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Hickenlooper Signs "Right to Try" Law; Backlash Against "Forgive Your Rapist" Judge; NFL Lawsuit; Teen Copes with Rare Lyme Disease; Iranian Video Arrest

Aired May 21, 2014 - 12:30   ET


ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: The governor, John Hickenlooper, signed the bill, and it is called the "Right to Try" law, though some refer to it as the "Dallas Buyers' Club" law, which is named after the movie about HIV patients smuggling in illegal drugs from abroad. One of the bill's sponsors says, for people who are facing death and have one last hope, they should have a choice to try every possible drug.

Joining me to talk about this is CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin and from Atlanta Dr. Sanjay Gupta, our chief medical correspondent.

Sanjay, first to you, it just seems reasonable -- and I'm no doctor -- but it just seems reasonable, if you're dying, why shouldn't you have every chance to try everything? What have you got to lose? Why is this only Colorado?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, I mean, the appeal, when you put it like that, is undeniable, and I think, philosophically, what they're pinning against is no hope against possibly false hope.

It's worth pointing out that these drugs, these investigational drugs, they haven't been studied. They haven't been proven to work in any way. Sometimes they've just gone through one phase of trial. And that could be just a couple dozen patients.

So it's -- it could be some false hope. And I guess the question you're asking, a lot of people are asking, is what's the harm in that. It's a fair question. I'm not sure there's an easy answer. There are compassionate-use laws on the books to try and address that. People say that it just takes too long to get through that whole compassionate-use process.

I should point out, though, Ashleigh, that even if this law is passed, this is still, at the state level, the FDA is a federal organization that oversees this.

And the pharmaceutical companies, they don't have to give the medications away. They've denied this, even under compassionate-use, in the past. So it doesn't make it immediately possible for people to try a drug that they've heard about because of a law like this.

BANFIELD: And that's sort of -- it's a vexing issue in itself. Jeff, maybe you can weigh in on just the legality of this, because perhaps some people might think, now you're getting into territory that is just so litigious and so dangerous and there could be some adverse effects. But then again, if someone's dying, how much more adverse could the effect be?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: That's true, and certainly, you have to be intensely sympathetic to the patients who want to try to save their own lives.

But keep in mind, also, that there are unscrupulous people out there preying on the critically ill, who offer them false hope, who say, just buy my product, whether it's Laetrile -- remember Laetrile in Mexico -- which was a supposed cancer drug.

It gave people all sorts of false hope and basically wound up lining the pockets of unscrupulous people who -- so, you know, the FDA process exists for a reason. In part, it's -- of course it's bureaucratic and a delay, but it also tells people these drugs at least have a chance of working, and, you know, if it's not FDA approved, you may simply be wasting your money.

BANFIELD: So, Sanjay, then, if this is the issue and pharmacies and doctors just don't have to give you anything, no matter what Colorado says, do you suspect that people in Colorado are actually going to have more access to drugs that aren't OKed by the FDA, or will we have the status quo just because it's so messy?

GUPTA: I think they could. I wouldn't say the law would have absolutely no effect in states like Colorado. But I do worry, as Jeff was pointing out, that what they have access to is going to be very questionable.

What exactly -- what are going to be the safeguards? Again, we understand these patients are terminal. They're dying, so -- but you still want to have safeguards. You don't want to have something that will cause unnecessary pain or unnecessary suffering, things like that, or that they're just getting -- they're getting pillaged of their last dollars right before they die by someone taking advantage of a law like this.

There are some safeguards. I read the act, earlier today -- the law, earlier today. You should have tried all the existing recommendations from your doctors, really exhausted the options that are out there before you go to this "Right to Try" sort of act. But I think that, still, this danger of abuse of these patients I think is real.

BANFIELD: You know what? I'm glad you brought it up, because I think it's something a lot of people don't think of.

They think of the obvious, which is, what do you have to lose? And it turns out a lot of really unscrupulous people out there. So, tough questions, and then tough fence to walk.

Jeff Toobin, Sanjay Gupta, thank you.

GUPTA: You got it.

BANFIELD: Got a follow-up now to a story we first brought you yesterday on this program about a man who was found guilty of drugging and raping his wife, repeatedly, over years, and still didn't get any time in prison.

The judge also told the wife that he should -- that she should maybe consider forgiving him. That was said in court. And now that judge is facing an enormous amount of backlash.

We're going to tell you what has happened since we broadcast that story yesterday, and the wife herself is going to join me to tell you about that.


BANFIELD: There has been a major outcry online against an Indiana judge who ordered to prison time for a man would repeatedly drugged and raped his wife in her sleep.

David Wise could have been given a hundred years in prison. The prosecution actually asked for a mere 40, but instead, he got 20, and none of it actually locked up behind bars. Mr. Wise will instead spend eight years in home confinement. The other 12 years -- well, those were suspend.

The judge is Kurt Eisgruber with the Marion County superior court, and before he sentenced Wise -- and wait for it -- he actually encouraged the ex-wife in this case, the victim of rape, to forgive her rapist husband, said that in the courtroom.

So now the judge is running for re-election, and you can imagine things haven't gone very well in the last 24 hours.

He's actually had to take down his Facebook page after comments came into him like this. "You are a disgrace to your profession," and, "I'm curious, do you tell robbery victims that they need to forgive their assailants?"

Support for Wise's now ex-wife Mandy Boardman has been equally as overwhelming. Complete strangers have come out of nowhere and have written to her. And one woman who wrote to her said that she actually wrote the judge, as well.

And this is what she said to the judge, quote, "If you have a wife, are you able to explain your sentence to her? Can you explain it to your mother? To your daughter? Can you explain your sentence to the next woman who is brave enough to file rape charges and then walk into your courtroom? Will she even go through with a trial?"

Now, we at CNN have reached out to Judge Eisgruber again today, and once again, he has declined to comment.

We should note, as well, that David Wise is appealing his convictions, and the judge has said that it would be inappropriate to comment while facing that appellate action. I'm joined by Mandy Boardman herself. She's joined, beside her, with the prosecutor in this case, Courtney Curtis. Mandy, Courtney, thank you so much for being here.

There has been so much that's happened since you appeared on this program yesterday and told your story. The mere fact is, for several years, your husband drugged you while you were sleeping, took advantage of you, raped you, filmed it with his phone, kept those videos.

You discovered it, he was convicted, and you were asked to forgive him, and he was given no jail time. Now you're seeing this outpouring. Are you surprised by the reaction of the community at large?

MANDY BOARDMAN, RAPED BY HUSBAND IN HER SLEEP: I'm not surprised by the support I'm getting, because I do feel like the community sees that this is wrong and they will support me 100 percent. I am a little surprised with some of the backlash that's come from it toward the judge himself.

BANFIELD: Wait, why, why are you surprised, at a judge that asked you to forgive the rapist?

BOARDMAN: I guess I actually have a heart. I don't think I would attack somebody personally and that's kind of where it was going, it was going towards personal attacks. I'm looking for something more along the lines of changing legislation, you know, making judges more aware that this isn't correct, not necessarily personal attacks.

BANFIELD: Are you angry with the judge?

BOARDMAN: I am. I am definitely angry with the judge, disappointed. He's been there the whole time.

He's heard the whole story, so, yes, I am disappointed that he came down with such a light sentence.

BANFIELD: Courtney, I don't know that there are many supporters or those who come in defense of the judge or at least tried to be the devil's advocate, pardon the pun.

But there's got to be something behind what the judge said. It sounds just atrociously insensitive. Was there any merit? Did he have any meaning? Because he can't talk to us. He says there's an appellate action; he can't comment.

COURTNEY CURTIS, MARION COUNTY DEPUTY PROSECUTOR: That's true. And I don't want to speak to what the judge meant when he made certain comments in sentencing, because there is an appellate action, and I also don't want to speak on his behalf.

But I can say that this wasn't a personal decision for him. He made this ruling from the bench in a professional capacity. He certainly wasn't trying to make a personal statement as far as Mandy's concerned, as far as rape in general is concerned.

And so --

BANFIELD: He told the "L.A. Times" that perhaps it was inartful how he put it but he was trying to help you move on with your life and get beyond this, that that was his intentions. Maybe perhaps he worded it inappropriately. That's to the "L.A. Times," not to us. Is that sufficient?

BOARDMAN: Maybe what he was trying to say was trying to help me. However, I don't think that was necessarily the right thing to say. I am -- I was the victim in this case, and here's the judge sitting above everyone else, basically looking down on me, telling me to forgive my rapist, unfathomable.

BANFIELD: You're remarried now.


BANFIELD: You have children. Was a little astounded when I heard this man is appealing. Wasn't this a massive win for him? I mean, doesn't he risk appealing this case and being thrown in the slammer, especially now that there is this huge backlash?

CURTIS: It is a massive risk for him. And you can imagine, why would he want to do that. And yet, if you think about it, it wasn't a total win for him. He is a convicted sex offender. He does have a responsibility --

BANFIELD: Oh, no, I only mean that in the sense that he is not spending a day behind bars, beyond what he already served, just a matter of days. And ultimately, I mean, he could have faced decades behind bars. And he got away never having to do that. Wouldn't you creep away quietly, thanking your lucky stars, that you skated?

CURTIS: I would, but you're looking for a reasonable thought from an unreasonable man. A person like you or I, we're not going to have the thought like a person like he would. This is a person who videotaped a massive, heinous crime that he committed against his wife for three- and-a-half years.

BANFIELD: And admitted it.

CURTIS: He has gal.

BANFIELD: Admitted it in court. Apologizing. Even writing you an e- mail, saying, I shouldn't have done it, I'm so sorry. It's really remarkable.

Can I just say, how brave you are, because in any case like this, the media, you know, does not name survivors of rain, those who have gone through the system of jurisprudence in this country, unless they want to be a part of it, unless they want to make change, and that's you.

So I just applaud you for being brave.

BOARDMAN: Thank you.

BANFIELD: And for what you're setting out to do, change lives.

BOARDMAN: Thank you.

BANFIELD: And for being here, thank you. It's not easy to sit under these lights and say these things.

Thanks, both of you, for coming in, Mandy Boardman and Courtney Curtis. Also difficult for a prosecutor to come on television and speak about these things as well.

CURTIS: Thank you.

BANFIELD: We have another story we've been watching, former football players accusing the NFL of making them junkies, and they are fighting back in the way of a lawsuit against a very big league. Do they have a case? Do they have a chance? Did the NFL load them up with pills to make them pay through the pain? We're going to talk with a former player just ahead.


BANFIELD: A former professional football player says the NFL made him a junky. J.D. Hill, I'll show you a picture, he's the top row and he's over on the right-hand side. He is one of eight former NFL players who are now suing the NFL league saying, instead of surgery when they were hurt, they got pills. Instead of time off to heal, they got injections to dull the pain. They say the NFL wants only one thing, a winning team, and the health of their players be damned.

With me from Houston is Doug Dawson, an 11-year veteran of the National Football League.

Doug, you have - you know, you understand the culture of the league and you played through the same sort of era as those who are suing the league right now. Can you give me a bit of a feel for whether there is merit, at least in what you witnessed, to the allegations that are being made?

DOUG DAWSON, FORMER PROFESSIONAL FOOTBALL PLAYER: Well, in my experience, Ashleigh, there's a tremendous amount of pressure to play when you're hurt. But in my experience, it was really -- the pressure was put on by me. I developed early in my career tendonitis in my Achilles and was trying to do everything I could to get back onto the field.

And I took injections. I took things for pain. I took the anti- inflammatories really beyond the prescribed dose because I was in so much pain. But it was really the pressure that I put on myself to get back on the field. And that's mainly what I saw is guys wanting to play desperately -- we're all obsessive compulsive, we're all high achievers -- and you want to do anything you can't to get back on the field.

BANFIELD: Well, that's one thing, but there are allegations that the NFL and its doctors, or its team doctors, rather, made it all too easy, in fact, encouraged players who are up against enormous pressures to cover up the pain, get back out there. In fact, we go even further. Some of these players say they were playing with broken legs, that they were playing with injuries that were only exacerbated because they were just taking pills and injections and getting right back out there and playing.

DAWSON: Yes, it's hard for me to imagine that I - that a person didn't know what their injury was, playing with broken legs. That was not my experience. In my experience, I sat down with the team doctors and they were pretty frank and forthright with the communication to me.

But they -- obviously there's pressure from the coaches, there's pressure from the team to play, but it was always left as my decision. And they said, yes, if we injection your Achilles, there's a little higher chance of hurting it. And I did rupture my Achilles in 1986. But it was really my decision and I took personal responsibility on it. But, yes, there's tremendous pressure, but most of the pressure, at least in my case, was put on by me.

BANFIELD: Well, and, you know what, they'll have to be a lot of witnesses and at least some pretty clear evidence if they want this suit to prevail. So certainly, if those witnesses tell stories like yours, it doesn't sound like it has a lot of merit. But clearly you're one player of many.

Thanks for being with us. I appreciate your input. We'll wait to see what happens here. Doug Dawson, thank you.

DAWSON: Thank you, Ashleigh.

And I want to be very clear as well here. A spokesman for the NFL has said that the league has not yet seen this lawsuit. And so, at this point, the NFL says that it cannot comment. But we will continue to watch for any kind of comment and see where the case goes.

And I want to turn now to another legal case that's drawing international attention. It involves this song. I am sure you've heard it. Have a listen.


PHARRELL WILLIAMS, MUSICIAN (singing): Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof. Because I'm happy.


BANFIELD: I want to be in one of those videos myself. It's so contagious. It's the song "Happy" by Pharrell Williams. A version of this video that was made in Iran apparently is not making the authorities there happy at all. They've gone so far as to arrest six people and then paraded them on television after they made a video with the song just dancing. We're going to show you the video that got them into trouble. And wait until you hear why the authorities actually tracked them down, next.


BANFIELD: A teenager diagnosed with lime disease has found a unique way to cope with it. Our Dr. Sanjay Gupta has today's "Human Factor."


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For Schuyler Ebersol, high school started pretty normally. But his luck quickly took a turn for the worse.

SCHUYLER EBERSOL, SUFFERS FROM LYME DISEASE: I'd have severe dizziness so that I couldn't really walk or see straight for days at a time.

GUPTA: At first he just chalked it up to stress, but Ebersol quickly realized something was really wrong.

EBERSOL: No one knew what was wrong with me and there were all sorts of hypotheses.

GUPTA: Home from school for months at a time, Ebersol desperately needed an escape, and he found it in writing.

EBERSOL: I just started writing. And I would get lost in this world and I identified with this character. And it was just a way to keep me going while everything else in my life wasn't so great.

GUPTA: And then, after several months, doctors finally discovered the cause of his symptoms, a rare form of Lyme disease. And at the same time, his scattered pages started to gel into a book.

EBERSOL: The book is called "The Hidden World." It's about a main character who has a heart attack, he slips into a coma and when he wakes up he turns into a wolf in the hospital room.

GUPTA: "The Hidden World" was published last December, with more in the works, and Ebersol says, through it all, writing saved his life.

EBERSOL: You really just have to find something that can sustain you and keep you mentally strong.

GUPTA: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN, reporting.


BANFIELD: Pharrell Williams' song "Happy" just makes most people want to dance, but six Iranians who just wanted to dance were arrested for just dancing. And since then, we're happy to report, one has been released. That leaves five still locked up. Our Reza Sayah tell us why they were arrested in the first place.


REZA SAYAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At least six young Iranian men and women have been arrested by Iranian authorities and paraded in front of state TV cameras for this.

PHARRELL WILLIAMS, MUSICIAN (singing): Because I'm happy.

SAYAH: Shooting an amateur music video to the tune of pop singer Pharrell's hit "Happy." In the video, the young Iranians are seen playfully dancing and lip-synching. The music video received nearly 100,000 hits on YouTube and closes with this written message, "Happy was an excuse to be happy. We enjoyed every second of making it. Hope it puts a smile on your face."

Tehran's police chief wasn't smiling when he boasted on state TV that the group was arrested within six hours because they made an obscene video without a permit from authorities. Other state media reports describe the music video as vulgar. Islamic Republic forbids men and women from dancing with one another. Punishment can range from a prison sentence to a lashing and a fine. The women in the video also appear without the mandatory Islamic hair veil.

In the arrest video aired on state TV, several of the accused performers have their backs to the camera, but they can be heard quivering as they tell a reporter they were misled by the video's producer. The arrests have sparked outrage on social media. Pharrell Williams himself posted on his Facebook page, "it's beyond sad that these kids were arrested for trying to spread happiness."

In his first year as president, Hassan Rouhani has pushed for more social freedoms and signaled a more moderate Iran, a campaign Tehran hopes will win good will amid the current nuclear negotiations with world powers. The arrests of young Iranians for simply making a music video about happiness is a potential blow to that good-will campaign.

Reza Sayah, CNN, Cairo.


ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: So much for being happy. Thanks so much for watching, everyone. Wolf starts right now.