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LEGAL VIEW WITH ASHLEIGH BANFIELD

Investigation Into Metro-North Derailment Continues; Investigators Rule Out Second Vehicle and Drag Racing in Death of Paul Walker; Can White Men Be Discriminated Against?; Booming Business of Pot

Aired December 3, 2013 - 11:00   ET

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


ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: We now know that Bronx commuter train was going 82-miles per hour as it headed towards a curve. May be soon we'll know why. Could criminal charges be coming?

Also this hour, a real life soap opera unfolding inside a comic book empire -- executives accusing the boss of bullying and filthy discrimination but a female CEO says white men can't sue. Can't wait for our legal team to take on this one.

And also a lawsuit headed to New York's Supreme Court, claiming that prisoners are being held under inhuman conditions and deserve to go free.

And did we mention that the image on your screen is the prisoner of which we're speaking? Chimpanzees. We'll explain that one in a moment as well.

Hello, everyone. I'm Ashleigh Banfield. It's Tuesday, December 3rd, and welcome to LEGAL VIEW.

Full throttle one minute, off the rails six seconds later, a little more than two days after the first deadly wreck on New York's Metro- North commuter rail line, we know that the train was going much too fast, the brakes applied much too late, and somebody may have committed a crime.

Four people died in Sunday's accident on a sharp bend in the tracks just 10 miles from Grand Central Terminal.

We get the very latest from CNN's Rene Marsh.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RENE MARSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: NTSB investigators continue searching for clues this morning and questioning train engineer William Rockefeller for a second day in hopes of learning why this Metro-North train was going so fast.

EARL WEENER, NATIONAL TRANSPORTATION SAFETY BOARD: From the event recorders shows that the train was traveling at approximately 82- miles-per-hour as it went into a 30-mile-an-hour curve.

MARSH: That's nearly three times the speed limit for this curving stretch of track. The train's speed is even higher than the maximum speed of 70-miles-an-hour in the straightaway north of the crash site.

Deepening the mystery, the NTSB says the train went from 60- to 82- miles-an-hour in two minutes before hitting the curve and jumping the tracks.

SENATOR CHARLES SCHUMER (D), NEW YORK: For a train to be going 82- miles-an-hour around that curve is just a frightening thought.

MARSH: Mechanical problem or human error? It's still too early to tell. Investigators say the train made nine stops before jumping the tracks and there were no reports of brake problems.

According to a law enforcement official, Rockefeller said he tried to brake, but the train didn't stop.

The 20-year railroad veteran appeared coherent, another official said. Result of drug and alcohol tests are not yet known.

The NTSB will also look at whether fatigue was a factor.

WEENER: We will be developing what we call a 72-hour timeline so that we have a good understanding of what sort of activities preceded this accident.

MARSH: Sources tell CNN Rockefeller's phone records have been subpoenaed.

But based on a preliminary review, it's not believed the engineer was on his phone at the time of the derailment that killed four, among them, Jim Lovell who was commuting to work on Sunday morning.

FINN LOVELL, SON OF DERAILMENT VICITM: My dad was not a victim. He was a loving father, a great dad, best friend, uncle. I'm so proud and blessed that I was able to call him my father.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BANFIELD: And Rene Marsh joins me live now.

The subpoenas that you mentioned for the engineer's phone records, can you expound on that a little bit? What are they asking for and have they issued the subpoenas?

MARSH: Right, so we know that they want those phone records because, essentially, what they want to know is was this person using their phone? Were they distracted while the train was in operation?

We know that the NYPD, MTA police, as well as the Bronx d.a.'s office are all investigating.

If any criminal charges are to be brought here, the Bronx d.a. will likely be the one to do it.

And, just moving forward with the investigation, today, we know the NTSB is evaluating the train's brakes and they will also continue to interview Rockefeller. Yesterday investigators had to cut short their interview with him because of his emotional state, Ashleigh.

BANFIELD: All right, Rene Marsh, reporting for us live, thank you for that.

I want to get the legal view now from CNN's legal analyst Danny Cevallos.

I was looking at the New York papers, as I'm sure you were as well, today. Here is this one, "82-miles-per-hour. Criminal?" Big question mark. That's the big question for you.

And I think this is probably too hard to see. I'm not sure if we have a camera that can zero in -- there you go. So, take a look right here. They've got him circled.

That's the driver walking past all the people who are on, you know, spine boards it looks like.

So obviously some pretty stressful times for him ahead, I would think, not only what he's been through, but also what he's about to go through.

Can you walk me through how it might be different for him, dealing with the feds, dealing with the Bronx d.a.? Is he lawyered up at this point? Should he be lawyered up at this point? What are the machinations of getting to the bottom of this?

DANNY CEVALLOS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Sure, he should.

Let's start with the criminal side of it. So, the district attorney is going to look for at least some level of negligence.

Now, in the criminal context, negligence is not the same idea as the civil idea of negligence. Criminal negligence is actually a little higher. It's almost what we call recklessness.

So the d.a.'s going to look at, did he do something that showed that he disregarded a known risk, a risk he was aware of?

Now, in the case of speeding, you can say, well, look, if somebody's going 40 miles and over, they're aware they're doing something wrong.

If they're going two-miles-an-hour over, maybe it's just simple negligence.

In this case, however, I wouldn't be so quick to jump and say that this is absolutely 80-miles-an-hour on a 30-mile-per-hour curve. You have to look at what did his bosses tell him.

What did his bosses expect from him? What kind of timetable was he put under? Did the other trains do, customarily, at this turn?

Simply because -- I mean, look, we've all driven. We've all gotten off the off-ramp. The off-ramp speed limit is always way below what everybody is doing on it.

BANFIELD: You rarely go the posted limit of 30, you know?

CEVALLOS: Well, I think the important that they're going -- that, at least as a defense, his case will have to be that, look, whatever the posted limit is, it was safe at this particular speed. If it --

BANFIELD: That matters?

CEVALLOS: I think it should matter. I mean, look, violation of a statute is -- it can be a per se element of negligence. In other words, you can prove negligence just because he was speeding.

But I'd have to look at this curve and say, what do other trains do on this curve? What does -- what do his bosses expect him to do on this curve?

How long is he expected to get from Point A to Point B? I mean, it's like a high school math problem, figuring out how much time did he really have to get between stops.

BANFIELD: I'm out of time on this one, but I bet all bets are off if he was texting or on the phone.

CEVALLOS: Take everything I just said and throw it out the window. There it is.

BANFIELD: All right, stand by. I've got a couple of other cases for you, as well. Danny Cevallos, thank you for that.

We're also following that breaking news that we've been watching for the last couple of days. Paul Walker, his autopsy is planned for later today.

All at the same time as investigators are still trying to figure out what on Earth happened. What caused that crash that killed this amazing star, the "Fast & Furious" actor who ended in a fiery crash himself?

Coming up, we're digging up brand-new details surrounding this crash in which that remarkable Porsche burst into flames. And there is almost literally nothing left of that car.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BANFIELD: Investigators are working vigorously to pinpoint just what it was that caused the fiery crash that killed the "Fast & Furious" star, Paul Walker.

It also killed his team driving partner, his driving team partner, Roger Rodas, and the autopsies for both of them, scheduled for later today.

Already, the authorities have been able to rule out one very important thing and that is that a second vehicle was involved.

And, also, the theory of drag racing, that's ruled out.

They investigation is now focusing on speed.

CNN entertainment correspondent Nischelle Turner is going to walk us through now the video of the crash.

And I do want to prepare you, because if you're a fan, the moment of impact, albeit obscured, might be a little tough to watch.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NISCHELLE TURNER, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: Fast cars and high- octane driving, the keys of the "Fast & Furious" franchise, and possibly the cause of death for one of the stars.

Investigators say they believe the fiery crash that killed Paul Walker and a friend on Saturday involved a single, speeding car.

His "Fast & Furious" co-star Vin Diesel visited the crash site Monday night. He addressed a crowd gathered at the memorial.

VIN DIESEL, ACTOR: Thank you for coming down here and showing that angel up in heaven how much you appreciated him.

TURNER: OMG! Insider obtained this video showing the moment that the 2005 Porsche Carrera GT, driven by Walker's racing team partner, Roger Rodas, slammed into a light pole.

L.A. COUNTY FIRE DEPARTMENT (voice-over): We have confirmed two D.O.A.

TURNER: The L.A. County's sheriff department investigated and ruled out a tip that the crash may have been a result of a street race.

An eyewitness backs up that conclusion.

JIM TORP, PAUL WALKER'S FRIEND/CRASH WITNESS: When they passed us, there were no other cars around them at all. And there was only one car. And we were listening for it.

And when they hit it a little bit, and you can hear their exhaust, there was only one car.

TURNER: The pavement where the crash occurred is scorched with skid marks, though it's unclear if those were left by the car Walker was riding in.

And law enforcement sources say the oval-like street has a reputation for being popular with fast drivers.

Walker himself spoke about the kind of dangerous driving depicted in the "Fast & Furious" back in 2001.

PAUL WALKER, ACTOR: Nothing could be worse than a 120-mile-an-hour blowout on a surface street, you know, with pedestrians lining up and down it.

You know, it's just common sense. It's just not worth the risk factor.

I'm at St. Mary's Hospital. I've got a baby on a ventilator.

TURNER: Walker's new movie, "Hours," will open as planned on December 13th.

He had been working on the seventh installment on the "Fast & Furious" series at the time of his death, the future of that film, now in question.

But this ominous scene has been leaked online, showing Walker at a funeral.

DIESEL: Promise me, bro. No more funerals.

WALKER: Just one more.

TURNER: Walker leaves behind a devoted fan base, friends and close- knit family. His dad says they're overcome with grief.

PAUL WALKER, SR., PAUL WALKER'S FATHER: As a father, that's a fear that you always have, that one of your children will go before you.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BANFIELD: Wow, that is really hard to watch.

TURNER: Isn't that always a parent's fear that your child will go before you?

BANFIELD: And I think this is such a huge headline because, of course, this is a "Fast & Furious" star, high stakes, high speed and ultimately this crash.

Can you just tell me a little bit about this vehicle?

TURNER: Sure.

BANFIELD: There's nothing left of it on the crash scene, but this is not your average car that he was driving.

TURNER: No, it's definitely not a Porsche that you're going to see on the street, that you're going to see someone driving around.

And this Porsche Carrera GT, custom-built, $450,000 car, it was a performance car, not an everyday-driving car. It was a show car.

This car, the odometer on the car from the crash, 3,200 miles on it. It was built eight years ago, so that lends to the fact that they only drove it about 200 miles a year, so you know there just that this was a special car.

But when you look at it and you see the high performance of it and then you see what's left of it -

BANFIELD: Incredible. TURNER: -- it's incredible. You're right.

BANFIELD: Then you see that video and you realize that that was a fireball that we didn't see and a smoke plume that was really intense.

TURNER: Absolutely.

BANFIELD: When we look at actors and movies, I think we all want to project that they might have some of some element of that in their life as well. Did we know much about Paul Walker and his propensity for driving, for being involved in the racing world? it wasn't just a role for him?

TURTNER: No, you know, it's interesting. Because Paul Walker -- we don't know a lot about him because he was such a private person. But what we do know is that he did love cars off screen as well. He was a self-described metal head. He called himself an adrenaline junky. He was a trained race car driver, so he definitely race cars. He loved fast cars. He talked about that in interviews.

But he also -- I was talking to people close to him yesterday, and they also said he had a motto and his motto was cars are meant to race on the track, not on the street. He believed in driving fast, but doing it in a controlled environment where you're supposed to.

BANFIELD: He believed in safety. What a budding career, too, that was ahead of him. Just an incredible -

TURNER: One of the most bankable stars in Hollywood.

(CROSSTALK)

BANFIELD: That career was blooming and on its way. That's a real loss. And let us know when you learn about the investigation and what they turn up. I know there's a lot more to it. Nischelle Turner reporting for us live.

The president is going to go on something of, I think you can call it an Obamacare offensive. After two months of problems and really bad press over the website rollout that was a bit of a debacle, the White House says it wants to refocus the public on the benefits of the Affordable Care Act, especially for young people. Because that's key to this working. Young people.

Mr. Obama says he's going to hold an event at the White House this afternoon, and all of this comes after the Supreme Court says it's not going to take up the constitutionality of one of the key provisions, and that's the employer mandate which requires that employers provide basic health coverage to workers or face a fine for not doing so .

Any minute now, a federal judge is expected to rule on whether Detroit can move ahead with its chapter 9 bankruptcy. You probably already heard, this is the largest city in U.S. history, Detroit, ever to go broke. That's it. Broke. It's $18 billion in debt, and if approved, this is going to allow the city of Detroit to work out a plan to pay off the creditors, just like you and me. Except those creditors are like unions, investors, pension funds. They may be paying them out as little as just pennies on the dollar. Just like you and me, but a lot bigger.

When you think of the comic book with Archie and Jughead, and Betty and Veronica, you probably don't think of threats and stalking and bad words and discrimination, but that's exactly what the employees are saying about the CEO they work for. And you have got to wait, because when you hear what she allegedly calls some of the men in the office, you're going to be blushing brighter than the colors on that cover.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BANFIELD: Are white men fair game for worker place discrimination? Stop. Think about it for a minute. White men, workplace. Can they be discriminated against? Because the top woman executive at this place, Archie Comics, says yes. I guess, you know.

She claims that they are. And even while she's denying ever having harassed or bullied her white male employees, she says they're not a protected class. A group of them all sued her in October, accusing - she's the co-CEO. They accused her, among other things, of referring to men by their genitals. It's a bit strange, and I need to be clear with you so I'm just going to quote the darn court papers. And here's what they say: quote, "the word 'penis' became somewhat of a campaign slogan, and her preferred method of referring to the employees in lieu of their names."

That's a little odd. The target of the suit, the CEO, says that -- she's telling "The Daily News" anyway, that this is all cruel and mean, and inaccurate. Her lawyer goes further, claiming white men aren't a protected class, and thus they can't claim that they were picked on by the boss. I know. That seems weird to me too. So, that's why I'm going to bring in the brain trust: CNN legal analyst, Danny Cevallos and Joey Jackson as well, our analyst from out sister network, HLN.

I don't get it. I'm just going to start with you, Danny. I thought this was classic sexual harassment. Why is there this protected class issue coming into it? No woman has ever come out with that debate that I know of, when they claim sexual harassment, Why would the men?

DANNY CEVALLOS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: So, let's start with this: I mean, you can be mean to or have an unpleasant work environment for almost any reason in the world unless it's based on your membership in a protected class. And all of us are members of protected classes. Me, as a male, you, as a female, we're all member of a particular race, we are all members of particular classes, and we can be discriminated against based on that.

So, for example, if I was the single male in a gigantic corporation of females, I could be discriminated against as long as it's based on my being a male. That's a form of gender discrimination here. However, the bar for hostile work environment is much higher than the public thinks it is. A single event, something like that done by a subordinate, may not qualify, but in a case like this, where a supervisor, the boss, is using very gender specific language like the word you said, that might meet the --

(CROSSTALK)

BANFIELD: It doesn't get a whole lot more gender specific than the P word. Well, although if you're Rob Ford.

JOEY JACKSON, HLN LEGAL ANALYST: I think there's numerous problem here.

BANFIELD: Ok, tell me.

JACKSON: Ok. The first thing that's problematic is this, sticks and stones may very well break my bones, but names shall never harm me. That's the first issue, ok, with respect to names. There's something dual going on here. And they're also claiming infliction of emotional distress. The other thing is you have to establish adverse employment action, all right? In the event, for example, that you're arguing -

(CROSSTALK)

BANFIELD: The sticks and stones actually hurt.

JACKSON: That they hurt and something happened to you. That something -- did you get demoted? Did you lose something of value? I don't see that going on here. Furthermore, claims about intentional infliction of emotional distress have to rise to more than calling someone by the name of their genitals.

So, and I also think there's a lot more here. I mean there's a history here, as we know, Ashleigh. What is that? There was a 2011 lawsuit between her and they're trying to oust her from the company. She took over for her husband. There was another suit pending where there was a member who was an intermediary between her and the company who wanted her ousted. I think there's a lot more than this simple employment case that we're talking about.

BANFIELD: It is a - I'm just going to say it. It is a hot mess. And it is better reading than the comics. And I'm a big fan of the comics.

JACKSON: Love Archie.

BANFIELD: I hope they don't start sexing up these characters. Because that's how I grew up. Guys stay with me, I have a couple of other cases coming your way.

In the next five years, one industry plans to grow from a billion dollar business to a ten billion dollar business.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are a lot of stereotypes. You think it's a bunch of guys sitting around smoking pot in their offices? It's not like that. It's a real business. We're building a culture of excellence on cannabis.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BANFIELD: I caught your attention, didn't I, on the whole cannabis thing? Just ahead, we're going to take you out to Colorado where the pot business is booming.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BANFIELD: Okay. I need you to work with me for a minute here. I want you to set aside any stereotypes that you might have, and clearly you might not, but in Colorado marijuana production is taking on the look and the feel of a Fortune 500 company. Starting January 1st, Coloradoans can legally get into the business of pot, in all sorts of ways, and you know what? Companies are investing millions and millions of dollars to meet the demand here. The state for its part sees tax revenue and a lot of jobs. So, effectively, pot is a growth industry in more ways than one. Here's Miguel Marquez.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: : This is our vegetative growth room.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ: Any Williams is out to become captain of the country's newest growth industry: Colorado's legal recreation pot business.

It's a factory of pot.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is a factor of pot. It certainly is.

MARQUEZ: His medicine men will be selling to users, up to an ounce for Colorado residents, a quarter ounce for out-of-staters, anyone over 21 can buy starting January 1st.