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Accused California Kidnapper Charged; G.M. Recalls Could Go Through Summer; What Michelle Knight Would Say to California Victim

Aired May 23, 2014 - 06:30   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: So, let's discuss the ins and outs of this case.

Let's bring in Mel Robbins, really perfectly suited for this discussion. Mel has worked as a crisis intervention expert, worked as a prosecutor on domestic violence issues and the D.A.'s office up there in Boston.

And, Mel, the attorney for the accused, Isidro Garcia, says, among other things, this was a willing relationship. This was a married couple, happily at sometimes, unhappily in others.

But is it even possible that as you look back on this relationship legally speaking it was consensual if it began when she was 15 and he was 16 years older?

MEL ROBBINS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: No, absolutely not because in California, the age of consent is not 15. I think the other thing that is really important here, John, unlike most happily married couples, there isn't a complaint, a missing person's complaint that starts off the relationship. So there's so much that's amiss here.

And the other thing that really bothers me about this we're taking the neighbor's account, John, of what they saw in public as an indication of what was going on in private and what we know about domestic violence, about abusers, and what we know about people that commit pure evil is that in many cases what neighbors, what relatives and what friends say is, hey, this is a nice guy. Hey, he's a normal neighbor.

In fact the neighbor in the Cleveland house of horrors, John, said, hey, we used to barbecue with this guy. I had no idea what was going on in this house.

BERMAN: You're addressing what some people called the "something seems off in this case" argument. People say they seemed like a happy couple. People say why didn't she run away during that ten-year period?

What you know from your experience is this is quite possible.

ROBBINS: Not only is it possible, it's actually the norm. There's a Jekyll and Hyde situation that happens in most domestic violence cases where the abuser on the outside seems like a loving person but behind doors there's pure evil.

There's something else people need to understand. When this 15-year- old was kidnapped, she had only been in the United States, John, for six months. She didn't speak English. She didn't go to school. She didn't have a huge network of friends. She didn't have a smartphone.

So we're not talking about the typical American teenager like my 15- year-old who you start to think, wait a minute, would she actually believe that her family wasn't going to look for her? This guy was able to isolate her immediately because she was new to the country, she didn't speak the language, she didn't have a network.

And, of course, John, I think a big part of the story she was undocumented. So, you've got the fear of going to the police to report anything is wrong because you might get deported.

BERMAN: Let's explore that a little bit more because that's another issue here confusing to some people. This all started 10 years ago.

Do you think her immigration status somehow slowed up or gotten in the way of a more effective investigation? There was a missing person's report filed but, gosh, they sort of suspected who took this it girl or who was with her at least, the fact she was undocumented immigrant, did that keep police from finding her?

ROBBINS: Well, you know, John, it certainly could have. And, you know, if you look at, like Elizabeth Smart, for example, who came out and said she is so happy to hear this young gal has been found, that she had the courage to walk into a police station and no one should be judging why it took her 10 years to do this because the emotional chains that somebody has over you when you're terrified for your life, she also told the police, John, she was beaten the two times she tried to escape. Those sort of emotional fears can be stronger than any sort of physical restraint.

But think about Elizabeth Smart. The night before she was found her kidnapping was featured on "America's Most Wanted" and a biker saw that and saw her out in public with the sketchy kidnappers that had her in a wig and veil and sunglasses and called police.

This is a case, I've heard lots of immigration experts talk about how folks undocumented live in the shadows in our society. We are looking at a woman not only in the shadows because she was undocumented, she didn't speak the language, she didn't have the network, she had only been here for six months, but also in the shadows of her alleged captor's mental, physical and sexual abuse.

BERMAN: A lot of questions asked what was missed by the authorities, perhaps by family members, perhaps by neighbors, over this 10-year period.

Mel Robbins, thanks so much for your expertise on this subject. Really appreciate it.

ROBBINS: Hey, great talking to you, John.

BERMAN: All right. Thanks so much, Mel.

Kate, back to you.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Coming up next on NEW DAY, this kidnapping case that John and Mel were just talking about really hits home really close to home for Michelle Knight. You remember she was held for more than a decade herself in that Cleveland house of horrors. She was a very emotional response to the suggestion that woman in California might be lying.

It's part of our exclusive interview and you'll want to hear Michelle's very unique perspective on this.

Also ahead, when you're recalling more cars than you're selling, that cannot be a good thing, right? Maybe it is. G.M. may be getting an unexpected bonus from all the recalls it's putting out. Word is there's more on the way.



A new report says General Motors could continue their vehicle recall rally all the way into midsummer, on top of the 15.8 million G.M. vehicles already recalled worldwide. This is G.M.'s CEO Mary Barra has been making multiple visits to Capitol Hill to update lawmakers on an internal investigation into faulty ignition switches.

So, is this G.M.'s way of rebranding itself to be the safety first company? Let's explore this with Christine Romans.

Good morning.


PEREIRA: So, the visits Mary Barra has been -- is this enough? Is she going about this in the right direction?

ROMANS: I mean, so far, congressional aides are saying they are impressed, their bosses are impressed by what they've seen. Mary Barra being really open, a lot of communication, a lot of conversations on the hill. She's going to come back, she's going to testify again in July, and she's just trying to really put forward the "safety first" image of this company even as these committees are pouring through thousands of pages of documents, internal G.M. documents about these recalls.

Now, remember, since 2006 the ignition switch recall started it all. Since then, G.M. has been really aggressive on recalls, more recalls than cars sold in the last five years.

BOLDUAN: It can't be good but you're about to tell me that it might be OK.

ROMANS: Well, it's not -- all of these recalls, it's not good -- it's not good to make a product and have to make the product back. That's basically a failure of someone making a product.

However, you're hearing from dealers that traffic is up. You're hearing they're getting more people in. The people who are going to be having a recalled car fix are getting a loaner. They're going to drive a loaner a late model car and Morgan Stanley says if even 1 percent of that new traffic turns into a new car sale, G.M. comes out ahead. G.M. sales and profits come out ahead.

BERMAN: It's wonderful if they can make some money off of safety here. But there was something else going on. You were explaining to me these recalls, there are so many of them, they can't keep up with it in terms of parts. They don't have a business model to support this many cars coming back.

ROMANS: Right. You are supposed to make a car and sell it, you've sold it and there are he occasional maintenance issues but you don't have to redo a part of the car or the wiring and the tail end.

So, Mary Barra telling people on actually that they actually -- they don't have the parts they need yet to do some of these repairs and we're hearing from the dealers that, in fact, some people are coming in with cars and they have to tell them we can't actually help you right now.

PEREIRA: What the stock price, though? I'm curious.

ROMANS: You know, the stock is down 6 percent. The big recall in February, it's down 6 percent since that February recall. They had to take a $1.7 billion in the first quarter to pay for all of this stuff. That's going to basically wipe out --

BOLDUAN: That consumer confidence you always talk about? Because it's a reputation question.

ROMANS: It is a big reputation question and here is what is so interesting as a business reporter to watch in the story. The bad PR, the reputation issue for G.M. is just so vivid, right? But what's happening here is that when you talk to the dealers, someone who likes the G.M. car still is going to get a G.M. car, looking for a GMC Terrain will still get a GMC Terrain even though that has had a recall, too.

So, the economy getting better. People feeling better about their jobs. That's what's driving sales less the recall stuff. We'll have to see if that changes. That could change.


PEREIRA: You know, about confidence in the brand.

All right. Christine Romans, always a pleasure.

ROMANS: Yes, thanks, guys.

BOLDUAN: Coming up next on NEW DAY, our exclusive interview with Michelle Knight. Her very emotional response to the California kidding napping case and questions about whether the victim in the case is lying about her years in captivity.


MICHELLE KNIGHT, KIDNAPPING SURVIVOR: I want to let her know that I care, I understand, and don't let anybody break you down. Don't let what people are saying about you hurt you or make you feel ashamed.


BOLDUAN: You can even see her strength in her tears. The full, powerful interview coming up.

BERMAN: Can't wait to see that.

Also, a quick programming note: next Thursday on CNN, we're premiering a new series from executive producers Tom Hanks and Gary Goetzman, "The Sixties". This explores the decade that changed the world, from the space race to the Cold War, to free love, to civil rights and so much more, Batman and Robin. That's the reason to watch.

Be sure to watch. Set your DVR, also, for the premiere next Thursday night at 9:00 Eastern and Pacific, right here on CNN.


BOLDUAN: Welcome back to NEW DAY.

A NEW DAY exclusive now. This morning, we've been following the story of the California woman who was freed after allegedly being held captive for ten years by her mother's ex-boyfriend. Well, now the suspect's attorney says that she, the victim, is making it all up.

Earlier I spoke with someone who can relate: Michelle Knight. She survived more than ten years inside that Cleveland house of horrors and is now the author of "Finding Me: A Decade of Darkness, a Life Reclaimed". Michelle had a lot that she wanted to say about this incredible story in California. This topic obviously still very raw for her, but she did want to get her message out.


BOLDUAN: Michelle, it is so great to see you.

MICHELLE KNIGHT, KIDNAPPED AND HELD HOSTAGE: Hello. I'm glad to be here. Thank you.

BOLDUAN: It must be hard, I've been thinking, for you to retell your story over and over again, especially on your book tour. Has it been difficult for you?

KNIGHT: It's been difficult but, like I said, I'm trying to help other people, and if I can help just one person by my story or more than one person, I'm well -- welcome to do it.

BOLDUAN: You hear of this story, the possibility of another woman being held, abused for ten years. She was taken when she was 15 years old. What went through your mind? What goes through your mind when you hear about this?

KNIGHT: Well, right now what's going through my mind is people shouldn't judge people by what they see and what they hear because there's a lot of people out there that go through pain, and they can't stop it. They don't know how to cope with it. They don't know exactly how to go through it. People shouldn't say anything about what they can't explain because it may be difficult for that woman, that woman that went through this. And it's very hard for her when people are saying bad things about her and saying that she's lying.

You don't know what went through her head. You don't know what that was doing to her. You have absolutely no clue what she went through to say things and say that she was lying or she's doing this. You're making her life not able to function or heal properly when you do these things to people. You're making people not want to come out, not want to say anything. You're making people want to sit there and keep it to them self and go through the abuse when you say stupid crap like that. I need a break!


BOLDUAN: So obviously Michelle needed some time. It was a very difficult subject for her. We gave her a few minutes. We said take as much time as you need. But she really said that she wanted, herself, she really wanted to keep talking about this. She had a lot more that she wanted to say to those people who don't believe a victim's story. This really hit her and hit very close to home for her, and she especially wanted to speak to that woman in California.


BOLDUAN: This hits so close to home. This is so hard.

KNIGHT: Yes. Yes, it does. It hits really close to home. And I want to let her know that I care. I understand. And don't let anybody break you down. Don't let what people are saying about you hurt you or make you feel ashamed.

Push through it. Ignore them because they're just ignorant. And understand that there are people out there that are going through the same pain you are and going through the same struggle, regardless if they're a man or woman. Understand. Come forward. Don't be ashamed because you did nothing wrong. You did nothing.

BOLDUAN: You talk about ignore -- ignore them, push through. It's that ability to keep faith and have strength through that storm that I think people really are amazed, one of the reasons people are really amazed with you. Where do you find your strength? Where do you find -- where did you find your ability to cope through that darkness?

KNIGHT: At first, I didn't believe in God, but now I do. And I got the strength, I was born with it by him. I just had to believe in myself that I can make it through anything. And that's exactly what I did. I looked for the beauty in life. Because there's so much goodness in life and less evil. We just have to believe in hope. And it's within ourselves, the strength and the courage to make it through anything.

BOLDUAN: Even if, as prosecutors have said in this -- in this case with this woman, they said there may have been no physical chains that she was being held by, but the emotional chains, that emotional abuse is what kept that woman tied to her captor.

What does -- can you describe that because that is something that I think people from the outside looking in don't understand, is that psychological threat that is so strong.

KNIGHT: There's a lot of people that go through tremendous pain, and just because you're not chained up and you're not locked in the basement doesn't mean you ain't trapped. I know exactly what it feels like to be trapped in your own mind, in your emotional mind and told that you can't do anything about it. Nobody will care about what you say. I had that happen to me, and this is the most worse feeling to feel like nobody cares. Nobody understands.

BOLDUAN: What then -- and I want you to speak to those people. The -- some neighbors say that woman had to have had a chance to escape. They saw her out in public. She must have had a chance to escape. Why didn't she try to do that? What -- what do you say to those people?

KNIGHT: For a girl like her, the emotional torture is so painful that she chose not to hurt other people because he may have threatened to hurt her. She may have threatened to hurt the people that she was talking to.

And to have that, a person is not able to break the chain of cycle, not unless they were really, really strong, and they really, really knew that nothing would happen bad because that's what happened to me.

I was threatened to be killed. I was threatened that nobody cared about me. I was told that nobody in the world would understand or care that if I kill you today, nobody will look for you tomorrow. And that's what you have to think about. It's how she felt. She was there.

Nobody else in the world was there. They don't know exactly what she went through. And not unless you were walking in her shoes, you have no reason to talk.

BOLDUAN: So she --

KNIGHT: None at all.

BOLDUAN: She did get away. She is out now. Let's talk about -- let's look ahead. What are the next few weeks -- what are those initial few weeks going to be like for her?

KNIGHT: She's gonna go through a train of emotions. She's gonna feel hopeless right now. Our chance is right now to build her up. Don't break her down. That's not what she needs. She needs to know that somebody cares. She needs to know that she will relate to somebody. She needs somebody as a friend. And I'm here for you if you need anyone to talk to, I will talk to you. I will help you out because I know exactly what it feels like.

And I'm proud to know that she is home. She is safe. She is alive. She's breathing. And I see the best for her. I see the beauty for her. She is going to see so much in this world, and she is going to help so many other people through the way she went through and what she went through. And let her tell her story in her own way.

BOLDUAN: If you could speak directly to her, what would you like to tell her?

KNIGHT: I would like to tell her that love her and I care for her even though I don't know who she is. I never met her. I'm there 100 percent, and every judgment she makes, make it a beautiful judgment. Make your life beautiful now. Don't dwell in the past.


BOLDUAN: It was -- she wanted to speak out, and you can see, as I said earlier, you can even feel her strength through her tears. But you really could see the memories flooding back.

BERMAN: I gotta say, wow. And what an important message, actually a few of them there. You don't know, she says. You don't know. You, me, you, we don't know what happened to that house. We have to be very careful judging what she did and didn't do. And she also said very eloquently, you know, chains don't have to be physical. You don't have to be locked up in chains to be restricted and restrained.

PEREIRA: She is telling her own story in her own way, and that is a really powerful thing. And I think it's a really healing thing. You can see how she's sort of, you know, aggressively living through it because she's choosing to stare it right in the eye, which must be terribly painful and terribly isolating, but I think she's doing it because she wants to heal.

BOLDUAN: And you can see that a day does not go by, and who knows if a day ever will go by, that she doesn't think about that. But I think it is so good to see her able to be angry and to speak out and to say it in her own way, and to be able to tell her story. I mean, she said over and over again that she's doing it to try to help one person if she can.

PEREIRA: To help others.

BERMAN: Well, I'm thrilled for her, and I'm also thrilled for that 25-year year-old woman in California who hopefully will see this interview because I think it could be very instructive for her as well.

BOLDUAN: That's what she said. She said call me.

PEREIRA: Elizabeth Smart, too. You know --

BOLDUAN: Unless you're walking in those shoes.

PEREIRA: And doesn't that -- isn't that just a horrible state of affairs? We have three women who can tell that story --

BOLDUAN: Who can relate to it.

PEREIRA: -- and can relate to it. And those are the ones that we know about. That's the part that's even more distressing.

BOLDUAN: She is so strong, and she was so, so unbelievable to want to continue on and to tell her story and to speak directly to that woman in California. And we thank her again for coming on to do that with us.

And we, of course, want to remind you, you can probably tell she was in Paris. She's on her book tour. She's telling her story to the world, and people want to hear it.

Michelle Knight's new book about her time in captivity and how she learned to cope and how she learned to survive and how she's able to find happiness today, it's called "Finding Me: a Decade of Darkness, a Life Reclaimed".

Thank you, Michelle.

We do have a lot of other big stories that we are following. We'll continue to talk about Michelle and a lot more. Let's get to it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: United 601, stop your turn. Stop your climb and stop your turn, United 601.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The Department of Veterans Affairs already has admitted that there are 23 recent deaths.

JOHN BOEHNER, SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: We've not just let them down. We've let them die.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Security personnel at a nuclear missile silo failed a crucial exercise.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A failure can mean missing a required action by a second.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Gotta stop on this ledge.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How the (expletive deleted) do we get back up there, though? Hopefully we can escape.


BERMAN: All right, good morning, everyone. Welcome back to NEW DAY. It's Friday, May 23. It's 7:00 in the east.

And we do begin with a near disaster in the skies over Houston. Two United Airlines flights coming within a mile of one another right after takeoff. That is really, really close in aviation terms. An air traffic controller guiding one plane to the right, then correcting himself, telling the pilots to separate with mere seconds to spare.

Our aviation correspondent Rene Marsh, following all the developments for us.

Rene, what happened here?

RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Right, so John, it's happened again. And that's the problem. We're talking about two passenger jets getting too close in the skies. This time it happened over Houston's George Bush Intercontinental Airport.

Now, you have two United Airlines flights. They took off from the airport at roughly the same time, and shortly after takeoff, one plane was told to turn right, putting it in the path of the other plane. We know at their closest point the two planes were nearly a mile apart laterally and 400 feet apart vertically.

Moments later, we know that the controller seems to realize the mistake and scrambles to get both planes clear of each other. Take a listen to the instructions from air traffic control and to the pilots just seconds after they were in the clear.