Return to Transcripts main page
LEGAL VIEW WITH ASHLEIGH BANFIELD
Safety Concerns in Sochi; New Suspect in 1989 Florida Disappearance Is Now-Dead Convict; NY Authorities Arrest Three With Possible Hoffman Overdose Connection; Heroin Prevalent on Drug Market; Judge Refuses Re-Sentencing on Affluenza Case
Aired February 6, 2014 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
NISCHELLE TURNER, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: His successor.
JIMMY FALLON, NEW "TONIGHT SHOW" HOST: I'll do my best to make you proud, every single night. Thank you.
TURNER: "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon" kicks off February 17th.
TURNER: Now, I recently sat down with Bill Carter of "The New York Times" who wrote the book on late night to talk about Jay Leno for the special that I did, Carol.
And I asked him, "Bill, what do you think Jay Leno's legacy is?" And he simply said two words, "A winner."
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Thank you so much, Nischelle Turner.
And thank you for joining me today. I'm Carol Costello.
"LEGAL VIEW" with Ashleigh Banfield starts now.
ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Agents on the lookout for terrorists armed with, of all things, toothpaste, as crazy as it sounds, it is a very real threat as the world heads to Russia and the Winter Games begin.
Also this hour, pointing fingers in the Philip Seymour Hoffman heroin investigation, prosecutors try to look into ties between the late actor and the suspects arrested after his apparent overdose.
And remember the so-called "affluenza" case, a Texas teenager from an affluent family who got probation for a deadly DUI crash that killed four?
Well, the judge didn't done with him yet.
Hello, everyone. I'm Ashleigh Banfield. It is Thursday, February 6th, and welcome to LEGAL VIEW.
Years from now, when you hear the name Sochi, United States Homeland Security wants you to think about ski-jumps and medal count, not a bomb blast inside an airplane or a stadium.
And that's why Washington is warning airlines that fly directly into the site of this year's Winter Olympics, be on the lookout for explosives that may be smuggled in toothpaste tubes.
With opening ceremony now just 24 hours away, we're going to turn to CNN's Nick Paton Walsh for the very latest.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPRESENTATIVE PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: Any type of explosive, concealed explosive, can be extremely damaging. It could -- yeah, it could be enough to bring a plane down.
NICK PATON WALSH, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Airlines with direct flights to Russia on alert this morning, the Department of Homeland Security issuing another terror bulletin, warning about the possibility that explosive materials could be concealed in toothpaste or cosmetic tubes on flights headed to the Olympic Games in Sochi.
The possible devices intended either to be detonated on the flights themselves or smuggled into the Olympic Village.
Former presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who organized the 2002 Winter Olympics. discussed this threat with CNN's Wolf Blitzer.
MITT ROMNEY, ORGANIZER, 2002 SALT LAKE CITY GAMES: A real grave concern to hear a report of this nature, and you basically want to know more.
Are we going to put in place immediately restrictions on any kind of tubes or any kind of cosmetics going in flights towards Russia?
But, as individuals, as airlines, people are concerned given the specificity of the nature of this threat and the fact that there's almost nothing they can do to prevent something of this nature from perhaps being put onto an aircraft.
WALSH: Despite security concerns, the Obama administration has not advised Americans to avoid the games.
Secretary of State John Kerry telling CNN's Jake Tapper, before the toothpaste alert was issued --
JOHN KERRY, SECRETARY OF STATE: I believe anybody that wants to go to the Olympics, which are just a great event, should go.
We feel that everything has been done that can be done to try to guarantee people's safety and security.
WALSH: This latest threat coming as athletes continue to arrive in Sochi. One German snowboarder at his first Olympics just landed.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm really surprised, because we just touched down and saw the soldiers next to the runway. That was -- wow.
WALSH: Athletes head into the ring of steel behind dogs, cameras on balloons, warships, and anti-aircraft batteries.
Precautions taken to protect participants in what experts say may be the most dangerous Olympic Games in history.
BANFIELD: And our Nick Walsh joins us live now.
Nick, in Sochi, are the Russians actually doing something tangible right now with this information that seems to be broadcast all over the world?
And haven't they already done everything? Haven't they should have already done everything by now, anyway?
WALSH: I think in their point of view, they have, and to their credit, they've tried to ban liquids from carryon luggage into aircraft.
When I flew from Moscow to Sochi, they wouldn't let me take anything on the plane, not even the 100-millimeter bottles we're allowed to take on most flights these days.
So perhaps they were in the loop ahead of these leak by U.S. officials. They say, quite clear, they've done everything they can to make these games safe, that they will be 100-percent safe.
You see the security, pretty much everywhere you look these days. And, in fact, a couple of days ago, we saw a couple of helicopters constantly circling over the venue.
There's pretty much a feeling of a ring of steel here, a dragnet, but, of course, that background chatter of threats persists Ashleigh.
BANFIELD: And, so, Nick, every time I see a headline on television or in the papers about the Sochi games, it feels as thought it's security-threat related, or it's a disaster, a debacle, nothing is ready, it's a mess.
What does it actually feel like to be there? Does it feel like what it sounds like?
WALSH: I think lot of people are really waiting for the kind of joy to kick in, and I think we'll see a lot of that in the opening ceremony. We saw a practice run of the fireworks.
But you're right. There's a sort of background noise of problems that's been building towards it, rather than dissipating.
The security is certainly an issue. We're not seeing flocks of foreign tourists flooding the streets. The bars and restaurants aren't heaving at this particular stage.
That may well change in the forthcoming days, but it's a -- I think it's a feeling of anxiety, of anticipation. People want to see things get under way. They want the festivities to happen to remind them really of why they're here in the first place, because all this noise about safety is really beginning to burden people.
BANFIELD: Yeah. Supposed to be all about global unification and good will.
Nick Paton Walsh, live for us in Sochi, thank you for that.
Makes you wonder if toothpaste is now what shoes used to be back when we all got on planes without going barefoot through security. Do you remember those days?
We all know what happened when this man, Richard Reed, tried to bring down a flight, two months after 9/11.
CNN's Evan Perez joins me live now from Washington, D.C.
I have been of the conviction, Evan, that easement was the name of the game, that all of these restrictions that we've been going through have been getting easier.
Is that about to change?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: You know, we know, Ashleigh, that there are discussions under way in the government right now about how to respond to this latest threat.
One of the things that's going to be discussed is the fact that what we know, what security officials know right now about this, is that the threat mostly is focused on flights that are coming into Russia from Europe. And that's where the concern lies.
So that's going to be playing a role into whatever decisions they make as to how to respond to this for flights coming from the U.S. or inside the United States.
BANFIELD: And what exactly are the rules right now? For anybody who's either flying within the U.S. or internationally, or perhaps flying to Sochi, where do things stand as we speak?
PEREZ: Right now, there's the so-called 311 rules. So, you have -- you carry bottles or containers 3.4 ounces or less. That's about 100- milliliters. They must be stored in a one-quart/liter, plastic, zip- lock bag. And it's one bag per passenger.
Now, we've talked to an airline -- a former airline security official who said that he expects that there should be some further tightening of the rules here.
We also talked to DHS -- a former DHS official who said that they think the rules are already plenty stringent.
So, that's going to be part of the debate as we go forward from here, Ashleigh.
BANFIELD: All right, Evan Perez, reporting for us, live, thank you for that.
Want to take us now to a major break in a 25-year-old case. That's what you call a "cold case" in Florida. Authorities have identified a convict. A convict who happens to now be dead is playing a role in the disappearance of this Florida student, Tiffany Sessions, who went missing in 1989.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SHERIFF SADIE DARNELL, ALACHUS COUNTY, FLORIDA: This case is highly, highly probable that Paul Rowles is the suspect in the disappearance and likely murder of Tiffany Sessions, highly, highly probable.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BANFIELD: So probable, in fact, the authorities are asking the public now to take a good look at this picture.
Anyone who might have known this person, Paul Rowles, please think back to 1989 and share any information you may have that could be pertinent to this investigation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All units, be advised. We have an active shooter in the valley off of Broadway and (inaudible).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Southbound four approaching -
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BANFIELD: Some pretty frantic video coming from a police officer's lapel-camera, all of this as he's responding to a shooter who's ambushing other officers with an AK-47. This happened last October in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Christopher Chase stole a police car and led police on a chase that ended with officers shooting him eight times and killing him.
One officer was shot in the leg and needed a tourniquet, but the video now surfacing just shows what that kind of work is like.
More than half a million homes and businesses this morning still without power after another major ice and snowstorm socked the Northeast.
The vast majority are expected to get power back by tomorrow, but for some people, that wait could end up stretching all the way to Sunday.
The power company in Philadelphia is calling this storm the second most damaging in its history.
The death of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman puts the big business of selling heroin in the very big, bright spotlight. We're going to have the very latest into the investigation in his case.
And, also, we're going to take you to the streets of Philadelphia, where dealers can make as much as $100,000 a day selling the very thing that killed that man.
BANFIELD: The attorneys for the suspects in the Philip Seymour Hoffman drug case might have a lot of explaining to do, especially when it comes to this man, Robert Vineberg. He's the one pointing at the camera.
He's one of three people who were charged in connection to the drugs found in Hoffman's apartment. They have all pleaded not guilty. That happened yesterday.
But police are saying that this man is one of the people with the largest amount of what is believed to be heroin, but also, he's the person with the actor's phone number that was stored in his cell phone.
Alexander Field joins me live now. And, Alexandra, what's the very latest? What have we learned in court on this case?
ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: All right, a few things here, Ashleigh.
First of all, officials are not actually linking anyone to Philip Seymour Hoffman's death, but three people are facing these drug- possession charges, because they're believed to be connected to the heroin found in Hoffman's apartment.
Juliana Luchkiw and Max Rosenblum, both 22, were charged with misdemeanors while 57-year-old Robert Vineberg is charged with a felony.
The three were arrested following an NYPD raid in Manhattan. Investigators found 350 small bags of what's believed to be heroin. They say most of the drugs were in Vineberg's apartment. He's that jazz musician.
According to police, he did have Hoffman's number in his cell phone. Attorneys say all three pleaded not guilty.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DANIEL HOCHHEISER, MAX ROSENBLUM'S ATTORNEY: My client, by all accounts I know of, has nothing to do with Philip Seymour Hoffman. My client is not responsible for Philip Seymour Hoffman's death.
EDWARD KRATT, ROBERT VINEBERG'S ATTORNEY: This arrest and these charges have absolutely nothing to do with Hoffmann's unfortunate death.
(END VIDEOTAPE) FIELD: Now, an attorney representing Juliana Luchkiw says his client has connection to Philip Seymour Hoffmann, other than watching some of his movies. He says she was just in wrong place at the wrong time. A fourth person, 48-year-old Thomas Kushman was also arrested. He will not be prosecuted. The Manhattan DA saying there was no evidence that he had control over the drugs. Ashleigh?
BANFIELD: Alexandra Field, thank you for that.
This is a perfect time to bring up something. It's a perfect time to bring up a personal anecdote about someone I know. Good friend of mine, well-known screenwriter, Aaron Sorkin. He's just come out with a "Time Magazine" piece where he talks veru candidly about being an ex addict and being a recovering addict himself and how he on a film set used to talk to Phillip Seymour Hoffmann on what it was like, and how Philip said to him, you know, if one of us dies, ten more won't because the headlines will be so big, that it might just scare off ten other people. Let's hope that number is at least ten.
There's another number making headlines, it's 105 -- 105 people are dying in the United States every day. Every single day from an overdose that either involves heroin or pharmaceutical opioid. That's according to the CDC. Accidental overdoses claim more than 30,000 lives a year, and that is even more than car accidents.
As you think about that, think about whether any of this big news about Phillip Seymour Hoffmann will scare people from buying the heroin. Take a look at Randi Kaye's piece because she finds out they're not scared of buying it. No, they're not scared of buying it and they certainly don't seem to be scared of using it and dying from it.
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's broad daylight in Philadelphia. So it's plain to see this heroin deal in the making.
VOICE OF DAVID DONGILLI, SPECIAL AGENT IN CHARGS, PA FIELD DIV.: If you look at some of the people that just left, they're all addicts. They're looking to get their fix for the day.
KAYE: Not just on this corner. As DEA special agent David Dongilli drove us around, we saw dealers and addicts at nearly every intersection. He showed me the tiny bags the heroin is sold in under street names like bud ice, White House, even DEA. The buyers, anyone from high schoolers to housewives. Dongilli says most of the heroin here is coming from Mexican cartels. It's a cheap fix, just $10 a bag, and so easy to get. Here's how it works. Dealers have guys on the street they call lookouts.
DONGILLI: Once a buyer walks down the street, you'll have those lookouts directing saying they're on the corner of sixth and Marshal.
KAYE: Lookouts aren't just for buyers, but police too. Some are in cars honking their horns to alert the dealers. Watch what happens when we show up. DONGILLI: As you can see people walk ago way. This right here are several drug dealers on the corner.
KAYE: They're on the move.
DONGILLI: They're moving. See this guys moving? You see these guys moving down the road? We've got a lookout. This individual here probably looking to cop bags of heroin.
KAYE: Those guys just ran basically.
DONGILLI: They're running. They know we're here.
KAYE: Agent Dongilli says Pennsylvania heroin is the purest east of the Mississippi, but that still hasn't stopped some dealers from mixing it with drugs like fentanyl, a powerful narcotic often used to treat cancer patients. Just last month, 22 people died from heroin overdoses in western Pennsylvania. All of it had been laced with fentanyl.
DONGILLI: Fentanyl is extremely dangerous, extremely potent. Two to three grains of salt, just to put it in perspective, of fentanyl mixed in with heroin could kill a seasoned heroin addict.
KAYE: They don't tell you it's in there.
DONGILLI: They don't tell you it's in there.
KAYE: Agent Dongilli's team recently seized over 12 kilograms of heroin worth millions of dollars on the street. These are evidence photos of just some of the heroin and weapons picked up. Dealers are going to extremes, like this woman police say was selling heroin in McDonald's Happy Meals. $2 for the toy, $80 for the heroin. Those extremes and creativity are only making Dongilli's job harder.
DONGILLI: Sometimes they'll have small amounts on them, and sometimes it'll be hidden. It could be hidden in that, underneath the car. They'll go and re-up the amount they have on them. They never take the chance to lose their product.
BANFIELD: CNN's Randi Kaye reporting for us.
Do you remember the so-called affluenza case? How could you forget? The teenager convicted in a drunk driving crash that killed four people, but he was only sentenced to probation, no jail time. This after his attorneys argued that he grew up too privileged, didn't get the lessons being taught right from wrong. He's back in court and what happened has outraged family members of the victims yet again.
BANFIELD: Remember the affluenza defense? Hard to forget it. We heard it after 16-year-old Ethan Couch drove drunk, crashed and all the while killed four people, injuring others as well. The defense expert got on the stand and said Ethan's wealthy parents really just hadn't taught him about consequences in life. Now Ethan has just been ordered to spend at least part of the ten year probation -- again, probation not prison sentence -- in rehab. He's going to rehab for some of that time. And I'll tell you something, not everyone is satisfied about this and that's an understatement. Ed Lavandera takes us into juvenile court.
ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The juvenile court judge sentenced Ethan Couch to ten years probation. First he'll go to a Texas rehabilitation facility, but there's a catch. There's no minimum time the 16-year-old will have to spend in the treatment center. Couch was convicted in December for a horrific drunk driving crash that killed four people and severely injured two others. Victim's families call the punishment a travesty.
MARLA MITCHELL, VICTIM'S MOTHER: No matter what game he or his family think they've beaten, the world is not ever going to take eyes off of him. They're going to be waiting. Waiting for him to mess up again if he does.
LAVANDERA: The Ethan Couch saga made national headlines because of the bizarre defense strategy. A psychologist testified that he was a product of something he called affluenza, a lifestyle where wealth brought privilege and there were no consequences for bad behavior.
Couch's attorney blasted news media coverage of the case for focusing on the affluenza testimony.
REAGAN WYNN, ETHAN COUCH'S ATTORNEY: I think that word might have got said once by a witness in passing. All of a sudden that became the story. I would submit it was ridiculous to think that we walked into court and said this is a rich white kid and she decided to probate him. It's just crazy to think that that's what happened.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Really? Well, that's ironic because his expert that brought that before the courtroom.
LAVANDERA: Prosecutors say there's no question the affluenza theme affected Couch's punishment.
RICHARD ALPERT, PROSECUTOR: It was a stupid thing to say. It affected the credibility of that expert and will follow that expert wherever he testifies. It was a dumb idea.
LAVANDERA: In court, Couch's family refused to comment, but victim's families say Couch and his parents show no remorse. Eric Boyles' wife and daughter were killed by Ethan Couch.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How hard is this for you to (INAUDIBLE)?
ERIC BOYLES, WIFE AND DAUGHTER KILLER: I really don't want to go there.
LAVANDERA: Ethan Couch will be on probation until he's 26 years old. His lawyer hopes intense therapy will turn his life around.
LAVANDERA: Ashleigh, that probation last ten years. He will not be allowed to have any contact with his parents until the rehab facility determines that it's okay. One of the other terms is he will not be allowed to drive. If he violates his probation rules he could be sentenced and sent to prison for four to ten years.
BANFIELD: Well, those victims won't have contact with their loved ones for a lot longer. They'll never be able to drive, I think, is what most people would say to that. Ed Lavandera, thank you for that.
By the way, Ethan Couch's attorney appeared on CNN this morning. He was on our program "NEW DAY" and he talked about what his client's emotional state is like right now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WYNN: Ethan is going to live with what he did for the rest of his life. I can tell you that he certainly feels remorse. The doctors say he's suffering from PTSD following the accident. He is emotionally and socially arrested to where he's effectively like a 12-year-old. I don't think he's capable of expressing his true feelings in a way that's satisfactory to anyone.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BANFIELD: That was Ethan Couch's attorney appearing this morning on CNN. Appearing now on CNN, CNN's legal analyst Paul Callan and HLN legal analyst Joey Jackson. I need to take a deep breath guys before I begin this. You know how I feel. I think you feel the same way.
Here's what I need to ask you. That prosecutor, in Ed Lavandera's report said that that affluenza defense was a dumb idea. I'm sorry, but I think it was a brilliant idea and it worked. That kid got off scot-free. Will it ever, ever work again Paul Callan?
PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, no. I don't think it will work again, and I think anybody who was stupid enough to use the word affluenza will find his client carted off to jail. But I happen to agree with you completely that the prosecutor is dead wrong. It worked very effectively in this case. It was a stupid thing to say, but the expert convinced the judge that this kid, despite killing four human beings and critically injuring two others gets no jail time.
BANFIELD: Poor kids, well they don't get to experience affluenza. Can you somehow think somewhere down the line some defense attorney will be able to say, he may not have rich parents, but his parents didn't teach him right from wrong either? PS, would anybody listen to that in the first place?
JOEY JACKSON, HLN LEGAL ANALYST: You know what, Ashleigh, being an effective judge is about having good judgment and about having great discretion. You would make an excellent one. The fact of the matter is this -- you have to account for everything when sitting in judgment. But you also have to account for public confidence. The system works because people have confidence in the system. You can't only look at the defendant. You have to look at the victims and the ramifications to everyone.
When you take that on balance -- I understand the system is about punishment, it's about deterrence, it's about rehabilitation, and you want to factor in rehabilitation because he's so young. But no matter how you slice it, to look at this as justice is a perversion of it. When a court for the future looks at something like affluenza and has somebody get off easy like this because they're from such a background, I think that I would daresay it will not happen.