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Shelly Sterling to Sell Clippers; Michelle Knight Defends Alleged California Kidnapping Victim

Aired May 23, 2014 - 12:00   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks for joining us AT THIS HOUR. We hope you all have a wonderful Memorial Day Weekend. We'd like to say thank you to all our men and women who serve. Have a great time. I'm John Berman.

MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Michaela Pereira. "Legal View" with Ashleigh Banfield starts now.


MICHELLE KNIGHT, CLEVELAND KIDNAPPING SURVIVOR: Just because you're not chained up and you're not locked in a basement doesn't mean you ain't trapped.


ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: New allegations, new questions, new doubts even emerging this hour in the sudden reappearance of a California woman who disappeared a decade ago. The woman tells police she was sexually assaulted, kidnapped at the age of 15, and held against her will by her mother's live-in boyfriend. More on that in a moment.

As well, a near miss. Too many planes too close together. What happened in the skies? And is it possible this could be a more regular occurrence in the future? And, Isidro Garcia, is that man going to be facing charges of kidnapping and rape?

And on another side of the legal question, is the electric chair going to make a comeback?

All of this ahead on LEGAL VIEW.

Hello, everyone, and welcome. It's May 23rd. I'm Ashleigh Banfield.

We want to begin today with a critical new development in a story that we've been following here at CNN, and it is in the Donald Sterling saga. CNN has just learned that the embattled owner of the NBA's Los Angeles Clippers has given his wife and Clippers co-owner, Shelly, the authority to negotiate that team's involuntary sale. CNN's Stephanie Elam has the details. She's live with us in Los Angeles.

So, first of all, Stephanie, clear this up. She has always said she was a co-owner. She has always said she has a stake in this. Is this what this has come to now, he's just agreeing to this and he's making the problem go away for the NBA or is there more to it?

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I don't think it makes it go away, but the idea here being that they own this through the Sterling family trust and that he owns 50 percent, she owns 50 percent. If this is the case, he's giving her this 50 percent. So she's saying, look, I didn't say anything crazy. I didn't say anything racist. I didn't do any of that. And so that means then you're going to have to work with me, NBA, and negotiate the sale on my terms. So still putting out there that this would be something she'd be willing to do, but also to make sure that she gets the full value of the team.

Now, what we do know is that in the past, Shelly Sterling has shown that she's very capable and very willing to go after something that she believes is hers. Think about it. In March she sued V. Stiviano because she wanted to get back some gifts that Donald Sterling had given to his companion. That happened in March.

Now, what the "L.A. Times" is reporting is that in April things between Donald Sterling and V. Stiviano started to have a little bit of friction there and that he sold (INAUDIBLE), she found out through an employee of the Clippers via text that he was selling her her (ph) box seats and her parking space for the game that night. They wanted to make sure that there wouldn't be any issues, according to this report, and V. Stiviano wrote back, I don't want anything from Mr. Sterling. Let the games begin. And shortly thereafter, this audio recording became available via TMZ where we all have now heard and his racist rant.

So all of this showing sort of a the time line -

BANFIELD: OK. Wait - stop there for a minute. Wait. That's a lot of information to digest at once. I want to be really clear on this. The L.A. Times, Stephanie, is saying that perhaps the material of consequence here that was cited by the NBA, and that was destruction of evidence, deletion of text messages, actually might have pertained to this employee of the Clippers who was text messaging with the girlfriend, let's just call her what she might be, the mistress, the girlfriend, the buddy, the friend, the employee, whatever she calls herself, and ultimately saying, sweetheart, you're not really going to get your freebies at the game anymore. And she says back, let the games begin, and then sends him the actual clip that's found (ph)?

ELAM: Well, there was - there was more between that. Between that, yes, there was text messages. And, apparently, this employee was uncomfortable with the idea of deleting it but was told by his bosses to do such a thing. But she did respond with a clip of the audio where Donald Sterling had that racist rant, which we hear him talking about Magic Johnson. So, yes, apparently according to this report, the Clippers knew of this before the rest of the world knew of it and they didn't think that it would become as big of a deal, it would seem, as it did become.

BANFIELD: OK. Hold that thought for a moment because there are so many issues now on the table with this. Stephanie, just a moment. I want to bring in my attorneys on this case. In Boston, CNN commentator and defense attorney Mel Robbins. And here in New York, Joey Jackson and Paul Callan.

Mel, let me begin with you. Does it even matter whether V. Stiviano said, let the games begin and taunted the Clippers with the sound that became so infamous of the racist rant, or is that really all just academic at this point?

MEL ROBBINS, CNN COMMENTATOR: At this point, Ashleigh, you're absolutely right, it's academic. And, you know, the thing that matters is the fact that they were deleting the texts and they knew about this ahead of time and they tried to cover it up. That's going to matter to the NBA.

BANFIELD: So, gentlemen, when it comes to this notion that the wife, the partner, the person who's been named as co-owner apparently in the Clippers team, is now going to negotiate the sale, is that academic, Joey, at this point? Because isn't the function now of the NBA's whole mission, just go away?

JOEY JACKSON, HLN LEGAL ANALYST: It is. Absolutely. But this is a good development. And here's why it is. If you could -- the end game is, as you mentioned, make it all go away, right?

BANFIELD: Go away.

JACKSON: So if you can do it without litigation, without protracted court battles, without an arbitration, without people, you know, logging heads, that's a benefit. And so in the event that Shelly Sterling is the one who is at the table and she negotiates this and it all gets resolved and she does go away, guess what, we don't have a major hearing. We don't have sides that are dug in. What we have is an NBA team that is owned by someone else, the NBA can move on, the fans can move on, the owners can move on and we can move on.

BANFIELD: CNN will not talk about it anymore, which is think is the ultimate goal here -


BANFIELD: Because all of this is so besmirching of the league's character if you listen to what the league commissioner says. Paul Callan, what is it exactly that I should read into this notion about Shelly Sterling negotiating the voluntary sale? Are there some terms that she can actually benefit from or does she just need to get rid of it?

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I don't think there's really anything of enormous significance here. And I'll tell you why. I can hire anybody to negotiate for me. I mean you could hire a lawyer to negotiate for you. You could have your best friend negotiate for you.

The deal - the question is, will she get the deal done? If she sells the team and the Sterlings are out, then, OK, everybody's happy. So I don't think it really matters so much that she's doing the negotiation. I think what's interesting about her case is that she claims, as a co-owner, that she's being essentially discriminated against because she, as a co-owner, is being deprived of her ownership interest in the team as a result of the things her husband said or did. And that she's being essentially discriminated against. But that claim seems now to be disappearing if they're trying to negotiate a quite sale. But here --

BANFIELD: Joey, I can see you jumping in.


BANFIELD: Give me - give me one line on it, and then you're going to flush it out after the break. What's the one line?

JACKSON: Well, absolutely. Well, here's why it does matter, because now he divests himself of whatever interest he has. It goes to her. She can now resolve it in his absence. And at the end of the day, it's everything but a Sterling.

BANFIELD: Everything but a Sterling, but there's money.

CALLAN: Well, may -- yes, unless she comes in and says, I'm the owner and you can't throw me out.

JACKSON: You always have to come up with (INAUDIBLE).

BANFIELD: That's where I wanted to go.


JACKSON: All right. There you go.

BANFIELD: And look at Mel. Mel is just waiting to get in on this.


BANFIELD: Mel, when we come back after the break - I have to go to break.


BANFIELD: But when we come back, I want you to weigh in on that because I feel like I'm missing something here and I think it's something really big. What does it matter who negotiates the sale? Why is this such a big issue that Shelly gets her hands on the negotiation tactic? Is there something she's going to benefit from and might she be seeing a whole lot more at those games. That after the break.


BANFIELD: So one of the reasons I love working at CNN is because I work with a guy named Brian Todd and he gets stuff. And this is what he got today. He is confirming that Shelly Sterling is now going to be the controlling entity in selling the Clippers. That apparently this is all going to deal (ph), the wife of Donald Sterling, the estranged wife, whatever she is, is now going to control the sale of the Clippers. She's been in conversations apparently, according to our Brian Todd, with the - with the league and - and, of course, with her husband. And that that's the way this thing's going to go down. That it's going to go, the team's going to go, but she's going to have a go on her terms.

Mel Robbins, I know you were listening to that conversation just before the break. Dying to get in there. I still don't get it. What's in it for Shelly, because the team effectively was going to have to go whether she controls it or not?

ROBBINS: Well, a hell of a lot of money is in it for Shelly, Ashleigh. So, here's the thing. There's a difference between being an owner and having control over the sale. I actually agree with Paul. Basically what she's doing is, she doesn't now own Donald's half, she's just acting on behalf of both of them. And, to me, this means two very important things.

I think Donald and his lawyers have realized he didn't have a chance in hell in being successful at the end of the day in suing the NBA and they realized, because it's about the money, that the best shot is for Shelly to have his permission to act on their behalf and try to cooperate with the NBA. Because, remember, Adam Silver's press conference just a few days ago he said publicly, I would be willing and I would like to see them try to sell it and to avoid all this stuff. And I think that's exactly what's happening here. And by avoiding all of the legal issues, they're going to get a faster deal and probably a much better one.

BANFIELD: And I don't know when the NBA and Adam Silver and people of his ilk were ever in the business of having to sell a team, but this, I bring it out here early and often, the constitution for the NBA states that it doesn't matter who sells the team. If the NBA's going to sell the team, they have to get top dollar -

JACKSON: Absolutely.

BANFIELD: For the person they're ousting. So, again, I'm still a bit flummoxed.

CALLAN: Well, I just want to - I just want to go a bit conspiratorial here.

BANFIELD: Oh, go for it.

CALLAN: All right. There could be a - you could have a bait and switch scenario. And it's this. The NBA approves the transfer to Shelly, 100 percent, to negotiate the sale. She says, I can't get fair market value. I've decided to keep the team myself. And my husband no longer owns it because, pursuant to the agreement, I'm the sole owner. So in that scenario, how do they throw her out?

JACKSON: Very, very clever.

BANFIELD: If you hire a guy like this --

JACKSON: That's right, very -

BANFIELD: As your lawyer. That's how.

JACKSON: Very clever, but it's not going to happen. ROBBINS: Yes.

JACKSON: Particularly with the development that just occurred where it's saying she was complicit, she was involved in this whole press release where she knew better. She knew that he made those statements. There was a ruse, OK, because she now says, guess what, that can't be authenticated. That is the actual, you know, the audiotape. And as a result of that, I think that she's embroiled in this big time. I don't think the NBA will allow her to have an ownership interest.

ROBBINS: One hundred percent.

JACKSON: And I think, at the end of the day, despite your conspiracy theory -


JACKSON: She's gone.

BANFIELD: So, Mel, I can hear you. What do you think? Paul or Joey?

ROBBINS: No, Joey's right. Joey's right. He's not transferring the team to her. Joey's right, Ashleigh, he's not transferring the team to her, which, by the way, requires approval of the NBA.

JACKSON: Which they're not going to do.

ROBBINS: She has just been given authority by one of the co-owners to sell it on their behalf.

BANFIELD: All right, you guys, this is obviously sort of an interesting, fascinating development but I'm waiting to see what the big, you know, bombshell --

JACKSON: Do we all agree that it will be owned by someone other than a Sterling at the end of the day?

CALLAN: Not necessarily.

BANFIELD: Not that early (ph).

CALLAN: If the conspiratorial theory comes true.

BANFIELD: Yes, not (ph) that one.

JACKSON: Paul's conspiratorial theory. Whatever.

BANFIELD: We have a long weekend to ponder it, all of you. Joey and Paul and Mel, thank you for that.

I have another story that we've been working on, and it is just -- it is just remarkable. Michelle Knight, she is having quite an emotional reaction to the news that's come out of California about the woman who says she was kidnapped 10 years ago. And you're going to hear and feel her emotions, her heartfelt plea on this story. Mel Robbins is also going to weigh in again as a crisis worker what it is like to deal with people who are in this kind of distress.


BANFIELD: Some brand-new questions, some doubts, emerging in the sudden reappearance of a California woman who was reported missing a decade ago, the woman is telling the police she was sexually assaulted, that she was kidnapped when she was just 15, that she was held against her will by that man, her mother's live-in boyfriend back then.

But ultimately she married him, and two years ago, together they had a child. The man is in prison today, facing some of the most serious charges, including kidnapping and rape, lewd acts on a minor and the list goes on

However -- it's a big, big "however" -- his attorney is now saying that young woman was, quote, "completely free." The attorney says the couple was in the process of splitting up.

As far as the neighbors go who watched them for years, they say the victim in this case appeared to be happy.

The criticism of the young woman is sparking an angry and emotional reaction from this woman, another survivor of 10 years in brutal captivity.

Michelle Knight was chained and raped and held prisoner in a Cleveland house with two other women, and she spoke exclusively this morning with our Kate Bolduan. Have a listen.


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Michelle, it is so great to see you.


BOLDUAN: It must be hard, I've been thinking, for you to retell your story over and over again, especially on your book tour. Has it been difficult for you?

KNIGHT: It's been difficult but, like I said, I'm trying to help other people, and if I can help just one person by my story or more than one person, I'm well -- welcome to do it.

BOLDUAN: You hear of this story, the possibility of another woman being held, abused for 10 years

She was taken when she was 15-years-old. What went through your mind? What goes through your mind when you hear about this?

KNIGHT: Well, right now what's going through my mind is people shouldn't judge people by what they see and what they hear because there's a lot of people out there that go through pain, and they can't stop it. They don't know how to cope with it. They don't know exactly how to go through it People shouldn't say anything about what they can't explain because it may be difficult for that woman, that woman that went through this. And it's very hard for her when people are saying bad things about her and saying that she's lying.

You don't know what went through her head. You don't know what that was doing to her. You have absolutely no clue what she went through to say things and say that she was lying or she's doing this

You're making her life not able to function or heal properly when you do these things to people. You're making people not want to come out, not want to say anything. You're making people want to sit there and keep it to them self and go through the abuse when you say stupid crap like that. I need a break!

BOLDUAN: I'm so sorry, Michelle.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's OK, you're doing good, you're doing great. You're giving them hope.

BOLDUAN: Take your time. It's OK. Take all the time you need, Michelle. This hits so close to home. This is so hard.

KNIGHT: Yes. Yes, it does. It hits really close to home.

And I want to let her know that I care. I understand. And don't let anybody break you down. Don't let what people are saying about you hurt you or make you feel ashamed. Push through it. Ignore them, because they're just ignorant.

And understand that there are people out there that are going through the same pain you are and going through the same struggle, regardless if they're a man or woman

Understand. Come forward. Don't be ashamed, because you did nothing wrong.


BANFIELD: I would like to let you know, I spoke with Kate after the interview aired this morning about that moment, where she need a break, and Kate had some very profound thoughts on this interview.

First of all, Michelle Knight insisted on continuing this interview, because she knows that her mission is to make sure people know exactly what the pain is like, that it's not false; that no matter how happy you can seem, it is devastating; and that she is still raw a year later; and that this young woman could be, if the allegations prove true, being re-victimized by those would don't believe her.

And so it's important to note that CNN, in continuing that interview, did so at the behest of Michelle Knight. She wanted to continue her thoughts and let people know just how serious this issue is.

I want to bring in Mel Robbins. You and I talk all the time because you're an attorney and legal analyst, but maybe our audience does not know you're also a domestic crisis intervention expert.

You also worked in the domestic violence area of the Boston prosecutor's office, so you have some pretty intimate knowledge of people victimized in this way.

I just want to ask you one question about the California case. Regardless of what the attorney says about this being consensual, when you're 15 in is that state, can you possibly consent to a relationship like this?

MEL ROBBINS, CNN COMMENTATOR: No. The legal age of consent, Ashleigh, in California, is 18, and it's a felony to, you know, have sex with somebody who is under that age.

And here's the other thing. First of all, I worked a domestic violence hotline for six years as a volunteer and a crisis intervention counselor back in the late '80s, and every single victim was terrified to come forward because people that abuse women don't do it in public. They do it behind closed doors.

In fact, batterers get so good at physical and sexual abuse that they know how to hit people so that your bruises are clothed.

So just because he was a nice guy in public doesn't mean that she wasn't having the you-know-what kicked out of her behind closed doors and that she wasn't terrified.

And also keep in mind what she is saying is that she was kidnapped, drugged, at the age of 15, and woke up in a barricaded garage.

Now, this isn't a 15-year-old, Ashleigh, like you might have at home, an American kid that goes to school, that speaks English, that has a huge group of friends.

This gal was undocumented, had only lived in the United States for six months, and didn't speak English.

So those just absolutely -- those factors absolutely meant that the captor had even more control over her.

BANFIELD: I want to bring in Joey and Paul on this, as well. The attorney for Isidro Garcia, the accused in this case, says that the victim had her own car, had her own job, was very independent and free, and said that they were having some marital problems and that they were about to split up.

And then he goes on to say, and I think these are critical words, "There is nothing to the prosecution's case beyond her claims."

CALLAN: Well, let's keep our eye on the ball here, OK? The girl was 15, according to her mother, when she was kidnapped and taken away by the defendant in the case.

Now, under California law, as Mel says, if you're under the age of 18, you can't consent to a marriage, to a sexual relationship with somebody, unless you have the written consent of the mother, there's not -- that's not present here, or you have a court order.

You can -- the court can permit a marriage, but they have to issue an order. You don't have that.

So guess what it is. It's rape and it's kidnapping. And it doesn't matter what happened from age 18 to age 25, whether there was consent or there wasn't consent. I think on this fact pattern there was not consent. But it's irrelevant --

JACKSON: Ashleigh, let me just --

BANFIELD: I want to read the charges, because I think they pertain exactly to what you're saying, Paul, all the things that happened between the age of 15 and 18, three felony counts of lewd acts on a minor, one felony count of forcible rape and a felony count of kidnapping to commit a sexual offense.

JACKSON: Yeah, well, here's the point, Ashleigh, and certainly Mel makes compelling points and so does Paul, but just to bring some balance here, understand what the defense is going to do here, OK?

What we're talking about, if we look at something consent, yes, it is 18, but remember she had the child after 18. Remember the marriage occurred after 18. Remember that they will have to -- that is, the prosecution -- establish the sexual abuse, the forcible compulsion, the lack of consent and everything else.

Although it would be statutory. they're going to have to establish a sexual relationship between 15 and 18.

The final point to be made here, and that interview with Kate Bolduan is compelling, it's heart-wrenching, it's heartbreaking, but that case involving Ariel Castro was far different.

The defense here is also going to point out this person, this girl, had her liberties. She was free to go. She had a car. She had free travel.

CALLAN: After age 18. How do you know what went on between 15 and 18?

JACKSON: I don't.

CALLAN: How do you --

JACKSON: I don't. I don't.

CALLAN: You're saying it's statutory? Statutory is when somebody consents despite their age, OK? He might have been beating her between 15 and 18.

JACKSON: Exactly, but what we're doing -- and, again, I'm bringing balance. And I understand Mel and Paul's point.

But the point is we don't know, and it relies on credibility. And there are neighbors who say they were a happy couple, that he was a loving person, that he was doted on her, that they went out together, that they danced, that they sung.

So I don't know what occurred. I don't want to jump to conclusions. And by no means do I want to besmirch the victim's character here, but we have to understand that it's a process, and the defense will have a lot to say about the victim's claims.

BANFIELD: This is what's so difficult about this case is that there's always a defense, and that is what makes America great, because we are afforded an offense.

We're not hooded, taken out of our homes and thrown into gulags. We are always given a defense, and this man is going to mount a defense. And we will see, especially if he gets up on a stand, how credible he is.

And God forbid this young woman is going to have to get up on a stand and talk about what happened between the age of 15 and 18.

But this is an amazing case. I can't thank the three of you enough for putting a lot of light on this, legal light. Mel and Paul and Joey, thank you. Thank you all. Appreciate it.

We had a story that came across our radar, and I say that because it involves actual radar. Flight 437, Flight 601, why on Earth are you that close? And guess what?