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LEGAL VIEW WITH ASHLEIGH BANFIELD

Stinney Family Asks for New Trial; Massive Snow Storm in U.S.; Former Virginia Governor, Wife Charged; Rob Ford Back in Controversial Spotlight.

Aired January 22, 2014 - 11:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


HEATHER HANSEN, CRIMINAL TRIAL ATTORNEY: She is supposed to be solely basing her decision on whether to give them a new trial on the law and facts as they were tried in 1944. What does she have to base that on? Nothing. You are correct, if it were to be retried, the likelihood is that the prosecution would fail.

(CROSSTALK)

ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: You can't retry something when you don't have anybody alive or any evidence to bring out a lockup.

HANSEN: That's the interesting point. If she decides that a retrial is necessary, the prosecution may not pursue this. Unfortunately, that means they are never going to hear that this child was innocent.

(CROSSTALK)

BANFIELD: I'm not sure I understand that. With or without prejudice, we are not going to do this. Ultimately, that person has a cleared name because there is no cleared name against him or her.

HANSEN: You have been tried and found innocent. That is never going to happen. I think that either way, whether there is a trial or not --

(CROSSTALK)

BANFIELD: They dismiss with prejudice, it means you were never even charged effectively.

HANSEN: That's correct.

BANFIELD: And never can be tried again.

HANSEN: That's correct, in general.

The other thing is I think that the family, no matter what happens with this retrial, is going to pursue a pardon to make sure his name is cleared. What's happening with this hearing is it is turning into a pre-trial and it is giving the family an opportunity to put their case forward and defend this young kid.

BANFIELD: It is giving us an opportunity, Heather, to look at that picture, look really hard at that picture. Now you know why this country made a decision real late but better late than never, 2005, that we will never again execute anyone under the age of 18. It took us until 2005.

HANSEN: Right. 1988, they said, no one under 16. In 2005, no one under 18.

BANFIELD: You know about how I feel about how good we are about adjudicating the death penalty. I don't think we are perfect. We shouldn't be playing God if we are not perfect. That's me.

(CROSSTALK)

BANFIELD: Heather, thank you for that.

HANSEN: Thank you, Ashleigh.

BANFIELD: I am going to go on the other end and lighten it up with a crack-smoking video. Rob Ford has to confess after another video of him surfaces online. Wait until you hear the confession and the weird video too. More on that in a moment.

Up next, a massive snowstorm burying the northeast and a whole bunch of other parts of the country. Travelers stranded. Planes on the ground. The dogs and cats aren't living together. It is too cold. We will have details on all of the dig out.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BANFIELD: Nearly 1,500 United States flights have been canceled today. Most are at New York's LaGuardia Airport. Not any fun for travelers. If you are a college student at Columbia University, it is boon time, go time. An opportune time for a late night snowball fight.

Jason Carroll had to endure the snowfall fight. He had to endure the snow fight during Anderson Cooper's "A.C. 360" last night. Look at the video evidence.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is what they do every single time, Anderson. Oh. They end up having a snowball fight.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(LAUGHTER)

BANFIELD: Poor guy. Something tells me he had to know that was coming. I don't think he knew the extent of it. He got almost a foot of snow. Poor Jason. As he headed to work, it was still snowing. A foot falling in New York City. The highest snowfall was south of Boston.

Also, in central New Jersey and then also Long Island between 10-15 inches fell in those areas. That's where we sent Alison Kosik. She is in Long Island and Maggie Lake is in Red Bank, New Jersey. It looks beautiful.

Alison, I'm going to start with you.

I can't imagine it is a lot of fun for commuters that have to take the LIE into New York City.

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: It does look beautiful. The sun is out. The snow is pure white, gorgeous. The commute doesn't look too shabby at this point. Cars are moving along pretty well. Don't be fooled because it is icy out here, really uncomfortable. It is 10 degrees. The real feel, 9 below zero. I know the snow looks great here. You dig through underneath, a sheet of ice here. In one of my earlier live shots, I almost fell on my uh- huh just walking on the camera. A great snow day for a lot of kids on Long Island. Many of the schools are closed. A great day to go sledding actually.

BANFIELD: What's the uh-huh. What is that?

(LAUGHTER)

KOSIK: The back side, baby.

(LAUGHTER)

BANFIELD: I thought I was going to be able to get you on that one. Be careful of your hinny out there, my friend.

We'll scoot over to where Maggie Lake is standing by in Red Bank, New Jersey. I will ask you about where some of the highest snow fall totals are. It looks like they are all cupcakes behind you, those cars?

MAGGIE LAKE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I'll tell you that. This is one of the areas that was hardest hit. Snow drifts over a foot. This is what commuters woke up to. Some not bothering to dig out. For those that did take off, very hard going in the early morning hours. We have had officials throughout New Jersey working around the clock to clean these roads. The big risk is frigid temperatures Alison mentioned, black ice as the evening commute rolls in. The side roads are packed ice. A lot of people followed the advice of officials and stayed home. It is going to be dangerous for the next few days -- Ashleigh?

BANFIELD: I want to figure out a way to telecommute this job so I can broadcast from my house on days like this. Because I had that four- hour commute. It was no fun. It was like white knuckle the whole way.

All right, Maggie, stay warm. Thank you.

Coming up, since we are just out of the holiday season and everybody was giving gifts, how would you like to have gifts like a Ferrari and a Rolex watch and designer gowns or at least the use of a Ferrari? Apparently, it is not that good of a thing when you are a former governor of Virginia. This is part of a federal indictment against Bob McDonnell and his wife. And they have come out to the microphones and addressed it head-on. We'll get the "Legal View" next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BANFIELD: Breaking news out of New Albany, Mississippi, a biodiesel plant is on fire after an explosion there. Very little information coming in. Apparently, it is so hot that the firefighters are having trouble getting close to this plant. It is a biodiesel plant in New Albany, Mississippi. There is report that there were workers at the plant at the time of the explosion.

No one at this time knows if there are any injuries. We can tell you the Union County Sheriff's Department has started to reroute traffic around and away from this fire. Highway 15 is being closed. They are being re-routed to Highway 115. There are several businesses in this area that are being evacuated.

The only silver lining on this is that there are no homes located in the immediate vicinity. That fire is burning live as we speak. It is extraordinarily hot. It is very difficult for firefighters to fight, because it is too hot to approach. We will continue to watch this New Albany situation and update you when we get more information.

Another story we are watching very closely, would it not be better to have shopping sprees at Louie Vuitton and Oscar de la Renta, a free Rolex and access to a vacation home complete with a Ferrari. That's the life that federal prosecutors are saying the former governor of Virginia and his wife were living. They are not so concerned with what they had but how they got those things.

The authorities are alleging that the governor and his wife accepted these gifts and a whole lot more from a prominent businessman. In return, the Feds are alleging that the executive's struggling company ended up getting some pretty sweet priority treatment from the governor's office.

It was not long ago that Bob McDonnell, the governor, former governor, was a rising star in the Republican Party, even considered a possible contender for the White House. Now, McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, are trying to convince the world that they are innocent of the charges levied against them. Make no mistake, they are serious charges.

Wolf Blitzer, this is not entirely surprising. We have been hearing about this going on for quite some time now. Was it surprising when we saw the list of charges?

WOLF BLITZER, HOST, THE SITUATION ROOM: It wasn't all that surprising. For the past several weeks, several months, "The Washington Post" has been reporting all of these allegations against the governor. In recent weeks, he formally apologized saying there was some bad judgment. He reimbursed payback for all of those gifts and loans with interest. He and his lawyers insist that it was an inappropriate, bad judgment on his part, his wife Maureen's part, nothing illegal.

There was no evidence that the company in question received anything tangible from the governor or the state of Virginia. That's why they are disputing these federal charges. It is going to go to court. One thing the former governor and his wife have going against him. The individual who was in charge of this company, giving them all these gifts and loans, he is cooperating and getting full immunity. He is getting full immunity for his testimony against the governor and his wife. This is going to be a prolonged legal battle, I suspect.

BANFIELD: The governor came out and very stridently made comments that he has done nothing illegal. He had poor judgment in certain circumstances in accepting the loans but he paid the loans back and returned the tangible loans. You don't really get a do-over. Bob McDonnell was a former A.G. He knows the law. Does it ever matter, Wolf, if you return stuff once the eyes are on you?

BLITZER: Well, you know, he is trying to do the best he can. It is interesting. He is not charged under any Virginia laws, because the Virginia laws are pretty lax. I suspect now under the new governor, Terry McAuliffe, they are going to tighten up the laws about gifts to elected officials. They are going after him on a relatively obscure federal law.

It is going to be a serious fight on both parts. But he acknowledges he was wrong. He shouldn't have done it. It looks awful. It was bad. But he insists at the same time that no Virginia law and no federal law was actually broken. We'll see what the courts decide.

BANFIELD: Wolf Blitzer, thank you for that.

And reminder, be sure to watch Wolf at 1:00 eastern and again at 5:00 p.m. for "The Situation Room."

Want to dig a little deeper into some of these legal questions. Joining me to do that is former federal prosecutor, Michael Zeldon.

Mr. Zeldon, thanks so much for being with us.

I have a couple of questions for you. The one I really want to know about is the most serious of the charges that have been levied against the governor, fraud, false statements, obstruction. Is it the gifts and the receiving of the gifts allegedly or the lying and the obstruction that's really problematic here?

MICHAEL ZELDON, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: I think they are both very problematic for the governor. To answer the question you asked Wolf Blitzer. The returning of the property, I made a mistake, I robbed the bank but I gave it back, therefore, I shouldn't be charged with bank robbery. It doesn't hold as a defense in this case.

In this case, you had the confluence of a governor in financial difficulties and a company that needed the government to help promote the new products coming together with gifts being given to the governor in exchange for the governor promoting the product. The tangible benefit the company got was the governor's blessing of the product and its effort to allow the company to get a loan, not a loan, rather, a study from the University of Virginia to promote its products. So there is -- (CROSSTALK)

BANFIELD: My assumption is that there are going to be e-mails and these kinds of things they want to bring in as evidence to support these allegations when they do go to trial, if they do end up at trial.

But I do want to ask you this. The former governor said yesterday through his lawyers, to bring today's indictment, the federal government has concocted a never before used legal theory, manufactured for the sole purpose of prosecuting Governor McDonnell and his wife. As Wolf alluded to, there are some pretty lax laws in Virginia. Is there any chance this could be looked at as political vendettas or ugly politics making their way into the legal arena?

ZELDON: Well, a couple of things in there. The prosecutor who brought the case has been a prosecutor for 29 year, a career prosecutor who is now the U.S. attorney. He is not a person known for having a political orientation. He is a career guy.

Secondly, the statute at use here on the federal side is mail fraud, and that is to deny the government, the citizens of the government of the state of Virginia honest services. That's very routinely used. Ask Governor Blagojevich about it. They are all statements made to people that you cannot be a crook in government and expect to be not treated accordingly.

BANFIELD: I just keep coming back -- even with Blagojevich, I keep coming back to the legal background of these guys. Blagojevich was a prosecutor. McDonnell is a former attorney general of Virginal. These guys know the law inside and out. They have worked it. I can't imagine they would be so profligate to ignore it to this extent. It will be fascinating to play out.

I have to cut it for time purposes. But I hope you will come back and join us as this continues to litigate.

Michael Zeldon, thanks so much for being with us.

ZELDON: Thank you.

BANFIELD: Coming up, crack-smoking Toronto mayor, Rob Ford, admits to go drinking in public, and again caught on videotape. Exactly when is it, at the point, when it's too serious for him to continue? Honestly? We're going north of the border, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BANFIELD: Welcome back to "Legal View." I'm Ashleigh Banfield and welcome back to the spotlight, Mayor Ford.

Rod Ford, still mayor of Toronto. He has promised to clean up his act. Now comes yet another video.

And CNN's Paula Newton joins me live from Ottawa.

I don't even need to ask you a question other than this question. What now, Paula?

PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: What now, huh? He was at a fast- food restaurant Monday night, Ashleigh. And many people had predicted it, but it's still incredibly sad and unfortunate. Mayor Ford, I want you to take a look at this video. He is clearly inebriated and speaking in what sounds like or supposed to sound like a Jamaican accent. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROB FORD, MAYOR OF TORONTO: (INAUDIBLE) (EXPLETIVE DELETED)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NEWTON: Now, keep in mind that Rob Ford explained this the day after. But before I give you his explanation, keep in mind his brother, his staunch supporter, Toronto counselor, said hours before, nope, couldn't have been him. You know he hasn't been drinking for weeks.

Take a listen to Mayor Rob Ford explaining that video.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Mayor Ford, when was that video from?

FORD: Last night.

UNIDENTIFIED NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Were you drinking last night?

FORD: Yes, I was.

UNIDENTIFIED NEWS CORRESPONDENT: You were drinking last night?

FORD: A little bit, yeah.

UNIDENTIFIED NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Do you think that video was offensive to people?

FORD: No, I was with some friends, and what I do with my personal life is and my personal friends -- it has nothing to do with you guys.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NEWTON: Now, I'll remind you that mayor Ford has been stripped of a lot of his powers. That happened in November. But he sits in a budget meeting right now saying look, this shouldn't have anything to do with the business of Toronto. This is my personal life. But it was the deputy mayor, most of Rob Ford's powers right now saying, look, this video really is a distraction. Toronto doesn't need it.

But something you'll find interesting, Ashleigh, also saying in this video he is still friends, hanging around with a man who is charged with extortion in connection with trying to get that infamous videotape of Mayor Rob Ford smoking crack cocaine, and shouldn't be seen with him, especially not in this way. So many questions. So many more people again today, Ashleigh, saying, look, this is a man who needs to take a break from politics.

BANFIELD: Yeah. You'd think so. Here's the deal, though. When he goes off and tells the reporters, I was, in my private life, at a public restaurant, holding court and decrying the police chief by name, Bill Blair, just how private does he expect he can be if he's doing these things? Isn't anybody pushing him on that?

NEWTON: I think many people are pushing. Especially, you think today they're debating the budget for police. I mean, it's incredible. And many people are wondering how and why is he allowed to go off that way about the police chief, especially with a case which I am told is still under investigation. Still all very murky. And I think many people even in Rob Ford's family, close to him, will say, look, it's time for you to take a break here.

BANFIELD: Yeah. It's not so private when you're announcing to an entire restaurant with a bunch of expletives what you think about the police chief the day before you have official business to be conducted. I say it pretty time, getting bored of myself saying it, unbelievable.

Paula Newton, thank you for that. Call us back when you have more.

(LAUGHTER)

Remarkable.

All right, everybody, thanks for being with us. Be careful if you're heading out on to the roads if you're in one of those snow-affected areas, it is slippery and dangerous and the snow is out there and cold. So prepare yourself, prepare your car. Be safe, careful and come back tomorrow. Thanks for watching.

AROUND THE WORLD starts after this short break.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is a public space. I'm allowed to report.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN ANCHOR: CNN reporter is kicked and punched by Chinese authorities over trying to cover a trial.

And a war of words at a conference seeking peace in Syria. Syria's foreign minister spars with the head of the U.N.