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LEGAL VIEW WITH ASHLEIGH BANFIELD
Tax Issues for Donald Sterling and V. Stiviano; New Judge in Texas Teen Rape Probation Case; Senior Decapitated, Wife Missing in Small Georgia Town; Pistorius Trial Gets Contentious; Benhams Not Angry With HGTV
Aired May 9, 2014 - 12:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: And by the way, I should mention that Rosa Flores is a great journalist, but she also has to have been a CPA, as well, and a masters in accounting, so you know what you're talking about. It is not just the implication of V. Stiviano and what she said to Barbara Walters. It's implicating Sterling, as well.
ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You're absolutely right, because what you would have, if she was indeed an employee and then was paid off the books, is an employee/employer relationship.
We see it on a pay stub every time we get paid, and there are certain taxes that have to be withheld. We're talking about federal income tax, FICA, social security, and in the state of California, there's also state income tax that has to be withheld, so that's the responsibility of the employer.
The penalty --
BANFIELD: After that interview, Donald Sterling added another legal member to his team, right, Rosa? Thank you.
FLORES: And because these recordings are so conflicting, because if you think about it, the wife is coming out and saying these are gifts. Stiviano is coming out and saying, oh, I'm clearing my name, I am not a mistress, I'm an employee, I am being paid.
BANFIELD: Hope you paid your taxes, girlfriend.
FLORES: So you can't have it both ways.
BANFIELD: Bet you told so many of your clients, I hope you paid your taxes.
Thank you, Rosa.
FLORES: You're welcome.
BANFIELD: Nice to have you. Nice you have that extra expertise as well.
So after the break, another story that is rather remarkable, a Texas judge who gave that rape suspect an unusually light sentence and probation and then also called the victim promiscuous, well, she's now been overruled by a second judge.
So, they can do that? Can a judge just change things up from what another judge did? Turns out yes and no.
We'll tell you what was changed and what could not be changed after this.
BANFIELD: A lot people thought that a young Texan got a real pass after raping a fellow high school student at school back in 2011. Sir Young is his name.
He admitted he did it, wrote it all down. The judge who oversaw his trial gave him a very light sentence, very little jail time, really almost none of those probationary terms you typically see. The judge did order community service, at a Dallas rape crisis center. Understandably, the counselors there were astounded and refused to have a rapist in their midst.
Is it the end of the story? Hardly. As we hear now from CNN's Gary Tuchman, Sir Young had not seen the last of the Dallas courts.
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Sir Young was 18, legally an adult, when he acknowledged raping a 14-year-old girl. A judge gave him only 45 days behind bars, an unusually lenient probation terms. Now he's before a different judge.
JUDGE CARTER THOMPSON, DALLAS COUNTY COURT: Your previous court gave you a second chance. Do not expect a third chance from this court.
TUCHMAN: Dallas County Judge Carter Thompson, making clear he disagreed with fellow Judge Jeanine Howard when she ruled he could be around children and could have access to pornography if he chose.
This judge changed all that.
THOMPSON: You have to live up to over condition of probation.
TUCHMAN: While her sentencing raised eyebrows, Judge Howard made some stunning comments last week. She recused herself from the case and told "The Dallas Morning News: the 14-year-old wasn't the victim she claimed to be. She also said Young is not your typical sex offender.
Judge Howard would not make herself available for an interview at the courthouse, so we went to her house. The man who answered the door told me after he slammed it shut, "hell no." The victim's mother who wants her identity protected says she is hurt and angry at the original judge.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I felt as she was unethical, immoral. The things she said, you know, some things you just don't do. Some things you just don't say, especially when there's a child involved.
TUCHMAN: She says her daughter has good days and bad days, but they're grateful the judge changed the probation conditions. The victim is now 17-years-old, a high school junior. An accomplished dancer who plans to go on to college. She will now go on with her life, as will Sir Young, who only has a few weeks left behind bars.
I'm Gary Tuchman, CNN, Dallas.
BANFIELD: Time to bring back Danny Cevallos and Paul Callan on this one.
I think a lot of people are surprised and don't understand why it is, when there's a perceived injustice at the hands of a judge, you can't just resentence.
Why can't you just bring in a judge and resentence? Because this wasn't a resentencing, it was a probationary change. Why is that?
PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: The whole idea of U.S. government is the judiciary is an independent branch immune from political pressure and that a good judge is supposed to do the right thing, which is not always the politically popular thing.
So just because a public's opposed to a sentence, you're not going to bring a new judge in.
BANFIELD: Well, in Montana it happened. In Montana, there was outrage. And that judge, who had sentenced a child rapist to just a matter of days, ultimately that sentence --
CALLAN: Well, if it's an illegal sentence, then other judges can come in, an appellate court can come in and change the sentence.
BANFIELD: There's nothing illegal about what Judge Howard did in this case?
CALLAN: No. It's totally legal.
DANNY CEVALLOS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: If it's within the statutory and the sentencing guidelines, and it's a legal sentence, then the prosecution has no comeback. A lot of people say, why don't the prosecution, why don't they appeal this? Prosecutors can appeal in much more limited circumstances than defendants.
Defendants can and are encouraged to come up with everything under the moon that they can to appeal, but prosecutors cannot appeal a sentence, especially if it's a legal one.
BANFIELD: But they had leeway at least to bring a second judge in after she recused herself, to have a second judge come in and levy some incredibly strong words from the bench and change the probation.
CEVALLOS: Because it's within the original sentence of probation. CALLAN: That new judge can't change the sentence. That judge is simply saying, well, you got probation, and I'm going to enforce that probation against you.
CEVALLOS: Probation is very loosey-goosey that way.
BANFIELD: Less anybody think probation is a walk in the park, you've got a few words.
CEVALLOS: I do. I do, because people often think probation is a slap on the wrist.
What they don't understand is that for a lot people who are convicted of a crime, the obstacle course of probation almost assures that a lot of these people will be right back in prison. They're going to violate. They're going to go before what we call the back judge, the judge who originally gave them the probation.
And what kind of mood do you think a judge is in if they give someone a second chance and all the sudden that same defendant is now back before them for a violation of probation?
CALLAN: Yeah, but, Danny, on the other hand, an 18-year-old who rapes a 14-year-old doesn't deserve probation. He deserves substantial time in the slammer.
CEVALLOS: If you don't like the sentence, don't take it out on the judge. Take it out on the legislature and change the sentencing guidelines.
CALLAN: No. The judge could have given jail. It was the judge's decision not to give jail.
BANFIELD: From what I understand, Judge Howard is up for re-election in the fall, and at this point, I think that she's supposed to be running unopposed. Perhaps that will change. Perhaps someone will see, the public -- this is your right -- run against her for it.
CALLAN: You may see a write-in candidate if nobody's stepped forward. I don't know.
BANFIELD: One or two.
BANFIELD: Paul Callan, Danny Cevallos, thank you for that. And thank you always for your perspective on the program. Do appreciate it.
Got a case here that even shows like "CSI" and "Forensic Files" would find shocking, and truly, they'd be left just scratching their heads on this one. Investigators with very little to go on in the death and disappearance of an 80-year-old Georgia man and his wife, who's nowhere to be found.
A live report on what makes this so bizarre, next.
BANFIELD: People in a small Georgia town are dealing with an enormous tragedy today. This is just one horrific crime, and it's also a very strange mystery.
These two people, married and both almost 90-years-old, the husband is dead, his wife is missing, people in the community are beside themselves other this, because the details from the crime scene are -- there's no other way to put it, they're sickening. They're more like a Colombian drug lord's revenge killing than the murder of senior citizens.
CNN's Victor Blackwell is working his sources. You're going to have to explain this one with terms that are as couched as possible for our daytime audience.
But this man, Russell Dermond, it's not just how he died. It's not just that he died. It's how they found this crime scene.
VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Ashleigh, and the details are indelicate, so I'll be as delicate as possible.
He was found Tuesday by friends in the garage of this home, decapitated. Eighty-eight-years-old, his name is Russell Dermond, his 87-year-old wife missing, but her purse, here cell phone, still inside the home. The whereabouts of his head, as the sheriff has said, where Mrs. Dermond is and the killer, still all unknown, those searches are happening now.
I just had a conversation less than an hour ago with the deputy coroner, Mark Turner, there in Putnam County. He tells me the autopsy on Mr. Dermond is complete, and I'm going to tell you what the findings are.
Manner of death? As expected, homicide. Cause of death? Here, cerebral cranial trauma, meaning, essentially, whatever killed him happened to his head. But there's still the question, was it trauma to the head? Was it a blow to the head before the decapitation that killed him? Or was it the decapitation itself that killed Mr. Dermond? They do not know that.
Also, the toxicology reports still not back. We can expect those in several weeks, they tell me, so I asked, is it possible if there was some chemical involvement? Was he drugged possibly before the decapitation? I've been told that they ruled nothing out.
Still, one more thing, the person -- the i.d., the confirmation that this is Russell Dermond has not been confirmed 100 percent. They're virtually certain, but right now latent fingerprint technicians are working with fingerprints taken from Mr. Dermond's Navy record, that file, to determine if indeed this is his body, although, again, they are virtually certain, Ashleigh.
BANFIELD: It is just unconscionable, beheaded, his wife missing, 88- years-old. It's just -- I mean, it's -- and that autopsy, the results of an autopsy saying it's the cranial finding is remarkable. Victor, keep us posted on what they find.
BLACKWELL: Certainly will.
BANFIELD: Unbelievable. Victor Blackwell reporting for us, live.
In the Oscar Pistorius murder trial, that case had some pretty contentious moments today, and something very strange.
That's the judge in the middle of your screen. She's off the bench. What is she looking at? What is she trying to determine here?
I can give you this hint. That's the door through which Reeva Steenkamp was shot dead. The details, next.
BANFIELD: Got some live pictures for you right now of the president of the United States in a Walmart in Mountain View, California. That's where he's got plans to talk at length about carbon output and green jobs. He wants to lower the former, increase the latter.
And you can see all of his remarks live on CNN.com. As well, my colleague Wolf Blitzer will have more when his program begins at the top of the hour.
The defense in the Olympian Oscar Pistorius' murder trial is nearing the finish line and expecting to wrap its case up by early next week. And that's welcome news for some, maybe not so much for others.
Upon arrival at the court every day, the Blade Runner is treated like a rock star. He's greeted with balloons and supporters who are looking for a handshake or a hug, part of Pistorious' daily routine, passing a slew of reporters and average citizens who are just looking to get a shot or an autograph, photograph.
But behind all of that attention, that grim story does not go away, the shooting death of his beautiful, model girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. And now a ballistics expert is weighing in for the defense, saying that she did not have her hand over her head when Pistorius fired four bullets at her, a key element in fact of what the prosecution's been saying against him.
But how important is that to the judge? Steenkamp had locked the bathroom door, and nobody can say she wasn't terrified.
Robyn Curnow is live in Pretoria, South Africa. Pretty dramatic day, the judge getting off the bench, the door playing in heavily, give me the wrap-up.
ROBYN CURNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, and you also saw this clash of wills between the ballistics expert and the state prosecutor who are both titans in their fields.
And you really got a sense of how important this evidence was because of the tough examination that he was put under by Gerrie Nel. It got quite personal at times.
Take a listen to the sound bite.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GERRIE NEL, PROSECUTOR: You said you're biased. You just wanted to say (inaudible) --
TOM WOLMARANS, BALLISTICS EXPERT: No, my lady, I'm not biased. I've testified.
I see myself as a witness of this court. I'm here to assist the court with whatever I can. I take exception to the fact that Mr. Nel said I'm biased.
NEL: I get your exception. I'm making an inference from your evidence.
WOLMARANS: You can make an inference if you like, Mr. Nel. I've never lied in the court --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CURNOW: OK, in terms of the ballistics expert's evidence, he really turned to and focused on the wound ballistics, the speed perhaps of the bullets as they were shot. He said they went bang-bang-bang, pretty rapid.
And all of this, of course, is so important because it points to attention. Did Reeva Steenkamp have time to scream between the shots? Was she in that defensive position? All of that points to intention and their premeditated murder charge.
And, of course, the defense trying to spin another narrative, offer alternatives, which they hope the judge will believe more than the state's version.
BANFIELD: Robyn Curnow, live for us in Pretoria on the Pistorius case, thank you for that.
The power words and how negative remarks about gay people cost a pair of twin brothers an HGTV show when their comments were caught on tape.
You're going to hear what the Benham brothers had to say, next.
BANFIELD: The twin brothers who lost their HGTV show after a comment that one of them made about homosexuality and what he said was its agenda, those brothers say they don't have a beef with the network.
A recording surfaced of David Benham, David Benham apparently saying that the gay agenda is, quote, "attacking the nation."
The brothers were the planned stars of a show called "Flip It Forward." It's a show where they would have helped families buy homes that those families couldn't otherwise couldn't afford. And they spoke with CNN's Kate Bolduan on "NEW DAY" this morning about --talking about their show and about it being dropped and whether they'd still like to work for HGTV.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVID BENHAM, LOST HGTV SHOW: We would love to work with HGTV. We absolutely love --
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR, CNN'S "NEW DAY": So you don't feel wronged at all in this is what you're telling me?
D. BENHAM: No.
JASON BENHAM, LOST HGTV SHOW: We don't feel wronged at all. We just -- as David said, it's -- this isn't HG versus us --
D. BENHAM: Versus the Benhams.
J. BENHAM: -- or us against the gay community.
This is an agenda, and we're getting to witness it right now. I mean, check it out.
We believe in Jesus Christ, and David has specifically said some things, and an agenda says you believe this, I believe this, now you can't say your belief. That's not right.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BANFIELD: Well, they may say that they haven't said anything wrong, but they have in the past talked about the homosexual agenda and its demonic ideologies.
But they did say to Erin Burnett last night that they've never spoken against homosexuals as individuals or ever gone against them. I speak about an agenda, and that's really what the point of this is, is that there an agenda seeking to silence the voices of men and women of faith.
That's their line and they're sticking to it. The show producers said they -- they said that the producers knew about their views. They went ahead with them as hosts anyway until the controversy ended up going public.
Stay tuned, and always, on this Friday, the LEGAL VIEW gives you this advice, assume you're always being taped. Hate to say it, folks.
Have a wonderful weekend. And to my mom, happy Mother's Day. To all moms out there, you rock, you're awesome.
Have a wonderful Sunday. We'll see you on Monday.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR, "THE SITUATION ROOM": Right now, shocking new allegations against another V.A. hospital, a clerk tells CNN he was told to cook the books to cover up long wait times for sick veterans. Now there's a new federal investigation. Also right now, another new audio recording, purportedly from Donald Sterling. In it he says he knew he was wrong when he made racist statement and that he did it out of jealousy.