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Boston Bombing Investigation Continues; New Suspect in Ricin Letter Case; Elvis Impersonator Allegedly Framed in Ricin Case

Aired April 29, 2013 - 11:00   ET


ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Ashleigh Banfield reporting live in Boston.

Breaking news this hour on the Boston bombings -- Brand new information out about the lone surviving suspect. Right now 19-year- old Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is sitting in a 10 by 10 foot cell in a federal prison camp and medical facility just 40 miles outside of the city I'm in right now, the city of Boston.

But this morning, we now have some new and exclusive details here at CNN from that night that he was captured after a bloody fight with police officials.

My source, a senior hospital employee at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, tells me that the night Dzhokhar Tsarnaev arrived at that hospital he was quote, "covered in blood from head to toe," that his face was extremely bloody and that he was only semiconscious, but that his eyes were closed when he arrived in that ambulance with the paramedics.

I'm also told that he was wrapped in a great deal of gauze, his field dressings from the paramedics in the attempt to make sure that he survived his injuries from that shootout and, of course, the allegations of the lobbing of ordnance at police as well.

I'm also told that local police wanted to set up a crime scene right there in the ambulance at the ambulance bay, but that the FBI quickly took over, dissuaded them from doing so, and instead, I'm told -- and this is a quote -- "The discussion was a very quick one." The FBI did not let them take over and do that crime scene, locally.

I'm also told by this source, who witnessed the arrival Dzhokhar Tsarnaev at the hospital, that he was not making any sounds when he was brought in in that ambulance, but he was taken very, very quickly up into what's called the "red zone trauma area," in which he is separated by curtains from other patients.

And that is where the suspect began to moan in a great deal of pain. I am told, however, he was not uttering any words. He wasn't saying, help me. He wasn't mentioning any names. He was just moaning in a great deal of pain as they worked to stabilize him, which, apparently, I'm told has happened very quickly.

The stabilization of the suspect happened very quickly. On hand to treat Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, two thoracic surgeons and a number of other surgeons as well and no shortage of medical staff. Somewhere between eight and 10 medical staff were working on this suspect in that red zone trauma area.

I do want to point out very specifically, when I asked my source whether there were any bombing victims who were on the other sides of those curtains in the E.R., I was told in no uncertain terms, no. There were no bombing victims who were in the vicinity of hearing the treatment of the man who was alleged to have hurt them.

I can tell you this as well. The FBI did not leave his side. From the moment he was brought in in the ambulance bay, those FBI representatives were right there in the E.R., in fact, in the room as he was being stabilized. And there were other law enforcement officers as well just outside of the room, including additional FBI officers, Boston police officers and then, of course, members as from the Beth Israel Deaconess police department. They also have a police department at that hospital. So there was a great deal of law enforcement, both inside the treatment area and outside the treatment area.

And here's what happened as he was stabilized. The suspect, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, was then taken from that red zone trauma area to an X-ray and then a C.T. scan and then he was wheeled off very quickly to an O.R., to an operating room, where I'm told, again, by my source, a high-level hospital employee, that the FBI stayed right within the area as he was operated on.

Again, he stabilized very quickly and, from that moment, and it was only within a matter of hours, he was taken to what we now know is the sixth floor of the main center, the medical center at Beth Israel. And that was an area we were told last week had been shut off, exclusive to just this particular patients. There were no other patients, specifically no other bombing victims, in fact, no other patients at all in that sixth floor ICU where he was closed off for the remainder of his stay there.

I can also tell you this. The president of the hospital came in that night after 8:00 at night to be a part of all of this. Clearly the president of a hospital doesn't come to the hospital unless it is a very important person who is admitted.

And then I will also tell you this. The recovery of Tsarnaev was extremely quick according to my source. And I am told, quote, "He was in much better shape than most people thought," with the serious wounds isolated to his neck area, throat, I'm told, and his leg as well.

The source says that the Devens Medical Center where he is now, staff from Devens came to Beth Israel Deaconess to confer with authorities there on logistics and organization on how the transfer him once it was time to get him out of that hospital.

We reported to you exclusively last week that the family members of victims treated there were none too pleased that the suspect was receiving care from the same people who were caring for their loved ones and that they wanted to facilitate that transfer as quickly as possible, so people from Devens came to make that happen.

Here is another detail that perhaps you might find fascinating and that is this -- when the U.S. marshals transferred Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to Devens Medical Center, he did not go by ambulance. He did not go out the exit. He did not go out the ambulance bay.

Instead, they took him off a loading dock at the back of the hospital. It was under the cover of the night, 3:30 in the morning, as we told you last week, but nobody at this point knew that he was going off of a mere loading dock.

I cannot say I have ever heard of the transfer of a medical patient off of a loading dock of a hospital. But he did go with U.S. marshals in what's called transport vehicles. They resemble large Humvees.

CNN law enforcement analyst and former FBI assistant director, Tom Fuentes, joins me live now to talk more about this. He is in Washington, D.C.

And, also, from the American College of Emergency Physicians, Dr. Leigh Vinocur, joins me on the telephone.

First, Dr. Vinocur, if I could just ask you, I'm hoping you could hear all of the details that I just reported to you from our high-level hospital source.

But are you surprised to hear the details of not only of his arrival, but also his departure and treatment in between?

DR. LEIGH VINOCUR, AMERICAN COLLEGE OF EMERGENCY PHYSICIANS (via telephone): No, because he is a suspect, he is very highly guarded, and they have to ensure his physical safety and physical custody as well as take care of his medical issues.

So, I'm not that surprised at how they handled it.

BANFIELD: And then also, Dr. Vinocur, the transfer of this high-level detainee, clearly the media was camping out 24 hours to try to get a shot of this transfer and no one was able to.

So the fact that they used a loading dock to transfer him into an FBI transport vehicle instead of an ambulance, does that surprise you at all?

VINOCUR (via telephone): No, because. as you said ,they wanted to keep him sheltered from, you know, the media, any kind of paparazzi, anything related to that.

And they had to have a lot of people around with him and have the medical evacuation and the transfer, but they also wanted it very protected because of the status of this patient.

BANFIELD: And, Tom Fuentes, if you could just weigh in on this as well, the source I spoke -- and, again, this is a very highly placed hospital staff member -- was very clear to say that the FBI never left his said, effectively during the initial stabilization, and then when he went into the operating room, they were right there within the vicinity.

I'm assuming that this is not a surprise either, given the level that this suspected bomber represented as a detainee.


First of all, he's a suspect in custody, so they're going to stay as close as they can physically stay.

But also he might make a death bed confession. They don't know how bad of a shape he's in. Is he going to survive? If he's dying and blurts out the name of an co-accomplice or makes an admission of guilt or something, that that would be admissible as a death bed confession at a later time.

So that's why they want to stay there in case there's more information which could be used as evidence that comes out of that.

BANFIELD: And I think in legal parlance, that's described as called the dying declaration which absolutely is an exception to hearsay standards in a court of law. So that makes a lot of sense.

But what about just the initial treatment? The FBI, right there as the emergency physicians began the attendance of him at the ambulance bay, and saying, this is not going to be a crime scene. We are taking over here, a very quick discussion as I'm told, in no uncertain terms.

FUENTES: Right. Well, in that situation, the primary consideration is to try to save his life, so the medical requirements of that take precedence.

And this would be true at the bomb scene, taking care of the injured, wounded, people that need medical attention and rescuing them takes precedence over coming in and doing a normal crime scene investigation. So that's a standard that always exists.

So, in this case, they don't want to have it come out that it looks like they let him die. We didn't take care of him. We were more worried about taking fingerprints or DNA samples or blood samples, something.

So, in that case, they're going to make sure he gets the treatment that he needs because they want to talk to him. They want him to recover and give information of value at a future time.

BANFIELD: That's a fascinating insight into that very dangerous night and, obviously, a very complicated evening not only of medical treatment, but also the legal treatment on how to preserve evidence and maintain any kind of prosecution, this coming to us, again, from a senior employee of the Beth Israel Hospital.

Tom Fuentes and Dr. Leigh Vinocur, thank you for your insight as well on this.

I want to take us from the hospital story in Boston to the former military post where this suspect is now being held, having been taken there off a loading dock by a transport vehicle and being driven courtesy of the federal marshals.

My colleague Don Lemon is standing by there, and this is not a comfortable environment by any stretch, is it, Don?

DON LEMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It certainly isn't. And it's not surprising, Ashleigh, that they would do that under the cover of darkness in the way that they did.

Everything that they've been doing, they've been trying not to draw attention to the suspect, even on the day they were looking for him, telling their officers not to use sirens if they're trying to get to a particular scene because they didn't want to alert him and then they didn't want to alert the media, obviously.

He's here at the Fort Devens Medical Center about 40 miles west of Boston. Even some of the people I just went up to speak to the -- there's an extra set of security guards here that usually aren't here. There's a checkpoint, but before the checkpoint, there's security guards.

And I said, you guys are usually here? And they said, no. I said, have you seen him? They said, no, we haven't seen him. We didn't know he was coming. And guess what? We probably won't see him.

So they're doing everything they can do to draw as little attention as possible to this high-level detainee.

And at this facility, that's where he is. He's -- there's 1,044 people here, but he is in a special part of this facility, Ashleigh, with -- it's 34 people total. He's one of 34 people that that has extra security.

And it's a -- we have a graphic -- 10-by-10-foot cell with a metal door and then there's a little slot where they can feed him, they can put a tray through, and then there's a window where they can monitor him, and they're monitoring him 24 hours a day.

He was in bad condition when he went to the hospital at Deaconess, but here, apparently, he's doing a lot better because he's able to speak to medical staff about his condition. Not sure if he's talking to authorities.

But come back out to us here, live. I want to show you, when you say 10-by-10, how big is that, Ashleigh? Most people really can't put it in their minds about how big it is.

This is what it -- this is about the size of it. This is what we're told. There's a bed in one corner, and then there's a toilet and there a sink, a pretty small amount of space to move around in, especially if you're not used to being locked up.

And then this is about the size of that tray that they have and then the size of the window that's above it so they can monitor him.

We just happen to have this tent, which is 10-by-10, but imagine being in this 24 hours a day. That's what he's in. And if he's guilty of the crime that he's accused of, many people would say this is even too good for him, Ashleigh, and too big.

BANFIELD: If you ask people where I am, Don, you'll get lot of responses like that. And a few of them I've spoken with here had tears in their eyes when suggesting they felt they knew what kind of justice should be meted out.

But let's remember this is a suspect, and there is a long process ahead of us until he is anything other than a suspect or a detainee or a defendant in this case.

Don Lemon, great work out there and thank you for that.

We've also got some new details that are just in about a man named Misha, the man that some members of the Tsarnaev family have said radicalized, the suspect who is incarcerated, his older brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev.

Christian Caryl was able to track down Misha and showed up at his home in Rhode Island, unannounced, for an interview in Russian, in fact, an interview in Russian.

Misha's real name is Mikhail Allakhverdov. He is 39-years-old and he flatly denies any role in the Boston bombings. And you can find highlights of Christian Caryl's interview on the website for The New York Review of Books.

He spoke with CNN's Chris Cuomo just a short time ago. And here is what he learned during that interview.


CHRISTIAN CARYL, THE NEW YORK REVIEW OF BOOKS (via telephone): When I asked him about Tamerlan Tsarnaev, it was quite -- he made it very clear that he had indeed known him.

He did not specify any details about the nature of their relationship, but he was very, very, very intent on explaining that he had nothing to do with any kind of radicalization.

What he told me was, I was not his teacher. If I had been his teacher, I would have made sure he knew that doing something like this was wrong.

So he was very, very emphatic about that, very upset and went to great lengths to convince me that he really had nothing to do with this.

And he made the point -- he claimed to me that the FBI had told him that his case was, in fact, about to be closed because the FBI had investigated his computer, his cell phone, all of his equipment and documents and concluded that he wasn't really involved, certainly not involved in the organization of the attacks.

Now, is that true? I don't know, but we still have to find out.


BANFIELD: And we are not finished yet. A jihadist group with suspected ties to the Boston suspect gets a visit from Russian special forces.

And let's just say it was not a friendly visit. Going to bring you that story, next.


BANFIELD: Many thousands of miles from where I am standing, in the homeland of the bomb suspects, Tamerland and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, Russian special forces launched a deadly raid this morning on a jihadist group that really no longer is operating in the shadows.

CNN's Nick Paton Walsh is live in Moscow with that. Nick, what happened and what connection can be made to where I am here in Boston?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ashleigh, first of all, what happened -- early yesterday morning, a pretty violent (ph) special forces raid in a village called Chontaul in Dagestan took out a man called Shakhrudin Askhabov (ph). Now he is part of a militant group that was formally headed by a militant called Abu Dujan. He was killed in December also by Russian special forces.

How did this link to Boston? Well, a video of Abu Dujan was linked to by Tamerlan Tsarnaev on his YouTube channel. We don't know if the two men ever met, but we do know clearly Tamerlan was interested in him. We don't know if today's raid in Chontaul by special forces that killed this associate, Askhabov, is in any way connected with ongoing investigations or is purely a coincidence. But certainly there is active activity on the ground now by Russian authorities chasing down members of the group in whom Tamerlan Tsarnaev expressed a social media interest. Ashleigh.

BANFIELD: Nick, you've had a chance also to speak with the suspects' parents again. Are they as forthcoming as they have been, or are they clamming up?

WALSH: You know, they seem, to be honest, in many ways very exhausted. The father I spoke to very quickly, he said simply, "I'm sick, I'm sick." Elaborated upon by the mother; she said, "Look, he really is ill. He's not going anywhere like the United States at all until he gets better." So that could be quite some time any trip is delayed.

But she importantly said that travel plans do keep changing but if, at any point, she's given a suggestion she could meet her son Dzhokhar, she will go to the United States regardless of any outstanding arrest warrants related to shoplifting (ph) allegations or any interest in the investigation that is directed towards her.

So a family clearly traumatized but their main goal -- getting the father healthy and then, if possible, seeing Dzhokhar. Ashleigh?

BANFIELD: Nick Paton Walsh live for us in Moscow. Thank you for that and great reporting overseas, as well.

Also some other news for you now. An Elvis impersonator cleared by the authorities; a martial arts instructor instead arrested. A brand new suspect charged in the ricin laced letters case. Do investigators are the right man this time? On the other side.


BANFIELD: The case involving ricin laced letters that were sent to President Obama and other officials has now taken another very strange turn. A second person has now been charged -- martial arts instructor named James Dutschke has been charged, and he's in court right now as we speak.

Elvis impersonator Paul Kevin Curtis was the first person to be charged, but he was later cleared and he claimed he had been framed by the man they arrested, Dutschke.

CNN's Alina Machado has more from Missippii.


ALINA MACHADO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Kevin Curtis is relieved after learning of James Everett Dutschke's arrest.

PAUL KEVIN CURTIS, FORMER RICIN SUSPECT: I was just like -- I took a deep breath and I walk in there and I told my ex-wife, I said now I feel like a weight is so much lifted off of my shoulders.

MACHADO: Investigators initially honed in on Curtis after someone sent ricin-laced letters to President Obama, Mississippi Senator Wicker and a county court judge. Charges filed against Curtis were dropped last week. After Curtis's released the FBI shifted its focus to Dutschke, a martial arts instructor and a former political candidate.

ANDRE NABORS, NEIGHBOR: They all just surrounded the house and knocked on the door. And he came on out -- he came out willingly. So I mean, there wasn't any struggling going on or anything.

MACHADO: Federal prosecutors have charged Dutschke with quote, "Knowingly developing, producing, stockpiling and possessing a biological agent for use as a weapon." Curtis' ex-wife Laura worked with Dutschke at an insurance company owned by Curtis's brother. She says Dutschke bragged about being a member of Mensa, a high IQ society.

LAURA CURTIS, FORMER WIFE OF KEVIN CURTIS: He had a Mensa card and it was just one of his things he was proud of.

MACHADO: And showed you the card.

Kevin Curtis says Dutschke has been harassing him online since 2004.

(On camera): Why do you think he was interested in you?

K. CURTIS: I don't know. I'm still trying to find that out. I really don't know, I'm so curious. I've been curious for years.

MACHADO: Dutschke denied Curtis's accusations and any involvement with the ricin letters in this statement posted on YouTube.

JAMES EVERETT DUTSCHKE, CHARGED WITH SENDING RICIN-TAINTED LETTERS: I don't have anything at all to do with this. I don't hardly know the guy. In fact we've only met on two occasions.

MACHADO: For now, Curtis says he's focused on spending time with his four children and closing this chapter of his life.


BANFIELD: Alina Machado joins us live now from Oxford, Mississippi, and also here with me live is CNN legal analyst Paul Callan. Questions for both for you and, Alina, I'll start with you.

You just came from the court hearing. What can you tell us about what happened in the courtroom?

MACHADO: Well, Ashleigh, it was a very brief court hearing. Dutschke walked in. He was wearing an orange jumpsuit. His hands were cuffed at his waist. His feet were shackled. He seemed very calm. This was the first time we had seen him since he was taken into custody on Saturday at his house.

He answered all of the questions of that the judge asked very clearly, with confidence. And we also learned that he now has court-appointed attorney. That attorney's name is George Lucas. The appointment was made over the weekened and it is our understanding Lucas has only met with Dutschke probably about a couple of times. They were very brief meetings. They haven't had the time to go through the complaint in detail. In fact, Lucas told us after the hearing -- we had asked him if he would talk to us on camera. He said that he had only had the complaint in his hands for about 15 minutes.

Now, I'm sure that he's going to be meeting with Dutschke over the next few hours and days going through that complaint in detail. And that will probably happen ahead of Thursday. Thursday morning at 9:00 in the morning, there's going to be a preliminary hearing in this case and a detention hearing as well.

BANFIELD: All right, Alina Machado, thank you for that. I want to bring Paul Callan into this conversation. And look, Alina just said, we don't have the criminal complaint yet. I can't wait to take a look at it. But at its surface, what do you see being the potential charges that Mr. Dutschke is going to face with regard to what we know to be the evidence?

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: He could be facing life in prison. He's charged right now, we believe, with possession of a biological weapon, that weapon being ricin. Now if you make ricin properly, it's absolutely deadly. Although there had been some recent reports indicating this was a kitchen brew that might only have make you vomit. It's made from caster beans. So really we're going to have to look at what the grade of the weapon was to see if the charges will be supported.

BANFIELD: And look, ricin has been in used in James Bond-style assassinations in the past. There was the Russian episode, I think, number of decades ago, in which there was ricin on the tip of an umbrella. I may be wrong with the Russians, but this has been something that has been used in the past. Does it matter what the grade ends up being when perhaps an intent can be established that was very serious?

CALLAN: Well, I think he'll be charged with possession of a biological weapon, which is a life felony in the United States. He may also be charged with an attempt to kill the President of the United States. He sent a letter, allegedly, to President Obama in this bizarre scheme. You know, he's a tae kwon do instructor. He's under arrest for molesting three girls. And he ran for the State Legislature in Mississippi. So I don't know what's going on with this case.

BANFIELD: He also has conviction in the past as well of indecent exposure. So just to get a notion of what kind of defendant we may be dealing with here.

CALLAN: I don't think we're looking at somebody who posed a serious threat to the President of the United States. I'm betting this is going to be some home brew he made in his own kitchen. And you know where this case is going longterm? It's not going to be a very serious life felony; I think you're looking at someone with a severe mental problem trying to get even with a friend.

BANFIELD: It's not like the suspect that we're dealing here. If you get your hands on the criminal complaint in the next little while, will you come back and work with me on that?

CALLAN: Absolutely.

BANFIELD: Thank you. Paul Callan, good to see you in Boston. Thank you for coming here, and this was one of your former stomping grounds.

CALLAN: This is where I went to law school, that's right. Grew up here.

BANFIELD: Paul Callan reporting with us here. Thank you for that.

Another legal case that we're looking at, starting again, the Michael Jackson issue. His family is getting ready for a very big day in a wrongful death lawsuit. They're just hours away from opening statements and billions of dollars could be at stake in this case. We're going to break down all of the drama and what kind of star- studded people you may see traipsing in and out of that courtroom. It's coming up next.