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Woman Escapes 10-Year Kidnapping; Dangerous Storms Across U.S.; GM Recalls More Cars Than It's Sold in Five Years; Subway Chaos in Brazil; Obama Says More Review of VA Needed; FBI Director Talks Pot Policy

Aired May 22, 2014 - 11:00   ET


MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN CO-ANCHOR: A young woman missing for 10 years until she found the courage to free herself, why didn't she just run, and what made her finally ask for help?

JOHN BERMAN, CNN CO-ANCHOR: Then, where's the action after the outrage? President Obama says he will not tolerate deadly delays at V.A. hospitals, but did he already? The president's crisis-management skills in question.

PEREIRA: Also, almost 2 million pounds of beef recalled. We know where it was sold, but why don't or can't we know which restaurants served it?

BERMAN: Hello there, everyone. Great to see you today. I'm John Berman.

PEREIRA: It's Thursday, which means it's Friday eve. You know that, right?

BERMAN: Almost.

PEREIRA: I'm Michaela Pereira.

Those stories and much more, right now, @ THIS HOUR.

Imagine this. Drugged, kidnapped, locked up and sexually assaulted, that is the hell authorities say a young woman in California endured for 10 years until finally she found the strength to break free.

BERMAN: Police say the horror started when the girl was just 15-years- old. Her mother's boyfriend allegedly abducted her, gave her a fake identity and told her that if she ran, her family would be deported.

Then he allegedly forced her to marry him and bear his child.

PEREIRA: Neighbors said they seemed like a perfectly happy family.


MERIBEL GARCIA, NEIGHBOR: She would go to the market, like, every other couple. They'd be happy, kissing, holding hands. And then she comes up with this now. Why did she take so long to do it, you know? Like she had a lot of time to leave. The police station is just right around the corner.


BERMAN: Recently, the woman, now 25, found her sister on Facebook and contacted authorities.

Today 41-year-old Isidro Garcia is due to be arraigned.

PEREIRA: And that young woman is speaking out, telling our affiliate KABC, quote, "He worked hard for me and my daughter, and he bought me everything I want, but I need love of my family, not things.

"I was very afraid about everything because I was alone."

BERMAN: Our Sara Sidner joins us from Bell Gardens in California. We also have psychologist Dr. Gail Saltz and Ernie Allen, the president of The International Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Sara, I want to start with you here. Give me the back story here and the latest.

SARA SIDNER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we do know that the mother of this alleged victim basically went to police in 2004, saying that her daughter was missing.

Initially she thought that her daughter and the man who was living in the house as the mother's boyfriend had some kind of relationship. She worried that there was something going on there. She reported it to police.

Now, here we fast-forward 10 years, and suddenly the daughter contacts police, saying that she didn't run away. She had indeed been kidnapped by Isidro Garcia, also known as Thomas or Tomas Garcia by some of his friends and neighbors.

We do know that police say that she, it seemed, was brainwashed. She was told that she -- if she goes to police, to say anything, to try to check on her parents, that they would then arrest her because she is in the country illegally. She arrived here from Mexico when she was 15-years-old.

She was also told that her family wasn't looking for her and didn't miss her, according to statements that she made to police.

Now we do know that Isidro Garcia has been arrested. He's facing some very, very serious, serious accusations, including kidnapping, including basically assaulting a child, and so there's a lot of things out there that are going on with him.

But police are very clear in saying that they believe that this is the woman who was missing 10 years ago whose mother reported her missing in 2004.


PEREIRA: We want to follow, Sara, the police investigation about that part in a second, but I want to play you a little bit of sound.

We had Elizabeth Smart. We know her story very well. She's a kidnapping survivor.

She spoke with us on "NEW DAY" this morning about this idea that perhaps she could have run in those 10 years, why she didn't try to escape.

I'll play the sound, and then Gail, I want you to react to it.


ELIZABETH SMART, SURVIVED CHILDHOOD ABDUCTIONS: As a survivor who has been chained up in physical chains and also had the chains of threats held over me, I can tell you firsthand that threat is so much stronger than physical chains.

Now, I don't have intimate details on what threats he was holding over her head, but I understand that he was holding her family, that he was threatening her family. And for me, that was the strongest threat anyone could have ever made to me.


PEREIRA: Gail, I think most of us would think the flight instinct would kick in. That's not always the case in this kind of situation, is it?

DR. GAIL SALTZ, AUTHOR, "ANATOMY OF A SECRET LIFE": In fact, most often it's not the case.

Basically, what you're talking about is a young girl, I mean, 15, OK, who just arrived in this country, and the threat of deportation, the threat of harming the family, I'm sure felt incredibly real, and in fact, very, very believable.

This is how children, frankly, are often abused. They are told if you don't keep quiet, whatever the case, I'm going to hurt your family.

And, A, that would keep someone absolutely in place. And, B, over time what you're looking at is something called Stockholm syndrome, you know, the idea that basically you're completely isolated and you come to believe that the only person who does, quote, "care for you,: even if they're harming you, is your captor.

And you come to see things through their eyes, and it becomes really impossible in a way to leave.

It is a kind of brainwashing, and it's extremely common. I would say it would be unusual, the person who was able to break free from such a situation.

BERMAN: Ernie, I want to bring you in here because the part that confuses me dates back now 10 years when she first went missing. The mother, you know, we think went to police and said, hey, my daughter is gone. I think she ran off with my boyfriend.

But they know the identity of the boyfriend in this case. I don't understand how over a 10-year period they couldn't have located with him.

I also see he worked for a state agency, you know, maintenance for a state agency. His name had to be on the rolls somewhere. How could they not find him and her over a 10-year period?

ERNIE ALLEN, INTERNATIONAL CENTER FOR MISSING AND EXPLOITED CHILDREN: John, I think in these kinds of cases, I think it makes a couple of key points.

One is that rarely are abductors of children true strangers in the eye and the mind of the child, and therefore there's a tendency to assume that she left voluntarily, that she is not a victim.

And there's also a tendency of American law enforcement to apply what we call the "runaway presumption." Well, they're not really at much risk.

We now know that this girl was brutalized, traumatized, raped, and as Gail points out, the human brain can only take so much trauma, so they adapt to the situation. They figure out how to survive.

And the world forgets. Law enforcement doesn't have clues to follow up. And they don't go to run this to ground.

PEREIRA: And look, this is a specific population we're talking about. We understand it sounds as though they were undocumented. We don't know if the language barrier was an issue. There's a lot of circumstances that makes this, particularly, a sensitive situation.

Gail, we also know from what Sara has talked to us about, the report, there is a young child here.

So the healing is not now just about the mother, the daughter who's now a 25-year-old woman, but the child she bore with this man.

SALTZ: Yes. Obviously that makes it more complicated. On the one hand, I think, you know, sadly this child is always going to be a reminder of what happened. I mean, this man is the child's father, on the one hand.

And on the other hand, a child can be, you know, an incredible source of love and confidence in being a good mother.

So obviously, this woman's going to need tremendous support, support from her family, I think, you know, likely mental health intervention. You would be concerned about ongoing symptoms, post-traumatic stress disorder and so on.

But there is an opportunity to be a really competent, nurturing mother, and in that mind an identity that feels good, let's say, feels very functional.

So I think she's clearly going to need a lot of support. But as we've seen from past cases, and Elizabeth Smart is a fantastic example of somebody resilient who's able to really recoup their life and move on from symptoms, it doesn't mean you forget.

There's no way you're forgetting a decade, but you can go on to live a productive and happy life.

PEREIRA: Well, there's much to be determined, a lot of questions to be answered. We want to say a big thank-you to Sara Sidner.

Gail Saltz, thanks for your expertise, and Ernie Allen, doing great work on behalf of forgotten children around the nation.

Thanks so much for joining us here @ THIS HOUR.

BERMAN: Yeah, we do still need to learn a lot here, because I am still confused with that, even if they thought she ran away and went willingly with him, how could they not find her, given that they knew his identity all along.

PEREIRA: I hear that changed his identity several times, so who knows? It's a very good point. It's a very good point.

BERMAN: Ten years is an awfully long time to have to wait there.

Other headlines we're watching @ THIS HOUR, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is letting folks know how bad they think this hurricane season will be.

As a nod to people who pulled together during Superstorm Sandy, NOAA is making the announcement from New York for the first time. That announcement is still going on, but we'll bring you the latest, once it wraps up.

PEREIRA: Some 37 million people across the U.S. are in the path of dangerous storms right now. Many are still recovering from some freak weather.

Look at what happened in Denver at the stadium, outside the stadium there. They had to pull out the snowplows to clear hail, we're told, the size -- some of the balls of hail the size of softballs.

Denver International Airport briefly closed. There was some damage there from hail.

Elsewhere, floods are causing problems. This is west central Ohio where the streets -- look at that -- look like rivers. Parts of western Pennsylvania are flooded, too.

Bad news is, a new round of powerful storms is expected this afternoon.

BERMAN: Tough numbers for General Motors. The carmaker has issued 29 separate recalls this year. Almost 14 million U.S. cars are on the list.

G.M. has now recalled more vehicles this year than it has sold in five years.

PEREIRA: Put those numbers together. Crazy, isn't it?

Go to show you this in Brazil. Bus drivers are on strike, and it led to utter chaos in Sao Paolo's subway system. Check it out. These images are just extraordinary.

It's not helping the country's image. It's getting set to host soccer's World Cup next month. Obviously there's growing uncertainty over the country's ability to pull off one of the world's largest sporting events.

Some of the videos saw people just being crushed, throngs of thousands and thousands of people trying to stream onto the subways.

BERMAN: And they're so excited for the World Cup there, on one hand, but it's still so controversial, a lot of people very unhappy with the amount of resources being devoted to the stadiums and sport rather than people.

PEREIRA: And the fact that there are so many people living in poverty there.

A reports of veterans on secret wait lists at V.A. hospitals came out six months ago. President Obama didn't speak forcefully about it until recently, yesterday, in fact.

How his delay has some questioning his commitment.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have to find out, first of all, what exactly happened.

So what we have to do is find out what exactly happened.

I am going to do everything in my power, using the resources of the White House.




OBAMA: We have to find out, first of all, what exactly happened.

So what we have to do is find out what exactly happened.

I am going to do everything in my power, using the resources of the White House, to help that process of getting to the bottom of what happened and fixing it. What's not yet clear to me is whether enough tools were given to make sure that those goals were actually met. And I won't know until the full report is put forward as to whether there was enough management follow-up.


PEREIRA: There you have it. President Obama insisting he needs more time to review exactly what happened at V.A. hospitals. Amid evidence of excessive, sometimes even deadly waiting times at many facilities nationwide.

BERMAN: So the scandal broke after reporting by CNN's investigative unit six months ago that it mushroomed after our team revealed allegations that at least 40 veterans died while waiting for care at a V.A. hospital in Phoenix.

I want to bring in our political commentators Marc Lamont Hill and Kevin Madden. Marc, first I want to go to you here because the reviews of the president's angry news conference yesterday are in, and they're not all positive, even from some sources on the left. Let's take the New York Times editorial board for instance which, I'm sure Kevin will agree, is somewhat leftward leaning. It said expressing outrage is hardly enough for a president who, as a candidate in 2008, criticized the agency and vowed to improve care and address backlogs. I've got to tell you, Marc, we were with one progressive yesterday who said this president just doesn't do outrage well. So how do you counter this argument that this is all too little, too late?

MARC LAMONT HILL, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I'm not sure that I want to counter the argument, but I do think there's something to be said for a president who exercises patience, who says look, I want to get all the facts and I want to figure out what's going on. We have a culture that looks for someone's head to be cut off whenever there's a political crisis or a disaster. And I'm not sure that that's always the best thing. If this is a local conspiracy or a local crisis that was unavoidable for Shinseki, I'm not sure he should resign.

I think it's OK to wait for all the facts to come in. But lets say one more thing here. The president isn't always operating in the interests of patients. He's sometimes operating in self-interest. Quite honestly, he didn't fire the health and human services secretary, Kathleen Sebelius, because it would have been made him look bad. Firing Shinseki might make him look bad. He has to exercise political prudence as well. I'm not saying that's okay. I think that's the logic.

PEREIRA: I want to ask Kevin about that because it's been very interesting to me. We've had so many voices on our air talking about it. And I think this is just a general sense of outrage that this wasn't seen, wasn't dealt with prior. We know that some veterans groups, many of the veterans groups are calling for the resignation of Shinseki. But politicians are not. What do you say to that? Why is it that he's being given a pass?


PEREIRA: Shinseki. MADDEN: Well, I don't think he has. I mean, I think there's a tremendous amount of scrutiny on him. I think one of the problems is that when people look at a position of executive authority like the president, they understand that the buck does stop at the top. So a lot of folks are training their attention on the person who is ultimately in charge, and that is the president here.

I think, to go to a point that Marc made, you know, I think what happens in an incident like this which is essentially a crisis, people look for a president or any chief executive, for that matter, to be decisive and to be -- and to take control. And I think what's happened -- and it's been a bad habit of this president any time he's engaged in a crisis is that he's tried to keep it at arm's length at first saying that he didn't know much about it, and he wanted to find more when he should have had the facts or should at least have been very judicious about getting the facts very quickly. And then to be decisive. And I think it took too long for this president to come out and say anything. I mean, it was almost two weeks before he said something. And I think that's a problem. And the crisis has gotten worse as a result.

BERMAN: There's an interesting piece in slate that I want you to both react to here. Because it puts a little bit of the blame on both sides here. John Dickerson writes that one of the problems our country faces right now is we've hit peak outrage. We're so mad about so many different things happening in Washington and beyond and sometimes it's faux outrage, that when something like this hits, which pretty much everyone agrees, we've got to do more to help our veterans, but when something like this hits that everyone sort of agrees on, we're almost paralyzed because we're so mad about everything else. What do you make of that, Kevin?

MADDEN: I think -- and this goes to a point Marc also made about our culture -- I think right now all too often in this culture, folks are looking for someone to blame right now. And there isn't enough of a desire or an acceptance of self-responsibility and accountability. And people saying to step in and say look, I'm not going to blame anybody here, but instead I'm going to take charge and instead trying to project outrage one way or the other in order to make a political gain. I don't think there's any political gain here, and there shouldn't be. At the heart of this is whether or not veterans are getting the care that they need. Now let's have the Congress do its job with oversight. Let's let the president do his job in the executive, and let's get this problem fixed.

PEREIRA: Yes. And I think you absolutely -- go ahead, Marc. Go ahead quickly.

HILL: I was going to say here's the problem. This should be a nonpartisan is issue. We should all care about the lives of veterans and quite frankly all Americans if people are dying on a list. But the problem is if Obama says you know what, the buck stops with me, I take full responsibility for this, or if he fires Shinseki and assumes joint responsibility, it inevitably becomes a political football, it inevitable becomes another argument for why Democrats shouldn't be in charge. We'd be naive to think that Republicans wouldn't take this up. And quite honestly, if the shoe were on the other foot, Democrats would attack Republicans for this. This inevitably becomes partisan and the president is preemptively anticipating that.

BERMAN: Let's hope the goal is to help our veterans, lets keep it at that. Gentlemen, stick around for a moment.

We want to talk to you a little more. Because ahead @THIS HOUR, we're going to talk about the problem with pot as more states accept it, is it time for employers to rethink their policies? The FBI director got in hot water for even approaching this topic. Stay with us.


BERMAN: Let's talk marijuana, shall we? Who can get away with smoking it. The current FBI director, James Comey, saying this Monday at a news conference, I have to hire a great work force to compete with those cybercriminals, and some of those kids want to smoke weed on the way to the interview. Mr. Comey also saying that the bureau is struggling with modernizing its marijuana policy, which says if you smoked pot in the last three years, forget about it, you're not FBI material.

PEREIRA: Comey later said he's anti-pot and he isn't planning to change the way the three-year ban operates. But the fact is, folks, this is 2014. Look at this. Medical marijuana is legal in 21 states. Smoking for fun is okay in two. Some cities have even made it legal. And more than a dozen states are rethinking their current pot laws. So should the FBI and for that matter should corporate America be rethinking their policies, too?

BERMAN: We are joined again by Marc Lamont Hill and Kevin Madden. So gentlemen, you know, what do you make of this? The FBI is, you know, ruling out people who smoked pot in the last three years. So many businesses drug test people when they come in for pot. Should these companies -- should the FBI be concerned about marijuana use anymore? Marc, you start.

HILL: I think -- I see a reasonable argument for the FBI being concerned because it is still illegal most places. And if you're hiring an FBI agent who has admitted to casually breaking the law when they think the law isn't that big of a deal, it could raise an ethical or moral issue. But in general, I don't care. The weed train has left the station a long time ago. And if you're in corporate America and you're worried that your tech guy is smoking weed, you have an issue because I can just about guarantee your tech guy is smoking weed just like every place else. Let it go.

PEREIRA: To Kevin, where do you stand on this issue?

BERMAN: You've seen my computer lately, obviously. You know how well this works.

PEREIRA: You know what? I do not support what he has just said about our wonderful IT department here at CNN. Kevin, do you think there are conceivably some occupations, some careers that should have some sort of regulation or outright ban? MADDEN: Well, I really don't think it should go by careers, but I think a lot of companies are going to have to take this level of permissibility in the law and how the government looks at it with their own corporate hiring practices, that's for sure. I think that ultimately if you have folks that are engaged in some level of drug use, the same way they'd be engaged in maybe illegal tobacco use or illegal alcohol use, that may factor into whether or not you want to hire them or not. It's definitely something that corporate hiring practices are going to have to take a look at as they begin to figure out like what kind of work force do they want when the government's actually starting to allow these laws to change.

PEREIRA: There is somebody screaming at their TV right now, jumping on the point you just made about alcohol, saying, look, alcohol is somewhat socially acceptable. Why do we have a double standard when it comes to marijuana? When they will argue, right, that alcohol is more damaging.

MADDEN: Right. Well, I think what's going to happen there is that more and more that society is going to change as it relates to marijuana. But I think it's a very -- it's a very difficult issue right now because so many people have so many different opinions on it.

BERMAN: Marc, you're a professor. And I assume you've written recommendations for people who worked as a reference for people looking for jobs in government or whatnot, and there are often questionnaires and often people calling you for references on these students or otherwise who say do you have knowledge that such and such person ever broke the law smoking pot? It's almost just a ridiculous question at this point.

HILL: It is.

BERMAN: It almost forces someone to lie, doesn't it?

HILL: It certainly forces me to lie. And I don't -- students don't typically smoke pot like around me. Certainly not in my classes. I'm not that liberal. But if I knew for some reason that they did or suspected that they did, I wouldn't go narc on them or tell their potential employer, I think they smoke joints on the weekends. I would not care, to be honest I would be much more concerned if a kid came to class smelling like vodka than a kid coming to class smelling like cannabis. I'm not sure I would snitch in either case but I certainly wouldn't do it for weed. I think society's moved in a different direction. We understand there's some irresponsible drug use, but many people use marijuana recreationally and responsibly, and I'd rather put my hands up and say it's not my business.

PEREIRA: Kevin Madden and Mr. Professor Marc, obviously this is a great conversation. We both really enjoyed having this conversation with the two of you in particular. Thanks so much for indulging us and hopefully we'll get to do it again soon.

BERMAN: One thing I think we both learned.


BERMAN: We know who to go to for a recommendation.

PEREIRA: Is that what it is? Like what are we learning here? Gentlemen, thanks so much.

Up next, we are going to talk about this big beef recall. We are going into the Memorial Day weekend. You're thinking of grilling? Well you might want to hold up on the burgers. How the FDA isn't required to tell us which restaurants may have served up tainted beef. We'll explore that aspect of the story as well.

That's coming up next on @THIS HOUR.