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AMERICAN MORNING

'68 Corvette Reunited With Owner; Sago Mine Survivor Update; Homeless Beatings In Florida; Royal Phony In Minnesota

Aired January 18, 2006 - 07:30   ET

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


MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Now that's a pretty sight, isn't it? That was probably the last year I really loved the corvette. The '68. The Maco (ph) sharp version. That's an all fiberglass body. Had the ignition, the starter on the dashboard.
SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: You love this car, don't you?

M. O'BRIEN: Oh, my gosh. Beautiful. And the rag top, too.

S. O'BRIEN: Beautiful.

M. O'BRIEN: You know the hard top had the glass you could take out of the back. But the convertible, of course, was the thing to get. Pete loves that one with the glass out of the back. I like the convertible.

Good to have you back with us. I'm sorry.

S. O'BRIEN: Well, explain why . . .

M. O'BRIEN: Had a little Detroit moment.

S. O'BRIEN: Explain why you're going off on this car.

M. O'BRIEN: Well, we're going to do that right now. Let's do that, shall we? They both may be a little worse for the ware, but at least they're together. Thirty-seven years after that '68 Corvette was stolen from the streets of New York, Alan Poster is now reunited with his long lost love thanks to some good old-fashioned police work by the NYPD. And joining us from Carson, California, is Alan Poster and his beloved '68 Corvette.

Hey, you're blocking the car, Alan, get out of the way, will you? No, just kidding.

Alan, congratulations. What an amazing tale.

ALAN POSTER, REUNITED WITH STOLEN CORVETTE: Yes.

M. O'BRIEN: I assume you have long since given up on ever seeing the car, of course. So when you got the call and realized it had been found, what went through your mind?

POSTER: First, I thought it was a joke. And then I believed it was real. And then I got calls from the CHP and I got calls from Homeland Security and I believed it was true. And I got it back. I still can't believe it. It's amazing.

M. O'BRIEN: It is. And when you heard the story . . .

POSTER: Yes, it's a miracle.

M. O'BRIEN: It is. It's a miracle. Of course, there's a lot of holes in the story. This was stolen from the streets of New York where you lived at the time and somehow ends up in a container in California supposedly on its way to Sweden. We don't really know what happened in between over those three, four decades.

POSTER: No. They could trace it back to Texas going back a couple of years but that's as far back as it goes and they're still investigating it. But it certainly left New York City apparently in '69 out of a garage I was keeping it in 23rd Street.

M. O'BRIEN: Wow. And so . . .

POSTER: Amazing.

M. O'BRIEN: You would think it would have been registered along the way, but apparently not. It was kept maybe by collectors as far as you know?

POSTER: You know, it ended up in collectors, but I don't know whether it was registered. We don't know that yet.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes.

POSTER: We're going to find out. I'd love to find out. It's like an old friend, where it went.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes, exactly.

POSTER: But it was -- yes. It was taken at a bad time.

M. O'BRIEN: So you had an alert customs inspector who spotted it in the container.

POSTER: Yes.

M. O'BRIEN: They called -- somehow it gets traced back to NYPD. And then the two detectives that were involved in this, Cliff Beater (ph) and William Heiser (ph). There they are.

POSTER: Right.

M. O'BRIEN: Start going through the microfilm down in Lower Manhattan and did an amazing amount of shoe leather on your behalf. Literally days. Apparently there was a steak dinner on the line at some point, so they were going for a good meal. But an amazing amount of police work here.

POSTER: Yes. By the way, there's another steak dinner coming, too.

M. O'BRIEN: I should hope so. Yes. I mean, really, I -- when you think . . .

POSTER: And it is from the guys out here, too. They're all wonderful.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes, absolutely.

POSTER: Yes.

M. O'BRIEN: Because, you know, you would think that something like that, they'd say, well, you know, it's too hard to trace and just go on to the next case. It's amazing they did all that effort.

POSTER: Yes. Absolutely. And exactly could of happened. But these -- they went after it. Everybody here wanted this thing returned to me and I'm thrilled. I'm absolutely thrilled. I still can't believe it. It's a miracle.

M. O'BRIEN: What was it like . . .

POSTER: They do exist.

M. O'BRIEN: Sitting back in that vehicle, just feeling it, smelling it, being back? It must have brought back a lot of memories?

POSTER: Yes, it did. It's amazing what triggers memory. I think music triggers memories and certainly things like this trigger memories. And I can recall driving on the west side highway with this thing because of sitting in the front seat again. And I can recall the speed and I can recall a lot of things about it. For some reason, it just triggers -- it triggered some great memories. Great. Absolutely great.

M. O'BRIEN: Now you bought the car . . .

POSTER: It's come full circle.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes. You bought the car right after a divorce. It was a stretch for you financially. You didn't even have insurance on it because it was a stretch.

POSTER: Yes.

M. O'BRIEN: And, you know, it reminds me of those few cars that we all just really love. I mean, this is a car you love, right?

POSTER: Absolutely. Well, look at it. That car is masculine. It's got muscles. They built it for that purpose and I bought it for that purpose. It was a hot -- '68 was amazing year. They changed the design. And you look in the window, your breath on the glass and you say, I want that and I got it. I did it. It was a stretch. It was a major stretch, yes.

M. O'BRIEN: So what's next for you and the car?

POSTER: I'm going to have it restored, keep it, and I want to restore it probably to original and I think it's going to be a labor of love, I think. I'm going to put it back.

M. O'BRIEN: We should tell our viewers, while it looks good, they put in a new engine, new transmission, some things need to be fixed to get it right back to the original.

POSTER: Yes.

M. O'BRIEN: And it sounds like that too will be a labor of love, Alan.

POSTER: It's going to be a labor of love and I'm going to watch it, too. I'm going to pay attention to it. I'm going to figure out why it came back and then make sure it stays. I'm going to make sure it stays with me, too!

M. O'BRIEN: All right. That's good. Never let it out of your sight, for gosh sakes.

POSTER: No, I won't.

M. O'BRIEN: Alan Poster, congratulations.

POSTER: Thank you very much. I appreciate it. Thanks for the attention.

M. O'BRIEN: Quite a story. A tip of the hat to those customs officials and the police officers who made that happen.

S. O'BRIEN: Yes.

Let's get a look at some of the other stories making news, shall we?

M. O'BRIEN: Let's do that.

S. O'BRIEN: Carol's got that.

Hey, Carol.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I do.

Good morning.

Good morning to all of you.

The story is flying around Britain like grease lighting. Nobody knows if it's true but it sure has the attention of British investigators. "The Sun" in London reporting a possible plot to kidnap Prime Minister Tony Blair's youngest son. The newspaper claims a fathers rights group was planning to snatch five-year-old Leo as a publicity stunt. We'll take you live to London in the next half hour to see if there's any comment from the prime minister's office.

Less than 72 hours now for an American hostage in Iraq. Her kidnappers have issued that deadline. They say they will kill her if the United States does not free all Iraqi women prisoners. Journalist Jill Carroll appears briefly in a video aired on Arab TV network Al- Jazeera. She was kidnaped January 7th in Western Baghdad. An Iraqi justice ministry says a group of female detainees are set to be released soon but it has absolutely nothing to do with the kidnappers' demands.

Another surgery for Israeli Prime Minister Arial Sharon. This time it's to replace his breathing tube. The prime minister had a tracheotomy on Sunday to help him breathe better, but it's not clear how much help it's been. The prime minister is still in a coma two weeks after a major stroke.

And some football fans might call it cruel and unusual punishment. A fan who ran onto the field during a Steelers/Browns game back on December 24th has been banned from watching the Super Bowl. Oh, there you see James Harrison from the Pittsburgh Steelers slamming him to the ground. You think that would be punishment enough. But it was not. The judge in this case says Nathan Mallet (ph), that's the fan's name, will actually spend Super Bowl weekend in jail and there will be no TV or radio provided to him. He will begins his three day sentence on February 3rd. A judge also ordered 150 hours of community service. And one more thing, Chad, he is not to attend in person any NFL game for the next five years.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Ouch.

COSTELLO: Including Cleveland games, because he's a Cleveland Browns fan.

MYERS: He's lucky he didn't break his collar bone when he got slammed down to the ground. That's what I was thinking. I was like, oh, there's a lawsuit there.

COSTELLO: James Harrison was afraid he was going to attack a Pittsburgh player, that's why he said he had to slam him as hard as he did.

MYERS: Understand.

(WEATHER REPORT)

S. O'BRIEN: Randy McCloy's condition is improving. The sole survivor of the Sago Mine tragedy has become more stable, which prompted a change at the hospital. CNN's Chris Huntington is in Morgantown, West Virginia, this morning with more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CHRIS HUNTINGTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Randy McCloy is out of intensive care. That's the good news. The tough news though is that he is still in a coma and still in very serious condition.

In a couple of hours, we will hear from his doctors and find out some more detail about why they were comfortable enough to remove him from the ICU. They've been telling us for quite some time, in fact a number of days, that Randy McCloy has been able to breath on his own. A very, very good sign. And that his heart and liver function is improving, but he is still in need of some kidney dialysis to remove the fluid from his system. \

It's been nearly two weeks since Randy was rescued from the Sago Mine. He's been through an awful lot, including a trip to Pittsburgh for those high pressurized oxygen treatments. His wife and his children have been by his bedside nearly as much as they possibly can. We expect to hear from some member of the family or perhaps an appointed family representative at the press conference later today.

Chris Huntington, CNN, Morgantown, West Virginia.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

S. O'BRIEN: Also, less than an hour from now, a third Florida teenager charged in the beating death of a homeless man due in court. In the meantime, we're learning a little bit more about the man the teens are accused of killing and the grieving family that he leaves behind. Here's CNN's JJ Ramberg.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JJ RAMBERG, CNN CORRESPONDENT, (voice over): A grieving mother at her eldest son's funeral. Georgia Gaynor whispers good-bye to her son Norris bludgeoned to death last week police say by teenagers wielding bats. He'd been sleeping on a park bench, homeless.

GEORGIA GAYNOR, MOTHER: I'm just a ball of pain. If that can be expressed in that manner. I ache. I ache. My heart aches. This is my oldest son and I loved him very much.

RAMBERG: Georgia, and her husband Samuel, say their son was easy-going. A 45-year-old military veteran, a basketball player, and a painter. They described him as without direction. They didn't know he was homeless.

GAYNOR: My son might have been a wonder. He was entitled, if that's what he wanted to do, but he didn't bother anybody. Do you see what I'm saying? And to have someone to just jump on him and brutally beat him to death. I can't understand this.

RAMBERG: Gaynor was killed in one of three acts on three homeless men. Authorities say teens in this surveillance video committed the attacks and have charged them with murder.

GAYNOR: It had to be bad. And it had to be bad if somebody is beating you with a stick like that. It has to be bad. How could somebody do something like that? I'd just like to know what they were feeling.

RAMBERG: Eighteen-year-old William Ammons didn't answer that question when he walked out of jail today after being charged with aggravated battery in one of the beatings.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you feel bad about what happened?

WILLIAM AMMONS, HOMELESS-BEATING SUSPECT: I'll tell you something if I can use your cell phone. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Huh?

AMMONS: Can I use your cell phone?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You need to use my cell phone?

AMMONS: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Like to call someone?

AMMONS: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'll make a call for you.

AMMONS: I'm all right then.

RAMBERG: Just hours after posting a $10,000 bond to get out of jail, Ammons was rearrested and charged with murder. Police say his car was used by the attackers and a witness saw him take part in killing Norris Gaynor.

CAPT. MICHAEL GREGORY, FT. LAUDERDALE POLICE: William Ammons shot the victim with a -- about his body with a paint ball gun that Ammons held in his hand. The defendant, William Ammons, gave a detailed statement which he explains his culpability in the aforementioned offense.

RAMBERG: Police say more people may be charged. Still, the Gaynor family remains broken. They hope the culprits won't get the death penalty, but that will be decided by a jury.

JJ Ramberg, CNN, Miami.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

S. O'BRIEN: Police say they're checking other area jurisdictions for similar crimes that they believe these teenagers may have committed.

A short break. We're back in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

M. O'BRIEN: All right. Let's take a vote on that alternate (ph) images (ph) song. Thumbs up, thumbs down. What do we say crew? Thumbs down. Everybody with a thumbs down.

Jerry (ph), I think we ought to retire that one. Sorry.

All right, onward we go. Airlines and protection money. What's the deal? They got Tony Soprano involved in this?

ANDY SERWER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's not quite to that point yet, I hope. Here's what's going on. You know those fees that the federal government put on airlines after 9/11 for additional security. Airlines are saying they're starting to get onerous. They've been going up and up and up every year. Last year, for instance, 2005, the airlines paid $324 million to the TSA for security. And now the TSA is looking for $100 million more. And they say they're going to raise the fees by 30 percent in 2006.

Southwest Airlines is going to be paying the highest fees. It's unclear why. A spokesperson called them capricious, arbitrary, arguably unlawful and we will fight them with every fiber of our being.

M. O'BRIEN: Whoa! How do they really feel?

SERWER: Tell us how you really feel. You knew that was coming. Yes, you knew that was coming.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes.

SERWER: And we have a very different story also on talk about this morning.

M. O'BRIEN: The worm turns now, you might say.

SERWER: Yes, very good.

M. O'BRIEN: The news worm.

SERWER: Yes, the news worm turn. A tequila crisis has been averted in this nation and that's good news for, well, all of us. There we go.

M. O'BRIEN: (INAUDIBLE) all of us.

SERWER: Yes. And it's nice to have that little -- now why don't we play this song more often?

M. O'BRIEN: Now that we need more of.

SERWER: Here's what's going on. All tequila comes from Mexico, OK, from the blue agave . . .

M. O'BRIEN: What, by legislation? I mean is there a . . .

SERWER: That's just where it comes from.

M. O'BRIEN: It just -- it is.

SERWER: And the fermented sap of the blue agave plant. And it's imported into the United States. Some $400 million a year.

M. O'BRIEN: You've been reading labels at a bar, haven't you?

SERWER: I know this stuff.

M. O'BRIEN: Yes.

SERWER: And here's what's going on. A lot of the tequila that comes to the United States is shipped in bulk and then bottled in the U.S. The Mexican government very concerned because a lot of this stuff was, frankly, well, not bottled very well. So they've threatened to halt all exports of tequila to the United States, which would of caused a crisis in Margaritaville and bars across the United States.

But the U.S. has reached an agreement with the Mexican government that tequila will flow because they're going to officially license these plants. And there are a lot of jobs at these plants all over the southwest and in California where this Mexican tequila was bottled. So it's a win/win situation for the Mexican government and for these U.S. bottling companies as well.

M. O'BRIEN: Do the worms get shipped separately or do they put them in a big vat?

SERWER: Well, the worms actually are in mezcal, which is sort of a cousin of tequila.

M. O'BRIEN: Oh, it is?

SERWER: But then I can . . .

M. O'BRIEN: Oh, it isn't a tequila . . .

SERWER: Yes, I can get into this . . .

M. O'BRIEN: You do know your . . .

SERWER: Yes, it also comes from the blue agave plant, but I can talk about this ad nauseam, I'm sort of a bit of an expert on it, as my wife can tell you.

M. O'BRIEN: All right. I think we should do that one day after the show.

SERWER: Well, sure. Yes.

M. O'BRIEN: All right. Thank you, Andy.

SERWER: Yes.

S. O'BRIEN: That's a whole other segment, isn't it.

M. O'BRIEN: It is.

SERWER: It sure is. We could talk for hours, Soledad.

S. O'BRIEN: We want to know why Andy knows all of this.

Thanks, guys.

SERWER: Right.

S. O'BRIEN: Ahead this morning, some high school students do a little digging. They find a big fat royal phony. New guy at school says, I'm British royalty. But when the students get suspicious, do a little searching, they make a pretty shocking discovery. We've got that story just ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

S. O'BRIEN: Maybe you've heard of the Duke of Earl or perhaps the King of Marvin Gardens. No. But have you heard of the Fifth Duke of Cleveland? Well, here's why you haven't. It turns out it's made up. It's fictional. A teenager from Austin, Minnesota, claimed to be British royalty, but there's absolutely, positively nothing noble about him. In fact, instead of being a duke, he may have been a dangerous predator. CNN's Ed Lavandera has this story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT, (voice over): It didn't take long for word of a royal arrival to spread through the quaint streets of Stillwater, Minnesota.

CASPIAN JAMES CHRICHTON-STUART IV, FIFTH DUKE OF CLEVELAND: A lot of them are 18 (ph) and they think that, you know, because you're British Royalty, you know, that you have a lot of privileges, you know, and they think it would be awesome, you know, to be royalty, you know, but the grass isn't always greener on the other side.

LAVANDERA: Those are the words of Caspian James Chrichton-Stuart IV, also known as the Fifth Duke of Cleveland. And he had a fascinating tale to tell the students of Stillwater High School.

KARLEE WEINMANN, H.S. JOURNALISM STUDENT: He said he was with Harry when Charles told him that his mother had died. And he said that the queen came into his bedroom once and told him to clean it.

LAVANDERA: Caspian's arrival couldn't help but draw the attention of four student journalists at the school newspaper. But after their first interview, these reporters started to suspect something wasn't quite right.

WEINMANN: Why would somebody who hangs out with the queen come to our school? That didn't add up in our heads.

LAVENDERA: So these students started digging deeper. Too many details seemed strange. The business cards Caspian was handing out had a local area code on it. When they Googled Caspian James Chrichton-Stuart IV, this site popped up with the name Joshua Adam Gardner next to it. So with that lead, they called the British consulate in Chicago.

WEINMANN: She basically verified that there are no dukes of Cleveland. That there is no Caspian James Chrichton-Stuart anywhere.

LAVENDERA: But they still didn't know who Caspian really was. So they continued scouring the Internet for Joshua Gardner.

WEINMANN: That's what initially popped up on our screen.

LAVENDERA: Caspian is actually 22-year-old Joshua Adam Gardner, a registered sex offender from Minnesota.

Within days of the young reporters discovery, Gardner was arrested for violating his parole. He was convicted at the age of 18 for an incident involving his 15-year-old girlfriend. We don't know much more than that because the case involves a juvenile. But this is where the story takes another bizarre turn.

Gardner says he was sexually abused as a child and that he struggled to deal with his mother's death.

STUART: Joshua has obviously has a lot, you know, problems going on that he has not yet dealt with. By becoming Caspian, you know, I really don't have any worries. You know, I find it easier to talk to people and I find it easier to get along with people.

LAVENDERA: Caspian is Gardener's alter-ego.

LAVENDERA: What happens to Caspian now?

STUART: I guess Caspian's dead.

LAVENDERA: Gardner has dreams of Hollywood and performing for a bigger audience one day. Four young journalist are just happy the curtain has fallen on the Caspian act.

Ed Lavendera, CNN, Stillwater, Minnesota.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

S. O'BRIEN: All right. Well, Gardner's been denied bail. His hearing for alleged probation violation is set for February 8th. He could be sent to prison for 21 months.

Bizarre story, huh?

M. O'BRIEN: Miles O'Brien has so many questions about that. You know, and when one talks about one's self in one's third person.

S. O'BRIEN: One is obviously in a little psychological trouble.

M. O'BRIEN: As far as those journalists go, let's get them a contract though, shall we?

S. O'BRIEN: Oh, good work, huh?

M. O'BRIEN: Yes, good work. Good shoe leather. Good reporting on that part.

S. O'BRIEN: Good instinct. And why would someone who hangs out with the queen be at our high school?

M. O'BRIEN: Hmm?

S. O'BRIEN: Hmm?

M. O'BRIEN: Ask those questions and you'll go far in our business.

In a moment, today's top stories, including some troubling news about who's really in danger when teens go behind the wheel. We'll tell you why their driving habits are actually your problem. That's ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

M. O'BRIEN: Good morning. I'm Miles O'Brien.

An ultimatum in Iraq. An American journalist held hostage may be running out of time. We're live from Baghdad with the latest on this developing story.

S. O'BRIEN: I'm Soledad O'Brien.

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