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Hot Car Mom; Crisis at the Border; Heroin Yacht Death

Aired July 16, 2014 - 15:00   ET


CRISTINA ALESCI, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So, having spoken to sources close to these -- to these talks last month, I could say that, you know, this comes down to whether or not Time Warner really wants to sell.

And there's no gun to Time Warner's head from its perspective. It could hang back and potentially wait for a better offer, maybe from FOX, but probably from someone else -- Brooke.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Maybe Rupert Murdoch could come back again. Who knows? You talked about poking holes. Maybe they can be filled in and he tries again. Cristina Alesci with CNN Money, thank you, Cristina.

Top of the hour. You are watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

And I want to begin with the crisis of undocumented children overwhelming the Texas border in particular. Congress has just 11 working days to write some kind of relief action. Later this hour, in fact, members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus meet with White House officials, but first just perspective here, perspective you need to hear and one perhaps we have not heard from enough.

This is from a person on the front lines, not at the border, but in the immigration courtroom.

Joining me is now attorney Rebeca Salmon, who says she is representing more than 1,000 undocumented children in the United States. She works for the Access to Law Foundation in Atlanta.

So, Rebeca, welcome.


BALDWIN: And is that roughly correct, 1,000, 1,000-plus kids?

SALMON: We have a floating group of kids that we represent, but we have seen an increase recently.

BALDWIN: So, I mean, they have seen an increase since they really started tracking in October of 2011. But it's this past month-and-a- half that has been -- I think surge is the appropriate word of these kids crossing over. Why so much more now?

SALMON: I wish I knew the answer. I think that what we have investigated, what we have heard from our

clients is, it's -- they're literally fleeing from insecurity, from gang activity, from threats of death daily, from the lack of an education, from the lack of just a safe future.


BALDWIN: I'm just curious. I'm sorry to press you, but in the last month-and-a-half, in their home countries, especially Central America, we're seeing these kids. It's been that way.

SALMON: We have seen the month-and-a-half an increase of numbers. But the stories really haven't changed from the past.

So I feel like the stories are the same. We're just seeing a lot more attention to them.

BALDWIN: Is it more teenage boys, teenage girls? How many pregnant girls are you seeing?

SALMON: I think, historically, we had seen typically the teenage boys. We're beginning to see an enormous amount of girls, girls who have been sexually assaulted in their homeland, unfortunately sexually assaulted en route. They're getting younger and younger.

There is a good amount of girls coming across either pregnant or already with babies, you know, just month-old babies crossing three continents to get here. It's unbelievable.

BALDWIN: You mentioned the sexual assault. And I think it's interesting people talk about maybe these young people are fleeing from that reality back home in Central America.

But it's also the train of death, as we have sent a correspondent to see, people are losing life and limb, trying to make it across. But they're also beaten, starved and assaulted on the way.

SALMON: Everything. These children are not leaving their home with a bag packed with money and supplies and clothes and a plan.

And these children are just leaving. So they're prey to -- you know, to problems along the way. They come here starved. They come here already with some injuries.

BALDWIN: But they're kids. I mean, I go back to they're kids. Do they really know what they're doing when they're doing it? Are the parents putting them up to it? Are the parents already here?

SALMON: You know the answer. They don't know what they're doing. They're children. They lack the ability to make appropriate decisions, weighing the consequences.

Not once have we talked to any of our clients who weighed the consequences of what it was going to mean to leave that place and cross three countries.

BALDWIN: So once they're here, what are their options?

SALMON: They're limited. If a child is here, or an adult, if they're here unlawfully, if they have crossed the border unlawfully and they just want to be here because they are fleeing poverty or they want a job, there's nothing under our immigration law to accompany that.

If they're here because they're fleeing some sort of abuse or persecution from their government or something that their government can control, they may be a candidate for asylum. Or some of the children are candidates for special immigrant juvenile status.

BALDWIN: You mentioned asylum. This is something that we have talked a lot about recently because you could meet criteria and then therefore you could take a different trajectory to try to stay in the United States. But at the same time, a lot of people, at least this is according to our reporting and people we have met, are capitalizing on that loophole, right, and not necessarily truly in need of asylum.

SALMON: Well, I'm not sure who the people are.

And I'm not sure what the claim is. I can only tell you that if someone brings us a credible claim, with some substantiating evidence behind it, then I believe that they're entitled to the due process to bring that before a judge, who is the person who would weigh their claim.

BALDWIN: What are the criteria? I'm just trying to understand this.

SALMON: There's five criteria for asylum claim.

And, again, they're the same for adults or children. So you have to be persecuted by your government or someone the government can't control. And it has to be based on five particular criteria. One of them might be your social group. So it may be that we could tie a gang activity that the government couldn't control to your particular place in your social group. But it's very difficult.

BALDWIN: That's very difficult. The majority of the folks I think you're working with, I had seen voluntarily go back home to Honduras, El Salvador, other countries. And just final question. In the end, is it as risky even going home as it is coming here?

SALMON: Absolutely not. They come here walking and begging rides and, you know, in risk. When the children are returned home, if they're given the benefit of the voluntary departure, then they're returning on an airplane, they're returning in a bus, they're returning with a ticket, with -- someone knows when they left and knows when they're going to be home.

They're returning back home. If it's appropriate for them to return home, then they're returning home to their family.

BALDWIN: Thank you so much for answering all these questions.


SALMON: It's sad. Thank you so much for your interest.

BALDWIN: We just have so many questions on this.

Rebeca Salmon, I really appreciate it.

SALMON: I appreciate it.

BALDWIN: And Jose Vargas, just staying on this, Jose Vargas, you know his story. He is free. He says being detained was no political stunt whatsoever. He may well be the best-known undocumented immigrant in America.

He profiled himself on the CNN film "Documented." We talked to him on the show. Border Patrol detained him. He's a former Pulitzer Prize- winning journalist. Detained him Tuesday. He was trying to leave the border town of McAllen, Texas, to witness the plight of these undocumented children from Central America, as we were just discussing.

Officials say Vargas was released on his own recognizance and he must go before an immigration judge later. He has been active on social media, posting this on Facebook today. "I only visited and I got out. I got out. What about other immigrants?" -- Jose Antonio Vargas.

Meantime, a California woman says she is not guilty of injecting a Google executive with heroin and then watching him die; 26-year-old Alex Tichelman was arraigned in court today on not just manslaughter charges, but drug possession and prostitution. Tichelman met Hayes on this dating Web site that some folks say is absolutely a front for prostitution. The Web site maintains it is merely dating.

Authorities say she had an ongoing prostitution relationship with Hayes, but her attorneys say that that picture is not entirely accurate.

CNN national correspondent Kyung Lah was inside that courtroom for the arraignment. And she joins me live on what exactly happened.

And I heard also, Kyung, her family was in that courtroom.

KYUNG LAH, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Her family was in the courtroom, appeared.

A woman who looked very much like her, we're only at this point guessing that may have been her sister, but her parents -- the judge did say her parents were in the courtroom, and they all left. They didn't speak to reporters, and she did look in their direction, but throughout this hearing, it was a very, very short hearing, an arraignment here in California is very brief -- she said virtually nothing, just yes, sir, and sir, and appeared quite serious, because these charges are indeed very serious.

She did ask to be released on her own recognizance, Brooke. That was denied. As far as the bail being reduced, it's currently at $1.5 million. The request to lower that as well was denied. She remains in custody -- Brooke. BALDWIN: OK. And then what are the lawyers, Kyung, saying about

whether Tichelman is a black widow, as she has been portrayed in the media?

LAH: Yes, what you're talking about is this case in Georgia. Within the last three months, she had a boyfriend in Georgia die of a heroin overdose. And we know of this last case as well here with the Google executive.

But what her attorneys are saying is that these are certainly bad circumstances that follows a drug addict. The way her attorneys are painting this case is a very different painting and portrayal we're getting today than we have seen from the police. This was a consensual affair, she the prostitute, he the client. They mutually agree to do heroin. It was a night that went bad, an accident.

As far as her being cold and calculating and sipping on wine on the yacht instead of attending to a dying man, here's what her attorneys told us.


LAH: What about what the police say about her stepping over him up to five times and finishing her wine?

ATHENA REIS, ATTORNEY: I can't get into the facts of the case. I have certainly reviewed the video. I don't think that it's been the most accurate representation in the media.

JERRY CHRISTENSEN, ATTORNEY: The only thing about the previous case that would make any relevance is if this person was actually going around as some form of like black widow type of character and killing people. OK? The current case doesn't fit into anything of that sort.


LAH: Her attorneys say what we have here are archetypes that are the picture of scandal, and that's why police are playing this up.

Obviously, police and prosecutors, Brooke, dispute that. They believe what they have here is a very serious case -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: OK, Kyung Lah, thank you very much.

Coming up next, the mother of Cooper Harris is speaking out. Remember, he's the little toddler died after he was left inside a hot car in Georgia. His father, Justin Ross Harris, is charged with felony murder. So now his mother has released a statement through her lawyer. She has a very specific message for the public and for the media. And to make her point, she brings up Richard Jewell, the vindicated Atlanta Olympic Park bombing suspect. We will explain why next. You are watching CNN.


BALDWIN: Welcome back. I'm Brooke Baldwin. For the very first time now since her son's funeral, we are hearing

from the mother of that toddler who was left to die in a hot SUV in Georgia. And her message to the media was this: Leave me alone.

Leanna Harris spoke through her attorney, who released this statement, and in part it reads: "Newspapers, television and online media have fostered a poisonous atmosphere, in which Leanna's every word, action and emotion or failure to cry in front of a crowd is scrutinized for some supposed hidden meaning, in much the same way the press unjustly harassed and hounded Olympic bombing hero Richard Jewell, when he didn't behave as some thought he should."

That was the statement. Police say Harris' husband left their son strapped into a car seat in his SUV for seven hours while he went to work last month. He has pleaded not guilty to charges of murder and child cruelty.

Joining me now, CNN legal analyst Mel Robbins and our senior legal correspondent, host from CNN "RELIABLE SOURCES" Brian Stelter.

So, to both of you, welcome.

And, Brian Stelter, listen, it's your job to watch a lot of TV and read a lot of newspapers. So, I just want to begin with you as far as the perspective from media, because going back to Richard Jewell, I remember being at those Olympics and I think a lot of people even forget that he was cleared because he was so totally vilified.

He said that he lived for 88 days afraid of being arrested for a crime he didn't commit. Is that fair, that comparison, in this case?

BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: I understand why they are making it, because it conjures up an image in our minds that is sympathetic to this woman.

Oftentimes, in this news cycle we live in, an initial story is a Category 5, and then the follow-up is a Category 1. There's usually not as much attention later on. In some cases, maybe, it is comparable. But I don't -- we don't know enough in this case to know if it's really a fair comparison.

BALDWIN: Mel, you wrote this opinion piece on even before the statement from the lawyer, from this mother. Do you stand by it, the fact that, listen, it's easy to speculate, but let's be fair, basically?

MEL ROBBINS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes. Absolutely, Brooke.

Come on, we can all sit at home and watch television and sit back and say, oh, she's not crying enough. Ooh, what a weird statement to make.

BALDWIN: Which many people have done. Let's be fair.

ROBBINS: Of course, of course. But all of them have a completely benign explanation to them. It's one thing to look at the husband's case, who is behind bars.

It's another thing to incite a riot around this woman's guilt regarding the death of her son. I think the statement by the attorney was spot on. Leave her alone.

BALDWIN: And let me go through some of the points, because I would love to hear -- you're a parent as well. With your mother hat on as well here, Mel Robbins, let me just ask you because a lot of people keep going back to the day we got from this probable cause hearing when you hear from this detective talking about on the day little Cooper died, this mother arrives at the day care, and finds out that her son hadn't been dropped off. And apparently she initially thought, you know, oh, my husband must have left my child in the car.

And then the second thing about how she and her husband were in this police interrogation room, maybe not realizing other people were listening and said, well, did you say too much? It's suspect on one level.

ROBBINS: You know, Brooke, I totally agree with you. I thought the same thing. Let's take them one at a time.


ROBBINS: The statement at the day care, if, in fact, it is her worst nightmare to have her son die in a hot car, and she arrives to pick the kid up and he's not there, it might just be maternal instinct, deepest fear.

I write in the article that my husband and I got two phone calls back- to-back, and then a third one at the house, and I turned to him for no reason, Brooke, and said I bet the school is on lockdown. And, sure enough, it was for four hours. It just happened this spring.

BALDWIN: Oh, wow.

ROBBINS: So -- and we also, by the way, don't know if he had sent her an e-mail or a text, for example, saying I'm so sorry and she is putting things together in her head.

The second thing, did you say too much? Well, if the guy did make a mistake and then botched the explanation and cover-up of it and now there are sexts and their financial information and everything is being scrutinized in the media, she probably is thinking, what did you say? You know, if this was a mistake, why are you behind bars? Did you say too much, you dummy, not dummy like you're guilty, but dummy like you made everybody think you did this?



BALDWIN: No, and I hear you. I hear you loud and clear. But then the question comes...

(CROSSTALK) STELTER: She could be saying more. She could be speaking on her own


BALDWIN: She could.

But, Brian, what is the line for media coverage on this kind of story? Because it could go either way. We just don't know yet.

STELTER: Well, I think these conversations are important, you know, because we have to think about those issues and not rush to these judgments. On the other hand, she could be doing more, not just her attorney. She could be doing more to state her case.


ROBBINS: Wait a minute, though, Brian. No way. You want to know why? Because in the state of Georgia, she has no spousal privilege. She will be called as a witness to testify against her husband, because she does not have any protection whatsoever in this type of crime.

So any statement that she makes right now could be used against her in a court of law, if, in fact, they end up prosecuting him.

STELTER: Well, this is a negative consequence of the media.

But, Brooke, I will tell you about one positive consequence. I noticed it this morning. I was in Dallas driving to the airport on the way back to New York. Big sign on the top of the road. It said never leave a child alone in a car. If a child is alone in a car, get help. This is a national issue now, and that's not because of the court case. That's because of the media's coverage of the case. So, there is some positive.

BALDWIN: I know. I read a story just this morning, I think it was out of Texas, of some kids banging on a car and they were left inside, locked in there. And just total strangers helped get them out. So the awareness is there. We will see how it goes as far as this mother is concerned.

Mel Robbins and Brian Stelter, thank you very much. I appreciate both of you.


BALDWIN: Coming up, Palestinian leaders say four children were killed by an Israeli strike on Gaza. They were out playing soccer on the beach. Today, more cease-fire talks are planned. But is there really any progress? We will talk to Wolf Blitzer, who is live again in Jerusalem. He will join me from there.

Also, you have heard of Rupert Murdoch, the billionaire who owns various media outlets, including FOX News. Did you know this? He made an offer to buy Time Warner, the parent company of us here at CNN. What happened? We will discuss in depth next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: Media mastermind Rupert Murdoch is trying to expand his empire and his eye is on the parent company of CNN, Time Warner. In fact, he made an $80 billion bid to buy the company, but it was all for naught. Time Warner rejected it. But is this really the end?

We bring him back, CNN senior media correspondent and host of "RELIABLE SOURCES," Brian Stelter, is back.

STELTER: Hello again.

BALDWIN: Hello again, my friend. Can you tell me more about this potential, you know, deal or offer? And why did -- why did Time Warner say no to him?

STELTER: Time Warner says it said no because they believe they can execute greater value for shareholders on their own, independent, without having an acquisition like Murdoch.

That is something that was announced this morning once -- right after this deal, proposal first leaked. It was one of these situations where the idea for Murdoch leaked out and then, within an hour, both companies had confirmed it. Right now, Murdoch, 21st Century FOX says there is no discussions under way.

And the next question is whether he will come back with another offer, whether he will try to make a better offer, sweeten the pot somehow for Time Warner.

BALDWIN: Because "The New York Times" is suggesting that it is unlikely for him to drop his plans to try to take over Time Warner.

STELTER: Yes, and they're looking at Murdoch's history, and in the past, he has come back time and time again.

For example, he was interested in buying "The Wall Street Journal" about seven years ago now, looking back. And his first offer was rebuffed. But four months later, that deal got done. This, of course, is a wildly different deal. We're talking about one of the biggest media companies in the country.

Time Warner owns not just CNN, but also the Warner Bros. studio, HBO, and a lot of other assets. And I think Murdoch has -- he has his eye on things like HBO and on Turner Sports, for example. He could do a lot to combine his company and Time Warner. But at the moment, Time Warner is saying thanks, but no thanks.

BALDWIN: Stelter, can we play the what-if game?

STELTER: Let's go for it.

BALDWIN: Let's play the what-if game. Here's my what-if for you. What if this deal actually went through and you have under this great big media empire umbrella CNN and FOX News? I mean, that could never really happen, right? STELTER: Right. I don't think it could. In fact, I said on

"RELIABLE SOURCES" a few weeks ago, back when there was starting to be rumors that maybe Murdoch had his eye on Time Warner, we didn't know he actually made this proposal yet, but there were rumors

I said I would eat a copy of "The New York Post" if Murdoch ever took control of CNN. Well, there's ways to saute it or blend it. There's way to make it edible. But I said that because I'm so confident that in any scenario like this, they would have to divest CNN, or even if they didn't have to, they would in order to avoid that kind of scrutiny that we're bringing up right now.

FOX News and CNN I don't think would ever end up under the same roof. Of course, there's lots of scenarios about could happen then to CNN, but that's looking pretty far down the road right now. For the time being, Time Warner says we can do better for our shareholders as a stand-alone company than we can under somebody else's roof.

BALDWIN: If it does, I will sit next to you with the ketchup and mustard and relish all over the paper for you.

Brian Stelter, thank you very much. We will be watching you Sunday mornings, as always, on "RELIABLE SOURCES."

STELTER: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Coming up, some employees pretty upset. They as you know their company is tracking how much time they spend in the bathroom. Yes. Their union says some of them were disciplined for excessive use of using the restroom. Is that going a little too far? Is that within a company's right? We will ask a lawyer.

Plus, want you to take a look at this. Israel drops thousands of pamphlets in Gaza with a very specific warning. Wolf Blitzer is live in Israel. We will talk to Wolf about this next.