Return to Transcripts main page


Jet Hijacked; Shocking Claim; Award Season Drama

Aired February 17, 2014 - 05:00   ET


CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news: hijacked. A passenger jet with hundreds on board, a major airport shut down. A bizarre end to the drama.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: She says she killed 22 people. The shocking, new claim from a 19-year-old already in jail on a murder charge. Why she says she did it.

ROMANS: And hang on to your Oscar pool. The British Academy Awards are out and they could shake up who's on top on Oscar night.

BERMAN: Good morning, everyone. Great to see you. Welcome to EARLY START. I'm John Berman.

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans. It's Monday. Sorry about that. February 17th, it's 5:00 a.m. in the East.

BERMAN: And we do begin with breaking news: a hijacking drama unfolding overnight. In Geneva, a man is now in custody after apparently hijacking an Ethiopian airlines jet. Here's the twist -- that man, the suspect, was the plane's co-pilot. The 767 with 200 people on board was supposed to go from Addis Ababa to Rome but was diverted in midair, police say while the pilot was in the bathroom. The plane circled the airport in Geneva several times while authorities tried to figure out what was going on. Once they landed, the co-pilot apparently climbed out of the cockpit, through a window and down a rope.

The passengers were taken off the plane with their hands up. Everyone on board is OK. That's the great news. Police say they were never threatened. The co-pilot apparently wants asylum in Switzerland.

A lot going on here. This was huge, huge drama overnight. We'll be following this throughout the morning.

BERMAN: All right, here at home, prosecutors in the so-called loud music murder trial say they plan to retry the defendant, Michael Dunn, after the judge declared a mistrial on the most serious charge against him. That charge of first-degree murder. The jury did convict Dunn on three counts of attempted murder in the shooting that left teenager Jordan Davis dead after an argument over loud music. Dunn's now facing some 60 years behind bars for those other three convictions.

We get more on the aftermath of the verdict from CNN's Martin Savidge. He's in Jacksonville, Florida.


MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, John and Christine.

For the first time in nearly two weeks, life, at least outside of the Jacksonville courthouse here, is going to be returning somewhat to normal. This case, of course, has occupied the attention of the entire city and a lot of people across the country. Yesterday was a pretty quiet day.

There were no major protests that were held in the city of Jacksonville for a number of reasons, people say. One, they're still trying to digest the verdict and what exactly it means. Two, also yesterday was Jordan Davis's 19-year-old birthday. And his parents had asked that they be left alone to mark that occasion in their own way.

And I think in a lot of ways, people used it as a day to reflect. The parents were very emotional as they spoke after the verdict was rendered on Saturday night. Here's some of what they had to say.


LUCIA MCBATH, JORDAN DAVIS' MOTHER: We are so grateful for the truth. We are so grateful that the jurors were able to understand the common sense of it all. And we will continue to stand and we will continue to wait for justice for Jordan.

RON DAVIS, JORDAN DAVIS' FATHER: I thank you all for seeing that we as parents were good parents to Jordan, that he was a good kid. He wasn't allowed to be said in the courtroom, but he was a good kid. We will say it, he was a good kid.


MARTIN: Now, as for what lies ahead, the end of march is when it is thought that sentencing will move forward for Michael Dunn. He still faces the potential of decades behind bars. There's also been talk on the part of the defense that there will be an appeal at some point, and then, of course, the prosecutor, Angela Curry, has said that they will go forward and retry Michael Dunn on first-degree murder charges. The defense has said if that happens, they'll ask for a change of venue.

One thing is very clear, the trial may be over, but the pursuit of justice for Jordan Davis in the minds of many people still has a long way to go -- John and Christine.


ROMANS: All right. Martin Savidge, thank you for that.

Now, a search team now removing the bodies of two skiers who were found dead after a search following an avalanche in the mountains of Colorado. Officials say rescuers braved steep terrain. They risked triggering another avalanche while following the signals from emergency beacons of those skiers. The two were part of a group of seven caught in the back country snow slide in Lake County, Colorado. It happened Saturday night.


BOB FENSKE, LAKE COUNTY SHERIFF: When the fracture started it started up above, then came down and went up a little bit, and then fractured and came down the mountain about half a mile.

REPORTER: Did they actually trigger the avalanche being up there?

FENSKE: I believe they did. It was just unfortunate what happened. They had all the right equipment. It just went bad.


ROMANS: Three other skiers in the group were hospitalized. Two managed to escape without any injuries.

BERMAN: Startling, new developments this morning in a murder case from Pennsylvania, where 19-year-old Miranda Barber and her 22-year- old husband, were accused of killing a 42-year-old man they met through Craigslist. Well, now, Barber is telling a local newspaper that she is part of a satanic cult and, she claims she's killed at least 22 other people around the country from Alaska to North Carolina.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She's very meek, very mild, very -- she's very low voice. She never hesitated once. She never gave the impression of it was a rehearsal. I said, Miranda, you know, as you sit here, do you have any remorse whatsoever? And she said, "none."


BERMAN: Barber offered no details of the killings, other than that she claims she joined a cult in Alaska at age 13. Police say they're seriously concerned and are investigating these claims.

ROMANS: Breaking overnight, three diplomatic officials from the United States expelled from Venezuela. President Nicolas Maduro accusing them of conspiring against his government. The announcement comes after the State Department questioned Venezuela's crackdown on antigovernment protesters last week and its decision to issue an arrest warrant for a top opposition leader.

BERMAN: This morning, Monica Lewinski is in the news. It is Mitt Romney now weighing in on Lewinski, Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton's presumed 2016 presidential run. Governor Romney says, going forward, the focus should be on Hillary, not Bill.


MITT ROMNEY (R), FORMER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't think Bill Clinton is as relevant as Hillary Clinton, if Hillary Clinton decides to run for president. And in her case, I think people will look at her record as the secretary of state and say during that period of time, did our relations with nations around the world elevate America and elevate our interests or were they receding? And I think her record is what will be judged upon, not the record of her husband.


BERMAN: Some Republicans like Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky have been discussing the Lewinski scandal again. This is in advance of a possible Hillary Clinton presidential run. Mitt Romney doesn't seem to be interested in that, but he would not let Mr. Clinton completely off the hook. He said President Clinton, quote, "embarrassed the nation and breached his responsibility as an adult."

ROMANS: Meantime, President Obama speaking out in an interview with Charles Barkley during TNT's coverage of the NBA all-star game. He praised University of Missouri football star Michael Sam for announcing publicly he was gay before the NFL draft. He compared the gay rights fight to what African-Americans experienced in sports.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Think about basketball. I mean, you know, you think about what the NBA was before African- Americans were allowed to play on an equal footing. You know, you think about some of the stories that, even folks like Oscar Robertson, you know, tell what they went through, you know? You think about what Jackie Robinson ended up meaning not just to baseball but to the entire society. I wouldn't be sitting here if it weren't for him. You know, I think America's stronger where everybody is being treated, you know, with respect and dignity.


ROMANS: As for basketball, the president acknowledged he's a Chicago guy. Michael Jordan will always be the man, but he says LeBron James can be the best ever.

BERMAN: Yes, the president likes to kid LeBron about that a little bit. I don't know if LeBron thinks he's kidding or not. We'll have to see.

All right. This morning much of New England digging out after more than a foot of heavy, wet snow blanketed Massachusetts and Maine.

ROMANS: Stop. Horrible.

BERMAN: It was worst along the coast. It had 50-plus-mile-an-hour winds. That's along the cape. You can see the exit for Hyannis there. Thousands of people are still without power this morning.

ROMANS: And the legendary Eisenhower tree at Augusta national gone. Oh, gorgeous! It was so badly damaged by an ice storm last week, it couldn't be saved. The 65-foot-high loblolly pine stood lovely for decades along Augusta's 17th fairway. It was arguably the most famous tree in golf.

BERMAN: I think easily.

ROAMNS: President Eisenhower hit it so often, he tried to get the club to cut it down back in 1956. They refused, and it's been known as Eisenhower's tree ever since.

BERMAN: I got to go to Augusta a few years ago to cover the masters, and the first thing I did was race out to see --

ROMANS: Take a picture.

BERMAN: -- under the Eisenhower tree right there. This is a tragedy. Like when the old man on the mountain in New Hampshire fell down. That's the scope of the tragedy. It's a shame.

All right. If you thought you might be putting this weather behind you, no. Not even close. With that, Indra Petersons explains it all. Justify this for us.

ROMANS: You have 30 days until spring.


ROMANS: I'm giving you 30 days.

PETERSONS: It's fine, because we do have another storm, but at the end of this forecast, you're going to like it, because the temperatures are climbing, meaning instead of snow, we're going to be talking about rain by the end of the week, and who cares, as long as it's warmer out there, right? Let's talk about what's going on right now. Minneapolis starting to see some snow showers. Concerns for the morning commute as they are looking for snowfall rates about an inch or so an hour, also some freezing rain kind of moving in towards the St. Louis area.

What are we talking about? Well, some heavy snow is going to be out there today. Notice Minneapolis, Chicago seeing four to six inches of snow. Snow no one wants at this point concerns for the morning commute as they are looking for snowfall rates about an inch or so an hour. Also some freezing rain kind of moving in towards the St. Louis area. What are we talking about?

Well, some heavy snow is going to be out there today. Notice Minneapolis, Chicago seeing four to six inches of snow. Snow no one wants at this point anymore. Pittsburgh two to five inches. And eventually, overnight tonight into through tomorrow, about one to three inches of snow again out towards New York City, even in towards Boston.

Here's the timing of it. You can actually see that low again right now making its way through the Ohio valley tonight. And then by tomorrow morning, commute time, there you go, starting to see that snowfall and then kind of making its way through New England throughout the day, exiting off by late evening tomorrow. Remember, on the back side of this, though, temperatures, they are going to be going up. This is what you want to know, guys. Look at the jet stream. It's been dipping down, bringing cold air on the eastern half of the country.

Notice the change by the second half of the week here. We're going to be talking about warmer temperatures out there. Let's take it day by day. You're going to love this. Notice still below normal on the East Coast, but watch these temperatures quickly climb. Notice to above normal by Wednesday.


PETERSONS: Got to get there, because look at that. Looking for 57 in D.C. may want to go to the South? Look at that, almost 70 degrees. See? I can end on a good note, guys.

ROMANS: Feel like it's like a third grade math problem, trying to figure out how long it will take at 45 degrees to melt 2 1/2 feet of snow in my front yard.

PETERSONS: With rain, right?

ROMANS: I know, with rain. Thanks.

BERMAN: But that snow on the roof, that could be an issue with melting there, flooding issues around the East Coast.

ROMANS: We need a countdown clock. Every time Indra comes up, I want a countdown clock to spring in the bottom right corner. A countdown clock to spring.

BERMAN: You can talk as long as you want as long as you bring spring.


BERMAN: Eleven minutes after the hour right now.

The crowdfunding website Kickstarter says it has closed a security breach, but it's telling users to change their passwords after learning that site was hacked. In an e-mail, the company CEO says hackers did not get credit card information, but they were able to access personal data, including usernames, electronic and mailing addresses, phone numbers and encrypted passwords.

ROMANS: Stock markets overseas higher this Monday. Japan's Nikkei recovered from early selling after a report showed much slower-than- expected growth, Hong Kong and London trading higher as well.

U.S. stock markets are closed today for the Presidents' Day holiday. The Dow jumped 127 on Friday. The Dow up more than 2 percent last week. It was a decent day last week for the Dow. The NASDAQ rose 3 percent, about. The S&P up more than 2 percent, now just a few points away from its record closing high, so much for all of those fears about a big correction, right? Turned right back around. February looking good following a bruising January when the Dow lost 5 percent. This month, the market has been able to shrug off a disappointing jobs report, a change at the Fed, weak retail sales, warnings that back-to-back winter storms are taking a toll on the economy.

BERMAN: Less than two weeks to go now until the Academy Awards, and the race for best picture is oh so close. "12 Years a Slave" won best picture at Sunday's Baftas, which are Britain's version of the Academy Awards, like with the funny accent. "12 Years" star Chiwetel Ejifor was named best actor. Meantime, the rival for the Oscars, "Gravity" won a leading six Bafta Awards, including one for best British film, like space travel, again, with a funny accent. "Gravity" director Alfonso Cuaron was also a winner.

ROMANS: All right. Coming up, he became famous for handling snakes on TV, but fans are now mourning this Kentucky pastor, dead because of his faith.

BERMAN: The way he died, fascinating.

But first, a CNN exclusive. We go inside northern Syria, where a rebel group is accused of atrocities. Arwa Damon went there. She joins us live, next.


ROMANS: Welcome back. This morning we have a CNN exclusive from Syria, where for months there have been claims about atrocities being carried out by a group of al Qaeda-inspired extremists called ISIS, the Islamic state of Iraq and Syria.

Now, Arwa Damon and her producer and photojournalist traveled there to investigate. We should warn you, some may find parts of this report disturbing. Arwa joins us live from Beirut.

Arwa, what did you find out?

ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It really is absolutely terrifying, the stories people telling us, hair-raising. ISIS the Islamic state in Iraq and Syria, is a group that is so radical that even al Qaeda itself has reportedly distanced itself from it.

ISIS appeared in Syria about a year ago and managed to entrench itself in various cities and towns throughout the country. People in the town of Adana, where myself, CNN producer Raja Rajik (ph) and photojournalist Clayton Nagel went for a few hours.

There, people were telling us when ISIS initially arrived, they were welcomed, viewed as being there to help the people, wanting to educate them religiously, but not really imposing any sort of radical rule of law upon them. Rebel fighters then focusing on the front lines with the Assad regime entrusted the protection of Adana to ISIS, and that is when the organization really began carrying out its draconian and brutal tactics. Public executions became the norm. One rebel fighter describing how they would leave the bodies of people they had executed at checkpoints so that every single vehicle driving by would be forced to slow down and look at them.

There were also a number of mass graves that rebel fighters uncovered when they managed to recapture Adana. We were at the scene of one of them, where volunteers were digging up a grave that they had, in fact, already dug up before. A family was waiting on the sidelines looking for closure. One man believed that his two brothers, perhaps, may be buried there. And the day after we left, he discovered that it was, in fact, not two, but three of his brothers that had been murdered by ISIS.

Now, various radical and moderate rebel groups did ban together in early January to launch an offensive against is. This was a decision that a lot of fighters were telling us they were hoping they would not have to take, saying that would be incredibly difficult for them to fight on multiple fronts, but because of ISIS's sheer brutality, they said in many cases, they did take the decision to fall back from the front lines where they were battling government troops and launched various offenses to try to kick ISIS out of some parts of Syria. They have managed to do so for the time being in Adana, but is still looms large in other parts of the country, Christine.

ROMANS: All right. Arwa Damon in Beirut for us this morning. Thank you, Arwa.

Meanwhile, Secretary of State John Kerry is blaming the Assad regime for this weekend's breakdown of talks aimed at ending this war in Syria. The secretary writing that while the opposition put forward a roadmap for negotiations, the government continued to attack civilians. No word yet if both sides might meet again, for now, a third round of talks.

BERMAN: So much tragedy there, so many lives lost.

This morning, rescue operations are over at a gold mine in South Africa because a group of miners once believed trapped we fused to come out. About 19 of them are staying under ground in the abandoned mine where they were working illegally trying to find gold. Eleven others did leave after a rockslide, but the others are apparently worried they could get arrested if they come out for breaking the law.

ROMANS: Followers and fans of his television show today remembering Jamie Coots, a Pentecostal pastor and reality TV star famous for handling poisonous snakes. He died over the weekend after being bitten by one of those snakes during a service. He refused treatment because of his faith. His son told the "Associated Press" his father had been bitten before and did not expect a severe reaction.

BERMAN: Twenty minutes after the hour.

Coming up, he is an Olympic champion, but this medal, this one hit him hard. Bode Miller breaking down after taking the bronze in a pretty controversial interview that a lot of people are talking about this morning.

Joe Carter has it all in the "Bleacher Report," coming up next.


BERMAN: Welcome back, everyone. Moments after winning a bronze medal, Bode Miller was brought to tears during a post-race interview.

ROMANS: Some are saying it's because an NBC reporter pressed a bit too hard when she repeatedly asked questions about his brother, who passed away.

Joe Carter has more in this morning's "Bleacher Report."

Hey, Joe.

JOE CARTER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, good morning, guys. To set the scene for you here, Bode Miller had just tied for a bronze medal in the super-g event, and during the post-race interview, he was being humanized, you know? The story lines were playing out -- here's the party boy turned family man, the 36-year-old whose younger brother had just passed away from a seizure last year.

And it wasn't out of bounds for NBC's Christin Cooper to ask him a question about his brother's death. It was a relevant area to pursue, and his initial response was raw and emotional, but it's when she continued to press, it's when she continued to ask about his late brother that not only brought him to tears, but it also brought him to his knees.


BODE MILLER, OLYMPIAN: For him to, you know, pass away the way that he did really kind of, I don't know, it sort of connected with my sort of journey coming back. And today I felt like that was all very connected and very raw and emotional for me.


CARTER: Now, Miller did come to NBC reporter Christin Cooper's defense on Twitter, saying, "My emotions were very raw. She asked the questions that every interviewer would have. Pushing is part of it. She wasn't trying to cause pain."

All right. So, in other Olympic news what a great weekend it was for men's hockey. Americans from coast to coast were up early both Saturday and Sunday celebrating a thrilling win over Russia, then a dominating win over Slovenia. And these fans are going absolutely nuts over a winning goal against Russia. It was an absolutely great scene of patriotism, of great joy.

And coming out of that weekend, America has a new Olympic hero. His name is T.J. Oshie. He's the player who iced the 3-2 win over Russia. You know, that game had something reminiscent about the epic miracle on ice at the 1980 games and Team USA certainly carrying that huge boost from Saturday into Sunday with a 5-1 win over Slovenia.

So, now it's on to the quarterfinals with a ton of momentum heading into the medal round this week.

And this story is trending this morning on American ice dancing pair Meryl Davis and Charlie White are going to take the ice this morning looking for their first gold medal. Now, this pair has been skating together for 16 years. Davis was 9, white was 10 when they first danced together. They're in first place after yesterday's short dance. Today's the free dance competition.

And here's sort of a medal breakdown for the latest in the games. The Netherlands now has the lead with a total of 17 medals. USA is tied with the host nation, Russia, with 16 medals apiece. And Germany still leads the charge with the most gold medals at seven.

That's your "Bleacher Report" update. Guys, back to you.

BERMAN: Just killing it at speed skating. We watched the game Saturday morning with my boys. We were screaming at the top of our lungs. T.J. Oshie, that guy is my hero.

CARTER: I saw your tweet on Friday that your Olympic spirit was down a bit. I'm hoping that game Saturday sort of lifted spirits again.

BERMAN: That was like Olympic spirit Cialis right there. Let's leave it at that. It was very dramatic.

All right, Joe, thank you very much.

CARTER: Good to see you guys.

BERMAN: Thank you so much.

Developing this morning, a plane hijacked by the co-pilot. We're going to have the latest on this developing story overnight, after the break.