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AMERICAN MORNING

Schiavo Family Gathering; Indonesia Aftershocks; Jackson Trial Bombshell

Aired March 29, 2005 - 9:00   ET

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


BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. There have been more earthquakes in Indonesia as aftershocks rattle the country. Even with no tsunami, massive destruction today.
Family members gather around Terri Schiavo now. And in minutes the Reverend Jesse Jackson expected to join them in Florida in the fight over Schiavo's life.

And the Michael Jackson setback. Past allegations of child molestation, and the jury will hear all of it. His defense scrambling to recover 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: Not quite the demographic we're looking for, but a cute picture anyway, huh?

(LAUGHTER)

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: I thought she was going to fall in the fountain for a minute.

HEMMER: Stay there.

JACK CAFFERTY, CNN ANCHOR: He actually caught that kid in the pool, rod and reel.

HEMMER: Good morning, everybody. Good to have you along with us today. Soledad is off this week on vacation.

COSTELLO: I'm Carol Costello, filling in.

More developments in the Terri Schiavo case this morning. Jesse Jackson in Florida now. We'll look at what he has to add to the multitude of voices outside the Schiavo hospice.

HEMMER: Also, a bit later, the lost art treasures of Afghanistan outlawed and destroyed by the Taliban regime. Now a new story coming out of the people who risked their lives to save the country's past. We'll talk about that from overseas.

COSTELLO: Right now, though, Jack.

CAFFERTY: Thirty thousand sex offenders and predators in the state of Florida alone. Authorities have no idea where 1,800 of them are. Vanished somewhere in the state, nobody knows where they are. One of them confessed to kidnapping, raping and murdering a 9-year-old child.

What ought to be done to keep better track of these people? AM@CNN.com. We'll read some of your letters in a few minutes.

HEMMER: All right, Jack. Thanks for that.

Meanwhile, an intriguing development out of Minnesota. Kelly Wallace has that now with headlines.

Hello.

KELLY WALLACE, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks, Bill. And good morning, everyone.

We begin with that story out of Minnesota. A juvenile has been arrested in connection with that school shooting rampage last week. According to local media reports, the son of the tribal chairman has been taken into custody. CNN trying to confirm those reports.

Investigators had previously said teen shooter Jeff Weise acted alone. Nine people were killed in the rampage before Weise turned the gun on himself.

Another political stumble today in Iraq. The Transitional National Assembly ending today's session without a speaker. The start of the meeting was delayed by a last-minute debate concerning who should be group president. A vote is not expected for several days. It's been two months since the landmark elections in Iraq and still no new government in place.

More opposition for John Bolton, President Bush's pick for U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. A group of nearly 60 former U.S. diplomats call him the wrong man for the job. They say Bolton thinks the U.N. should serve American interests.

This is all in a letter to be delivered to Richard Lugar today. He is head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Confirmation hearings are set for next month.

And in Florida now, where health officials are trying to determine if a child's death is linked to an E. Coli outbreak, possibly tied to some petting zoos. The state health secretary says there are now at least 14 confirmed cases of people who tested positive for E. Coli or contracted a rare kidney disease. Experts are awaiting a medical examiner's report on the girl to see if there is any connection.

A scary story, indeed. I know you talked about that in previous weeks here.

HEMMER: Yes. Exactly right. Yes, hope for a good recovery there.

WALLACE: Absolutely. HEMMER: Thanks, Kelly.

WALLACE: Sure.

COSTELLO: The Reverend Jesse Jackson is expect at Terri Schiavo's hospice this hour. He'll hold a vigil with Schiavo's parents and siblings, who are just arriving. CNN's Bob Franken is live in Pinellas Park, Florida.

Bob, what are we hearing now about Terri's condition?

BOB FRANKEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, up until now, we've heard somewhat conflicting accounts about her deterioration. Everybody agrees the time is short. But just a few minutes ago, Bob Schindler, who is her father, the Schindler family, the blood relatives, trying, fighting so desperately to get the feeding tube reconnected.

He just went in to have a visit with his daughter, Terri Schiavo. When he came out, unlike other times when he will stop and at least banter with reporters, he kept walking straight through. No comment when people asked what her condition was. There's a general consensus that -- of course, redundancy, but there is consensus that the condition is such that she's not going to last much longer if the feeding tube is not reconnected -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Protesters have been down there. The parents haven't been so happy with them lately. Now Jesse Jackson is coming. Can you sort that all out for us?

FRANKEN: Well, Jesse Jackson, of course, comes from the left side of the political spectrum. And the family has become concerned that the protesters who are here represent the religious right and strong religious feelings. And they are concerned that that image, as it's been broadcast around the country and the world, is one of the reasons that the poll results have shown that people are concerned about interference of religion affecting public policy.

COSTELLO: Bob Franken live in Florida this morning. Thank you.

HEMMER: From overseas now, Indonesia still feeling the aftershocks from yesterday's quake. A magnitude 5.8 trembler reported earlier today. Among these, an 8.7 quake struck just north of Indonesia's Nias island. That's about 100 miles southeast of the epicenter from the quake in late December. This time, though, the outcome was not nearly as devastating.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HEMMER (voice-over): As the massive earthquake struck off the coast of Sumatra, panic spread throughout the entire Indian Ocean region. From Indonesia, to Sri Lanka, when the tremors hit, people ran for their lives, fleeing to higher ground, terrified another catastrophic tsunami would follow. Worst hit by yesterday's quake, the remote Indonesian island of Nias, close to the epicenter. PAT JOHNS, CATHOLIC RELIEF SERVICES: The immediate needs really are medical. There's a lot of people that survived that are banged up and injured. But one of the first things that is needed is just sifting through all the wreckage and trying to retrieve some of the people that are still buried that are still alive.

HEMMER: The death toll now in the hundreds. The country's vice president saying the final toll could reach 2,000.

The December quake was a magnitude 9.0, the strongest in 40 years, and caused a tsunami that swept across the Indian Ocean, leaving more than 300,000 dead or missing. Monday's quake struck along the same fault line, but with a lesser magnitude of 8.7.

KERRY SIEH, PROFESSOR CAL TECH: I would certainly say it's a fraternal twin. It is not a duplicate. It occurred a little bit further south, a couple hundred kilometers further south. But it's the same type of earthquake. It would be like having a duck egg and chicken egg in the same basket.

HEMMER: This time, international agencies criticized for their slowness in December were quick to respond.

JAN EGELAND, U.N. UNDERSECRETARY-GENERAL: The system worked far better this time that there was vigilance. That not only did we have surveillance and information to the countries, but we also had governments reporting out to the local authorities.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HEMMER: Also learning from the U.S. Geologic Survey, they're saying this is the eighth most powerful quake in 100 years. Back to Chad Myers at the CNN Center.

Wondering again why no tsunami was triggered from yesterday, Chad. What are the answers?

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: You know, we've heard from probably 15 different experts this morning. Everybody of a little bit of a different opinion.

An 8.7 compared to a 9.0, they don't seem like a very big difference there. But that's three times larger. 9.0 is three times larger than an 8.7.

One other thing happened with this earthquake, too. The United States here, the Pacific Ocean, all the way back down to this subduction zone here near Sumatra, this earthquake happened in much shallower water. And the thrust actually happened under land.

So what was thrust up last time as water was just kind of pushed up as air this time. As the shaking went on, you saw all the destruction over land, where last time the destruction was over water. So the push pushed up this bubble of water rather than just a bubble of air above the land, and the water went out and created that huge wave. Now, there was a small wave with with this one. But because of the shallowness of the earthquake, the difference possibly in which one -- did it go this way or did the earthquake go this way, could it go this way, the way the faults act in that subduction zone, all different. Obviously, one earthquake different than another, just like one snowflake different from another.

Bill, back to you.

HEMMER: And overall lucky, too, as one expert told us last hour from D.C. Still, we should point out hundreds are dead. The death toll expected to go higher. So we will watch that. Thank you, Chad.

MYERS: You're welcome.

HEMMER: Back to Carol.

COSTELLO: Prosecutors of the Michael Jackson child molestation case say it will likely be about two weeks before they begin presenting evidence of past allegations of sex abuse. The judge's decision is a major hit to Jackson's defense.

CNN's Ted Rowlands live in Santa Maria, California. He has the latest for us.

Good morning.

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Carol.

Up until this point, many legal analysts believed that Michael Jackson was faring quite well in the courtroom. However, yesterday's ruling by this judge is a clear major setback for his defense.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Michael Jackson is now at the center of not one but six allegations of sexual abuse. In addition to the accuser he is facing in his current trial, the judge's ruling allows prosecutors to detail what they claim are examples of sexual abuse against five other boys ages 10 to 13.

One of the alleged victims is actor Macaulay Culkin, who Jackson befriended in the early 1990s. Culkin himself is not expected to testify. In fact, he has publicly stated that no abuse took place.

LARRY KING, "LARRY KING LIVE": What happened at the house? That's what all these people are concerned about.

MACAULAY CULKIN, ACTOR: You know, that's what's so weird.

KING: What did happen?

CULKIN: Nothing happened. I mean, nothing really. We played video games, you know. We, you know, played at the amusement park.

ROWLANDS: Prosecutors say in fact only one of the alleged victims will actually testify. Instead, the judge is allowing other witnesses, not the children, to detail the alleged cases of abuse.

Prosecutors say their witnesses will describe seeing Jackson in bed with four of the children and on some occasions allegedly they saw underwear, apparently the child's and Jackson's, on the floor beside the bed. Another witness is expected to testify that her son slept in the same bed with Jackson dozens of times. In 1993 that child was the subject of abuse allegations against Jackson, which resulted in a financial settlement. While the alleged victim is not expected to testify, the mother's testimony could be very damaging to Jackson.

RAYMOND CHANDLER, ALLEGED VICTIM'S RELATIVE: She is going to put him in that bedroom, which makes it more than just sort of, oh, let's have an impromptu sleepover. That's a relationship. Fifty, 60 nights, night after night, in about 10 locations around the world.

ROWLANDS: Jackson's lawyer, Thomas Mesereau, argued that allowing these allegations without direct testimony from the alleged victims is unfair. Mesereau told the judge that the prosecution has a "weak case," and this testimony could hurt Jackson's right to a fair trial.

Michael Jackson, who was not in court when the ruling was made, did show up later, but had no comment.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ROWLANDS: And testimony continues here this morning in Santa Maria, California. Jackson expected back in the courtroom in about two hours. On the stand, a fingerprint expert that says that he found Jackson's fingerprints, the accuser's fingerprints and the accuser's brothers on an adult magazines found at Neverland Ranch -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Ted Rowlands, live in Santa Maria, California. Thank you.

Coming up, we'll talk to Raymond Chandler. You saw him in Ted's story. He's the uncle of a boy who says Jackson molested him. That case never went to trial. Instead, Jackson settled for an estimated $20 million.

HEMMER: About 12 minutes past the hour now. Authorities call it an unbelievable web of deceit and deception. A woman accused of bilking her ex-husband out of thousands of dollars. At the center of this scam, a 2-year-old girl. We'll get to it.

COSTELLO: And later, the lost treasures of Afghanistan. Priceless works of art saved in an ingenious cover-up.

Stay with us on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSTELLO: The son of the Red Lake tribal chairman has been arrested in last week's school shootings. Police have been talking to friends of Jeff Weise, who is suspected of killing nine people and himself on a Minnesota Indian reservation last week. At first, the FBI said Weise was acting alone. Well now, according to "The Washington Post," the chairman's son could be charged with conspiracy to commit murder. Last week on AMERICAN MORNING, chairman Floyd Jourdain talked about how close the community is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FLOYD JOURDAIN, CHAIRMAN, RED LAKE OJIBWA NATION: I knew practically all the people involved, the children. At some time I worked for the school district. And if I didn't know them, I knew their families.

This is a small community. Most people know one another. We go to the same schools. We frequent the same businesses. And there will not be one soul that's untouched by this tragedy here in Red Lake.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COSTELLO: As for that tragedy, authorities are not saying much, but they are talking to other teenagers and have not ruled out making more arrests.

HEMMER: A single but ingenious fraud has led to the overhaul of one state in the way it handles its child welfare system. Sean Callebs has the story this morning.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is Viola Trevino, dashing into an Albuquerque, New Mexico, courtroom in December of 2004 with a small child in tow. It was another skirmish in a long battle over child support payments with her ex-husband.

It started in 1999. As their divorce became final that year, Trevino said she was pregnant and that the father was her soon to be ex-husband, Steve Barreras.

STEVE BARRERAS, PRISON GUARD: I couldn't believe it at first, you know?

CALLEBS: Barreras, a prison guard, agreed to talk only if we masked his appearance for his own security. Medical records show he had a vasectomy two years before Viola Trevino said he made her pregnant. Still, in 2002, a court ruled against Barreras and forced him to pay more than $20,000 in child support. Trevino was a very convincing witness.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She's very good at what she does. And she makes people believe her.

CALLEBS: Shelly (ph) is Steve Barreras' current wife. For years the two battled bureaucracy without success. Court records show that Trevino presented a birth certificate, Social Security number, baptismal records, and two DNA tests that showed Barreras was the father of a young girl named Stephanie Renee. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No one would believe us with two DNA documents. No one would believe us.

CALLEBS: They sought help from New Mexico's Child Support Enforcement Division. The response, a one paragraph statement. "We cannot help you any further in getting a copy of the birth certificate, but your daughter does exist, as I am sure you already knew."

BETINA GONZALES MCCRACKEN, NEW MEXICO HUMAN SERVICES DEPT.: We felt that that was sufficient evidence to say that there was a child and that child indeed was the child of Mr. Barreras.

CALLEBS: Finally, this December Steve and Shelly (ph) won a round. The courts demanded Trevino produce the child who by now should have been 5 years old.

That's when she came to court accompanied by this child. But the little girl wasn't five. She was two. Her name isn't Stephanie. It's Delilah (ph).

And it turned out that she wasn't Steve Barreras' child. She wasn't even Viola Trevino's child. Trevino had found the little girl with her grandmother on an Albuquerque street and lured them to the courthouse with the promise of seeing Santa Clause and $50 for presents. Once outside the courthouse, Trevino grabbed the child, dashed inside, leaving the confused grandmother in the street.

GEORGIA CHAVEZ, GRANDMOTHER: Oh, Mary of god, I thought I'd never see my granddaughter again. That was the most scariest thing that ever happened to me.

CALLEBS: But Mrs. Chavez did follow her granddaughter to the courtroom, and finally Trevino admitted the 2-year-old little girl was not Stephanie Renee. The judge ruled she had seen enough.

JUDGE LINDA VANZI, NEW MEXICO DISTRICT COURT: There is no child named Stephanie Renee Trevino.

BARRERAS: It was a great burden taken off of me because, for so long, we had gone into courts trusting, thinking that the courts are going to take care of this problem because, you know, that's what the courts do. We trust in justice here.

CALLEBS: Court records show Trevino made the whole story up. The documents faked, even the DNA information phony.

(on camera): The case has now made it on to the radar of New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson. He says it is unbelievable that one person could spin such an apparent web of deceit and deception. Richardson is now demanding to know how state officials were duped.

GOV. BILL RICHARDSON (D), NEW MEXICO: This is the most egregious example of a bureaucracy abuse and negligence that I've ever heard of.

CALLEBS (voice-over): Because of Trevino's ability to manipulate the system, the governor has launched an investigation. Richardson says it will soon be state policy that child welfare employees sign affidavits stating they have seen the children they work with. Steve and Shelly (ph) are relieved and are now planning several lawsuits.

Trevino has an attorney as well who says that she never said Barreras fathered a child, the courts had it wrong. But now she claims her ex-husband hasn't paid enough alimony.

Sean Callebs, CNN, Albuquerque, New Mexico.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HEMMER: And we're told if Steve Barreras had fallen behind in payments to the nonexistent child, he could have been thrown in jail.

A break here in a moment. The Michael Jackson trial continues today. A judge saying that old allegations of abuse are fair game, including those from his 1993 accuser. That boy's uncle tells us what the jury may hear ahead here on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COSTELLO: Let's check in with Jack now and the "Question of the Day."

CAFFERTY: Thanks, Carol.

There are mon that 30,000 registered sex offenders and predators living in Florida. According to "The Miami Herald," authorities have no idea where 1,800 of them are.

Nine-year-old Jessica Lunsford was kidnapped, raped and murdered by one of those missing sex offenders. John Couey, a man with a criminal record that spans 30 years and was arrested 26 times, confessed to killing the little girl.

Here is the question: What should be done to keep track of sex offenders?

David in Ames, Iowa, writes, "Don't release them from prison until they agree to be neutered, and then have them wear a GPS locator."

Seth in Maryland writes, "Well, Jack, if you pretend they are black drug dealers being charged with possessioning three small bags of crack and sentence them to five years of jail time for each bag, then you'll keep them off the streets for sure."

Jeff in Connecticut writes, "The major problem with most state sex offender registries is that they lump the child rapists in with the 16-year-old boy who had a 15-year-old girlfriend and have now been happily married for 20 years. If we eliminated the latter and just concentrated on the rapists and child molesters, the system would function much better."

And Vic in Alabama writes, "Tracking pedophiles would be successful if you begin with chemical castration of the offender. And if he violates his court order, send him to a national group counseling center headed by Lorena Bobbitt."

COSTELLO: Oh, that was clever.

HEMMER: She found a solution in the past, did she not?

CAFFERTY: Took care of it.

HEMMER: The side of the road.

One of the most popular stories on our Web site right now at CNN.com, a bit of history. You like that, don't you, Jack?

Service from Lake Champlain in Vermont. Part of a bridge American soldiers built during the Revolutionary War -- it's 1777 the year -- the British destroyed the top of that bridge, but the pilings were built so well that they were still there, laid out just as they were two centuries ago. Now, one has finally floated on shore and is being preserved as a museum exhibit.

Check it out at CNN.com.

The lost treasures of Afghanistan. Priceless artifacts destroyed during the reign of the Taliban, but the ingenious work of daring individuals may have saved history. That story still to come this hour on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)


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