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AMERICAN MORNING

Graner's Sentence; 'What's in it for Me?'; Utah Avalanche

Aired January 17, 2005 - 06:59   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: The reservist called the ringleader in the Abu Ghraib prison scandal will fight on. Today, Charles Graner's mother, father and attorney lay out their appeal.
Could the president's inauguration be threatened by terrorists in limousines? A scenario officials are now taking seriously.

And a story from the golden age of Hollywood: winning Hollywood gold.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NICOLE KIDMAN, ACTRESS: "The Aviator."

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HEMMER: It is a big standout at the Golden Globe awards. We'll have all the winners and losers on this AMERICAN MORNING.

ANNOUNCER: From the CNN Broadcast Center in New York, this is AMERICAN MORNING with Bill Hemmer and Soledad O'Brien.

HEMMER: Good morning, everyone. 7:00 here in New York. It's snowing outside. Soledad is off today. Heidi Collins is here.

How you doing?

HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: I'm doing well. But that was a little disturbing, the snow.

HEMMER: It's good to be on the inside. Good to have you with us today.

And we're starting to look at the president's inauguration this week, three days away. Kelly Wallace with a series today called "What's in It for Me," looking at the big issues for the president's second term and how they affect Americans. This morning, what military families want to see done in Iraq. Part one today with Kelly Wallace.

COLLINS: Also, Sanjay's "New You Revolution," it's the series that begins for 2005 today. And we're going to meet the people looking to turn their lives around. Five of them with health issues many of us face, in fact. Sanjay will share his plan. A great group of people, too.

HEMMER: Also, the story of the morning, and maybe the picture of the morning for certain. Look at this picture here from Colorado. A man who shot himself in the head with a nail gun. We'll talk about this and will get Sanjay's opinion on it.

COLLINS: He says he didn't know. He didn't.

HEMMER: And how in the world he found out, too. But he said he had a headache, went in and...

COLLINS: Toothache.

HEMMER: He had a toothache.

COLLINS: Yes.

HEMMER: You've got more than a toothache, my friend. We'll get to that this hour as well.

Jack Cafferty on a Monday, too.

Good morning.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: Apparently, that nail went through the roof of his mouth, which would give rise to an inquiry about why he had a loaded nail gun in his mouth.

HEMMER: I'm telling you, he got close.

CAFFERTY: Not sure. I mean, I've seen them do the roofing and stuff, but you never see them walking around with a nail gun in their mouth.

The United States might be bombing targets inside Iran by as early as this coming summer, according to a piece by Seymour Hersh in the "New Yorker" magazine. We'll take a look at the story and whether or not you think that might be a nice idea. They're accused of perhaps developing nuclear weapons and all kinds of other stuff, and he says commandos have been on the ground in there since last summer scouting targets.

COLLINS: Right. We're going to talk with him, too, live here a little bit later.

CAFFERTY: Yes.

HEMMER: Thank you, Jack.

COLLINS: All right, Jack. Thank you.

HEMMER: Carol Costello with us today across town with a look at the headlines this morning.

Carol, good morning.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, Bill. And good morning to all of you.

"Now in the News," more attacks this morning on Iraqi security forces. At least 14 Iraqis were killed at checkpoints in two different cities. U.S. and Iraqi military officials say four other Iraqi soldiers were wounded when they were hit by small arms fire south of Baquba. The attacks came less than two weeks before elections in Iraq, which, of course, are scheduled for January 30.

Here in the United States, an Amber Alert continues for a missing boy and girl apparently taken at gunpoint by their parents. Police say Alishia Ann Chambers and James Canter seized an 11-month-old girl and a 2-year-old boy from their foster family on Saturday. They're believed to be in western North Carolina or east Tennessee. Officials say they are armed and dangerous.

It will be extremely tight security in Washington for President Bush's inauguration this Thursday. Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge inspected teams of military and police forces. Some 13,000 law enforcement and military personnel will be on hand, including poised snipers, canine bomb units and patrol boats armed with machineguns.

And President Bush is honoring the work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The President will speak this afternoon at a celebration of Dr. King's life at the Washington Kennedy Center. He calls the civil rights leader a visionary American who awakened the conscience of the nation.

Tune into "NEWSNIGHT" -- tune into "NEWSNIGHT" tonight, too, on CNN at 10:00 p.m. Eastern. Aaron Brown will have more on Martin Luther King's legacy.

Back to you, Bill.

HEMMER: All right, Carol. Thank you.

Army reservist Charles Graner will pay a heavy price for his role in the Iraq prisoner abuse scandal, though some Iraqis feel the sentence is far too lenient. Graner received a 10-year prison term, was demoted to private and dishonorably discharged for abusing and humiliating inmates at the prison west of Baghdad. The hearing sentence on Saturday; Graner seemed resigned to his fate.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHARLES GRANER, ARMY RESERVIST: I was a soldier, and if I did wrong, here I am.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Any regrets?

GRANER: No, ma'am.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Any apologies?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HEMMER: Graner's parents believe their son was also a victim. Irma and Charles Graner, Sr. are live in Pittsburgh this morning. And also, from Houston, Texas, Graner's lawyer, Guy Womack, is with us as well. I want to begin with the parents in Pittsburgh first.

Mrs. Graner, tell us first your reaction to your son's sentence this weekend.

IRMA GRANER, CHARLES GRANER'S MOTHER: Well, it was very unfair. He had an unfair trial. I mean, he didn't have a chance.

He was found guilty before they even started the trial. It was so one-sided. It was just terrible. And I want the people of the United States to know how the prosecution and the judge just let my son out to dry. He has a wonderful...

HEMMER: How so, Mrs. Graner?

I. GRANER: Well, he has a wonderful defense team. They could get nothing in. Every time they wanted to present evidence, it was turned down.

They weren't allowed to have witnesses testify. Everything was hearsay. They had witnesses that worked right in the Abu Ghraib prison with him that weren't allowed to testify because it was hearsay. How can it be hearsay when you're working right side by side with the person?

CHARLES GRANER SR., CHARLES GRANER'S FATHER: Judge Pohl single- handedly led the jury down a garden path, a garden path in which Judge Pohl constructed blocked walls so the jury couldn't see the defense beyond these blocked walls.

HEMMER: And Mr. Graner, some critics have said your son has shown no signs of remorse, seeing him smiling leaving the courtroom area. Have you talked to him about that?

C. GRANER: My son, to say he showed no signs of remorse, why should you show a sign of remorse for doing your job? And he firmly believed that he was doing his job.

His job -- you know, at first, as he said, he was a Christian who didn't believe in doing that. He was a correction officer who says, hey, this isn't right. But he believed that after listening and found out what he was doing -- he was doing a good job. He was saving people, American people.

You know, the Americans, like the ones that they shot in a car, burned the car, took the bodies out and hung them on a bridge, he was doing that. He was trying to save more people.

It was a job. He did the job. Should he be remorseful for doing a job? I think not.

HEMMER: Well, you both have pointed to the possibility of an appeal based on the evidence that either was or was not presented during his case. To his attorney now, what is the strongest point, you believe, upon appeal in this case for Mr. Graner?

GUY WOMACK, CHARLES GRANER'S ATTORNEY: Well, it's the denial of witnesses by the judge. We had requested a number of intelligence officers be granted immunity so they could come in and testify under oath without fear of reprisal as to what they did and what orders they gave Specialist Graner. We were granted one of them. A major, he was standing outside the courtroom with his granted immunity and the judge ruled his testimony irrelevant and wouldn't let him testify.

HEMMER: Mr. Womack, another point. Some people have criticized what you described earlier as the pyramid. At one point, you said, "Cheerleaders all across America form pyramids." Was that a comment that you wish to take back at this point?

WOMACK: No. That figure formation within the corrections community is called a cheerleader stack. And the point I was making and I think I did make to the jury is that when you perform that maneuver, and you put people in that position, it does not cause pain. It does not cause discomfort.

We had an expert witness who was going to testify that is the proper technique to use in a riot situation. It's been used in American prisons over the years at Attica and other places. And it is more -- it is no more injurious to a terrorist than it is to a high school cheerleader in America. You don't hurt yourself if you form a pyramid. And that was the analogy we were making.

The fact that the prisoners were hooded and that they were naked is standard operating procedure for the prison. There was ample evidence of that. So the only thing introduced above that was that they were stacked safely in a pyramid formation.

HEMMER: Guy Womack's the attorney in Houston. Irma and Graner -- and Charles Graner, the parents of Specialist Graner, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Thanks to all three of you for coming in today.

WOMACK: Thank you.

HEMMER: All right.

Nine minutes past the hour. Here's Heidi with more.

COLLINS: Thursday is the first day of the president's second term. And all this week, we will look at some of the critical issues he'll face through the eyes of average Americans. It's a special series called "What's in it for Me?" Part one deals with the long-term plan for Iraq.

Kelly Wallace is here now to tell us all about that.

Good morning to you, Kelly.

KELLY WALLACE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Heidi. Great to see you.

We begin our series in Levittown, Pennsylvania, where we met Dawn Jiminez (ph) and her three small children, who are counting the days until their father comes home from Iraq.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I miss daddy. WALLACE (voice-over): The hometown cost of the war could not get any simpler for 3-year-old Juliana Jiminez. She misses her daddy.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And what did mommy tell you? What's daddy doing?

WALLACE: The only thing that seems to stop the tears, plans for daddy's homecoming in February.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you want to blow up balloons?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How many do you want to blow up?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A lot of them.

WALLACE: Since last February, when William Jiminez (ph), a specialist with the New Jersey Army National Guard, left for Iraq, his first deployment during his 20-year career, Dawn has been raising 6- year-old Savannah (ph), 4-year-old William, and little Juliana (ph), all alone here in Levitttown, Pennsylvania. And Juliana (ph) seems to be having the toughest time.

(on camera): How hard is that for you?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's hard, but, you know, you've got to give her moment. You know, if that's what she needs, let her take it.

WALLACE (voice-over): Dawn's (ph) a Republican. She says she voted for President Bush and remains very supportive of the war. Still, she has definite opinions about what the president's priorities in Iraq should be during his second term. Number one, she says, security for the troops.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You want to make sure that every soldier has what they need, you know, whether it be armor for their vehicles, body armor, whatever the case may be. You make sure they have it.

WALLACE: Number two, a plan to eventually bring the troops home. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I know, again, we're not going to be out of there overnight. I know it will probably be more than five years, but we definitely got to come to a grip with this, and quickly. You know, we definitely -- we definitely need more allies.

WALLACE: And number three, she says, more financial help for needy military families.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I know there's families out there, you know, who are facing issues of, "Oh, my god, I got a mortgage to pay, bills, groceries, et cetera."

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: These are the medals that daddy sent home.

WALLACE (on camera): Do you know where your dad is?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In Iraq.

WALLACE: And what's he doing there?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's beating the bad guys and getting ready to come home in February after my birthday.

WALLACE (voice-over): Since William left, Dawn (ph) started volunteering, trying to help other National Guard families with loved ones in Iraq. Her final wish for the next four years, the military staying in better touch with the families.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're here. Don't forget us.

WALLACE: And as her mom talks, it seems Juliana (ph) has forgotten, for at least a little while, how much she misses her daddy.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WALLACE: And we want to thank the Jiminez (ph) family for letting us inside their home. AS you can see, they're getting very busy preparing for a homecoming. They expect it in February, but it could be even sooner than that.

COLLINS: Wow, that's great news, especially for a 3-year-old who just really doesn't understand. It's so hard for them.

What did she say, though, Dawn (ph), about -- I know that her husband is a reservist. So does she feel like there should be more active duty presence to kind of relieve that pressure on all the reservists and National Guard?

WALLACE: We asked here that question. There's something she gets very passionate about.

Number one, she said that if you sign up for the National Guard, the Reserves, you should expect that you could be deployed. This was her husband's first deployment in 20 years, but she said they always expected something like this could happen. So she's pretty passionate about that.

But she does think that the military needs to examine why people don't want to reenlist and why they're having such a difficult time recruiting new people. So they say it's -- she thinks it's a problem and she wants the military to look into.

COLLINS: All right. Kelly Wallace, great job, good story. Thank you.

WALLACE: Sure.

COLLINS: And we want to tell you about tomorrow, too, the second part of our series "What's in it for Me?" We're going to be talking about the issue of moral values.

Bill, back to you.

HEMMER: All right, Heidi. Thirteen minutes past the hour. First check of the weather, looking in the East. Here's Chad.

Good morning.

(WEATHER REPORT)

HEMMER: Next time you've got a toothache, you better makes sure you head to the dentist. A Colorado man surprised with the x-rays revealed. We'll show you in a moment here. Wow.

COLLINS: Ouch.

Also, five people, five resolutions. Today kicks off the "New You Revolution." What road lies ahead for them?

HEMMER: Also, a devastating avalanche. Why has it been the deadliest winter on record in the Utah mountains next here on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COLLINS: The search resumes this morning for victims of an avalanche Friday in Park City, Utah. Recovery teams will use ground- penetrating radar to search for victims buried under a mountain of snow near a local ski resort there.

The body of the only person reported missing was found yesterday, 27-year-old Shane Maxner (ph), who was apparently a fairly experienced snowboarder. I asked summit County Sheriff David Edmunds about what he believes happened.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SHERIFF DAVID EDMUNDS, SUMMIT COUNTY, UTAH: Experience notwithstanding, there were some dangers out there on that particular day, and unfortunately, he perished. And it's a tragedy. No question.

COLLINS: In fact, there are some other eyewitness who actually say that they saw a group of people up in that area. What's the very latest on others? Is there a possibility there will be more people that you find?

EDMUNDS: There's still a possibility. We have found some other personal effects in the debris field which might suggest other victims, but we don't know at this point. Hopefully today will answer some more questions as the searchers get out up on the hill and we begin probing once again.

COLLINS: And before this weekend, there had already been six people killed this winter in avalanches in your state of Utah. Now, that's the highest number of deaths recorded ever since these records have been kept, in fact. What do you think is going on here?

EDMUNDS: Well, you know, this fatality made number seven, I think, which was actually the record. Six was the previous, and we tied that. You know, this is a very unusual year. The weather has been -- we've had an unbelievable amount of snow. All of the rainstorms that California is getting obviously are coming this way, and they're dumping just a tremendous amount of snow on us. And the avalanche center here in Utah says it best, I think, when they say big storm equals big avalanches.

COLLINS: Well, as we already mentioned, too, this Shane Maxner (ph) is an experienced, or was an experienced snowboarder. And oftentimes, we hear about experienced skiers as well going in these out of bound areas. And they get into trouble with avalanches.

Why do they...

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COLLINS: A little bit of trouble there with our tape with Sheriff David Edmunds telling us the very latest about the situation in Utah. In fact, the mountain range has had two weeks of wet, heavy snow that created an extreme risk of avalanches, especially in the back country.

HEMMER: Some incredible pictures this morning. Twenty-three-year- old Patrick Lawler complained about a toothache for about a week before he went to the dentist. Then he learned that toothache was caused by a nail embedded in his skull.

An x-ray shows a four-inch spike apparently shot into his mouth when his nail gun backfired. The nail plunging an inch and a half into his brain, barely missing his eye. Listen here.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

PATRICK LAWLER, SHOT IN MOUTH WITH NAIL GUN: Yes, I consider myself lucky. You know, you don't shoot yourself in the face every day with a nail and have it not do anything. And it definitely makes one think about a profession change, you know?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HEMMER: Wow. He said he was lucky. Indeed, he is. The nail was removed in a four-hour operation in a Denver area hospital. Next hour, we'll talk to Sanjay about this.

We've seen it before. And he's lucky.

COLLINS: Speechless.

All right. Well, frightening new details on a potential al Qaeda plot just 10 days ahead of the inauguration. Why are authorities worried about limousines?

AMERICAN MORNING will be back in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COLLINS: Time now for Jack and the "Question of the Day." CAFFERTY: Thank you, Heidi.

Well, here we go again. American commandos have been conducting secret reconnaissance missions inside Iran, at least since last summer, trying to identify potential military, nuclear and chemical weapons target. That's according to a story by Pulitzer Prize winner Seymour Hersh in this week's "New Yorker" magazine.

An ex-intelligence officer told Hersh that attacks against those targets in Iran could come as early as this summer. White House communications director Dan Bartlett said Hersh's article is "riddled with inaccuracies, and I don't believe that some of the conclusions he's drawing are based on fact."

Notice he didn't deny the story is true. He didn't say the story is an absolute falsehood. He just kind of weaseled around parts of it.

The question is this: should the United States attack military targets inside Iran? This is a country that has a long history of playing a little three card monty with the international atomic energy inspectors over their nuclear program. They insist it's all about nuclear power, but they have found traces of highly-enriched uranium, the kind that you could use in nuclear weapons at a couple of the sites in that country, apparently.

And we've got guys in there. At least this time I think they're going to try to get the intelligence right before they do anything.

HEMMER: What was the quote from Bartlett? Inaccuracies?

COLLINS: Inaccuracies.

CAFFERTY: Yes, but he didn't say it's not true. He just said there are some inaccuracies, you know, like there was a punctuation mark wrong here and you misspelled the word.

HEMMER: We're going to have the guy on next hour.

CAFFERTY: Hersh.

HEMMER: Seymour Hersh.

CAFFERTY: There aren't any better investigative reporters in the world than Seymour Hersh. He's as good as they come.

HEMMER: Thank you, Jack.

CAFFERTY: Yes.

HEMMER: NFL down to the final four right now. From New England last night, snow kept the score down, but so too did a very good Patriots defense.

The Colts stayed close for a half, 6-3 at the break. But in the end, New England too much for Peyton Manning: 20-3 the final. The Patriots now go to Pittsburgh next weekend. More on that in a moment. The Eagles now headed for their fourth straight NFC championship game. An incredible catch ruled a fumble recovery for a touchdown, helped them beat Minnesota yesterday, 27-14 the final. So the Eagles are still playing. They will take on the Falcons at home next week.

The Falcons beat the Vikings -- sorry, they beat the Rams. They beat the Rams 47-14 Saturday. And the Patriots now go to Pittsburgh. The Steelers beat the Jets late on Saturday, 20-17 in overtime.

So now there are four left. And this postseason's been excellent. What's wrong?

COLLINS: Yes. Well, it's been excellent, Bill if you're a Vikings fan.

HEMMER: But you said you got off the bandwagon three weeks ago.

COLLINS: I know.

HEMMER: All right.

COLLINS: But, you know, there's this little sliver of hope that you try to keep.

HEMMER: Oh, OK.

COLLINS: I wore purple.

HEMMER: Nice try.

Back here in a moment. Golden Globes are in the books. A lowdown on the big winners and the losers on stage and on the red carpet. Also, the biggest surprises from last night in "90-Second Pop" after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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