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An Upset at the Oscars; Sentencing Starts Today for Only Man Convicted in U.S. in Connection with 9/11 Attacks

Aired March 6, 2006 - 08:00   ET


I'm Miles O'Brien.

CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Carol Costello in for Soledad.

O'BRIEN: An upset at the Oscars. A lesser known film crashes Hollywood's big party.

COSTELLO: Sentencing starts today for the only man convicted in the United States in connection with the 9/11 attacks.

Plus, a more intense search for hurricane victims hits New Orleans' 9th Ward today.

O'BRIEN: No sign of the fugitive father who left his son searching for a donor kidney.

And smashing for safety -- we'll give you the good, the bad and the ugly from the latest crash testing ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

The 9/11 attacks on trial, or as close as we will probably ever see. We're talking about the sentencing of Zacarias Moussaoui, the admitted al Qaeda operative who learned to fly airliners and might have been part of a plot to crash into the White House.

Starting today, a jury will decide if he lives or dies.

CNN's Jeanne Meserve live now from the courthouse in Alexandria, Virginia -- Jeanne, what's going to happen today?

JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Miles, Zacarias Moussaoui is here at the courthouse. He was in custody at the time of the 9/11 attacks. He has pled guilty to terrorism conspiracy, saying that he was training to fly an airplane into the White House. He says he was not part of the 9/11 plots.

However, prosecutors will contend that if he had told the FBI everything he knew about al Qaeda's plans, they could have short- circuited the attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center, saving almost 3,000 lives.

They will be seeking the death penalty.

Moussaoui's mother, Aicha El Wafi, is in town for her son's trial.

I spoke with her last evening.


AICHA EL WAFI, MOUSSAOUI'S MOTHER (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): I don't think so. I will rely on the judge. I will rely on the jury. But the fact of the matter is, is that my son's trial is not a son -- a trial that is based on the evidence. It has turned into a political trial.

MESERVE: Well, can you expand on that for me?

WAFI (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): Well, there are pressures being felt, coming from various sides. There's the fact that the prosecutor, the prosecution wants to find someone sentenced and declared guilty to prove that they've done their job. That's one thing.


MESERVE: El Wafi says she has not seen her son for three years. She will not see him here either. She will be in a separate room as the proceedings are translated for her. Also viewing the trial at this and five other locations, family members of victims of the 9/11 attacks.

What will they see today?

Final jury selection this morning and opening arguments this afternoon -- Miles, back to you.

O'BRIEN: Jeanne Meserve in Alexandria, thank you -- Carol.

COSTELLO: Heavy equipment and cadaver dogs are due in New Orleans' 9th Ward today. It's part of the expanded search for some of the hundreds of people still missing in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

CNN's Sean Callebs live in New Orleans this morning.

How many bodies do they expect to find -- Sean?

SEAN CALLEBS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Carol, that is very difficult to tell. We can tell you that the state medical examiner says there are 2,000 people still listed as missing. Now, they don't expect to find anywhere near that many. But in the debris, like the homes here in the Lower 9th Ward, Lakeview, New Orleans East, they could find as many as 300 to 400 bodies.

Now, we're at the command center. Right here is where the special ops unit is headed up and where they do all their planning, which houses to go into.

Behind me you see the urban search and rescue vehicle for the New Orleans Fire Department. In there, a lot of equipment, what they're using out in those homes. And we can tell you, it's 7:00 in the morning here and already crews are out beginning to take apart those demolished homes. They had some success yesterday, chiefly in that truck right there.

The most key element to this search, the search dogs, the cadaver dogs. They've been going through splintered homes. They had success yesterday.

If you look at the pictures on this house in Lakeview, you'll see one of those familiar markings on the front. And it says "zero," meaning no bodies found inside. That building was checked as recently as three days ago by the New Orleans Fire Department. But yesterday, cadaver dogs, by a group from Maine, located a victim. The individual was tucked behind the air conditioning vent in the attic apparently. According to the state medical examiner, he believes this guy was trying to crawl out of a vent in the window -- the floodwater was all the way up to the top of the house -- but met an unfortunate end there.

So these cadaver dogs, along with machinery from the Army Corps of Engineers, are going to be going through legions of houses throughout this area very carefully. First, the cadaver dogs go in. If they make a hit, then the urban search and rescue team, along the with Corps of Engineers, begins to move the splintered remains of the house aside. And at that point the medical team will go in and try and remove the remains -- Carol.

COSTELLO: All right, Sean, it's been six months since Katrina hit and they're just now using cadaver dogs?

CALLEBS: Yes, it...

COSTELLO: I mean why hasn't this been done before? Why wasn't that like the top priority, to find these bodies in these homes?

CALLEBS: It's a great question and it is a sensitive issue for people who live here. They were using cadaver dogs from October until December. Then the city simply ran out of money. And they asked FEMA for more money to fund this research -- or this rescue operation, search and rescue recovery operation. And somehow, through red tape, through bureaucratic mess, the funding just came through last week. So they've only been doing this -- well, think, December, January, February, March -- about three-and-a-half months until they were able to resume.

So they expect to be working at least two more months trying to find all the victims they can, because there's going to be a lot of demolition in this area. They certainly don't want to sweep away remains along with the splintered homes.

COSTELLO: Sean Callebs reporting live from New Orleans this morning.

Thank you.

Let's head to the newsroom now to check in with Kelly -- good morning.

KELLY WALLACE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning again, Carol. A string of explosions this morning across Iraq. First, in Ba'qubah, at least six people were killed by a car bomb in a busy marketplace. Three children among the dead.

And in Baghdad, at least four separate car bomb attacks targeting police and civilians. At least three people were killed and many more were injured.

The Army is opening its fifth investigation into the friendly fire death of former NFL star Pat Tillman. The Pentagon says this time it's a criminal investigation looking into possible charges of negligent homicide. There are still a lot of questions surrounding Tillman's death. The former Arizona Cardinals star was initially said to have been shot by Taliban forces. A later investigation determined it was friendly fire.

A global epidemic -- that's how one doctor is describing the problem of childhood obesity. Get this. Nearly half of all the children in North and South America are expected to be overweight by 2010. The study is blaming bad eating habits and a lack of exercise. The report appears in the "International Journal of Pediatric Obesity."

Hundreds of sick cruise ship passengers. Royal Caribbean says passengers aboard one of its week long cruises came down with a stomach virus. The ship, The Explorer of the Seas, docked in Miami Sunday. Royal Caribbean says a sick passenger apparently brought the virus on board. The company is offering a credit toward a future cruise.

And they are off. The Iditarod dog sled race now underway across Alaska. The dog teams will travel more than 1,100 miles over two mountain ranges and frozen rivers. Top finishers usually arrive in about nine days. The winner will be receiving $69,000 and a pickup truck.

And, Carol, this goes in the...


WALLACE: Yes, I know, you like that, and a pickup truck.

This goes in the did you know that this Iditarod race commemorates a dog sled relay back in 1925 that carried medicine more than 670 miles to stop a diphtheria outbreak?

COSTELLO: That's a good piece of trivia. I'll remember that the next time I'm playing Trivial Pursuit.

WALLACE: Exactly. That's when it will come in handy.

COSTELLO: I like the little snow boots the dogs wore.

WALLACE: They're very cute.

COSTELLO: Thank you, Kelly. WALLACE: Sure.

COSTELLO: It was supposed to be a crowning achievement for "Brokeback Mountain." Instead, it was a coronation for "Crash." The Oscar upset for best picture was one of the highlights from the 78th Academy Awards.

Sibila Vargas is live in Los Angeles -- good morning, Sibila.


It certainly was quite a night at the 78th Annual Academy Awards.

Everyone braced themselves for the big moment in the best picture race. Of course, "Brokeback Mountain" being the favorite. But there was a collective awe in the room when "Crash" took home the prize.

Paul Haggis, of course, directing the star-studded film about racism. This was a labor of love for Haggis, who told me at the Oscar luncheon that he actually had a heart attack during the filming of the movie, but he refused to let anyone finish the film and went back to work just two weeks later.

Well, his efforts certainly paid off last night. "Crash" definitely the talk of the town and will continue to be for many days to come.

Now, "Capote" star Philip Seymour Hoffman snagged an Oscar for best actor. The character actor had been considered a favorite, snagging a Golden Globe and a SAG Award earlier this year. He thanked his mom for being a single mom and raising four children. It was really kind of cute.

And the best actress award went to Tennessee beauty Reese Witherspoon, who has become America's sweetheart.

Now, here's what she had to say when she picked up her award.


REESE WITHERSPOON, BEST ACTRESS: It was a great sort of accomplishment to just learn to stand in my own shoes and in my own self and be proud of myself which is, you know, it's different for me.


VARGAS: And Reese is best known for comedies like "Legally Blonde," "Election," and "Sweet Home Alabama." But definitely, Carol, winning this award raises her stock and has given her a credibility that really actresses work their entire lives for. And she's -- she's really young -- back to you.

COSTELLO: But she's a great role model, though.

VARGAS: She is. COSTELLO: I mean if I had a little girl, I'd want her to look up to Reese Witherspoon. She's awesome.

VARGAS: Absolutely. She's got children, a wonderful husband, a family and she thanked her mom and dad. It was just, you know, for always like whether she made her bed or winning an award, anything, they have always been supportive. And she said thank you mom and dad.


VARGAS: I thought that was really sweet.

COSTELLO: And she didn't pose naked on the cover of "Vanity Fair" and I admire that.


COSTELLO: Listen, I want some back stage dirt now, because I want to know what the "Brokeback Mountain" team had to say about "Crash's" upset win.

VARGAS: Well, you know, it's interesting, because we caught up with Ang Lee, the director of "Brokeback Mountain." We caught up with him at the governor's ball. And he was completely surprised. He was surprised himself and he admitted it. I mean I've got to give him credit for doing that.

But I think we all thought that it was "Brokeback Mountain." You know, there was a chance, they said, that "Crash" would win. I spoke to industry insiders. They said there's just a slight possibility, that it had some momentum. But, really, I mean, it's -- numerous awards. It snagged critical awards. It snagged a Golden Globe. Everyone thought it was -- it was about -- it was all about "Brokeback" but "Crash" ended up, you know, taking it home. It was something refreshing, quite honestly.

It was something...


VARGAS: You know, it was different because if you looked at everything else, it was sort of predictable, but this was completely unpredictable and it was great.

COSTELLO: I know I got to my feet and cheered.

Thank you, Sibila Vargas.

VARGAS: Very good.

COSTELLO: Sibila Vargas reporting live from Los Angeles.

Later this hour, we're going to talk Oscar fashions, the hits and misses on the red carpet, with style expert Lloyd Boston.

You know what -- Chad? The E! Channel spent five-and-a-half hours just on Oscar fashion.


You know, I got to vote this year. I don't know if you know that or not.


MYERS: Yes. I voted for "On Golden Pond" but it just -- it didn't -- it didn't make it.

Anyway, that's the last movie I probably saw in a theater.


O'BRIEN: President Bush back from his trip to India and Pakistan, but now he's got a big headache waiting for him at home. Such is the nature of that job.

we'll go live to the White House.

COSTELLO: Also, the insurance industry is out with its latest round of car safety ratings. The editor-in-chief of "Automobile" magazine helps us sort them out.

O'BRIEN: And that fugitive dad who ditched his son instead of giving him a kidney -- you remember this one?

It makes your stomach turn, doesn't it?

Well, authorities think he fled to Mexico.

Where in the world is he now?

We want to talk about deputy U.S. marshal who is working on that case.

Stay with us.


O'BRIEN: So where in the world is Byron Perkins?

We're talking about the Kentucky prisoner let out of jail, ostensibly to donate a kidney to his son.

What does he do?

He flees, leaving his sick son in need. Authorities believe he may now be in Mexico with his girlfriend, Lee Anne Howard. We will put their pictures up as much as we can during this segment. Hopefully somebody will see it and maybe that'll provide a clue.

In the meantime, let's check in with the U.S. marshal who is heading this case. Dawn Izgarjan joining us from Louisville, Kentucky.

Ms. Izgarjan, good to have you with us.

First, let's talk about the latest sightings, the latest leads you have.

Why do you think he might be in Mexico?

DAWN IZGARJAN, DEPUTY U.S. MARSHAL: Well, as of a viewing, as of, I think it was on Thursday, Thursday's show -- sorry -- a couple called in, saw their pictures on CNN and called us and said that they had actually seen them in Mexico. So right now we are concentrating our efforts in Mexico.

O'BRIEN: OK. So they saw them at a resort there.

And did they seem fairly certain? And do you believe they did, in fact, see them?

IZGARJAN: I'm positive they saw them. The details that they gave us, the tattoos, their mannerisms, etc. I do believe that they are and they're still there.

O'BRIEN: All right, Puerto Vallarta is what we're talking about?

IZGARJAN: Actually, it was a fishing village south of Puerto Vallarta in Boca. I believe now that they've left that area and probably are heading further south.


Do you have fairly good cooperation from the Mexican authorities? Do you have U.S. Marshals on the ground, that sort of thing?

IZGARJAN: We have a U.S. Marshals office in Mexico, a liaison office there that worked very closely with the Mexican officials. And they are communicating with each other. At this point, I haven't heard back to see if they had been to Boca. But we are hoping that they have been and they are just distributing fliers and getting the word out.

O'BRIEN: A lot of people are still scratching their head, wondering how he got away.

Why wasn't he -- why wasn't there somebody constantly looking after him when he was going to these doctors' offices to be tested to make sure his kidney would work for his son? Why wasn't there, you know, an electronic bracelet put on him?

We all know about those by now.

Have you had a chance to think much about that?

IZGARJAN: Well, you know, this -- we get asked this a lot. The judge let him out on bond. And when you're out on bond, as you know, Miles, you are on your own. And it's up to you to follow the restrictions that the court has placed on u.

And in this instance, he was told that he had to report to the doctors' offices to make those -- to make those meetings for his tests and then return to custody. And he did. The first week of January, I think it was 16th, he did -- he was out for four days. He made all of his doctors' visits. He made all the testing and he did return to custody.

And then he was released again, for the same purpose, to continue with the tests. And that was the second week, the second time he was released, that he skipped bond.

O'BRIEN: All right, so button it up here.

Give us a good description of all these tattoos and a little bit of advice should somebody see them.

IZGARJAN: OK, great.

Thank you.

He has tattoos essentially all over his body. He has tattoos on his legs. The tattoos that the caller had mentioned earlier was that he had a cross and dagger on his -- I want to say his left shoulder. And he has another tattoo on his right shoulder, tattoos on his chest.

Also, Lee Anne, specifically about Lee Anne, she is diabetic. She's insulin dependent. She needs her medication. And from what the caller said last week is that she had an episode on the beach, wherein Byron had to give her an injection.

She is described as -- I'm sure you're looking at her picture. She has very, very long hair. She wears shorts, tank tops and hiking boots. Even on the beach she has been wearing these hiking boots, which, you know, usually on the beach you're barefoot, but she doesn't like the water. Go figure.

O'BRIEN: So what's a person to do if they see them, though?

IZGARJAN: If they see these individuals, we ask do not approach them, just report to the local authority wherever they are. Just go ahead and give them as specific information as you can -- what they're wearing, where they were last seen, if you know where they're staying. But just do not approach them.

O'BRIEN: Are they dangerous?

IZGARJAN: They are very dangerous.


Deputy U.S. Marshal Dawn Izgarjan, thanks for being with us this morning.

IZGARJAN: Thank you so much.

O'BRIEN: Hopefully that will generate some more leads -- Carol.

IZGARJAN: Thank you.

COSTELLO: Hopefully.

Some lawmakers still want to kill that controversial ports deal. But at least one person think the deal is a lock to win approval. We'll take you live to the White House for that.

And those new car safety ratings -- the editor-in-chief of "Automobile" magazine breaks down the winners and losers for us.

That's next on AMERICAN MORNING.


COSTELLO: The Ford Fusion, the company's newest midsized car, is getting low marks in new side impact crash tests. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety just released its safety ratings for seven new or redesigned midsize and luxury cars.

Jean Jennings, editor-in-chief of "Automobile" magazine, joins us now from Ann Arbor, Michigan to talk about those crash test results.



COSTELLO: First of all, tell us about the tests themselves and who conducted it. This was done by the insurance industry, which doesn't mean that it's government approved.

JENNINGS: Exactly. These are not government tests. They -- this is a non-profit group, but it serves the very much for-profit auto insurance industry.

So these tests are much more dramatic than the government tests. They require a lot more force and so, you know, just start with that, that premise.

COSTELLO: When you say a lot more force, what are you talking about?

JENNINGS: Well, the government requires a full frontal crash -- crash worthiness at 35 miles an hour. And it's across the entire front. It's a flat frontal test. The insurance industry tests are in offset tests, meaning more of the force is on an angle, attacks the structure more. The government tests really do the seatbelts. They really are judging how good the seatbelts are.

When you do an offset test, it's more of a test of the structure. Plus, it's at 40 miles an hour, not 35 miles an hour, which is a significantly greater amount of force.

COSTELLO: Oh, I'll say.

OK, so let's put up the top two cars. And there's no surprise here, is there?

JENNINGS: No. I'm assuming you're looking at the BMW 3 Series.

COSTELLO: And a Lexus IS.

JENNINGS: And a Lexus IS. These are luxury cars. In general, a foundation that makes a car a luxury car is the structure. You put a lot of money into a good structure. It also happens to be the good foundation for a safe car. It's not a given, however. I mean, you know, it's still on the side. And if you don't have good side protection and if the design of the pillars isn't so, it could also skew the results of these tests.

COSTELLO: OK, well, let's talk about side impact and the lack in the Ford Fusion. And I want to ask you a few questions about that, because the Ford Fusion, the 2006 model, had the lowest overall rating. And you've got to wonder about that because you'd think Ford would be very careful in designing its cars, because it's having some problems.

JENNINGS: Yes. In fact, the 500 and the Montego have top pick ratings in their class, those Fords. This is a brand new vehicle. But let's break this down, this rating down.

It got a poor side rating because they -- it doesn't have a standard air side air cushion, or air curtain, rather. Let me tell you that the Toyota Camry has the exact same poor side rating without the air curtain. With the optional curtain in place, the Camry gets an acceptable rating.

Now, Ford is talking about bringing back this Fusion with a curtain in place and having the Institute do a test. They only do one test for free and they do it with the standard equipment. If a curtain...

COSTELLO: Yes, but if Ford adds that into its cars, won't it cost more money? I mean won't that cost be passed on to consumers to the tune of, what, some $600?

JENNINGS: Absolutely. Absolutely. And the same thing with the Camry. And I'm pointing out, the Camry has the same poor side rating as this fusion. It has the same marginal rear rating. I believe that was marginal -- yes -- marginal rear rating as the Fusion. What's different is the front rating, Carol.

COSTELLO: Got you.

JENNINGS: The Ford Fusion has only an acceptable front rating. It's one of the very few cars they have tested that doesn't now have a good rating.

COSTELLO: But how can that be, because doesn't Ford pick the car to send to the Insurance Institute that it wants to be tested?


COSTELLO: I mean it's voluntary, isn't it?

JENNINGS: ... you know, they don't build the specific car. They don't build one car for this model. And please remember that they only do one test. They're not testing a sample of 10 Fusions to see how they do. This is really, once again, a -- it's the Insurance Institute's test, not the government mandated test.

COSTELLO: Got you.

JENNINGS: So there has always been some question of repeatability of these.

COSTELLO: Got you. Got you.

JENNINGS: I think the important note is that this is just another piece of information when customers go to buy a car.


Let's quickly put up the graphic with the rest of the -- with the rest of the results. And Jean Jennings, we're going to say good-bye, because we're out of time.

Jean Jennings, editor-in-chief of "Automobile" magazine.

Thanks so much.

JENNINGS: Thank you.

COSTELLO: Can we put up the last and final graphic that I didn't get to?

There it is. Those are the top -- those round out the top five.

So there you have it, all the information for you this morning.

Thanks to Jean, too -- Miles, it's your turn now.

O'BRIEN: I'm looking at that but trying to figure out what you're talking about.

I'm curious, though, what happens to all those cars?

COSTELLO: The ones that...

O'BRIEN: I mean, do they fix them up and sell them?

COSTELLO: ... were crashed?

O'BRIEN: Yes. Do they -- got a deal, I've got a deal on a car for you. It was in a little test, but, anyway.

Much more to come on AMERICAN MORNING.

Ahead on "A.M. Pop," we know who won the Oscars, but who won the red carpet? A style expert helps us dissect all the fashion hits and, of course, the misses, ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.



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