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David Sweat: Joyce Mitchell's Idea to Kill Husband; 68-Year-Old Man Attacked by Shark off Outer Banks; Unprecedented Efforts to Keep July 4th Safe; Airlines Under Investigation for Price Fixing; Greek Leader Flip-Flops on Bailout Again. Aired 7-7:30a ET
Aired July 2, 2015 - 07:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[07:00:03] JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Meanwhile, David Sweat being questioned so much by authorities. But the big question is, can they believe him?
CASAREZ (voice-over): This morning a major shake-up behind these prison walls. Clinton County Correctional assigning a new superintendent along with new rules, including weekly cell wall inspections, random bed checks, and new gates that will now be placed inside the tunnels inmates Richard Matt and David Sweat used in their brazen escape.
Meanwhile, Sweat continued talking to police Wednesday. The convicted murderer claiming it was Mitchell's idea for the duo to kill her husband, Lyle, after escaping from prison. Mitchell's attorney says she denies that allegation.
Sweat also telling investigators that he had no sexual contact with Mitchell, claiming instead it was Matt who had the sexual relationship with the former prison employee.
Sweat confessing he and Matt found a sledgehammer in the underground passageway, possibly inadvertently left behind by a construction worker, and they used that tool to break down a brick wall.
Once on the run, Sweat told investigators the two initially got along, but Sweat soon grew frustrated that Matt was physically out of shape and had trouble keeping up. Then, Matt began drinking. After breaking into a cabin, Sweat says, he became so upset they split up.
In the final days Sweat pushed ahead, getting closer to Canada after hearing Matt was killed. The former fugitive now recovering from two gunshot wounds to his torso at a lockdown center at this Albany hospital. The medical director says inside two guards watch each patient, and inmates are often shackled in their hospital beds.
DENNIS MCKENNA, ALBANY MEDICAL DIRECTOR: How confident do we feel that this patient is not going to escape from the hospital? I feel very confident.
CASAREZ: And of the many changes at Clinton, one of them is periodic inspections daily of the catwalk area -- Michaela.
MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: It's going to be vital, clearly. All right, Jean, thank you so much.
A seventh shark attack in just the last few weeks now being reported in North Carolina. This time the 68-year-old man in waist-deep water injured. He is in the hospital.
So what is behind this sudden spike in shark attacks at crowded beaches? CNN's Alina Machado is live in Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, with the very latest for us -- Alina.
ALINA MACHADO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Michaela, authorities tell me that the man was alert. He was talking to first responders, even though he suffered severe puncture wounds from the hip area down to his knee, as well as bites on his calf.
That attack happened north of here in the Outer Banks. It's the seventh to take place off the North Carolina coast in the past month. The victims of the other attacks include a 13-year-old girl and a 16- year-old boy. Each of them lost an arm.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. That's Alina Machado down on the coast right now talking about the shark attacks. I understand about ten in the Carolinas this year already. Normally, they get an average of six, so there is an uptick. One of the reasons could be just more people in the water right now. But they're watching that very closely.
Other news this morning: all over the United States, officials are warning of a potential July Fourth terror threat. Security being stepped up over this holiday weekend as ISIS has called on its supporters to carry out new attacks.
CNN's justice correspondent, Pamela Brown, is here with that -- Pamela.
PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, there's more concern this Fourth of July among counterterrorism officials and here's why. It's a symbolic holiday. It falls at the same time as the holy month of Ramadan, and ISIS has been encouraging its supporters to launch attacks during this time and be rewarded even more.
Also, officials say that ISIS has a major impact on social media. That was not the case last Fourth of July to this extent. It's also becoming harder to detect attacks before they happen.
And adding to concern are these near-simultaneous terror attacks around the globe that happened just the past few days. Many police departments are stepping up security across the country. And the NYPD says it has the most complex counterterrorism plan in place ever.
Here's what NYPD's John Miller had to say about that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JOHN MILLER, NYPD DEPUTY COMMISSIONER OF INTELLIGENCE AND COUNTERTERRORISM: They are following the ISIS call. And the ISIS call, as well as that of other terrorist groups, has been to use what you have on hand. And that means if you can make a bomb, you're a bomber. But if you can't, use a gun. And if you can't find a gun, here's a knife. And if you can't find a knife, use a car.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: So in light of that concern, NYPD, in particular, says that it will have more radiation detection devices, more bomb-sniffing dogs. Also it will be sort of activated, utilizing more than 7,000 closed- circuit cameras across the city.
Now just to put this all in perspective, the FBI is watching hundreds of people who could be ISIS supporters. And just this year so far, six months in, 49 people have been arrested across the United States on ISIS-related charges.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: The numbers are staggering. Thank you so much for that, Pamela.
BROWN: Thank you.
CAMEROTA: All right. Another story to tell you about, several major U.S. airlines targeted in a federal investigation. The Justice Department wants to know if they conspired to keep their planes packed and their ticket prices high.
CNN's Rene Marsh is live in our Washington bureau with details. What are you learning, Rene?
[07:05:29] RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning, Alisyn.
We can confirm that United, American and Southwest Airlines have all received demand letters from the Department of Justice. The feds are asking for documents and communications that could prove they worked together to manipulate capacity of flights. In other words, limit available seats, keeping planes full and ticket prices high.
Right now four major airlines control 80 percent of the market, and that concerns lawmakers like Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal. He is the one who asked the DOJ to investigate after learning about public comments airline executives made. Blumenthal says the comment suggests industry collaboration.
In Blumenthal's own words, he says, quote, "What airlines publicly call discipline is just a fancy term for constraining the flights available to consumers and raising prices and profits, which should be the investigation's sharp focus."
Now the airlines we've heard from, they all say they plan to cooperate with the investigation. But this allegation alone is really a bitter pill for passengers. Together airlines saved billions on fuel. They're seeing record profit, but airfare remains high. According to government data, the average price of a roundtrip ticket increased roughly 16.5 percent from 2010 to 2014 -- Michaela.
PEREIRA: And we've all felt it. Anybody that has been in the traveling public, we've certainly felt it in the wallet. Athena, thank you so much for that. Rene -- my goodness, that was my bad.
All right. We're turning now to the debt crisis in Greece. Mixed messages as frustrations start to boil over the prime minister flip- flopping again on a new European Union bailout.
CNN business correspondent and the host of "Quest Means Business," Richard Quest live in Athens for us with all of the latest.
RICHARD QUEST, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Michaela.
Lots of music, as well, coming from Syntagma Square here in the heart of Athens. But there may be music and there may be protests, but there's no talks taking place. The Europeans have basically said to the Greek government, "Have your referendum on Sunday. We're not going to talk to you until that's over and we know whether or not you're going to go for or against the euro, what the position is."
Meanwhile, the banks remain closed. Pensioners are having difficulty getting their money out of the banks. And there seems no end in sight to the immediate crisis of what's happening to the economy in Greece.
BERMAN: Richard Quest for us on the streets there. You can hear the music behind him, which is a sign of the confusion, frankly, that reigns over there.
Meanwhile, the United States and Venezuela launching new efforts to restore bilateral ties. An American official tells Reuters that diplomatic talks are now in their early stages. This first step was reportedly taken by President Nicholas Maduro in March comes on the heels of the historic thaw between the United States and Cuba, Cuba a key ally of Venezuela. The U.S. and Cuba both announced yesterday they plan to open embassies in each other's capitals.
PEREIRA: Two months after the death of Freddie Gray the Baltimore Police Department announcing plans to install cameras in police vans. You'll recall Gray suffered a severe injury in the back of a police van. He died days later. Six officers now facing charges.
In the meantime, officials are making the first federal arrest in the Baltimore riots. Raymond Carter facing charges for his alleged role in the arson and looting of a CVS store.
BERMAN: Firefighters turning to a drone to help save two boys in Maine. Look at this video. You can see the pair right there in the middle of that rushing river after their innertube got stuck in a rock. One of them was without a life vest. Rescuers in the town of Mechanic Falls -- great, Mechanic Falls -- rigged a drum (ph) with rope and were able to drop a life vest down to the boy, who was eventually pulled to safety. Neither was hurt, amazingly.
CAMEROTA: Oh, my gosh, there is incredible technology, just saving lives there.
All right. Meanwhile, back to our lead story. Investigators are taking a closer look at the Clinton Correctional Facility in upstate New York, where security concerns, were they ignored before those two prisoners made their escape?
So joining us now is Dennis Vacco. He's a former New York attorney general and now counsel for the New York State Correctional Officers and Police Benevolent Association. Mr. Vacco, thanks for being here.
DENNIS VACCO, COUNSEL FOR THE NEW YORK STATE CORRECTIONAL OFFICERS AND POLICE BENEVOLENT ASSOCIATION: Good morning. Thank you for having me. It's a pleasure.
CAMEROTA: I want to start off by showing you and our viewers the changes that today are being implemented at Clinton Correctional Facility as a result of all of this. New things will be happening.
For instance, now in terms of what's going to happen in the cells, correctional officers will make weekly cell integrity inspections. That means like checking to make sure there's no hole in the wall that a prisoner could climb through.
Next, they're going to triple the random cell searches. So there will be random prisoners, supposedly, who won't know when it is happening, and they'll triple the number that they're doing.
No. 3, unpredictable nightly bed checks. That makes sense. Prisoners shouldn't know to expect the guards every night at 11 p.m. Why weren't these happening before today?
VACCO: Well, you have to understand that the Department of Corrections, which is a state agency, sets these policies, sets these parameters and pushes these guidelines out to the field to the various correctional facilities. So the corrections officers in each facility are just reacting to the Department of Corrections policies and procedures.
CAMEROTA: OK, fair enough. So why wasn't the Department of Corrections doing this until now?
VACCO: Well, look, the thing that we constantly have to keep in focus is that these facilities are very dangerous facilities. Assaults are up, even though prison population is down by over 20,000 over the last ten years. Assaults are up and at a pace for a record setting in 2015. These are still very dangerous places, mostly because the people that remain, even though the population is down by 20,000, many of those that remain are the most violent.
So these policies have been designed in the past to try to control the population so that the population is under control, which is why you had, for instance, the honor block. The honor block wasn't a reflection of how these inmates acted on the outside. The honor block was -- it was an incentive to get them to act appropriately on the inside. Now the department has decided to change these policies. The
correctional officers that I represent, they're very happy to see this. These are hard-working men and women. They're an I integral part of law enforcement, and quite frankly, they're on the front lines every day. And their safety is at stake. So they really embrace these changes.
CAMEROTA: Absolutely. And no one doubts that they have a very dangerous and important job, but I'm interested that you say control the population, because is there a culture and a feeling inside the prison, among correctional officers, that they do what they can individually also to control the population? Do they?
And we just heard from a past correctional officer at Clinton Correctional Facility who said sometimes they'll give an inmate a sandwich. They'll make sure that that inmate has TV privileges, if they think they can get something, like information out of that inmate, and in order to keep the peace.
VACCO: Well, exactly. And we've got to keep in mind that these relationships inside -- behind these prison walls are not real; they're not genuine. So the inmates are playing the staff. I mean, we saw that in the context of Joyce Mitchell. She obviously got played by these two inmates, much to their detriment and now hers.
But that playing goes both ways. I mean, the correctional officers, in order to keep peace, to keep control and to trade information, for instance, so they'll give a sandwich to an inmate if the inmate is willing to be able to provide them with information about contraband in the facility.
So there's a variety of techniques that are employed. But all of it is designed to maintain order in the facility and to keep the correctional officers safe.
CAMEROTA: And let me show you a couple other security measures that, as of today, are going into place. The honor block that you just mentioned will be suspended. It is now under review whether they should even have an honor block.
Monthly tunnel checks. Previously those happened twice a year. And there will be an executive who reviews inmate counting at every shift.
Do you think that these things will make a significant difference?
VACCO: Absolutely, Alisyn. And quite frankly, the correctional officers have been long in favor of these proposed changes. Again, we've got to keep in mind, this is not a statement trying to scapegoat anybody here. I think that there's no time for scapegoating -- scapegoating. We have to fix this problem. We have to get to the bottom of what happened here on a foreseeable forward basis.
And the correctional officers want to be an integral part of fixing the problem. They want a seat at the table to help reform the system to come up with procedures such as the procedures that we're talking about here this morning that will make them safer and make these facilities more secure.
CAMEROTA: Mr. Vacco, last, do you think that Gene Palmer, who is the correctional officer who is now charged with somehow aiding and abetting these prisoners for getting out, do you think that he will be convicted?
VACCO: Oh, I don't know. I mean, it's way too early to say.
I think it's important to point out, however, that even David Sweat, although I heard in your other reports, that there's some question as to whether he's believable or not, and I think that's a healthy skepticism. But I believe that even he told investigators that he -- that Palmer didn't have a direct role in the escape.
So I think there's a lot -- a lot more facts that need to be developed, a lot more information that is going to come to light. And it's way too early to speculate on what the outcome will be.
CAMEROTA: OK, Dennis Vacco, thanks so much for all the information. Great to have you on the show this morning.
VACCO: Thank you, Alisyn.
CAMEROTA: Let's get over to Michaela.
PEREIRA: OK. Security has been increased this Fourth of July after word of possible terror attacks by ISIS. Is there more reason to be concerned this year than in the past? We'll take a look.
[07:23:45] PEREIRA: The threat of an attack from ISIS and supporters have authorities in the U.S. increasing security for the July Fourth holiday to unprecedented levels. Police in New York and Los Angeles laying out tactical plans to keep fireworks and other festivities safe.
Why is the ISIS threat different than what we've seen in the past? And how concerned should we be?
Tom Fuentes is CNN's law enforcement analyst and a former FBI assistant director.
We came to you for the goods, my friend. Because you know, I think none of us want to be afraid. We don't want to live in fear, because as they say, the terrorists win, but why so much concern right now, Tom?
TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: I think, Michaela, the biggest problem they have now is that, you know, years ago with al Qaeda and al Qaeda central, you had a more tightly controlled system of generating attacks around the world, if you will. There was more micromanagement from overseas, which then enabled tracking from overseas, intercepting phone calls, messages and tracking international financing. But now you don't have that. You have ISIS central putting out these
messages to everybody and all the ships at sea to kill, to do an attack, and you don't have to be coordinated. You don't need permission. You don't have to communicate back and forth. All you have to do is do it.
[07:20:04] Now, we're seeing the communication back and forth when they're setting up logistics to travel to Syria, let's say, to join ISIS. But for the individuals that are here that become radicalized, they don't need anything more. All they need to do is go online and order hunting knives or if they can get a gun or figure out how to make a pressure cooker bomb, wonderful for them. But they can use a knife, like I said, a ratchet, a car, you know, anything at their disposal to kill people. And if they kill one person, that's a major terrorist attack, and they can claim that they were doing it for ISIS; and all the terrorists are happy about that.
But that's the problem, is that when they put a message out like that to everybody out there, you don't know -- it only takes one to get it in his head, "OK, I'm going to do that and I'll do it today." Like we just saw a couple weeks ago in Boston...
FUENTES: ... when the FBI had a wiretap going where they were able to intercept that morning where he called his partner and says, "I'm going to go do it today." And they already knew that he had ordered and received a hunting knife, so they had to intercept him at that moment.
If they didn't have that wiretap on him and didn't have the surveillance on him, they wouldn't have stopped it. And, you know, possibly a Boston Police officer would have been killed that day.
PEREIRA: You know, we heard from Congressman Peter King. He's on the House Homeland Security Committee. Listen to what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. PETER KING (R), NEW YORK: There's great concern. Going back to dealing with the FBI and homeland security over the last two or three weeks, I would say this is the most intense level of concern I've seen, maybe since 9/11.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PEREIRA: Agreed, Tom? Is it at that high level of concern, post- 9/11?
FUENTES: Yes. The concern is that an event is going to happen. I think there's very little concern, frankly, that they could pull off another 9/11 for the reasons I said. And even bin Laden himself couldn't top 9/11 because, you know, once the international intelligence and law enforcement community, as well as our own, clamped down and tracked financing and messaging back and forth, and once he had gone into seclusion in Pakistan, he was not going to be able to oversee command and control over an attack like 9/11 by courier.
FUENTES: He wasn't going to be able to do it by courier.
PEREIRA: We know that one of the challenges, though, for law enforcement, even in the Boston case, you say, it takes -- it takes dozens and dozens of people on the ground to look after the surveillance of somebody that is suspected of being radicalized, a potential lone wolf.
How do -- we've seen all the arrests that have happened just in the last month alone. Even this week there have been arrests here in New Jersey nearby. How does law enforcement get their hands around this problem, especially given the uptick and the threat?
FUENTES: I'll tell you, honestly, Michaela, they cannot completely get their hands around it. Because the messaging of the ideology cannot be stopped. It's uncontrollable at this point. And as long as that messaging goes out, as I said, to everybody around the world, and people receive that message, you know, sitting in their basement or wherever they are, it's going to be hard to stop, because unless you can read people's minds and figure out who might do something, you just don't know.
FUENTES: You hope the public, you hope a family member turns them into the authorities and say, "This is what they're thinking." But if they don't and if you really truly have the lone individual that's going to do this, it's just about unstoppable.
And we've been so fortunate. You see these arrests almost daily. And I know that the hundreds and hundreds of agents it takes to do these cases in every state of the union.
So this is not just something that's going to happen in New York City or Washington, D.C. It could happen anywhere, because they have these cases everywhere.
PEREIRA: Well, as you said, hopefully, family members will be alert. Friends and family will be alert. The public will be alert with these Fourth of July celebrations. If you see something, say something. Law enforcement certainly will be around and visible and also invisible.
Tom Fuentes, always a pleasure to have you with us. Thank you for that -- John.
BERMAN: All right. Thanks so much, Michaela.
New concerns this morning about the prison where Richard Matt and David Sweat made their getaway. Red flags perhaps being ignored before their escape. We have new information just ahead.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [07:28:23] BERMAN: All right. New this morning, rising concerns that security troubles at Clinton Correctional Facility, they go back far longer than the escape of Richard Matt and David Sweat. Information first reported by "The Albany Times-Union" indicates that lapses, they were well-known and that little was done to make any changes after they were discussed.
Joining us to talk about this this morning are Keshia Clukey. She is the reporter who filed that story for "The Albany Times-Union," and Daniel Genis, a columnist for "Vice." He served ten years for armed robbery and is writing a new memoir about his time behind bars.
Keshia, let me go to you first for this new report you have out this morning. There were security concerns raised at Clinton a long time ago. What were those concerns, and what was done about them?
KESHIA CLUKEY, REPORTER, "ALBANY TIMES-UNION": Well, by the documents uncovered by "The Times-Union," we found that there were a number of issues that the staff was having and had reported to the administration, including what to -- how to pat down employees and what they could and could not bring in.
There were also some issues with the staff being allowed into facilities such as the tailor shop, where Joyce Mitchell had worked with the inmates, about an hour or so before they were actually to begin the start.
BERMAN: So some of these concerns were about the actual inflection point where now officials do have some issues. How was contraband smuggled past metal detectors? How was that relative freedom of movement involved inside that tailor shop. Is that why this is raising so many red flags right now?
CLUKEY: Yes, definitely. I think that the escape raised the red flags, but there were a number of issues that were going on before an inmate had, and it probably led to their ability to escape so easily.
BERMAN: All right, Daniel, you have a little bit of a dimmer view of these concerns at Clinton. What you say is that...