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Violence Erupts in Odessa, Ukraine; Acrobats Injured During Circus Act; Donald Sterling Not Indicating Willingness to Sell Clippers; Judge Under Fire for Blaming 14-Year-Old Rape Victim; Interview with Defendant's Attorney Scottie Allen;

Aired May 5, 2014 - 07:00   ET


CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: And how did it wind up resolving itself? Did they come on and tell you everything is OK now? When did you get a sense it was going to be all right?

MARK PENSIERO, PASSENGER ON FLIGHT (via telephone): What they did was right after the incident they asked if there were any medical personnel on the aircraft. They said please remain seated. If you are hit, just your call light. A couple of people raised their arms, and they took them to the back of the airplane. I believe that is where the stewardess was. I didn't see that happen but I was chatting with some guys after the incident. And they said it happened right in front of them. And they said literally all you could -- her feet were at their eye level. She hit I guess the top of the aircraft.

CUOMO: Wow. Obviously you don't know, but your best information is this was turbulence. You didn't hit anything?

PENSIERO: It was definitely turbulence. I just remember the sky was very dark. We were not in clear air. It was definitely going through clouds when it happened.

CUOMO: Mark, it is so good that you are able to tell us what happened, that you are OK, and it seems everybody will be OK. Good luck going forward. Thanks for joining us on NEW DAY.

PENSIERO: OK, my pleasure. Bye-bye.

CUOMO: Kate?

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Search teams ready to renew efforts to find Malaysia Airline flight 370. They are now looking for more sophisticated equipment to help with the task. Officials from Malaysia, Australia, and China are meeting today to coordinate a new direction insisting they believe they are looking in the right place. Let's go live to Kuala Lumpur and bring in Will Ripley for the very latest. A new phase, they believe they're in the right place, Will. But this right place, this search area is expanding greatly now.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, radically expanding, Kate. Think of it this way -- the Bluefin 21 has already gone on 18 missions and it has searched a total of 154 square miles. This new underwater search area is 23,000 square miles. Clearly the blue fin needs backup. In just a couple of days some of the best experts including ones from here in Kuala Lumpur that originally helped with this investigation will be heading to Australia, sitting down and figuring out, one, looking over the data and making sure they think they are searching in the right place, and then two, the most effective way to coordinate resources.

We know this search could take up to a year and cost up to $60 million, but they need to bring in more technology to assist the Bluefin 21. It could be two months before that happens. You have a limited number of technology available. You can count on one hand the number of devices on the planet that can do this job. That's what they're going to be meeting about this week, coming up with a strategy so they can keep on searching for this plane. Kate, as you know, this is a very, very remote area of the world. So far so much searching has turned up nothing.

BOLDUAN: The search continues, though. Will, thank you very much.

It spoke to a different story we are watching happen overnight. It was a very violent weekend in Ukraine as the pro-Russian movement picks up steam, it seems, to the west, increasing concerns about a possible invasion by Russia. Ukraine suffered the deadliest day in nearly three months after the nation's army launched an assault on pro-Russian separatists. Many of those arrested were freed, though, after police headquarters was stormed.

But what is next in this region? What can shift the balance and bring some calm? Let's bring in Peter Beinart, a CNN political commentator, contributing editor with Atlantic Media, also an associate professor at City University in New York. Peter, it's great to see you this morning. So let me pull up a map just to help us with this conversation, because it is helpful for everyone to see what we are looking at. OK, so this is the region. We have been talking about eastern Ukraine quite a bit. This is where a lot of the violence has been. But then over the weekend it moved into Odessa. Why is this so important, do you think?

PETER BEINART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: This is such a big deal because the previous idea had been Putin's interest was really in this area.

BOLDUAN: I'll give you a color you can actually see. Go for it.

BEINART: That if there was an emerging split in Ukraine, the east was going to be the area close to Russia. But Odessa you see down in the south is far, far to the west of the areas that have previously seen violence. It is also very close to an area here which is a pro- Russian breakaway area from Moldova. There are now suggestions that the Russians may have their an eye on a much larger area, not just this eastern area, but all the way, this entire region all the way coming from the east all the way down south connecting up to this area where there are already Russian troops stationed.

BOLDUAN: If we would have been having this conversation three weeks ago I would have said there is no way you are talking about a region this large that Russia might be targeting. But now we have seen the violence here in the east. We have seen the deadliest violence, dozens killed in Odessa. Why was this such a target? We know there are historical ties with Russia in this port city.

BEINART: Right. And also it's a very, very important port for Russia.

BOLDUAN: Exactly.

BEINART: But we still don't know what Russia's end game is here.

BOLDUAN: Does Putin know what his end game is?

BEINART: I think we know what Putin does not want. Putin does not want a united pro-western Ukraine. And it looks like that is probably not in the cards. But when you see the reporting and what you find is even amongst these pro-Russian militias that are emerging here in Odessa, in Slavyansk, all over the place, there seems to be a lot of divisions even among them about what they want. Do they want to be a part of Russia? Do they want a division? If so, where would this division be? This is what's so frightening. It reminds one a little bit of the Balkans in the 1990s. Even if there were to be some kind of division in Russia, these are mixed cities. You can see in Odessa people are killing each other in the streets. It wouldn't be easy at all to partition this country.

BOLDUAN: Which is also to the exact point I wanted to get to, why it is so difficult to figure out how to help it seems. President Obama and the European Union have taken any kind of military intervention off the table. We have put about 600 U.S. troops in the Baltic States where there is estimated to be 40,000 Russian troops on the border. What do you think at this point can tip the balance even in the immediate to stop the bloodshed, to calm the violence?

BEINART: The only tool that the west has been using has been sanctions.

BOLDUAN: It is a mixed review.

BEINART: And sanctions take place slowly. It seems that so far Vladimir Putin's actions are quite popular. And so it is right now very hard to see what leverage there is from the west in order to stop this. And you seem to be spiraling towards a very frightening circumstance. The violence in Odessa was terrible over the last few days. It produced a tremendous amount of anger and a spiraling of violence we are now likely to see in a whole set of cities. A very week government here in Kiev. The Ukrainian government doesn't have the capacity, doesn't have strong soldiers or police forces in many parts of the country. It doesn't seem to have the capacity to keep control.

BOLDUAN: Which makes you wonder if it has to get worse before it gets better. Peter, thank you very much for trying to lay it out, at least the state of play, where things are right now. Chris?

CUOMO: All right, Kate, inspectors don't know what caused a frightening accident during a circus performance in Providence, Rhode Island, Sunday. We have the video. Just so you know, it is scary to see all these performers suddenly fall. Here's what happened. An apparatus holding a group of female acrobats by their hair failed. They all plunged 40 feet or more to the ground. Alexandra Field joins us with more right now. What do we think this is about?

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: This is scary, and everybody wants to know what happen here. We know these stunts are high risk and this one clearly went horribly wrong, and it is time to figure out what happened to the apparatus, what sent these acrobats flying toward the ground.

This is raising really serious questions about the kinds of stunts you see in these performances and what is being done in advance to protect the acrobats that are involved in them. These acrobats were part of what they call the human chandelier. They were hanging by their hair when they fell 25 to 35 feet to the ground. It is part of the performance of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey's Legend Show. The apparatus has been used for performances every week since January. A spokesman for the circus says safety is a priority and equipment is properly inspected. But local and federal officials are now joining the investigation into how 11 people were hurt, and they will try to determine just how carefully that equipment really was inspected, chat could have been done to prevent an accident like this from happening.

BOLDUAN: You say it has been used every week since January.

FIELD: We know these acrobats, a lot of them spend a lifetime training for these sort of stunts. Performances since yesterday obviously were cancelled right away, and another performance this morning was cancelled.

CUOMO: We will have a spokesperson from Ringling Brothers on. The easy thing to do is to jump to safety. But when you look at the track record here considering what they do, nothing is really jumping out at us. So we will talk to them and test how they are responding to this and test how they respond in general. But sometimes accidents happen when you do dangerous things.

FIELD: We know they had proper permits in place according to local officials.

BOLDUAN: Alexandra, thank you so much.

The L.A. Clippers return to the court tonight following their emotional game seven victory against Golden State. Their next series begins in Oklahoma City. Meantime, Donald Sterling's estranged life says she is on board with the league's plan to find new leadership for the Clippers after his lifetime ban over racist comments. So far Sterling has given no indication he is willing to sell, though. CNN's Ted Rowlands is live in Los Angeles. The big question, though, Ted, it doesn't matter if he is willing to sell. Will he be forced to sell?

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Kate. And it is interesting, this is the best season the L.A. Clippers have ever had. Their season continues. But now it looks like maybe both Mr. and Mrs. Sterling will try to keep the team.


ROWLANDS: With the win this weekend the Los Angeles Clippers are moving on to the next round of the NBA playoffs. Meanwhile off the court the drama surrounding team owner Donald Sterling continues to grow. In an interview with ABC's Barbara Walters the woman heard with Sterling on the now infamous recordings defended the Clippers owner and claimed she is still close with him.

BARBARA WALTERS, ABC NEWS: Is Donald Sterling a racist?

V. STIVIANO: No. I don't believe it in my heart.

WALTERS: What is his state of mind right now?

STIVIANO: Confused. I think he feels very alone.

ROWLANDS: Meanwhile Sterling's wife Shelly, who was at this weekend's game, says she thinks the NBA's plan to hire an executive to run the team is a great idea, releasing a statement that seemed to indicate she would like to hold on to the Clippers, which is part of a family trust. The statement says, in part, "As a co-owner I am fully committed to taking the necessary steps to making the Clippers the best team in the NBA. That has been my aspiration ever since 1981."

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She is saying essentially you can do what you want to my husband. He is a racist. Maybe you can strip him of his control as the board of governor. But this is a piece of family property and you can't just take away our property. We didn't do anything or say anything. This is not us.

ROWLANDS: As for Donald Sterling's next move, it is still unclear if he is willing to sell. Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti on CBS's "Face the Nation" says after speaking to Sterling he doesn't think he will go down without a fight.

ERIC GARCETTI, LOS ANGELES MAYOR: I think he thinks he will be the owner for a long time and he wants to stay the owner. And I say this will be a long, protracted fight and a painful thing for a city that is a great city, a great American city.


ROWLANDS: Meanwhile, the NBA is expected to move forward with a push to have the Sterlings sell the team. The 10-member committee that voted unanimously to move forward, they are expected to meet at some point this week. Michaela?

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: All right, thanks so much for that, Ted, we appreciate it.

Let's take a look at more of your headlines at this hour. Under intense pressure from around the globe the president of Nigeria is vowing to rescue some 200 school girls abducted last month by Islamist extremists. The girls were kidnapped by a group that violently opposes western education, especially for women and children. With protests erupting around the globe, the president defended his response Sunday asking for more U.S. help and pledging to bring those girls home.

New this morning, in Japan a 6.2 magnitude earthquake shook the heart of Tokyo and could be felt across much of the country. More than a dozen people are reported injured, but thankfully there are no reports of major damage. This is the strongest quake to hit the area since the one in 2011 which triggered a tsunami and the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

At least one person has died as a fire in Oklahoma burns out of control. Authorities say it started as a controlled burn, but wind and dry conditions whipped it into a wildfire that has now burned about 4,000 acres. Several homes and other buildings have been destroyed. The man who died apparently had been ordered to evacuate his home but he refused. Fire crews will go back and battle the fire when the sun comes up. Controlled burn gets out of control real quick when the wind is the worst enemy of the fire.

BOLDUAN: You hear it on the video.

CUOMO: One of those misnomers, "controlled burn."

All right, let's take a little break here on NEW DAY. A little head- scratcher here. That is why I am delaying. A Texas-sized outrage. You're looking at a young man who pleaded guilty to sexual assault, and he wound up getting what a lot of people think is a slap on the wrist. You are going to want to hear why the judge decided what she decided, and the things that she says about this young woman seems like a throwback to the 1980s, this case. We'll take you through it.

BOLDUAN: And Kentucky Senator Rand Paul shows up to the derby with an interesting and unexpected guest. That and more on "INSIDE POLITICS" ahead.


CUOMO: Now, you don't hear that a woman asked for it often anymore in rape cases, especially when the victim is 14 years old. But that seems to be what is happening in Texas. And here is why.

A judge sentenced the admitted rapist of a 14-year-old girl to probation. The judge sparked anger and actually recused herself after appearing to blame the victim, calling the girl, quote, "not the victim she claimed to be."

And then assigning the man involved -- he was 17 at the time -- to probation at a rape crisis center. The center said he is not welcome there. For more on the story, we're gonna have Young's defense attorney standing by. There he is. And we're happy to have him. But first, let's give you the background story from CNN's Nick Valencia.


NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A Dallas district judge under fire this morning after handing down what some say is an inappropriately light sentence in a rape case. Twenty-year old Sir Young pleaded guilty to raping his classmate in a room at Booker T. Washington High School 2011. He faced up to 20 years in jail, but was instead sentenced to five years of probation and a 45-day stint in jail.

VOICE OF ANDREA MOSELY, CHEIF PROSECUTOR: We are certainly concerned about the message being sent to victims of sexual assault in that they will feel safe in coming forward and reporting these crimes.

VALENCIA: But it wasn't just the sentence that shocked the community. Judge Jeanine Howard publicly implied the 14-year-old victim was promiscuous and not the victim she claimed to be. Howard told the "Dallas Morning News" she based the sentence in part on medical records, which she says indicated the girl had three sexual partners and had given birth to a baby. She stands by her ruling, telling the paper Young was not your typical sex offender. The victim denies the claims and has said since the verdict she regrets coming forward about the rape.

UNIDENTIFIED RAPE VICTIM: I was shocked that a judge, someone that I trusted with this case would go behind my back and make these allegations that she knows nothing about.

VALENCIA: Adding to the fire storm, was another condition that stunned rape advocates. Young was ordered to serve 250 hours of community service at a rape crisis center, a condition that changed after the center said he was not welcome there.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just having a criminal defendant in the office could be a triggering effect for many of our clients. So it's just not appropriate.

VALENCIA: Following public backlash, Howard recused herself from the case. A new judge will oversee the case moving forward, including a motion filed by prosecutors to add more restrictive requirements to his probation. Young is currently serving his 45-day jail sentence.

Nick Valencia, CNN Atlanta.


CUOMO: Our thanks to Nick. And we're joined, as I said, by Scottie Allen, he's the defense attorney for Sir Young, the young man convicted of rape and admitting it himself, by the way.

Let us know what you think about this after we have this discussion.

It is very good to have you, Mr. Allen. The timing here --


CUOMO: -- contextually, not great. Why for your client? There is a lot of awareness about on-campus rape and failure to report. And we want to bolster the confidence of victims in this. And now we hear about this case where it seems like a young woman comes forward. The young man involved admits that he did things that were unwanted and wrong and seems to get a slap on the wrist. Explain it from your perspective.

ALLEN: Well, I think Sir Young, the defendant in this case, got everything except a slap on the wrist. Here is a situation where this kid was not your typical sex offender. What we have here is an 18- year-old high school student who was very talented, very gifted, had scholarship offers to a couple of universities, who had a relationship with this young lady and found himself in a position at school where he had previous discussions with her about having sex. And she had agreed to that.

She just didn't want to have sex on the school premises. Immediately upon making this bad judgment, he admitted that he proceeded over her objections to stop. And he admitted that to the police. We don't think that he qualifies as your typical sex offender. This is not somebody who has preyed on some young kids or unsuspecting people. And we just figured the sentence he ultimately received was a fair and appropriate sentence.

CUOMO: This is difficult. You don't want to see any young lives ruined. There's no question about it. I don't think anyone's suggesting this guy lines up as some type of a monster serial rapist, obviously.

But you know, sometimes the personal context helps, Scottie. Imagine if it is your daughter involved. You read this kid's statement. She keeps saying no, no, no. And yeah, there is some kissing that resumes by his own statement after she says no. But there is a lot of no. And he seems to be very shocked and embarrassed and worried and scared afterwards. What part of that seems right or normal to you?

ALLEN: Well, here we have a situation where the kid was obviously in a situation where he made a very, very bad judgment, a very bad judgment. What I submit to you that the sentence he received was anything other than a slap on the wrist.

A five year probated sentence that's going to require 45 days in jail, report to jail every year on the anniversary of this incident. In addition to that, this kid who had a very promising future is going to have to register as a sex offender for probably the rest of his life. We submit that that's just not a slap on the wrist, especially under those facts and circumstances.

CUOMO: Now, when you lay it out that way I understand there is punitive value going towards him. What do you think about the judge's disposition in this case? Do you think she's adding fuel to the fire where she seems to do that old school blaming the victim. She is not your typical victim. She had other lovers. She had a baby, which by the way, the victim's family, as you know, says isn't true. Do you think she made it worst for your client, the judge?

ALLEN: No, I think the judge was put in a very uncomfortable position. The judge has the responsibility to fashion the terms and conditions of probation to satisfy the specific rehabilitative needs of this particular defendant. I believe she did that. The problem here lied in the fact that the judge did not have the opportunity to fully explain and expound on the purpose of sending him to community service at the rape crisis center.

I believe that typically in these types of situations a fair and impartial judge, as this judge is, would have explained to her probation officer that she did not intend for him to be overengaged in counseling sessions with victims, but what she wanted was for him to be in an environment mopping floors or cutting grass that would allow his sensitivities to be heightened that he knows he made a bad judgment --

CUOMO: Sure.

ALLEN: -- and there are ramifications for all of that.

CUOMO: I got that. I just -- look, I don't think that that's the flashpoint. I mean, certainly it is for the crisis center. They've made that an issue. But the idea of defining her sexual background, it does seem that the judge was running this victim down who was 14 at the time, I guess 17 now, as a way of making this a less severe assault. Do you understand the problem with that?

ALLEN: Yes. Yes, I do. But I think what the judge was ultimately trying to do was to explain why she treated this defendant differently. The judge had access to the facts and circumstances that the general public didn't have access to. The judge actually reviewed the medical records. And I don't think this was an attempt to run down the victim in as much as it was to explain why this defendant should not be treated as your typical sex offender because ultimately he is not.

CUOMO: All right, listen, Scottie, this is a very tough case to handle, a lot of young -- two young lives involved. You don't want to see anybody wind up being ruined by it. But again, we have to encourage young women to feel confident coming forward because they don't do it enough in situations like this and much more harsh than this.

Please stay with us on NEW DAY going forward. Because we want to see where this case winds up. And thank you for your perspective this morning.

Obviously, this is a very important issue because of what we are learning all the time about under-reporting of sexual assault, especially by younger women in campus situations like this. So let us know what you think about this controversial case. Do you believe it was fair punishment? Do you believe it was right what the judge did or not? Use the #newday. Kate?

BOLDUAN: Coming up next on NEW DAY, she survived a nightmare in Cleveland's house of horrors. Now Michelle Knight is talking about how she survived it, what she told Anderson Cooper ahead.

And on Inside Politics, politicians make fun of each other and the journalists who cover them. This is just another day in Washington, I guess. We'll take a look at some of the hits and misses from the White House Correspondents Association dinner.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The House Republicans actually give John Boehner a harder time than they give me, which means orange really is the new black.