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Dan Marino Sues NFL Over Concussions; Background on Taliban Five Traded for Bergdahl; Release of Gitmo Detainees; New Lawsuit against Sterling

Aired June 3, 2014 - 12:30   ET



ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: The NFL is the target of yet another concussion lawsuit. This one's coming from a really big name, star quarterback Dan Marino.

He filed a federal suit with 14 other former players in Philadelphia last week, claiming that the NFL knew all about the dangers of concussions but denied it, concealed it, and didn't take the steps to protect its players.

The NFL said today that it is not commenting on the lawsuit. That's not unusual. But it all comes on the heels of a lawsuit filed last month by a group of former players saying that the league gave them painkillers illegally.

And then if it all sounds very familiar, you may remember that it comes under the shadow of a huge class-action concussion lawsuit that even now is still tied up in the courts, because earlier this year, a judge effectively set aside a proposed settlement, refused to put the stamp on it, for the NFL to pay $760 million to thousands of people who either were directly affected by the concussions or those down the line of lineage of the players who might have been affected.

That judge said, I'm sorry, but that's just not enough money to cover all the people and all the damage.

I'm joined now by attorney Brian Kabateck in Los Angeles, who's has handled hundreds of class action lawsuit. He's also the current president of the Consumer Attorneys of California.

Brian, thanks so much for being with me. My first question to you is this, if the other lawsuits, some 4,500 people, I think, were covered in that lawsuit, or at least not covered but were named in that lawsuit, if that is a class-action lawsuit, ultimately, wouldn't you think Dan Marino would be covered by it? Anybody in the NFL affected could have joined that class action. Why does he need to do this?

BRIAN KABATECK, ATTORNEY: Absolutely, Dan Marino would be part of that class, but I think Dan Marino is a marquee plaintiff, a marquee-class representative, and I believe he's probably trying to send a message, that this matters, this is important to the players, this is important to former players, current players.

And he is certainly the kind of class representative you would want to get out in front of this and to tell the NFL and to tell the teams you've got to make a decision. You've got to come to some sort of resolution of this case.

BANFIELD: But what about all of the different arbitration agreements that many of these players may have entered into? Doesn't that really muck things up in terms of getting a nice clean group of people with a good, clean settlement, if they're going to get it at all?

KABATECK: Absolutely, Ashleigh, there are three, major hurdles that the plaintiff lawyers in this case have to overcome, the arbitration agreement, and arbitration right now, according to the United States Supreme Court, is sacrosanct. It is absolute.

Number two, these are employees. I don't care how you look at it. They're employees of teams, meaning workers compensation is supposed to be the exclusive remedy.

And, finally, number three, federal preemption, there's a collective bargaining agreement. Federal law may mean that they have no standing. That's why this is a very difficult lawsuit, despite the fact that the injuries are horrific.

BANFIELD: Yeah, Brian, can the NFL -- I mean, I'm just looking at the former settlement in the $700 million range, can the NFL -- I know it's huge. I know it has a lot of money. Can it weather this? I mean, is there a possibility that there might not be an NFL or certainly not one we recognize in the future?

KABATECK: Well, it's a very good question. The smaller teams, the smaller markets, could be in desperate trouble as a result of this. There could be bankruptcy that follow. The NFL itself, which is nothing more than a collection of teams, could be in real trouble, if this goes into the multibillion-dollar range.

You know, the lawyers that are working on this case for the plaintiffs are the same lawyers that got $4 billion for Vioxx a few years ago. These are not lightweights. They're going hard.

BANFIELD: You know what? I think you and I will have another conversation soon about this one. Thank you, Brian, nice to see you.


BANFIELD: Brian Kabateck, live for us.

On that issue, and now, another big issue, our top story of the day, those Taliban prisoners who were exchanged for American Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, you probably heard a lot of talk about them, a lot of speculation about just how dangerous those five guys are.

So we're going to let you know what they used to do for a living before we picked them up and put them away. Going to talk about it with a journalist who has been at Guantanamo almost literally for 12 years. She has seen these men. She has been there. She literally was there from day one. And she's going to give you the lowdown on just what they mean in all of this.


BANFIELD: There are questions still swirling around the release of Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl. Now a lot of the focus is aimed squarely at the very heavy price that at United States paid for his release, the true cost of releasing these five detainees from the United States navy base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

So far, it's really not clear what that price will be, if anything, at this point. But there is definitely something that we've had to give away here. All of them have strong ties to the Taliban, the organization, the government, that gave safe harbor to Osama bin Laden's terrorist group al Qaeda leading up to the 9/11 attacks.

During his trip to Poland this morning, President Obama admitted that the men could resume activities detrimental to our country.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Is there the possibility of some of them trying to return to activities that are detrimental to us? Absolutely. That's been true of all the prisoners that were released from Guantanamo. There's a certain recidivism rate that takes place.

I wouldn't be doing it if I thought that it was contrary to American national security, and we have confidence that we will be in a position to go after them if, in fact, they are engaging in activities that threaten our defenses.


BANFIELD: The danger that these former detainees pose is becoming a hot-button issue in Washington.

On CNN's "NEW DAY" this morning, Senator John McCain expressed concern about the intentions of these men.


SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: There's overwhelming evidence and testimony coming forward that Sergeant Bergdahl left of his own free will, and that will be the subject of investigation.

That does not mean he shouldn't have been brought home. The problem that I have and many of the others have is what we paid for that release, and that is releasing five of the most hardened anti-American killers. If the past proves true, they'll be back in the battlefield, putting the lives of Americans in danger in the future.


BANFIELD: And joining me to talk about the danger these men pose and whether they have ties to terrorist organizations is the "Miami Herald" military affairs correspondent, Carol Rosenberg.

Ms. Rosenberg knows probably more than anyone about this issue. She's been to Guantanamo so many times I can't tell you the actual number. I'm not sure that Carol can. But for more than 13 years, she's been there. She never left. They tried to get rid of her, but she never left.

Carol, day one, these five guys arrive. They are some of the first prisoners who arrive here, and for our audiences who maybe don't recognize their faces, I'm going to give a real fast bio on what the background is on some of these guys.

One them was an interior minister during the Taliban's rule; another one, an army chief commander. Another one was a governor under the Taliban regime. Another was a deputy chief of the Taliban's intelligence service. And another one was the Taliban's chief of communications.

Carol, the Taliban gave safe harbor to Osama bin Laden so that he could carry out 9/11 against America. Tell me again why these guys could go free.

CAROL ROSENBERG, MILITARY AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT, "MIAMI HERALD": So three of these men arrived on that first day, as the suspected worst of the worst.

If you remember, 20 men came in and were captured on their knees in orange jump suits, in a photo released, quite infamous photo, released by the Pentagon.

And as we've learned since then, you know, among other things the military has let many of those worst of the worst go in these negotiated deals. Twenty men came in that day. With these fellows gone, they're down to eight who came in the first day with four also approved for release.

So the real issue is, who are they? They're definitely Taliban. They've never said they weren't Taliban. And the Taliban asked for them back. They were definitely part of the organization that did allow al Qaeda to come and set up shop in Afghanistan, and from where the 9/11 attacks were plotted.

But there's never been a whiff of a suggestion that these five men, political military intelligence types, and they bleed in -- in the Taliban, those responsibilities from one to the next. There's never been a whiff of a suggest they had knowledge or a hand in the 9/11 attacks, the reason we invited Afghanistan in the first place.

BANFIELD: So this is my concern, Carol, is that we're still chasing after Mullah Omar, and I believe he might have been number two in the Taliban, because of his complicity in helping bin Laden to effectuate his evil scheme.

So I'm just not clear, since so little is shared with us about "cases," and I'm giving dog ears here on television, or bunny ears, "cases" against these people and evidence collected against these people in 13 years what kind of role they played. I mean, why are we even chasing Mullah Omar if his compatriots are on their way home?

ROSENBERG: They never were charged with a crime. There's never been an allegation that they did anything. They were captured very early, Ashleigh. So, you know, the opportunity for them to have acted against the American invasion was limited. The pursuit -- when they brought people to Guantanamo was to get Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar, in part to get -- in part to get Mullah Omar to help lead the Americans to Osama bin Laden. That chapter is over. It is not clear that these men, when they - well, first of all, they're going to spend a year in Qatar.

And, yes, they are part of a political entity called the Taliban, which we, the American -- our American military was not able to eradicate. They did send al Qaeda running. But now this president has decided that we're getting out of this war in Afghanistan. And part of the price of ending a war in Afghanistan is making, if not peace, making, you know, your own set of peace with the fact that we are not going to destroy the Taliban.

BANFIELD: I hear you.

ROSENBERG: They're going to Qatar. They're going to spend a year there. The president says he's getting out.

BANFIELD: What - I just -

ROSENBERG: What's interesting about these men is --

BANFIELD: The only thing - it drives me crazy, and your reporting has been so stellar in this -

ROSENBERG: Go ahead.

BANFIELD: It drives me crazy that, in criminal law, and I don't know what the heck is going on in Gitmo, but under American law there is something called conspiracy. And I don't understand how these guys can't be part of the conspiracy for -- the chief actor, 9/11, who got a safe haven and a place to actually craft his crime, how these guys aren't part of the conspiracy. You know, you and I could talk a lot more about this and hopefully we'll get a chance to do this, but I have to save some time to congratulate you on your First Amendment Award from the Reporter's Committee for the Freedom of the Press. You worked very hard for it and everyone should know about that. Good job.

ROSENBERG: Thank you. Thank you, Ashleigh.

BANFIELD: You're welcome. And I hope to speak to you again at some point.

We've got another story that we're working on after the break. And this one - well, by the way, I should let you know that the outgoing press secretary, Jay Carney, is going to join Wolf Blitzer for more on this story. And that's next hour. So make sure you stick around for that, another 13 minutes or so.

That there is this - there's this story coming out of a courtroom that you have to actually see to believe. You know the judges lay down the law all the time, but I'm not sure you've ever heard them laying down the law quite like this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'd like to stand and represent my client.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I said sit down. Let's go out back and I'll just beat your (EXPLETIVE DELETED).


BANFIELD: Yes, they actually went out back. Uh-huh. The attorney and the judge. How did that end up? We're going to let you know, next.


BANFIELD: From the law and disorder file, I want you to witness in Florida a judge showing some questionable judgment.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE). What do you want to do?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did (ph) they file?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm not waiting (ph).

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. What do you want to do?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you want to do? I'm not waiting. You want to set it for trial, set it for trial.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You want to set it for docket, set it for docket (INAUDIBLE). I'm not waiting in any case. This is an (INAUDIBLE) created by the state.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, if I had a rock, I would throw it at you right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, this is a --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stop pissing me off. Just sit down. I'll take care of it. I don't need your help. Sit down.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Now, you know what, I'm the public defender. I have a right to be here and I have a right to stand and represent my clients.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I said sit down! If you want to fight, let's go out back and I'll just beat your (EXPLETIVE DELETED).




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You need to rest (ph) right now!



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, thank you.



BANFIELD: OK. So not so sure that those hearing this complaint at the bar are going to be clapping. But according to the public defender's boss, those really were punches that you could hear in the backdrop. Last we've heard, the judge has not been arrested or charged with anything, but judicial review is a whole other ball of wax.

If you thought it was as bad as it could get for Donald Sterling, you might want to think again because the L.A. Clipper's owner is being sued and this time there are claims of racism and sexual harassment. You are going to hear the quotes, the complaints, the charges from yet another pretty lady in Donald Sterling's life.


BANFIELD: Another day, another Donald Sterling headline. This time, a former employee for Sterling's foundation is suing the Los Angeles Clippers owner for racial discrimination and sexual harassment. The woman at the center of the lawsuit, Maiko Maya King, claims that Sterling withheld wages if she wouldn't perform sexual acts. Sterling's attorney tells CNN there is no merit to King's suit. But joining me live now is Los Angeles and New York attorney and King's attorney Gloria Allred.

Nice to have you here.


BANFIELD: So, obviously, the first salvo that's come out of this from Sterling's attorney is that it's meritless, it's baseless. Why do you say it is not so? Do you have direct evidence?

ALLRED: Absolutely. We've got quite a bit of evidence. We have voice mails. We have texts. We have a lot of -- a lot of evidence. My client, we allege, according to our lawsuit, was sexually harassed and also subjected to a racially hostile environment when she was the employee of Mr. Sterling as his caretaker. And when she protested the racist remarks and when she protested the sexual harassment, we allege that that's when she was terminated. That's why we have filed the lawsuit. And - and -

BANFIELD: Some of the claims - I want to read some of the claims that are made in the lawsuit. That your client says Mr. Sterling actually said the words, "how could you be married to a black man? Why would you bring black people into the world?," referring to her children.

She claims that he basically dangled money in front of her if he would have sex and there were bonuses for all sorts of behavior in his mind, and that he confided in her that he had difficulty having sexual relations and that he was bored with V. Stiviano. These are huge claims, though, to be made. Are there -- are there -- I mean this is difficult to suggest, but have you canvassed and found anybody else who witnessed these things or who have the same complaints?

ALLRED: We have quite a bit of evidence. And that will all be presented in a court of law. But I will say this, she worked for him many years earlier. She had a romantic relationship with him. But now she didn't want to have a romantic relationship with him when she came back into his employ. And she knew that V. Stiviano was his girlfriend and she felt then she wouldn't have to have sex with him and she came back into his employ as his caretaker.

BANFIELD: She also went back to him, all within the last month. She was at his apartment. A CNN producer was there and there were phone calls that came in while a CNN producer was there demanding money from Mr. Sterling, asking for money, and Mr. Sterling said that he had said, no. He said, no, he wasn't going to give her up to $10,000. And then all of a sudden this lawsuit comes around.

ALLRED: She was not paid her wages, and she has the right to be paid her wages. She was his caretaker. She was introduced as his caretaker. And she was promised wages and she was not paid those wages. So, she is entitled to be paid for her work and that's what this lawsuit is all about.

BANFIELD: It will be interesting to see how this develops, especially in the parallel, what's going on that clearly may have had a lot of launching ground for this as well. Gloria, always good to see you and welcome to your --

ALLRED: You too, Ashleigh.


ALLRED: Thank you.

BANFIELD: Thanks for watching, everybody. I'm flat out of time. Wolf Blitzer starts right now.