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Winter Wallop; Defense Rests in Florida Murder Trial; Sting Targets Mafia in New York and Italy

Aired February 11, 2014 - 15:00   ET


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Top of the next hour. I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you so much for being with me here.

I want to take you straight to Jacksonville, Florida, because in this rare move, the defendant in a high -profile murder trial takes the stand. Moments ago, we saw the defense team rest their case.

The man we're talking about here, not this young man. That is the victim here. We're talking about Michael Dunn. He fired into an SUV full of teenagers in a gas station parking lot in 2012. Here he is, Michael Dunn. He killed one of the passengers, the young man you saw a moment ago, 17-year-old Jordan Davis.

Dunn faces life in prison if he is convicted of murder. And for much of the day today, Dunn, as you see him, has been on the stand explaining to this jury why he feared for his life the night he shot Jordan Davis.



I asked for a common courtesy, hey, could you turn that down, please? If they would have said, F-you, we're not doing it -- I mean, that's basically what they did. They turned it off and turned it back on. I wasn't going to ask them again. I was done.

I asked them for a common courtesy. They gave it. I said, thank you. And that was the end of it. Even when they turned it back on, that was the end of it.

It was Jordan Davis who kept escalating this to the point where he -- I had no choice but to defend myself. It was life or death.

I don't remember exactly what it said, but it was something about a shooting on the South Side, and it showed a fatality.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. And, obviously, if they use the word fatality, you know that means?

DUNN: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you tell the jury how you reacted when you saw that on your phone?

DUNN: I ran to the bathroom. I just...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Tell the jury why you ran to the bathroom?

DUNN: I vomited.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You thought everybody was a thug or gangster, right?

DUNN: After the way they behaved, yes, I did.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Wait. They way they behaved?

DUNN: Well, the one man in particular, but his neighbor seemed to have been in agreement right there with him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. But the guy in the front seat actually turned...


DUNN: You're right, he was the reasonable one.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right. And the driver, he didn't threaten you in any way, did he?

DUNN: You're right. He did not.


BALDWIN: So, hearing both of those, of course, that was direct. That was the cross-examination, just doing due our diligence here at CNN, so you're hearing both sides of what went on in that courtroom today.

Ashleigh Banfield outside that courthouse in Jacksonville, Florida, for us, and also standing by, Jane Velez-Mitchell with our sister network HLN.

Ladies, Ashleigh, because you're there, I just want to begin with you. Huge day for the defense, putting Michael Dunn in the stand to testify. You know, he had to show for the jurors remorse. They had to humanize him. He needed to show emotion, because we heard that prosecutor try to pick him apart.

How successful do you think that went?


I think he sort of got it all. In fact, every defense attorney has to wrestle with the idea of his or her client testifying.

It can be a train wreck. It can end a case or it can save their lives at times as well.

So, there's nothing more dramatic in a first-degree murder trial than hearing from the defendant's own mouth. I have got to say, I think this defendant did a remarkable job, not as Ashleigh Banfield, as someone who watched thousands of trials and seen a lot of people absolutely crater on the witness stand.

He did not, Brooke. He did a remarkable job taking us through that night from his perspective. And if he's lying, he's a phenomenal actor, because what I saw out of this guy was a mild-mannered, gentle person recounting what he said was a very frightening event. This is his perspective, let's not forget.

That's not hard to do under direct examination from your very friendly attorney who is facing off against you in the courtroom. But then under cross-examination, Brooke, I did not see a combative, angry person emerge. You can bet your bottom dollar that's exactly what the prosecutor, John Guy, wanted. That's why he hammered away at him. It's why he yelled at him. It's why he repeated questions over and over again, trying to get the guy to break and show some true colors, ugly colors, colors that the jury could seize on to say, yes, I knew there was something else to it.

I don't know where we got that moment where we saw, oh, yes, there's the guy all the headlines were screaming about. I think he did an amazing job.

BALDWIN: So, maybe today his testimony saved his life. We have to wait for that.

Jane Velez-Mitchell, I have a specific question for you, because what about the fact that Michael Dunn and his fiancee, as we heard in his testimony, we knew this before, they hopped in that car after the shooting happened at the gas station. They went back to the hotel, ordered pizza, made some drinks, as he said, to calm his nerves, and then once he learned that the 17-year-old had died, he said he was sick, he was vomiting. How do you think all of those details sat with the jury today?

JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL, HEADLINE NEWS ANCHOR: On direct, I think as he was guided by his defense attorney, he was very believable. He made the case for his panic and his tunnel vision, and how they, in a hysteric panic, left the scene and they were afraid of these thugs who be might coming to their hotel. And they were peering out of the hotel looking for the red SUV in fear for their lives.

But on cross-examination, we saw the other side of the story. Well, if you're in such fear for your life, why didn't you even bother to hide your car? I really feel that it's all in the eye of the beholder. Our staff watched this together, about a dozen people. After it was over, there was a huge debate. Some people found him very believable. Others thought he was arrogant and smug and really crossed the line into just wild exaggeration.

When I listened to it, I thought on direct he was believable. On cross, he actually, I think, A., threw his own girlfriend under the bus by suggesting that she was wrong when she said, as they pulled up to the gas station, he said, I hate that thug music. He said, no, no, she didn't hear that many, and also suggested she didn't understand the concept of self-defense, which I don't think is going to sit well with the majority of the jurors, who are women.

But he also, I think, crossed the line into imaginary, almost like hypothetical, suggesting that the victim, Jordan Davis, could have fired a shot. Now, that's the first time we ever heard that in this entire case. What? The prosecution is saying there's no gun. Now he sort of stumbles and suggested, well, maybe not only did this guy have a gun, but he fired a shot.

You know what that leads me to believe? He's a person who likes to maybe exaggerate or whatever comes out of his mouth, he starts to believe. We all know people like that. And that's not somebody that I think the jury is going to like. I think it cuts both ways.

BALDWIN: As Ashleigh pointed out, this is a man who knows his life is on the line, faces this first-degree murder charge, and three counts of attempted murder, because there were those three individuals in that Dodge Durango that day, November 2012, when we know Michael Dunn took that gun, that .9-millimeter out of his glove compartment, and as we now know ultimately killed the 17-year-old. We will keep an eye on this.

I know both of you will. Ashleigh Banfield, Jane Velez-Mitchell, thank you both.

And now to the brunt of what could be a crippling Southern winter storm is all of several hours away. The South, most notably North Georgia, is in the path of what could be an ice storm of epic proportions. Not my words, folks. This is directly coming from the national weather forecasters. And keep in mind, just context here, who could forget two weeks ago, those two inches of snow absolutely paralyzed Atlanta, Georgia?

We are going to check with Chad Myers, who is tracking the storm for us, in just a moment.

But, Ed Lavandera, I would like to begin with you and just the visuals, because you were standing out where, as I mentioned, 14 or so days ago, the cars were not moving. School kids were stranded on buses on those highways, and now looking good so far.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Even two weeks later, it's still kind of hard to imagine that that event actually took place on these interstates. This is an interstate coming just out of downtown Atlanta.

Things running smoothly, just a light drizzle that we have seen throughout most of the day, traffic running very smoothly here as we start approaching the rush hour time here in the Atlanta area. So we will be monitoring that throughout the evening.

But, really, the brunt of this storm won't be happening for several more hours. But, even despite that, a lot of schools, and businesses, and city government across the region taking early precautions, many things shut down today, as well as already announcing closures for tomorrow as well. So, school districts and businesses and government offices really starting to shut down and prepare, and we're also seeing a run at grocery stores, people buying up bread and all the staples that they need for the next couple of days as people prepare and anticipate what could be a very devastating storm.

So, power outages is what we will also be taking a much closer look at this time around. These ice -- gets on the trees. Trees fall over and they knock over power lines. And that is going to leave a lot of people in the cold as well. So, we will be monitoring that over the next 48 hours as well -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: All right, Ed, thank you.


BALDWIN: Coming up: An international sting takes aim at the mafia here in the United States and also overseas, two countries, 24 arrests in a raid the feds are calling a lasting blow to the mafia's crime efforts. We will take you behind the Operation New Bridge.

Plus, we have been telling about this stunning survival story of this man. Remember, he was adrift on this fishing boat out in the Pacific Ocean for 13 months, living on raw fish and turtles before he was rescued. Well, now he is expected to arrive soon, and CNN is live in El Salvador as his friends and family are ready to give him a hero's welcome. We're live from that village next.





BALDWIN: That little voice singing and tap-dancing her way into the hearts of millions. Shirley Temple, the darling of the Great Depression, has died, her family today confirming her death at age 85 from natural causes.

Her legacy is huge, the world's first child star still a household name today, some 80 years after she rose to fame, her dimpled face, her blond ringlets helping solidify her triple-threat stardom. In fact, she made $3 million before she even hit puberty. Just think about how much that money was back then, too.

When she became a teen, though, as so often we have seen for child stars, the job opportunities lessened. And instead of retiring into nostalgia, she had a second wind, appointed U.N. delegate by President Richard Nixon in 1969, but she never forgot her roots.


SHIRLEY TEMPLE, ACTRESS: I never really thought of myself as an icon. I always feel that I should be put in a museum or something. But an icon, I'm delighted that people loved my films, and were loyal to me, and still are.


BALDWIN: Shirley Temple, a child star who will not soon be forgotten, dead at age 85.

And he is the man, the so-called castaway who spent more than a year stranded at sea, floating by the whim of the waves. And now Jose Salvador Alvarenga is headed in one direction, home. He's expected to reach El Salvador tonight.

And many people out there, they still doubt this man's story that he and a companion went out to fish from Mexico in late 2012 when the winds blew them off course. His friend died about a month later, and Alvarenga had been drifting until he was found way far away in the Marshall Islands thousands of miles from where he began.

Alvarenga stayed alive. He said he ate turtles and fish, and drank his bodily fluids. But there's no question his family in El Salvador believes every word as loved ones prepare to see him.

CNN's Rafael Romo joins me from Garita Palmera. This is the name of his village there in El Salvador.

Do we know when he's expected to finally arrive home, Rafael?

RAFAEL ROMO, CNN SENIOR LATIN AMERICAN AFFAIRS EDITOR: Yes, Brooke. As a matter of fact, we have confirmed that the Foreign Ministry here in El Salvador has told us that he's arriving here at 7:50 p.m. local time on a flight from Los Angeles.

And, as you said, he ended up in the Marshall Islands. I have been here since 7:00 in the morning, Brooke, and there's been a lot of activity here. You cannot see balloons anymore because the temperatures here is in the 90s and they will pop.

But the entrance here at the house, the house where Jose Salvador Alvarenga grew up, was nicely decorated. You can probably still see the sign that says "bienvenido a casa." You know what that means. It means, welcome home.

Now, a couple of hours ago, his parents, Julia and Ricardo Alvarenga, left the premises and presumably they left for the airport to reunite with their son, somebody whom they haven't seen in eight years, Brooke, and see him and hug him for the first time in that long -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: Amazing. Rafael Romo, what an assignment you have today. Thank you so much.

From El Salvador, now to Washington, because just into CNN, the House of Representatives voting to repeal a cut to military pensions, move from last year's budget agreement.

Earlier, House Speaker John Boehner and Republicans dropped their demand to link this repeal to a measure raising the debt ceiling. That vote over our nation's debt, as we mentioned, to go, scheduled tonight.

Drug trafficking, money laundering, firearm deals, the feds take aim at the mafia, arresting 24 people in New York and in Italy. Next, we're learning new details of how this operation dubbed New Bridge went down and some of the evidence investigators are collecting.

And, this, ooh, dramatic takedown caught on camera. We will tell you what led up to this arrest.


BALDWIN: I want to show you this arrest. This is unlike anything I have really seen. Police in Sacramento, they take down this suspect and a photographer. Well, CNN's Sacramento affiliate KOBR caught the whole thing on camera. Watch.

Wow. Keep watching this play out. Some other guys come in, they tackle him to the ground. Here's the backstory. Our affiliate is reporting the man was tackled by police after running away from a transit officer at a train station. He cut through a neighborhood, hopped a fence, grabbed a bike, rode it right into the path of this news photographer who happened to be there when the officers ambushed him. At least one of the officers were hurt, we're told, in his face. Wow.

A major hit against a suspected mafia crime syndicate, and not only was it big. It was involving not just the U.S., but Italy. Law enforcement in both nations are behind this. The Italian police and the FBI worked in the first-of-its-kind joint operation and they brought down accused mob leaders on both sides of the Atlantic.

Authorities say seven members of powerful crime families were arrested in New York and another 17 handcuffed in Italy.

CNN national correspondent Jason Carroll is live for us in New York.

Jason, I understand this involves -- this is huge mafia group working on three continents. Yes?


You saw some of them being arrested there. This alleged crime family allegedly operating in Europe, North America, and South America. And, Brooke, when you read through the criminal docket on this, you really get a really keen sense of the creative technique that they allegedly used to traffic drugs, details about how these so-called wise guys would allegedly pack cocaine in fish and then freeze it to be exported into the United States.

Even then, according to recorded conversations, they knew exactly how to defrost the fish in just the right way to extract the cocaine. You can see some of them there being arrested in New York City, 24 in all alleged mobsters now detained or under arrest. Italian police along with the FBI working together to target an organized syndicate called 'Ndrangheta, which operates in Southern Italy, as well as the Gambino and Bonanno crime family, which operates primarily here in the United States.

The subjects charged with various offenses ranging from trafficking heroin, to cocaine to money laundering. Italian police carried out raids in Calabria in Southern Italy, as well as several other cities in Southern Italy, while the FBI nabbed seven people here.

The U.S.-Italian operation nicknamed New Bridge has been ongoing for two years. Federal authorities detailing exactly what they uncovered during their investigation.


MARSHAL MILLER, ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY: Using techniques like undercover officers and court-authorized wiretaps, American and Italian law enforcement determined that 'Ndrangheta aimed to move deadly narcotics across international boundaries, attempting to build a bridge of criminality and corruption to stretch from South America to Italy and back to New York.

But what the 'Ndrangheta didn't know was that a much stronger bridge already existed between Italy and New York, a bridge of cooperation between American and Italian law enforcement that has been built over decades and has stood the test of time.


CARROLL: Investigators describe the 'Ndrangheta as an exceptionally dangerous, sophisticated and -- quote -- "insidious criminal organization" -- that quote coming from U.S. attorney Loretta Lynch.

They believe this recent bust has really dealt a major, major blow to the syndicate's effort to try to gain a foothold here in New York -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: You mentioned the fishy cocaine, Jason Carroll. What does canned fruit have to do with this operation?

CARROLL: Yes. Again, once again, when it comes to drug trafficking, Brooke, as you imagine, criminals allegedly use any means necessary to try to traffic drugs, and according again to the criminal complaint here that we read through, not only did they try to -- did hide cocaine in fish, but also hid cocaine in pineapples, and also in coconut milk, so using any means necessary to try to traffic drugs from point A to point B.

BALDWIN: And now busted.

Jason Carroll, thank you very often.

Coming up, one of my CNN colleague, Ana Navarro, if you're watching, she tweeted this regarding a 14-year-old niece. This is what she tweets. Who is Monica Lewinsky? How would you explain that to a millennial? This is what we want to ask our next guest here. And does this generational divide matter since the scandal is back in the news? Our new guest, a certain someone special joining me now live,.

Plus, the Dow above 200 points after a rough couple of weeks. Find out why after a quick break.