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Bus Driver Loses Job After Fight, Crash; Weather Impacting Olympic Results; CNN Hero Helps Girls Ice Skate; Heart-Warming Olympic Moment

Aired February 14, 2014 - 08:30   ET



CHRIS CUOMO, CO-HOST: People are angry, George. They're angry. This case became a metaphor, an example for them. Your face became the face of this is the guy who gets away with killing a black kid. What do you do with that?


CUOMO: There are a lot of questions people have for George Zimmerman. He was at the center of a trial that divided the country. We're seeing it play out again in the Dunn trial. The issues remain.

In the George Zimmerman case we had a verdict of "not guilty," obviously. Not accepted by a lot of people. And there are presumptions about what went into George Zimmerman's actions, what's gone into them since that he has never spoken to. So for the basis of opinion and obviously the guy is relevant as news those questions get put to him. We'll finally hear what he has to say and keep the dialogue going with more information.

KATE BOLDUAN, CO-HOST: He's been in the headlines since the verdict a lot.

CUOMO: Yes. We talked to him about why that is, as well, and what his life is now. Has there been fame and fortune? Has he benefited? What is his life? We talked to him about that. Why he got into trouble. How he wants to be perceived.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, NEWS ANCHOR: I'm just going to say, I'm curious how he sees himself, too. That's going to be very interesting.

CUOMO: What matters to him. Why he's still around. Right? A lot of people said he should have started his life. So we asked him all those things, obviously relevant because of the story and how big it was and how it goes on -- on now with this new trial in Dunn that we're waiting for a verdict on. We'll play it for you on Tuesday.

PEREIRA: Time now for the five things you need to know for your NEW DAY.

Obviously, parts of the Northeast buried under two feet of snow, some 8,000 flights canceled in just the last 24 hours. Half a million people from Arkansas to Maine are still without power.

Virginia's same-sex marriage ban has been thrown out by a judge, a federal judge ruling that the state has no legitimate reason for preventing same-sex nuptials. But the decision has been stayed, pending appeal.

We are on verdict watch in the so-called loud music trial. Jurors returning for a third day of deliberations deciding whether Michael Dunn killed 17-year-old Jordan Davis in cold blood or in self-defense.

President Obama heading to Palm Springs, California, today for a meeting with King Abdullah of Jordan. The two leaders will discuss Middle East peace and the Syrian war -- the civil war in Syria.

And our No. 5, six medals will be handed out today, not to Americans in the men's super combined after disappointing runs from both Bode Miller and Ted Ligety. Men's figure skating is on tap in about an hour and a half.

We always update those "Five Things to Know," so be sure to go to for the very latest -- Chris.

CUOMO: All right, Mick. I want to show you this surveillance footage again, because it made headlines this week. What does it show? We see the bus driver. Now one of the drivers comes up -- it's a juvenile -- hits the driver, a fight, hits him. So it's the bus driver versus the student.

Footage also shows the driver leaving the wheel of the vehicle, which was moving. Eventually crashes into three parked cars. One of those three cars had people in it. The driver, Scott Wells, was fired. He's now in a fight of a different kind, trying to get his job back.

That's -- leads us to our guest, Rick Bassler. He is the acting president of Wells' union, the Amalgamated Transit Union, Local 998.

Mr. Bassler, thank you for joining us.


CUOMO: Now we understand why the driver himself has let you speak for him because he's party to this situation, and he's obviously worried, as well. So, let me ask you first, with how is he doing? What do we know about the condition of the driver?

BASSLER: Well, Scotty is in counseling right now, and he's in therapy. He has a torn rotator cuff and he has a bulging disk in his back, besides the trauma that he sustained to his head.

CUOMO: Why do you think he was fired?

BASSLER: Because, according to what Kenosha Transit says, is that he left the bus unsecured, and he defended himself, basically. That's how the union looks at it, but he -- he did punch the guy. I mean, we can't deny that. It's on the tape. He did punch him. And that's what Kenosha Transit is discharging him for.

CUOMO: So taking Kenosha's side of this, you can obviously represent the interests of the driver. You left the vehicle. That's really your main obligation, your responsibility to the passengers, not your own personal beef with this one rider; and it was moving, and bad things happened. That's not doing your job; you're fired.

BASSLER: Well, Chris, I guess there's a different aspect to that, and that is when the guy came up and hit him, at that point all, well, Scotty could do -- and at first when I saw the tape, and I've watched the tape a number of times myself. And first when I saw the tape, it appeared he hit him twice. But after watching the tape, this student hit him more than twice.

What Scotty did, because you've got to realize, a bus driver is sitting up on a little bit of a pedestal there. So what Scotty did when he grabbed him -- you know Scotty's a big guy. We've all seen this from the tape. He held him. And when he held him, it was very easy for the guy to take him and pull him out of the seat.

Scotty was just starting to move the bus at that time. There was no way Scotty could have secured the bus, because the kid pulled him right out of his seat. And they both fell into the aisle, and that's when the tussle pursued.

CUOMO: So if you believe it wasn't reasonable for the driver to have immediately secured the safety of the vehicle, do you think that, as the altercation continued and we see in the video there where he kind of follows the kid to the back of the bus, do you think that was the reasonable point here he should have turned around, knowing the bus was moving, move back to the front, stop the bus? Is that fair criticism?

BASSLER: No. No, I don't, Chris. Because of the fact that when you're hit and you have head trauma -- and what Scotty told me is all he could think about was his safety. He feared for his safety.

So when he was pulled out of the seat and a tussle ensued and here on the ground fighting, and Scotty did, like I said, did punch him twice. And he's reasonable to do that, because you don't know if this kid is going to get back up and go back after you again. Scotty had to figure out a way that he could subdue the kid, and that's what he did. By punching him twice -- you don't turn your back and walk away on somebody. If you do, you don't know what's going to happen.

Remember, our drivers aren't trained. We're not law enforcement people. We're not correction officers people. We're not trained on how to defend ourselves. So what Scotty did, after having head trauma, being hit in the head, he subdued the kid the best way he could that the kid wouldn't come up and hit him again, causing severe damage of -- you know, to his safety or whatever else that might be.

CUOMO: Do you think that the company moving to fire your union member is not the right way to deal with the problem and that this is really about driver safety and that they get attacked all the time and these situations happen? BASSLER: Oh, yes. I mean in Milwaukee -- we represent Milwaukee; that's our biggest property. That's where I'm in right now is Milwaukee, Wisconsin. But we represent Milwaukee, too, which is our biggest property. We have so many assaults in Milwaukee that we have safety shields coming on all our buses right now. Every bus that comes from the manufacturer has them on. We're also retrofitting the safety shields on our current fleet.

We've had severe assaults on our buses. We've had assaults where people have -- we had somebody come up and actually hit a driver while he was driving and hit a tree.

We've had -- the latest incident we've had is one that we had a driver got hit once, one punch in the head, and right now he can't speak very well any more. He stutters; he can't speak, with one punch, and his career is basically over. We don't know at this point whether he's ever going to be able to work again.

So yes, driver safety is huge. And the safety shields, the good thing about them, some drivers when we first got them in in Milwaukee, well, they're uncomfortable, they don't like them. But our saying is, if you can protect just one life, one person from being assaulted, these safety shields are worth it. And since the safety shields have been put in in Milwaukee, Chris, we have not had one assault on a driver once the safety shields are closed.

CUOMO: Well, it's an important point if for no other reason than this example shows, we see on video how wrong it can go, how quickly -- how quickly everybody else's safety can come into play, as well.

Mr. Bassler, thank you for arguing the point of the driver, and please let us know what happens. We know that there's an upcoming process in this.

BASSLER: We will. And thank you and have a good day.

CUOMO: You, as well -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Coming up next on NEW DAY, it's one of the most touching, arguably the most fabulous moments from the Olympics. Gold medal winner Alex Bilodeau embracing his brother, who has cerebral palsy right after his big win. We're going to talk with Alex live about that amazing moment and their amazing relationship.


BOLDUAN: Savor the moment. Makes me feel like a champion, even though I could never compete.

Welcome back. Spoiler alert for you, everyone. From the Olympics big news: American favorites Bode Miller and Ted Ligety, looking for medals in the super combined this morning. So how did they do? Let's get straight to Rachel Nichols, who's live in Sochi with the very latest.

Hi there, Rachel. RACHEL NICHOLS, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT/ANCHOR: Well, Kate, they did not medal. Bode finished sixth, and Ted finished 12th.

And really some controversy here, as we're seeing weather not just be a cute side story now but really affect the outcome of these events.

Because the downhill course had such mushy snow, they actually had to cut off the course; because the bottom of the mountain they couldn't get enough snow to finish competing. So instead the course was shorter; it was simpler. That gives downhill specialists like Bode Miller a disadvantage. He can't maximize the best part of the event.

So he feels that the weather really has made him not medal in this event, and he's been complaining about it.

Controversy with warm weather and, well, a whole lot more at these Olympics. Take a look.


NICHOLS (voice-over): Spectators are basking in the 60-degree rays here at Sochi, but that isn't all that's been heating up.

In the hockey arena, Team USA's fiery opener against Slovakia was almost a shutout. The Americans dominating on the ice for a 7-1 win, making what was supposed to be a fierce face-off look more like a scrimmage round. The Americans' powerhouse performance was certainly a show of strength to Russia as the two rivals prepare for this weekend's much-anticipated showdown.

But at the figure-skating rink it was a heartbreaking injury to Russian legend Evgeni Plushenko that left the arena stunned. Before his home crowd, the 31-year-old fell during a practice triple axel, resulting in pain he says felt like a knife in his back.

The four-time Olympic medalist bowed out of the men's short program, then announced his retirement, ending his career before the event even began.

But his curtain call set the stage for the elegant Yuzuru Hanyu, a 19- year-old from Japan. In a competition littered with falls, the rising star soared, landing each jaw-dropping jump, spin and twist, his scores shattering the Olympic world record.

Up the mountains, sirens and a scare. This track worker was airlifted to a local hospital after being struck by a bobsled. Russian officials say the worker broke both legs but is stable after surgery. They're investigating why he was on the track after an alarm did go off, warning of oncoming sleds.

And on the slopes, yet another injury was the story. But this time it only unscored triumph. Polish athlete Justyna Kowalczyk fractured her foot last month, yet skied past the pain in the 10 kilometer classic. After crossing the finish line she collapsed , breaking down crying. Not tears of agony but of joy and the glory of grabbing gold.


NICHOLS (on-camera): You saw in that package four time U.S. figure skating champion Jeremy Abbott crash down. I've got to tell you guys, it's even worse than it looks. He was clutching his ribs. It looked like they might need a stretcher to get him off the ice at one point. But then he got up and finished his program. The music had continued, of course. So he had to basically improv the whole rest of it get in all of his required elements.

Scores weren't great but he won over the Russian crowd. They were cheering like crazy and he said afterwards "This was my Olympic moment. There's no way I was letting it go." So good proof that you can win in more ways than one here in Sochi.

BOLDUAN: At least he kept his head up. That was quite a fall. I can imagine the gasps that were in the arena when that happened.

Thank you so much Rachel.

CUOMO: All right. Time for CNN heroes. Ice skating is taking center stage at the Sochi Olympics but there's a group of girls from Harlem, New York who are just as passionate about the sport. And they might never have been given the chance to experience it without our first CNN hero of 2014. Take a look.


SHARON COHEN, FIGURE SKATING IN HARLEM: I love the crispy feeling of the air, the sound of my skate crunching on the ice. Skating relieves me from everything. I just want to fly.

I heard that there were some girls who wanted to figure skate in Harlem. Growing up I was a competitive figure skater and I knew that skating wasn't a diverse sport. There wasn't access for kids in low- income communities.

They were so eager to get started. I began teaching them and it was really inspiring to me.

Now we serve over 200 girls a year. The best part of skating is that it gives you qualities that you use for the rest of your life. They gain discipline, perseverance. They fall down and they get back up and they learn they can do that in anything. It's a building block.

Skating is the hook but education comes first. Before they even get on the ice they have to get their homework done, they get tutoring. A minimum of three afternoons a week. When girls who believe and know they can do anything they put their hearts and minds to.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's not all about skating. Miss Sharon is teaching us to be the best we can be.


PEREIRA: I love that.

CUOMO: Right.

BOLDUAN: I know.

PEREIRA: It makes me so happy.

CUOMO: Always good to see people making the world a little bit better.

BOLDUAN: -- yes.

PEREIRA: All right. Next up on NEW DAY, this is going to make you feel something for sure. A heart warming moment from the winter games in Sochi. Gold medal winner and Canuck, Alex Bilodeau and his brother who has cerebral palsy sharing that victory. We're going to talk with Alex live from Sochi about that unforgettable moment.


PEREIRA: You cannot help but smile when you see that picture, the joy is literally contagious. After winning the gold medal in the men's moguls at the Sochi Olympics Monday night, Canadian skier Alex Bilodeau, you know, the first thing he had to do was hug his older brother Frederic. Frederic has cerebral palsy and Alex says he is his inspiration.

Two-time gold medalist Alex Bilodeau joins us live from Sochi this morning. First of all, congratulations to you, my friend, this is wonderful. What a moment.

I want to ask you why is it that that was the first thing you needed to do. Why did you point to share that moment about your brother Frederic?

ALEX BILODEAU, CANADIAN MEN'S HOCKEY: My brother lives his dream through my eyes and for me it's priceless when I see his smile at the bottom and my family is so important to me. And my brother is such an inspiration that I need to share these moments with him so I was looking for him in the crowd.

BOLDUAN: I think so many people want to thank you for saying that and doing that because the world fell in love with you the last winter Olympics because we were introduced to this -- you beautiful man and your beautiful relationship with your brother. I mean at this point are you OK with the fact that your celebration at the bottom of the run hugging your brother has far-eclipsed the effect it has.

You had a killer run and you won a gold.

BILODEAU: Yes. I mean it's part of the Olympic dream. And it's amazing to see that we're able to have them close and to share that moment. There's a lot of people that worked hard for me and to allow me to succeed and my family is part of it.

CUOMO: First, I would like to say I agree you're a beautiful man and I wish you a Happy Valentine's Day. And I love that this moment --

BILODEAU: Thank you.

CUOMO: -- has become a little bit bigger because family and the bond here certainly matters more even in Olympic sport. What did your brother say to you about these Olympics and do to encourage you to do your best?

BILODEAU: The first thing he told me at the bottom of the course, same thing that he told me in Torino in 2006 and 2010 in Vancouver, "I love you, you did it." And it's -- I mean that's all you need to say. And he's so proud of the work we've done together. And he lives his dream through me. So it's very fun for me to see that.

PEREIRA: Alex, you know, as a fellow Canadian I know you and I can both relate to this notion that around the world we get teased for being Canadian, people think we're always apologizing and that we get the joke a minute too late, et cetera, et cetera.

But there's something really beautiful that's happening there in Sochi. The Canadian spirit on the Olympic team has been seen time and time again. The moment you had with your brother. The beautiful moment we saw with the three sisters in snowboarding; and perhaps most of all the coach who went out and gave that fallen Russian skier a new ski when he broke his ski. Can you explain what it that's going on at Olympic house Canada?

BOLDUAN: What makes Canada so great?

PEREIRA: Maybe that's what I was asking.

BILODEAU: I mean there's a great spirit right now in the team and you get inspired and you get to become the best with being with the best. We got the best team in the world right now and we're really going for the medal count. And so, yes, I mean it's been a great inspiration to be around those great athletes and greater persons in the village and it's been hopefully going to stay for a long life friendship.

PEREIRA: We think it's fantastic. We jokingly will say that look there's not a lot else going on in Canada. You got to take up a winter sport. You got to learn how to skate. You got to learn how to ski, toboggan, luge -- something.

BOLDUAN: Michaela, you have a hair out in --

PEREIRA: Oh, do I have a hair out of -- I'm sorry, let's get that out of the way. Alex Bilodeau, congratulations my friend. Please send our love to your brother Frederic and to your entire family.

Thanks for joining us here on NEW DAY.

BOLDUAN: Congratulations.

PEREIRA: A round of applause.

BILODEAU: Thank you.

CUOMO: Right. When you see a moment like that I think we're all Canadians.

PEREIRA: Absolutely. It's about the spirit of the games, you know. It really is.

CUOMO: Anyway, we're going to have a lot more going on. Snow not enough in Sochi, too much here. And enormous storm and what you can expect this weekend. We'll tell you about it.


BOLDUAN: Hopefully you're not. Welcome back to NEW DAY.

Team USA faces off against Russia in men's hockey and who better to talk about it than the captain of the 1980 Miracle on Ice team, Mike Eruzione. He's going to be live at 7:00 Eastern tomorrow morning on NEW DAY SATURDAY.

PEREIRA: Don't miss that.

CUOMO: What a coup. A lot of weather news for you -- the developing situation being so bad for literally 100 million people; 49 out of 50 states having seen snow -- unbelievable.

So let's get you right to the "NEWSROOM" with Carol Costello for the latest.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Hey, at least we're all in it together, right?

PEREIRA: Exactly.