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Wild Weather On The Way; Investigating Ceiling Collapse; U.S. Troops To South Sudan; Chicago Girl Attacked On Way To School; Battle Over Fawcett Portrait; "Duck Dynasty" Suspension; Ostreicher Freed from Bolivian Prison; Michigan Shooter to Stand Trial

Aired December 20, 2013 - 06:00   ET


INDRA PETERSONS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: And once millions finally arrive to their destination, who will have a white Christmas? Right now it's looking like Colorado and parts of the Great Lakes. Just want to give you a quick picture of what it is we're expecting.

We're talking about heavy rain, icing, even threat for severe weather including tornadoes. We even have a moderate threat as we go in through Saturday. We'll give you all the details how all this pans out, the timing of it all. All that will be coming up in just a few minutes.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks so much, Indra.

So a night at the theater turning into a real live drama in London, it all unfolded when an actor on stage shouted to the audience, watch out. Seconds later, a huge chunk of the ceiling came crashing down. CNN's Erin McLaughlin has the latest, live in London. Good morning.

ERIN MCLAUGHLIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Kate. A very scary night for over 700 theater goers here at London's historic Apollo Theater, more than 70 injured, seven seriously. After a section of a roof collapsed, sending members of the audience and actors alike running for cover. Many saying they initially thought it was part of the performance.


MCLAUGHLIN (voice-over): It was certainly not your typical Thursday night at London's historic, Apollo Theater. An audience of over 700 people, families and children had assembled for a performance of "The Curious Incident of The Dog in The Night Time." And then --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A loud bang and the ceiling came down.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We just thought it was sound effects of the theater and then, yes, we just looked up and the whole ceiling was like slow motion.

MCLAUGHLIN: Parts of the roof started caving in.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A lot of dust, chandelier, wood, all that sort of stuff, landed on about five or six rows.

MCLAUGHLIN: And panic erupted inside the auditorium.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was right next to the steward. We were at the back. He looked at me and had panic. He said run, everybody get out.

MCLAUGHLIN: Witnesses say people stayed calm and helped one another. Quickly, everyone was out. Injured people, bloody and in shock, were treated at the scene, some taken to the hospital aboard a London bus.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We don't want to go into too much detail about the why and what's happened. Suffice to say there's been a collapse of heavy plaster from what appears to be the roof of the auditorium within the theater.

MCLAUGHLIN: British Prime Minister David Cameron tweeted his thanks for the first responders. I'm grateful for the fast work of the emergency services and helping the injured. As for the cause of the collapse, that's still unclear. The police later saying there is no suggestion at this stage that this was the result of a criminal act. However, at this stage, we are keeping an open mind.


MCLAUGHLIN: A spokesperson for the local council tells me this morning that they believe this is an isolated incident. Overnight they checked the roof. They say this morning that it's secure. More checks under way as they try to figure out how this happened -- Chris.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Erin McLaughlin in London, thank you. U.S. forces have been deployed. President Obama has sent a small military contingent to the South Sudan. Deadly ethnic clashes have erupted there, leaving at least 500 people dead, including three U.N. peacekeepers. For now, the troop's mission is to help secure the U.S. Embassy. They are equipped for combat.

Joining us now is CNN's Elise Labott in Washington. Good morning. What do we know?

ELISE LABOTT, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS REPORTER: Good morning, Chris. Well, as you know, South Sudan, the world's newest nation, the U.S. was instrumental in helping it move forward towards independence in 2011. Now the U.S. fears it's on the brink of a civil war with violence erupting, the U.S. along with Britain have pulled out their diplomats, started to evacuate their citizens.

State Department warning all Americans to leave the country and now, after that attack on the U.N. base, U.S. growing even more concerned, in addition to those peacekeepers killed, you had thousands of civilians seeking shelter from the fighting there. That prompted President Obama to order about 45 military personnel to protect the embassy.

Officials are telling me this morning it's just a precautionary measure. They will be armed. We don't see them getting involved in the fighting, but it does show how concerned the U.S. is about this new fragile nation -- Michaela.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Elise, thank you very much for that report. We appreciate it. Let's take a look at some of your headlines this morning.

The Senate overwhelmingly passing a defense bill late last night. It cracks down on sexual assaults in the military and provides protections for victims. This measure also calls for a 1 percent pay raise for military personnel. It's now on the president's desk awaiting his signature.

The White House is now giving people who had their individual insurance policies canceled because of Obamacare another option in order to not fall through the cracks, the option to buy catastrophic coverage. The White House taking on critics saying far fewer people than they projected had lost their insurance plans and failed to get new coverage since the rollout.

Outrage in Chicago, after a 15-year-old girl was dragged, beaten and sexually assaulted on her way to school. Angry residents crowding a community meeting Thursday night demanding answers. That attack happened just a half block from a so-called safe passage route for students. Officials say the girl was walking in the early hours before the patrols began. She remains hospitalized with severe head injuries.

Health officials in California fear they may have a tuberculosis outbreak on their hands, 1,800 students and staff in a high school in Palm Desert will be tested today. More than 100 students who came in close contact with one student diagnosed with active TB were tested earlier in the week, 45 of them came back positive for possible exposure.

An update now for a story that we've been watching here on NEW DAY, Ryan O'Neal can indeed keep the Andy Warhol portrait of his long time love, the late actress, Farrah Fawcett. A Los Angeles jury ruled in the actor's favor on Thursday. You might recall he was locked in a battle for the portrait with the University of Texas at Austin which claimed Fawcett left it to the university in her will.

Those are your headlines at this hour.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, Michaela. All right, so the "Duck Dynasty" controversy is not dying down. The stars of the reality show now seem to be threatening that they won't return to the series without their patriarch, Phil Robertson. He was suspended from the show for making comments that many call homophobic and racially insensitive. So is the wildly popular show now in trouble? CNN's Nischelle Turner is here with much more.

NISCHELLE TURNER, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: The Robertsons are backing the man they say is the head of their family. Here's their official stance on this controversy. They say, quote, "We are disappointed that Phil has been placed on hiatus for expressing his faith, which is his constitutionally protected right. We have had a successful relationship with A&E, but as a family, we can't imagine the show going forward without our patriarch at the helm. We are in discussions with A&E to see what that means for the future of "Duck Dynasty."


TURNER (voice-over): Talk about rocking the boat. Just a day after A&E suspended Phil Robertson from his hit reality show "Duck Dynasty" for making anti-gay comments, a firestorm erupted. Now as his critics and supporters are lining up, getting their ducks in a row, Robertson's family addressed the controversy for the first time saying while some of Phil's unfiltered comments to the reporter were coarse, his beliefs are grounded in the teachings of the bible.

But now surfacing a video from 2010 showing Robertson in a Pennsylvania pulpit preaching morality.


PHIL ROBERTSON, CAST MEMBER, "DUCK DYNASTY": Women with women, men with men, they committed indecent acts with one another and they received in themself the due penalty for their perversion. They're full of murder, envy, strife. They are arrogant God haters.

MATTHEW BREEN, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, "THE ADVOCATE": He has the right to say what he wants to say. A&E I think made a very -- a good decision that those views are not American views and do not represent their brand as a network and they pulled him.

TURNER (voice-over): But Now, coming out of the woodwork are Robertson supporters, even pledging their support on Twitter with the #standbyphil. Republicans like Texas Senator Ted Cruz and former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin taking a stand behind the boys from the bayou as well. Palin saying on her Facebook page, free speech is an endangered species. Those intolerance, hating and taking on the "Duck Dynasty" patriarch for voicing his personal opinion are taking on all of us.

GOVERNOR BOBBY JINDAL (R), JINDAL: The left keep saying they're for tolerance except for people that disagree with them. It's stunning that Miley Cyrus would still be on TV and Phil's the one getting kicked off.

TURNER: Robertson supporters say they're fighting the good fight. Critics say it's an old fight, likely to lose in a new world.


TURNER: Now, a rep for A&E Networks tells CNN they will not have any further comment on this matter. Meantime, the show is scheduled to debut a new season on January 15th. Reportedly, Phil Robertson will be in the initial episodes that have already been shot.

BOLDUAN: We were talking about hot button issues. And I don't know, though, if people should be surprised this is what Phil Robertson feels and thinks. TURNER: It's passionate. Religion, we all know, religion is a subject and belief is a subject that's very, very passionate, homosexuality and sexuality is a subject that's very, very passionate, whichever side you fall on, it gets you heated. I saw that yesterday. I got a lot of heat yesterday from folks who agree with Phil Robertson. And I didn't say whether I agreed or disagreed. I put things out there. People are very passionate about this.

BOLDUAN: It's OK to agree and disagree. I think that's the thing people go automatically from zero to 100 and attacking -- in attacking rather than -- it is OK if you don't agree with Phil Robertson.

TURNER: That's why this is the greatest country in the world.

PEREIRA: The part that's frustrating, though, I think we all agree we are allowed to have our own opinion, but I think one thing I think all Americans agree on is that hateful speech is not acceptable. Opinion is OK.

TURNER: They don't think it's hate. There's a lot of people who don't think it is hate speech.

CUOMO: The video was helpful because he wasn't commenting on what's in the bible. He appeared to be preaching.


CUOMO: That's one thing that will go on people's feelings about whether or not it was appropriate or inappropriate. I have a question, though. It's going to seem off point but maybe more relevant than anything else when we're looking at this. Does A&E have a problem with them contract wise, are they fighting over money? Is there controversy going on?

BOLDUAN: This is an easy out for A&E.

CUOMO: I'm just saying. If you are having problems with the business, you know, not that the show is not doing well. Even I know that. If they were fighting over money, if they are not as close kin, let's say, this may be an easier opportunity to separate. I just want -- do we know anything.

TURNER: There have been rumblings about that. We haven't been able to confirm that. And of course A&E is not going to speak to their contract situation is with them. They also aren't saying -- because we asked yesterday as well. He's suspended at this point, but they're not shooting right now. What is he suspended from?

BOLDUAN: I'm interested on what A&E's position is. He's off the show indefinitely, but the episodes are still airing right now.

CUOMO: I'm taking a little bit of a sidestep.

TURNER: No, it's not. I think that's relevant in the whole discussion of this. CUOMO: Seeing the context of his comments is important. Knowing what the context is for A&E's relationship is important. We'll talk about this a lot more on the show today, different ways, different guests so there's plenty of discussion. I think it's an important one because the main reason it's an important discussion is because it is confusing. We don't have rules in this society. We don't know what's OK.

BOLDUAN: One standard to apply.

TURNER: We do have freedom of speech.


BOLDUAN: We do have freedom of speech in this country, 14 million viewers an episode, you have a lot of reach.

CUOMO: We have free speech. We have the freedom that Congress can't prescribe speech. It doesn't mean you can say whatever you want, wherever you want and not face consequences. Continue the conversation among yourselves.

When we come back from the break on NEW DAY, did Sean Penn help out in a jail break? Another provocative question, why? Well, an American imprisoned in South Africa, a bizarre escape plan that helped someone make it back to the U.S.

BOLDUAN: And tomorrow is Super Saturday, retailers getting their last chance to grab your dollars before Christmas and they are pulling out all the stops with deals galore.


BOLDUAN: Welcome back. It's "Money Time", folks.

Another debt ceiling fight is looming. Say it ain't so, Christine Romans.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: I know, it is so. Ready for the next bruising D.C. many fight -- circle this date on your calendar. The treasury secretary warning congress the U.S. hits that debt ceiling February 7th. That means it can't borrow any more money to finance the government.

Lew sent a letter to Congress saying he can wiggle around for a few weeks after, quote, "We'd be able to extend the nation's borrowing authority until late February or early March 2014." Just in time for spring break, guys.

Another debt ceiling fight would be a big risk for stocks. The Dow Industrials eking out 46 record high of the year, 46 records, and what a year it's been. The Dow is up 23 percent, the NASDAQ up 34 percent, the S&P 500 up a whopping 27 percent this year.

If you want to fly your child unaccompanied on united, it's going to have to be a nonstop flight now. This is a big change. United says it won't fly unaccompanied kid five to 17 years of age on flights with connections anymore. So there you go. That's going to change. Other airlines still keeping their policy in place, guys.

CUOMO: All right. Christine, thank you very much. That was a lot to take in. In fact, I need a break.

We're going to take a break here on NEW DAY. When we come back, self- defense or second degree murder? Why a judge decided a Detroit man should stand trial for shooting a 19-year-old woman to death on his own door step.

BOLDUAN: And Super Saturday is tomorrow. Set to rival Black Friday for the biggest deals of the holiday season. So, what are stores offering now? We'll tell you.


BERMAN: Welcome back to NEW DAY.

Jacob Ostreicher is back in America this morning. The 54-year-old businessman from New Year has been in a Bolivian prison since 2011, without being formally charged. Little is known about how he escaped. But apparently actor Sean Penn is involved here.

The EARLY START anchor John Berman is here.

What is this about?

JOHN BERMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT : You know, you say little is known. That's an understatement. We really have no idea how this guy got from a Bolivian prison to here and we have very little sense of how big of a role the actor, Sean Penn, the actor Sean Penn, how big of a role he may have played in this whole escapade.


BERMAN (voice-over): Here's what we do know. Jacob Ostreicher after two years in a Bolivian prison is back on U.S. soil.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He arrived in the United States Monday morning.

BERMAN: And he's hanging out with Sean Penn. But what we don't know, how he got out. The Bolivians didn't let him go. The U.S. government says they didn't help him escape. The only person talking, Mr. Sean Penn, who told "The Associated Press" that Ostreicher had been secretly extracted in a humanitarian operation to free him from the corrupt prosecution and imprisonment he was suffering in Bolivia.

Was this some kind of intercontinental jail break? Penn would only confirm to "The A.P." that he is with the New York businessman who he says is safe, doing well and receiving medical attention at an undisclosed location. This murky story began with Ostreicher's June 2011 arrest in Bolivia, suspected of laundering drug money through the rice business he managed there.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The worst part is he's an innocent man. He didn't do anything wrong. And he proved that innocence in a court of law.

BERMAN: Ostreicher strongly denied the accusations.

JACOB OSTREICHER, BUSINESSMAN: The reason they're putting me in jail is because my associate in Switzerland is wanted for narco trafficking and the prosecutors (ph) have the evidence, without even the judge ever seeing any evidence.

BERMAN: Ostreicher spent 18 months in prisoner without ever being formally charged with a crime.

Sean Penn championed the cause of Ostreicher's freedom, traveling to Bolivia last year and appealing directly to President Evo Morales for his release.

SEAN PENN, ACTOR: I'm grateful that President Morales has received this.

BERMAN: With his health failing, Ostreicher was eventually placed under house arrest inside the country. And that seems to be when he took his chance to escape.


BERMAN: So, Bolivian authorities also confirm that Ostreicher is no longer in their country. They know that much. The justice minister said in a news conference that Ostreicher took advantage of the fact that he was under house arrest to sneak across the border into Peru where he took a flight to Los Angeles. She says the fact that he escaped demonstrates that he participated in the crimes he was accused of.

That seems to be a little bit of a jump in logic but that is the official statement from the Bolivian justice minister.

BOLDUAN: I'm fascinated by this. How this actually happened, sneaking over into Peru.


BERMAN: And Sean Penn.

BOLDUAN: And add Sean Penn to it. It's made for TV.

Thanks, John.

BERMAN: All right. Thanks, guys.

PEREIRA: All right. Let's take a look at the headlines at this hour.

Severe weather is ushering the start of the Christmas travel season. Tornadoes could touch down in the South. Severe storms and snow expected in the Midwest and heavy rain will fall in the Northeast. You should expect big delays if you're trying to make your holiday getaway. Be sure to check the airlines before you fly, of course. The impact is being felt out west. Snow made a mess near Salt Lake City, exploding a power line and shutting down the capital's airport for a few hours.

Still no official cause of the ceiling collapse during a performance last night in London's Apollo Theater. More than 700 people were packed into the theater when a huge chunk of the ceiling came crashing down on to the audience. Seven people were seriously injured, among the dozens who were hurt.

An update to the death investigation of a Georgia teen that CNN has been following. The FBI said to be seizing the original hard drives from the surveillance system at Lowndes High School where Kendrick Johnson was found dead in a rolled up gym mat earlier this year. Now, that's according to a source with knowledge of the situation.

A forensic video analyst says at least an hour of footage was missing from cameras inside the high school gym.

A Pennsylvania minister defrocked after officiating his own son's gay wed. Frank Schaefer was suspended in November after Methodist Church officials learned of the ceremony. They told him never to do it again but Schaefer refused, calling the church discriminatory.

The 51-year-old appealed the decision and hopes to be reinstated. Schaefer will join us live on NEW DAY, later in the show.

This is a homecoming she will always remember. Cameron Wood (ph) thought she was attending a pep rally at a middle school in Gaffney, South Carolina. When she was called up to help unwrap a gift, she got the surprise of a lifetime. That's her pops.

Air Force Major Jason Wood was home in time for the holidays. Cameron and her little brother thought they weren't going to see him until may. But he managed to get a two-week Christmas break.

BOLDUAN: It never gets old. Those home comings, those surprises --

PEREIRA: And at Christmas, all the more special.

BOLDUAN: I love it.

CUOMO: And a reminder, he got a two-week break and then he's back serving the country. The families have to serve as well.

PERIERA: Alongside, absolutely.

CUOMO: Great story.

BOLDUAN: Thanks, Michaela.

PEREIRA: No problem.

BOLDUAN: All right. A Michigan judge rejected a self-defense claim by a Detroit area man who fatally shot an unarmed woman. You remember the story. Theodore Wafer says the 19-year-old was trying to break into his home, but civil rights groups say race may have played a role in the shooting. Now, a jury will decide if Wafer is guilty of second degree murder.

Here's Susan Candiotti with more.


SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: After a two-day hearing, including testimony that Theodore Wafer shotgun did not fire accidentally --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How do you load a shot shell into the chamber?


CANDIOTTI: A Michigan judge ruled there's enough evidence to let a jury decide whether Wafer is guilty of second degree murder and manslaughter. He's pleaded not guilty.

Wafer is accused of shooting teenager Renisha McBride in the face on his front porch, through his screen door in the middle of the night. What Wafer didn't know was that McBride crashed her car several blocks away after a night of heavy drinking and smoking pot.

The judge questioning whether the homeowner had to pick up a gun at all.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He could have not answered the door. He could have called for help. It suggests to this court, the defendant made a bad choice.

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Those word have a sting coming from a judge who's heard the evidence in the case, to say that clearly Mr. Wafer had made a bad choice in what he did.

CANDIOTTI: Defense attorneys offered a new theory about why they say Wafer feared for his life.

CHERYL CARPENTER, THEODORE WAFER'S ATTORNEY: We have evidence the screen frame was so violently banged that it broke. So if you're at 4:30 in the morning, by yourself hearing that at the front door, what do you think is going on in your mind?

CANDIOTTI: Prosecutors were furious.

DANIELE HAGAMAN-CLARK, WAYNE COUNTY ASSISTANT PROSECUTOR: That is ridiculous. That's ridiculous. You open up the front door because you're so afraid of whatever it is that's out there?

CANDIOTTI: For Renisha McBride's family, a long road ahead waiting to learn whether someone will be held responsible for their daughter's violent death.

Susan Candiotti, CNN, New York. (END VIDEOTAPE)

BOLDUAN: Susan, thank you for that.

Coming up next on NEW DAY, two astronauts about to embark on a critical space walk, but will they be able to repair a broken cooling line that's causing chaos on the International Space Station?

CUOMO: And can you say epic split? Wait until you see how Chuck Norris is trying to upstage Jean Claude Van Damme. Can it be done?