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Former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell Faces Fraud, Obstruction Charges; Winter Weather Grips Texas and the Deep South; Cops Suspended for Allegedly Escorting Biebs to Strip Clubs; Real Life "Goodfellas"

Aired January 24, 2014 - 11:00   ET


CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks for joining me today. I'm Carol Costello.

LEGAL VIEW with Ashleigh Banfield starts now.

ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Just 13 days after leaving office, Virginia's ex-governor stands before a federal judge facing 14 counts of fraud and obstruction.

Bob McDonnell insists that he is a victim, not a criminal.

Justin Bieber is not the only one in hot water after a night on the town and a late night in the jail cell.

Now, several local cops are under suspension and under investigation, suspected of giving the pop star a police escort to a strip club and other hot spots, too.

Clemency is still not in the cards, but what about some kind of plea? What's Edward Snowden's next move? Was that an offer of sorts from the U.S. attorney general and a brand new promise as well from Russia? We are going to sort that all out for you.

Hello, I'm Ashleigh Banfield, Friday, January 24th. Welcome to LEGAL VIEW.

No politician wants to slink off into oblivion when he leaves office and Bob McDonnell is not going to worry about that.

Instead, the Virginia governor and his wife, Maureen, are beginning what looks to be a long and public process of paying up for luxuries provided by a wealthy friend and businessman, a businessman that allegedly got some pretty special state attention in return for all that fancy stuff.

Just minutes ago, the McDonnell's appeared in a federal courthouse in Richmond on charges arising from the money and the designer clothing and the purses and the shoes and the jewelry and the loans and the trips. I could go on.

They don't deny accepting those things. They consider them, quote, "routine political conduct."

Our Joe Johns is on the case, live in Washington, D.C. Get me up to speed. What happened in court?

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Initial appearances and arraignments for both McDonnells, Bob and his wife, Maureen, reporters that were in the courtroom are indicating they are going to remain free while they wait for trial in this very controversial case.

It is the next step in the McDonnell legal story. Bob and Maureen McDonnell face 14 counts, corruption charges relating to the gifts they receive from the CEO of a health supplement company, shopping sprees, high-end stores, tens of thousands of dollars in loans, Rolex watch inscribed with the governor's name, title, golfing trips, $165,000 in all.

They entered the court holding hands today. In Richmond, it is the kind of situation where we are going to see a long legal fight in Virginia, because Bob McDonnell has said he did nothing wrong.

He is not taking responsibility for anything his wife may have done. He says he has broken no laws, as Ashleigh.

BANFIELD: The fact that you just said that, this could have been a very short story as well, because there is talk of plea bargaining. What went on?

JOHNS: We were told that late last year, Bob McDonnell was offered a deal to essentially plead to one charge and he would be able to spare his wife the embarrassment and the trouble of being charged, as well.

But the source who told us that also characterized what McDonnell did when he turned down the plea deal as throwing his wife under the bus.

The source also said the McDonnell team said they did not believe the Department of Justice could get a conviction based on the evidence. He said he has broken no laws, Ashleigh.

BANFIELD: Joe Johns reporting live in Washington, D.C. our justice correspondent, thank you for that.

Our defense attorney and HLN legal analyst Joey Jackson is also on this case. He joins me live now from New York.

I have to say that's one of those stories that makes me kind of smile, laugh, and shake, all at the same time, when I hear somebody who says, no way, I'm not going to spare my wife for this. I'm going to bat.

Honestly, would it have meant, we are sparing your wife, but you are doing time?

JOEY JACKSON, HLN LEGAL ANALYST: The federal government is very adept at pursuing cases.

One of the things they do, in an effort to attempt a plea bargain, they are saying, we'll spare your family in the event that you plea.

If the governor is of the opinion and the position that he's done nothing wrong, then we're going to move forward. Now -

BANFIELD: As we look at the list of things that they are alleged to have accepted in return for favoritism.

JACKSON: So the defense hat comes on, and here's the defense hat.

A lot of the indictment, Ashleigh, speaks to his wife's behavior and speaks to her actions, and the reality is, is that the honest service fraud provisions go to public corruption.

She does not hold office.

BANFIELD: Yeah, she's not the governor. She's not the governor.

JACKSON: Exactly, and so she's -- it may be a very good strategy for him to employ to say, wives do what they do, right? We care about them. We love them.

But do we keep tabs on them at all times, and don't we have our official duties to tend to, such that I was blind to her actions?

And that, I think, is going to be large part the defense.

BANFIELD: Joey, I completely understand when you say Mrs. McDonnell was never elected, did not get paid by the state, and had no official position.

JACKSON: I hear a "but" coming.

BANFIELD: But there is a big old "but," and it's that "bedfellow but."

You know, a lot of pillow talk, a lot of conversation, a lot of electronic conversation, as well, emails from her to official staff, directives, complaints, frustrations, conversations with the governor, as well.

Isn't there some kind of guilt by association? I know that's a very nebulous and strange thing to say.


BANFIELD: But isn't there?

JACKSON: It is a wonderful point, and it comes down to the issue of reasonableness.

If you're sitting on that jury, the question is going to be what he knew and when he knew it.

Was he aware of his wife's activities? Did he support his wife's activities? Did he encourage his wife's activities?

And if that jury believes he is not telling the truth, right, through his lawyers, we don't know that he will testify, but if his whole defense is, it was her, it was her, I had no idea and they have reason to believe that that's unreasonable, then we could see that they could be convicting him here.

However, we don't know.

BANFIELD: We've got to make it quick, but are we going to see one of those defenses where you have co-defendants doing this, it is the other guy who did it?

JACKSON: Absolutely.

BANFIELD: Oh, ouch.

JACKSON: But if the wife can take the blame here, it would be much better for him.

BANFIELD: So ironic.

All right, Joey -

JACKSON: To be continued.

BANFIELD: Without question, it is only the beginning. Thank you for that.

JACKSON: You're welcome.

BANFIELD: Big story, we're also looking at the snow flurries, the shoveling, the sledding, because it's winter, after all, in Louisiana. Yeah, look at that. It warms my heart.

Those kids do not get to do that every year, because across the Deep South and all the way up to New England, the deep freeze is really tightening its grip. And now there are urgent warnings of icy roads.

Classes are canceled today, along with more than 500 flights, most of them at airports not in New York, this time in Texas. Yes, I said Texas, the great state.

Nick Valencia is in Houston. You're wearing your severe weather gear in Houston, Texas. I didn't even think we would issue that gear to you for a Houston, Texas, assignment.

Chad Myers gets to wear the suit and tie at the Severe Weather Center in Atlanta.

I'm going to start with you, Nick. Give me the skinny from Houston.

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, it's not every day you get a winter storm warning here in Houston, Texas, but that's exactly what we're dealing with.

We have been out all morning long and have really felt the cold temperatures, Ashleigh. We have seen the ice accumulations. We've seen the sleet sort of ebb and flow throughout parts of the city.

And the big concern here in Houston is the interstates behind here, the roadways, Interstate 45, the scene of a major accident earlier today, a big rig slicing there through the median, according to the city spokesperson for Houston.

There's been too many accidents to count, according to that spokesperson. Also, a big problem, the schools are closed today. They were very concerned about the winter weather coming through the area, so they closed today. No word on if they are expected to open tomorrow.

Also, as you mentioned, Ashleigh, flight cancellations, at least 100 flights canceled at the big airport here, Houston Intercontinental Airport.

The scene here in Houston, it resonates throughout the entire state of Texas. You're talking about places like San Antonio, Austin, Texas, also waking up to ice accumulations, as well.

And this goes up and down the Midwest, Ashleigh. We saw a bad scene, an accident in Michigan City, Indiana, yesterday. That, of course, is a big concern here in Houston, as well, so they are prepping those roads for icy conditions.


BANFIELD: Nick, you forgot my favorite town in Texas, "Big D," Dallas, because it was cold there a couple of days of winter when I lived there, as well.

VALENCIA: It is cold.

BANFIELD: I can attest you did need a jacket like that.

Thanks, Nick. Go warm up.

So, Chad, is it just me or does this seem like one of the colder winters, more extended periods of cold in more places? What's the story?

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: No question about it.

Now, the ridge is in the west. We've had record highs in San Francisco. There's no snow in the Sierra, really not much. And then record highs in Los Angeles.

It was 84 in Oxnard, two days ago. It was 36-below-zero in Watertown, New York, at the same day. That's 120 degrees across our country alone. The one side is cold. The other side is warm.

The cold snuck all the way down to Texas. And then the moisture from the Gulf said, hey, let me try to come back up here. Let's see what we can do.

All the sudden, you put that cold air on the ground, you put the rain on top of it and you get an ice storm for Houston, all the way back toward New Orleans, getting a little bit of freezing precip across parts of Louisiana where they just don't expect it.

Here are the current temps. Houston, 29, so you are not going to get any melting. Still going to be frozen tonight. And those icy spots are still going to be there.

Look at tomorrow, 62, up and down, up and down. The storm goes away, and we start to cool down the North but warm up the South.


BANFIELD: There is that. I have a bunch of snow in my yard. I thought it would melt before I got to the next snowstorm. I guess it is not going to happen.


BANFIELD: I'll touch base with you again next week, see how we're doing.

MYERS: Fair enough.

BANFIELD: Thanks, Chad.

The federal government is soon going to have some brand-new rules for how banks are supposed to handle all of that legal money that's coming in from pot.

Marijuana is now legal in Colorado and Washington state, but it is still illegal under federal law, and that's keeping a lot of the banks away from the pot business and forcing growers and sellers to deal mostly in cash.

Ask that guy to knock off with the construction on the set. Can you hear the hammer going on behind me? We're always building.

We want to take a big look at the down side of the New York Stock Exchange today. The markets have been open less than 90 minutes, and that is never a good number, no matter how you slice it, unless you sell short, down 173 points.

Christine Romans, talking this morning about what's up with 2014, our 401(k)s were going bananas up until New Year's Day, it seemed, anyway.

We will continue to look at the market throughout the day, find out how things are going, but so far, things aren't good across the board for all of the last 20-some-odd days of January.

Three Florida police officers are now suspended, and they are under investigation for allegedly escorting that fellow in the yellow Lamborghini. You know him now, very well, as the star, Justin Bieber, in the arrest heard 'round the world yesterday.

This is all just coming out now about this escort stuff, a day after the big arrest for DUI.

We are going to take you live to Miami, give you the skinny on what's up with the cops there.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BANFIELD: OK, so you know that Justin Bieber saga is really big when there's this huge bust in New York City, like a real "Goodfellas," Mob-style bust, almost a 30-year-old big crime and this is on the cover of "The Daily News," "A ticket for Biebs Out of the Country, First Class," only they don't say class. Yeah.

Mob stories in New York take a second fiddle to that, and there's more to it today.

Three Florida police officers have now been suspended with pay, because allegedly, they escorted that pop star from the Opa-Locka airport to unspecified locations.

And according to our affiliate WSBN, those unspecified locations were Miami strip clubs. Did I say these were police escorts? That's probably why it is making big headlines.

All of this as Bieber bonded out of jail yesterday, and it kind of felt like deja vu. I know you remember on the left-hand side of your screen, Michael Jackson from 2004, the arraignment for child molestation, dancing on the top of his SUV to the throngs of fans at the courthouse and then Biebs on the top of the black Cadillac Escalade waving to the legions of screaming fans outside the courthouse.

Is this like part of street cred or getting good court headlines? So here is a picture of him after the arrest. The only good thing about it is the Toronto Maple Leafs jersey. That's the only thing I like about that photo. He is on his phone, it's WFOR CBS 4 in Miami posted this picture on Twitter. The smile in his mugshot said it all, hello, I'm Biebs. He didn't shed any tears either during his bond hearing. Tory Dunnan now looks at Bieber's big day in court.


TORY DUNNAN, CNN CORRESOPDNENT: Waving to fans, seemingly unfazed Justin Bieber emerged from a Miami jail after being arrested for a late night drag race on Miami Beach.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Bieber, you are charged with the following --

DUNNAN: One of the world's richest teens had a sobering moment. Appearing before a judge, he was charged with driving under the influence, driving with an expired license, and resisting arrest. Prominent Miami Defense Attorney Roy Black doing all of the talking in court.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've been retained by his manager.

DUNNAN: Bieber was all smiles in his booking photo in a jail jumpsuit, instantly making headlines around the world. Miami Beach police say Bieber was driving this Lamborghini when he raced against a Ferrari on a quiet residential stretch of the beach, both vehicles nearly twice the speed limit, two black SUVs blocking the roadway. Just after 4:00 a.m., a Miami Beach police officer arrested the pop star who allegedly failed a sobriety test. CHIEF RAYMOND MARTINEZ, MIAMI BEACH POLICE: Mr. Bieber made a statement that he had consumed some alcohol and had been smoking marijuana and consumed some prescription medication.

DUNNAN: Police say the teen heartthrob wreaked of alcohol and fired off numerous expletives to the officer at the scene.

KATHY FERNANDEZ RUNDLE, MIAMI DADE STATE ATTORNEY: There isn't an exception in the law for certain people. The law is the law, the facts are the facts.

DUNNAN: After eight hours in jail, Bieber was released after posting $2,500 bond.

ROY BLACK: They have not asked for an increased bail because of his popularity or frame.

DUNNAN: Police also arresting the driver of the Ferrari, R&B singer Khalil, who earlier in the day posted videos of Bieber skateboarding with him. Justin Beiber's rise from YouTube sensation to multi- millionaire pop star is nothing to joke about. His current album is on the top 10 iTunes downloads, and he's amassed nearly 50 million Twitter followers. If this run-in with the law bothered his legions of believers, it wasn't evident outside the court.


BANFIELD: Tory Dunnan's now live in Miami for us. So, where has this story progressed today, or has it? Where is he located?

DUNNAN: Ashley, that's really the million dollar question, that and many other things. There is a flurry of activity out here. The reports that Justin Bieber is staying inside this exclusive boutique hotel here behind me, paparazzi is all around here as well as many of his fans. We saw someone come up to the front door, go inside. It is believed that that was possibly Khalil, of course just mentioned in the story who was the R&B singer. A lot of speculation about where he is. Tons of Bieber fans around here hoping to catch a glimpse.

BANFIELD: I keep wondering if the sheriff is going to show up with a warrant to have a look-see in the hotel room. You will have to let me know if you see that. Tory Dunnan, thank you so much.

Justin Bieber's lawyer, great attorney, Roy Black, pretty famous in his own right. He has his work cut out for him on this case. Outside of the courtroom, he couldn't even say, which was kind of cute, what any of the high-profile songs were that Justin Bieber is behind. He wasn't sure, or he wasn't saying he was sure. It really doesn't matter.

What does matter is how Roy Black is going to cope with the immense pressure and the spotlight that his client is most certainly going to have on him for quite some time. If anybody knows a thing or two about that phenomenon, it is that guy, Mark O'Mara, who just happens to be CNN's most recent legal analyst, defense attorney as well. He represented George Zimmerman as I know you will remember last year. Then, I have this, as part of your intro today, Mark O'Mara, you have just been awarded by The National Trial Lawyers Association, the National Criminal Trial Lawyer of the Year. Well deserved. Congratulations. Nice to hear.

MARK O'MARA, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Thank you. Good morning, Ashleigh. Great to talk to you again.

BANFIELD: I have watched you at work, and it is true. It really is.

So, here is my question for you. You know all too well what it's like trying to defend somebody on kind of garden variety charges when you don't have a garden variety client. The media and everybody else is zeroing in. What is the advice you have for Roy Black?

O'MARA: Roy doesn't need advice from me. He is a great lawyer. Here is the thing about Miami-Dade county in a DUI. Justin Bieber fits into a category where he is available for what's called the "back on track" program. It's a quick, easy way to deal with a DUI and what you do basically is go into this program. If you complete it, which is community service, a fine, which I think he can pay and do the DUI class, with a license suspension, then they drop it down to reckless driving, withhold adjudication of guilt, which means it's not on your record and I think Roy will probably take that path of least resistance, and probably should and get him into a program like that.

The reports have been that his blood alcohol was very low. So, you may look at a case like this and say even though he was stupid to act the way he did driving a Lamborghini at twice the speed limit, maybe there is an argument to fight whether or not the charges are appropriate. I think the easiest, quickest way out is going to be the best.

BANFIELD: Okay, so yeah, if the blood alcohol was low, he is also 19, which means he doesn't enjoy the same legal limit as an adult. It is lower. I believe it is .2. That will be interesting to see where that report comes out when it is finally released. But here's a question for you - the charges that were levied yesterday, we reported extensively, may not be the end of it. If you are firing down a residential street asking people to block it off for you so that you can drag race with a Ferrari, isn't that also potentially a reckless endangerment charge? If I recall, that's a felony. That's really serious.

O'MARA: It starts out as a misdemeanor under Florida law unless somebody's injured, and then it becomes a felony. What they did was completely stupid, bur the result of which wasn't that bad. He came out and said, I was drinking, smoking pot, on prescription drugs. It is going to be curious whether or not they did a urine urinalysis. Under Florida law, you can ask for a urinalysis, but I'm wondering when it's all said and done if this may be much ado about nothing, because if the reports are right a .04, half the legal limit of an adult, though twice the limit of a child, If that is truly the blood- alcohol level, then getting this out of the public eye as quickly as possible maybe even making it sort of positive, get him into an alcohol program, have him do some public service announcements as to how easy it is to get yourself trouble with alcohol, and he can turn this into positive. With what he has been doing lately, a positive spin may help.

BANFIELD: Last question. I'm just looking at the arrest affidavit here, and he did agree, according to the officer, to a breath test as well as a drug evaluation. He agreed to it, whether it happened or not, I can't tell you that, it's not in the affidavit. But let me ask you this: one of our producers was very clever yesterday and called U.S. customs to ask about the severity of these misdemeanors with regard to his immigration status, or his visitation status, whatever it may be in this country, his work status. Clearly he does concerts here and he works in this country.

And it was interesting, with a single DUI conviction isn't grounds, according to U.S. cusoms to deny entry for him back in this country, but multiple DUIs or a DUI in combination with other misdemeanor offenses can make a person inadmissible, and require a waiver prior to entering the United States. And then a crime of moral turpitude, which we talked about yesterday on the program could be grounds to deny him entry.

Just because he has made these admissions of smoking marijuana and using prescription medication, could that be considered moral turpitude and cause a big problem or the combination of the misdemeanors, could that be problematic for his status in this country?

O'MARA: It might be, but I really don't think so. ICE, the agency, has a great deal of authority and discretion in what they do. I think what Roy Black is probably going to do is look at the resisting arrest charge. Get rid of that first. It didn't seem to be much of a resisting charge anyway. Get that off the table. That is a crime of violence in one sense. That could be problematic. Once that's off the table, a DUI that goes down to a reckless driving, with or withholding adjudication of guilt, I don't think it's going to cause him any problems with his immigration, but again he should really take this as a wake-up call, make something positive of this. He is 19, a lot of teens are looking up at him. If they say you can rent a Lamborghini, speed down a residential street, smoke pot, drink and be on prescription drugs, that's not the role model that any parent is going to want for their child.

BANFIELD: Amen to that. I would extend that to the Toronto mayor. That's not the role model for any grown-ups. Mark O'Mara, congratulations on your award and thanks for being on today. Appreciate it. Smart man, knows the law, certainly knows the law in Florida, too.

Tune in tonight for a special CNN program that we are running, "JUSTIN BIEBER'S WILD RIDE" starts at 10:00 eastern right here on CNN. Couldn't be more timely given the situation that young man finds himself in.

$5 million in cash, $1 million in jewelry. Wouldn't that be nice? Unless it is all ill begotten, stolen in the largest heist in New York history and now decades later, these guys are hauled in. Old guys arrested for a crime way back when. They even made a movie about it, come on back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BANFIELD: Five alleged mobsters, some old enough to be grandfathers, are facing charges for a litany of some serious unsolved crimes, including the infamous Lufthansa heist, that was basis for the movie "Goodfellas." Jason Carroll reports now on how the indictment leveled against these men is right out of Hollywood.


JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Immortalized in Martin Scorse's mob classic, "Goodfellas," 1978's Lufthansa heist remains the largest in New York's history, $5 million in cash, $1 million in jewels, never recovered. The masterminds, never brought to justice.

Now, years later, arrests in New York, Vincent Asaro, a 78-year-old reputed captain of the Bonanno crime family indicted for murder, racketeering, and robbery in connection with the heist. The 26-page federal indictment doesn't read like a screen play but it does describe a life of crime dating back to the '60s, and names Asaro for stealing millions from one or more employees of Lufthansa Airlines. Asaro's attorney paints a drastically different portrayal of the man.

GERALS MCMAHON, ATTORNEY: The poor guy, a grandfather. I met his granddaughter in court today. He got rousted out of bed this morning at 6:00 for something he didn't do. A 40 or 45-year-old crime, and this afternoon, I got a call from Marty Scorsese. They are doing a sequel for "Goodfellas," and he needs a new script.

CARROLL: Clearly a joke, investigators not finding humor in the wisecracks, instead focusing on four otherwise so-called guys, including Asaro's son, Jerome. All charged with crimes unrelated to Lufthansa. Not guilty pleas entered at the arraignment today including from Asaro.