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"Cannibal" Cop Freed by Judge; Prime Benghazi Attack Suspect In Court; Iraq Gaining Ground Over ISIS; Fast-Food Restaurants Had More Salt; Hot Convict Has Future in Modeling; Interview with Tim Howard

Aired July 2, 2014 - 11:30   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: An ex New York cop convicted in a plot to kidnap, cook, and eat women is free today.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: Gilberto Valle, dubbed the "Cannibal Cop" walked out of the federal court in New York. His conviction overturned. The judge saying there wasn't enough evidence to show Valle would commit -- would act out the admitted fantasies.

We have reaction from one of the attorneys who appealed Valle's conviction.


JULIA GATTO, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: He is guilty of nothing more than very unconventional thoughts, but as the judge has validated, we don't put people in jail for their thoughts. We are not the thought police.


BERMAN: I want to bring in Ashleigh Banfield, anchor of CNN's "LEGALVIEW."

So this guy, Valle, was convicted because jurors believed the prosecution argument that it was more than just these incredibly bizarre strange, disturbing thoughts. But the judge --

ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN HOST, "LEGAL VIEW": Those are euphemisms for creepy, awful, sickening.

BERMAN: Thank you very much. Yes --


BERMAN: But a jury thought one thing. And the judge -- and this is the key point. This whole case turns on this. The jury thought one thing. This appeals judge, thinks another.

BANFIELD: You are allowed to be as freaky as you want in your head. She's right. You can't be the thought police, but you can't act on it because once you act on it and there's tangible evidence of you acting on it, you've gone from fantasy to reality. That's what the prosecutors said. And they have some tangible stuff. There's a document called "Abducting and Cooking Kimberly.

BERMAN: That they found on his computer.


PEREIRA: Is that not tangible stuff?

BANFIELD: So that's what the prosecutor said, yes. This is tangible stuff. Not only that, but he accessed a federal law enforcement database to research victims. He went on surveillance missions out in the public, on the street, watching victims, or potential victims. And he actually conversed and conspired with other freaky people on these fetish websites.

PEREIRA: What are we missing?

BANFIELD: What we're missing is, so why is that not anything more than just a weird fantasy. He didn't kidnap anyone. He had tools, blueprints for tools, a gag, a rope and chloroform, but he didn't actually do it. It's really on the edge here. That's why there's so much trouble in the case. That's why the jury was convinced and the judge wasn't.

PEREIRA: What upsets me, we talk about after the fact something happened and we all wring our hands and say, why didn't we see the signs. Weren't they red flags that we could have seen?

BERMAN: Red flags like the guy saying he wanted to eat women.


BANFIELD: Yeah. Again, his wife's name is Kimberly. And on her laptop is a document called "Abducting and Cooking Kimberly," a blue print. It's not a minority report. It's not a Tom Cruise movie. You are allowed to think as freaky as you want. You can't act on it. Now the question is, acting on it.

Hey, by the way, did you see the cover of "The New York Post? "Bon appetit." The guy is out watching amongst us. He is a freak but is he a criminal? That is left for appeal.


BANFIELD: Yes. He's being monitored. There will be another trial. And mark my words, prosecutors are not happy at all.

BERMAN: Meanwhile, he's living with his mom, being fed with home cooking.

BANFIELD: She apparently cooked his dinner. How about that?

BERMAN: Ashleigh Banfield, great to have you here.

BANFIELD: What topics we have --

(CROSSTALK) PEREIRA: We bring some interesting --


BERMAN: Do not miss "Legal View." That's the next hour of CNN. About 26 minutes from now.

PEREIRA: On the fly.

Ahead @THISHOUR, as the terror group heads toward Baghdad, Iraqi forces holding their ground and vow to fight if militants try to take the air port. But are they strong enough to hold off ISIS?

BERMAN: Then, he made save after save after save. I could say that for 30 minutes. Tim Howard, American hero! We will hear from the biggest athletic star in the world, in my opinion, later @THISHOUR.

PEREIRA: Kind of awesome.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

PEREIRA: We indeed have breaking news out of our nation's capital.

BERMAN: The prime suspect in the Benghazi attack appeared in a Washington courtroom this hour. Ahmed Abu Khatallah is about to leave.

Our justice reporter, Evan Perez, joins us.

Evan, tell us what was going on in that courtroom today.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: This was a pretrial deposition hearing and a judge approved pretrial detention at the government's request. His lawyer did not object. Although she complained the government has not yet presented any evidence to show that her client was involved in the Benghazi attack. That was an interesting turn of events in the court hearing today.

He did look, you know, a little subdued. He was very quiet. Didn't speak at all during the hearing. He looks like he had taken a shower, was able to get a comb through his hair. He still had a long beard and long hair, but he looks a little different from when he first appeared here in court on Saturday -- John?

PEREIRA: He's expected to leave the courthouse, shortly. What are the next steps from here, Evan?

PEREZ: Well, the next steps, they have a few more hearings set up for the next few weeks before this trial begins. We don't expect that it will begin for another few months. The government, it says that they are going to present additional charges against Abu Khatallah, including murder and these charges could bring the death penalty against him. We will see what happens in the next few weeks. BERMAN: Evan, you mentioned his physical presentation. How about his

mood? Did he look like he was following the hearing? Did he look like he was concerned?

PEREZ: No, you know, he seems a little bewilders, as you can imagine. He was plucked from the desert there just a couple of week ago and now he's in the middle of American courtroom here in the nation's capital, just across the street from the U.S. capital. He seems a little bewildered by what was going on. There were some technical glitches with the headset for the translator. That was a little of a delay. He seemed a little concerned about that. But beyond that, he didn't say anything. He looked around the courtroom a little bit. Didn't do much of anything.

BERMAN: Evan Perez, for us in Washington, again.

Abu Khatallah could be leaving that courtroom any minute. We'll keep our eye on that.

PEREIRA: Another thing we're keeping our eye on in the Middle East, there's two volatile situations emerging and continuing there. First, Israel. Police there are scrambling to figure out if a Palestinian teenager was killed as an act of revenge a day after the bodies of three missing teenagers from Israel were discovered.

Meanwhile, in Iraq, at least 17 people were killed as the air force struck targets north of Baghdad. An Iraqi military spokesman says his forces are gaining ground over ISIS militants.

I want to bring in CNN military analyst, Rick Francona, a former military liaison officer to the U.S. embassy in Baghdad.

Rick, I want to start with Iraq. Because we are getting word from the U.S. military, those advisers now on the ground who have had a chance to take a look at the situation there and assess things, they are sending first word back. What they are saying is they believe it's likely that the Iraqi forces can keep these ISIS militants out of Baghdad.

LT. COL. RICK FRANCONA, CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Yeah. I saw the word "likely" and that kind of struck me. So they are not real confident that they can, but the feeling that they will at least put up a fight. And that makes sense because as -- this is the homeland for the Shia. Most of the military is going to be Shia, and coming into Baghdad will be a big step for ISIS. I don't think they are going to try right yet. It's just a step too far for them right now.

PEREIRA: You are getting a sense how they are doing in the Tikrit area.


FRANCONA: We talked about how Tikrit might be kind of a bellwether how they are doing. They have secured the air field there and secured the military division headquarters. It looks like they are inching their way back. This is good news. At some point, the Iraqi army is going to have to eject these people from all of that territory.

BERMAN: I want to move on to Israel. Right now, you have what could be an escalation of the tension there. Really a disturbing level of tension right now. There could be retaliation for the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teens. There was a Palestinian teenager's body found over night. If you are seeing this cycle, how do you get out of it?

FRANCONA: This is a problem. The tragedy of these three Israelis is bad enough, now we complicate that with what looks like a revenge thing, now bringing a Palestinian teenager in this, we got the potential for this to spiral downhill. And we saw what happened earlier with the CNN crew there.


FRANCONA: Cooler heads hopefully will prevail on both sides. The Israelis are going to extract their revenge, you can understand that. I don't think this is something that either side wants to get into it.

BERMAN: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu condemned, condemned the death of this Palestinian boy.

PEREIRA: Talk about the potential impact on the region. There's instability in the region as a whole.

FRANCONA: The Palestinian angle is really difficult, and I'll especially be talking about Hamas, because there are different factions of Hamas. Several of them have sworn allegiance to this Islamic State, the caliphate that has stood up in the Iraq/Syria area. Now you are seeing these different groups start to align with what used to be ISIS, is now is just the Islamic State. And these incidents in Israel just play right into that. This shows them that they need to band together as Muslims, as radical Islamists, it's another step of instability there.

BERMAN: Colonel, great to have you here with us. Really appreciate it.

PEREIRA: Thanks so much.

BERMAN: Up next for us, sodium, that is one of the biggest issues in the American diet. Big problem. But some fast-food restaurants are actually increasing the amount of salt they add to their food. We'll tell you what you need to know about this coming up next.


BERMAN: It's going to be a big holiday weekend, which means a big food weekend, no doubt. Folks throwing burgers on the grill and I think there might be some potato chips consumed as well.

PEREIRA: Here and there.

If you are going to eat out, especially at fast-food chains, the salt content isn't any better. The Center for Science in the Public Interest says that while restaurants chains may have promised to bring down the salt in their menus, it's barely enough.

Senior medical correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen, joins us from Atlanta.

Good to see you, my friend.


PEREIRA: Just because we know we frequent these restaurants, give us an idea of who is doing well and who are the big he have offenders?

COHEN: Some restaurants are doing better than others. McDonald's has managed to get their sodium down, so at Subway. But for some of these restaurants, they put in more sodium, which makes no sense whatsoever since we all know you are supposed to have less. So, for example, just to throw out a couple of examples, at Jack in the Box, the hamburger, the salt went up 26 percent from 2009 to 2013. KFC, salt went up 45 percent. And Sonic tater tots, salt went up 84 percent. I know. I know. The message has been very clear, salt is bad.


PEREIRA: -- John Berman?

BERMAN: I said they're good. They taste good. I like the Sonic tater tots. They are really tasty.

Nevertheless --

PEREIRA: I'm glad you are honest about this.


BERMAN: Nevertheless, the restaurants are supposed to be cutting them. How can they go in the other direction?

COHEN: I think there are too many John Bermans out there. That's what it comes down to.


It's people like this stuff. I'm going to show you the response we got from the National Restaurant Association. They said, "Across our highly diverse industry, restaurant are actively engage in efforts to provide consumers with lower sodium options, efforts to lower sodium are impacted by consumer preference," especially John Berman, "and limited technology." People like salty food so they make it.

PEREIRA: But, so they like salty food, so add more. This is interesting. I find interesting that the studies author called salt, "the single most detrimental thing in our food supply." I've heard people say that about the other white substance that we put on and in our food.


PEREIRA: I've heard people say that about sugar. COHEN: Exactly. I don't want to rank how bad things are. Let's say

salt, too much is bad.

PEREIRA: Moderation.

COHEN: Right. It can lead to heart attacks or strokes, and most Americans do get too much salt on average. I don't know whether it's the worst, but it's certainly really not good for you, too much salt.

PEREIRA: And it's fair to point out it's the sodium in the food. It's not -- the culprit isn't the salt shaker.


COHEN: Not at all. Someone at CNN just said to me, oh, I don't put salt in my food. It's not what you put on your food. It's the stuff that's in there. You are supposed to get 1,500 milligrams a day. I want to show you one of these meals. If you look at Sonic, if you ordered the popcorn chicken, and the tater tots --


COHEN: That is two-days worth of sodium in one meal. Two-days worth of sodium in one meal. More than two-days worth of sodium. You wouldn't know that. Who would know, chicken, tater tots and a drink, you wouldn't think those are --


PEREIRA: Sometimes you think you are making a smart choice by getting a salad or something that's lower fat, but you got to look at the sodium content on one of these things.

COHEN: It is insidious. One restaurant, not a fast-food restaurant, lasagna, tons of salt. You would only know by going to the website. So if there's a restaurant you go to a lot, it's worth it to go to their website and see how much salt is in your favorite dishes.

PEREIRA: Elizabeth Cohen, we so appreciate you, as always.

COHEN: Thank you.


BERMAN: Doubtful.

Thank you, Elizabeth.

COHEN: Thank you.

BERMAN: Coming up for us, after stunning the world with his good looks, the hot convict, as he's known, thinks he has a future in modeling. Only thing, he has to get out jail first.

PEREIRA: There's a New Captain America. Team USA's goalkeeper, Tim Howard. You get to hear from him next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

PEREIRA: I don't have to ask you if you remember this photo. The felon whose mug shot set the web on fire. Jeremy Meeks has gotten himself an agent and is hoping to become a model. That is, once he, you know, gets out of jail.

BERMAN: So let's talk about this, shall we?

Joining us is comedian, social commentator, Adam Sank, here with us in New York. Also with us lawyer and CNN commentator --


BERMAN: -- Mel Robbins. She is from Newton, Massachusetts. The fine, fine town of Newton.

Thanks for being with us Mel.

I want to start with you, Alex, here -- Adam, I should say. We demand very high morals of all of our models, so we should be outraged that this admittedly hot guy wants to be a model because we do extensive background checks on their hotness.

ADAM SANK, COMEDIAN, SOCIAL COMMENTATOR: That's right, what's coming next is Tyra Banks is going to host America's next top gangster --


-- starring this guy. It's incredible. It's sort of the national evolution of reality stardom. It used to be you had to do something to be famous, and then you could do absolutely nothing. Now all you need is a photograph. Just one photograph and you're a superstar overnight.

PEREIRA: Mel, to be fair, people get discovered all the time on the streets of New York, on the subway, at a bar. Isn't it fair they saw --


MEL ROBBINS, CNN COMMENTATOR & LEGAL ANALYST: You know, Kate Upton was discovered doing the Dougie when a friend videotaped her on their iPhone her at a game. So there's multiple ways.

Here's the bottom line. This guy is facing five weapons charges and a charge for gang-related activity. That little tear tattoo isn't something that he put on his face for a role that he's playing. It typically signifies you've either killed somebody or a member of your gang has been killed. So this guy is a serious predicate felon. He's probably not getting out of jail any time soon. And the only person benefiting from the story is the modeling agency because I would imagine it was a very smart marketing move, because I bet everybody's Googling it.

But my thought is I think our fascination with "Orange is the New Black" and normalizing jail life and jail culture has got be out of hand.

SANK: The teardrop signifies murder. Who's he going to model for, "Thugs Illustrated"? You have to wonder how successful a model he is going to be.

BERMAN: He could wear a T-shirt or something --


SANK: To cover up the teardrop?

BERMAN: No. It seem to me that --


BERMAN: He's not getting out of jail for a long time. His looks may go. Who knows what's going to go on over these years. But if someone wants to put his picture in a magazine -- who does background checks on models? It's not like he's becoming mayor of a city like Toronto for instance.

PEREIRA: What about the notion of redemption? My producer brought this thought up. Because I do believe that people get second chances. After he pays out his debt to society, what if this is the moment that turns his lie around?

SANK: We don't even know he wants to be a model. We haven't heard a word from him.


He may get out of jail and say, listen, thanks for all the attention, but I just want to shoot people.


ROBBINS: Well, you know, another interesting part of this story, Michaela and John, is the fact his mother has started a crowd funding, go fund me request, to help raise the $25,000 he needs to get out of jail to post the bond. If this modeling contract were serious, wouldn't you think the agency would be posting that? A felon does need a job, so this is better than him shooting people. I suppose if he gets out of jail, this would be a good job for him.

PEREIRA: Both of you, thanks so much.

You should come back on our show.

Mel, always a pleasure to have you with us.

BERMAN: Mike Tyson had a Broadway show. He was convicted for rape. Society does weird things sometimes.

All right, it was an incredible run. Team USA, we didn't quite do it against Belgium at the World Cup, but it is players, they played their hearts out and their guts out. Millions of us here in the U.S. have learned to support them even more. Soccer, it is here to stay. And perhaps the biggest star, Tim Howard, the sultan of the save. 16 of them yesterday. Also, the secretary of defense you call him. At least Wikipedia said so for a few minutes before the entry was pulled.

He talked about the team's amazing effort with Chris Cuomo.


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR, NEW DAY: Do you feel how big an impact you've had here along with your teammates on the country?

TIM HOWARD, TEAM USA GOALKEEPER: That's pretty cool. We have -- we felt it down here. We've seen all the highlights and all of our friends have sent our videos. We've seen YouTube and all the bars and the restaurants and the parks have been sold out. It's been special. As part of this amazing journey. Playing in the World Cup is special, but capturing the dreams of an imagination is certainly part of that ride.

CUOMO: You're the man of the match. They're framing you up as Captain America. You're defined as the secretary of defense on Wikipedia. You, my man, are popular. What are you going to do with all this? How are you going to handle it?

HOWARD: Take it in stride, you know, going to go home and relax and hide away, hang out with the kids, get some more tattoos, just be me.


PEREIRA: That is a cool cat right there. Almost as cool as our Chris Cuomo, joining us from Brazil.

Overall, the takeaway is this is a great outing for our U.S. team. U.S. soccer really looking positively I think. Don't you think?

CUOMO: Oh, absolutely. You talk about a face. You want to brand quickly. Forget about the thug you talked about. Tim Howard is a face you're going to be seeing everywhere. He represented and personified everything about the American team that wound up being e embraced by the country in a way it hadn't been before. Mic, you've been a soccer fan. I have not been a soccer fan. I've always been an American and a fan of what the country does. But there's something about this generation of team and of Americans. My kids play soccer. I didn't. But my kids do. And Tim Howard really personified that.

And being down here, you got such a sense the team is embraced by other teams, people from other countries. It's good for the country. Tim Howard was just the start. During the match last night, I sat by where his goal was in the first half. The Belgium fans were turning around and saying, wow, he's great, during the match. That's high praise. I'm glad he's getting hyped.

BERMAN: He deserves it.

All right, Chris Cuomo, safe journeys back here to America, you, American. Look forward to seeing you back here. PEREIRA: Safe travels, honey.

That's it for us @THISHOUR. Thanks so much for joining us. I'm Michaela Pereira.

BERMAN: I'm John Berman.

"LEGAL VIEW" with Ashleigh Banfield starts right now.