modernized society. They certainly look like it when you see the pictures -


BANFIELD: -- and you see the advertisements, "Come and visit," "Do business in Dubai," et cetera.

But the reality is, can our U.S. diplomats do anything for this man?

TOOBIN: Not much. It's their candy store. It's their country. They get to decide who goes to their prisons.

They have to recognize that when they are looking to be a modern country with investment from around the world with workers from around the world, especially highly educated workers, they want to come and study their work there, invest there, who's -

BANFIELD: That's what this kid was.

TOOBIN: -- going to want to go, if -

BANFIELD: You know, that's what this kid was.

TOOBIN: -- if they are taking their lives in their hands and their freedom in their hands by making a very gently satirical video.

BANFIELD: Yeah, these weren't threats that were being made to the leadership of the Emirates or anything like that.

This was just some silliness that they posted on what life was like there.

TOOBIN: And obviously, it's terrible for Shez. This is --


TOOBIN: But it's also going to be bad for the UAE because they want to be known as a modern, free country and a modern, free country doesn't behave like this.

BANFIELD: Cautionary tale for everyone watching, if you plan to travel --

TOOBIN: Absolutely.

BANFIELD: -- this kind of thing can happen.


BANFIELD: Who knows if you're going to make an off-handed comment where you can be overheard somewhere, and that is a -- that's a crying shame.

TOOBIN: You've got to be careful.

BANFIELD: Stick around, lots of other things for Jeffrey Toobin today.

And here's something that has a lot of us confounded, especially in a place like Colorado.

It happened again, a gunman inside a school, and now there's a girl who's fighting for her life today.

Eighty seconds that changed her world and reminded us of our world, it's coming up.


BANFIELD: The kids at a Colorado high school are not going to be going to class because their school is still closed after a terrifying shooting that left one of their students in a coma, fighting for her life.

It took only 80 seconds on Friday afternoon for a young gunman to march right into Arapahoe High School and shoot 17-year-old Claire Davis, point blank, and then take his own life, too.

Casey Wian takes us through how it all happened.


CALLER: The school's gone on lockdown, and I'm not sure why.

CASEY WIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Dispatch recordings as police rush toward Arapahoe High School following reports of gunfire.

DISPATCHER: Be advised. At this time, we do have one student down, and they have found shotgun shells.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It was terrifying because I heard gunshots.

WIAN: 18-year-old Karl Pierson entered the school, investigators say, bent on revenge.

SHERIFF GRAYSON ROBINSON, ARAPAHOE COUNTY, COLORADO: Everyone that saw him realized that he was armed with a shotgun.

The individual also had a bandolera of multiple rounds of shotgun ammunition strapped across his body, and he was also armed with a machete.

WIAN: Pierson's target, his debate coach, Tracy Murphy. KARL PIERSON, SCHOOL SHOOTER: Hi, I'm Karl Pierson, a freshman at Arapahoe High School in Littleton.

WIAN: He was suspended from the team in September.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was looking for one person, in specific.

WIAN: Before he could reach his intended target, Pierson encountered 17-year-old Claire Davis, shooting her, apparently at random, point blank, in the head.

ROBINSON: She was an innocent victim of an evil act of violence.

WIAN: Now, she remains in critical condition at a local hospital.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This in no way defines us.

WIAN: At a vigil, students lit candles, sang their fight song, and prayed for their friend.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I know how much she was all you guys and how much this would mean to her.

WIAN: The sheriff now praising the school's quick deployment its active shooter protocol and the fast action of an on-campus deputy, who was closing in on Pierson when he fatally shot himself. The whole ordeal over in 80 seconds. Authorities also hailing Coach Murphy as a hero for attempting to lure Pierson away from the school during his rampage.

ROBINSON: It is my very strong opinion that this individual would not have come to this school armed with a shotgun and multiple rounds of ammunition had he not intended to use those rounds of ammunition to injure multiple people.

WIAN: The sheriff is now vowing never to speak the shooter's name again.

ROBINSON: In my opinion deserves no notoriety and certainly no celebrity.


WIAN: Arapahoe High School will remain closed on Monday and Tuesday and teachers will be back on Wednesday in preparation for students returning to retrieve their belongs on Thursday and Friday, belongings that were left at the school during the middle of the shooting rampage. Ashleigh?

BANFIELD: Casey Wian reporting for us.

You know, it may seem that mass killings are on the rise but the numbers actually haven't changed much. If you read "USA Today," that newspaper has a report that it studied all the data, and there've been an average of 30 mass killings per year since 2006, total of about 150 victims. And 2013 is on par with that. "USA Today" says that the deadliest shooting was at the Washington Navy Yard. That was back in September. And if you'll remember, 12 people were killed in that attack.

Friends say William Riley Knight was just that kind of guy who would stop to help someone in need while on his way to his honeymoon. And now instead his bride is planing his funeral. We'll explain in a moment.


BANFIELD: We should know tomorrow whether that celebrated bipartisan deal lives or dies. The Senate needs 60 votes to keep alive a plan that won more than 300 votes last week in the House. Wolf Blitzer is counting heads in D.C. He's going to take a quick break to join me to tell me -- so far, how does it look?

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR, THE SITUATION ROOM: I think it looks pretty good. It's not a done deal yet, but it looks pretty good. We've done our own little estimate here at CNN and we now have 35 senators would are definitely going to vote yea, in favor, of the legislation, 20 are definitely going to vote no. In order to beat the filibuster that is expected, they need 60. There are 55 Democrats -- 53 Democrats, two Independents who caucus with the Democrats. Almost all of them will vote in favor. So they need at least five, but probably, as Dick Durbin, the number 2 Democrat in the Senate says they probably need eight Republicans to go along.

Right now they have at least three Republicans who are saying they are going to vote in favor of the legislation. Two more saying they are going to vote procedurally to block the filibuster, if you will. I think they are in relatively good shape to get the thing passed this week.

BANFIELD: We have to wait to see. So far, this looks interesting.

I want to do some other number counting for you. Because this is always fun as we look towards 2016. Wolf, the "Des Moines Register," has a brand new ranking of potential presidential wannabes, and I want to start with the Republican side of everything. Paul Ryan is leading with 76 percent support among GOP voters who were asked. But former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee is not too far behind. Take a look at that, 66. One small surprise maybe down towards the bottom of that list, where Rand Paul and Chris Christie come in tied at 51 percent. I think a lot of people expected Chris Christie would be higher up in that list. Why not?

BLITZER: Those are favorability numbers among Republicans in this "Des Moines Register" poll. A lot of it probably has to do with familiarity with the candidates. Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, Chris Christie, Rand Paul, Rick Perry, Marco Rubio, Paul Ryan, Rick Santorum. I mean they - people know some of these better than others, and remember, still two years from the Iowa caucuses, three years from the general election.

There's still plenty of time for voters to get to know these candidates and if some of these candidates, potential candidates, are really serious they will be spending a lot of time in Iowa over the next two years getting ready for the Iowa caucuses. So it's -- the real fight probably will begin sometime in the coming year, 2014, 2015 because the Iowa caucuses will take place early in 2016.

BANFIELD: So I wonder how many Republican governors' events are scheduled for Iowa for Chris Christie to get that name recognition as high as it needs to be. I don't want you to answer that question because I want to move on to the Democrats, if I can. Let me put up a list of how the favorability ratings came in for the Democrats. Hillary Clinton up at 89 percent. Joe Biden following in behind at 71 percent. Martin O'Malley, 18 percent and Brian Schweitzer, 16 percent. People might not have as much familiarity with those other two, but they sure know Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden. Do these numbers surprise you in any way, Wolf?

BLITZER: Well, they like them. These are among all of the people questioned in the polls and they clearly -- excuse me. These are among self-identified Democrats in the poll and they clearly all know Hillary Clinton, they all know Joe Biden. Brian Schweitxer, Martin O'Malley, not sure, have 70 or 69-70 percent for these candidates. Most people in Iowa, including Democrats, don't know much about Brian Schweitzer or Martin O'Malley but they know a lot about Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden.

So once again, obviously if Hillary Clinton decides to run and that's still an if, if she decides to run, she's got a very strong opportunity. If Joe Biden decides to run, he's got a strong opportunity. Some people think if Hillary runs, Joe Biden won't run. We shall see. We still have time to sort it all out.

BANFIELD: And that is so key, we still have some time. I remember when Michele Bachmann was leading in the Republican polls as well, and then about a week later everything changed and kept on changing until election time.

BLITZER: Ashleigh, a couple cautionary notes. At this point, just going back to the 1992 election, the Iowa caucuses, if you go back --

BANFIELD: I think I was in high school then. Tell me what happened, Wolf.

BLITZER: I remember, Bill Clinton who was eventually elected president in 1992, at this point his favorability, his recognition was 1 percent. Most people didn't even know who Bill Clinton, the governor of Arkansas was. So things can change pretty quickly and George w. -- George H.W. Bush who was then the president coming after the first Gulf War in 1991, his favorability among the American public after the first Gulf War was in the '90s. So things can change fairly rapidly.

BANFIELD: Old man Blitzer, you're awesome. That's all I can say. And you know what, I actually was around for all of that. I even emigrated to this country in that era.

BANFIELD: You were probably in elementary school, and I was covering politics big time.

BANFIELD: I totally wasn't, but I'm going to go with what you said. Wolf, thank you. See you this afternoon.

I want to move on to other news that we're covering right now. The White House is shooting down any talk of amnesty for NSA leaker Edward Snowden. The program "60 Minutes" aired an interview yesterday with a top NSA official who says, in his view, a deal to get back any documents and data is worth having a conversation about. Snowden faces espionage charges in the United States while living under temporary asylum in Russia.

Good Samaritan stories are usually quite uplifting and sadly this is not one of those. It's tragic. Newlyweds William and Nicky Knight (ph) had just left their reception when they saw a car slide into a ditch in Crown Point, Indiana. William got out of his car to help the motorist named Linda Darlington. As they stood on the side of the road, both were hit several times by passing cars, and both were killed. The bride was in the other car. She was not hurt. Officials have ruled out alcohol as a factor, and the accident, quite understandably, continues to be under investigation.

A popular reality show about polygamy has one state revising the law there. So, it's a bit strange, but apparently now it's okay to have all of those sister wives, just not exactly as the kind of wife you may know. We'll explain this in just a moment.