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Mystery of Flight 370; Director Of Phoenix VA, Two Others Placed On Leave Amid Allegations Of Vets Dying While Waiting For Care; Sterling Case May Have Implications For Other NBA Owners With Controversial Behavior; Interview with Amanda Knox

Aired May 1, 2014 - 20:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone. We have breaking news tonight that really is a matter of life and death for millions of people who volunteer to serve their country in wartime and whose country is now letting them down. They are military veterans and as you know we have been documenting how some of them have been made to wait months for medical care at VA hospitals.

And at least three hospitals that we know of, they have died while waiting for that care. In the case of our most recent reporting, one VA hospital allegedly kept a secret list of wait times that they tried to keep hidden. Tried until our Drew Griffin reported it.

Our months of reporting got President Obama's attention. Our reporting just last night got action. So tonight we can report on what could, what might be the early signs of accountability. It concerns the woman in the car you're about to see here scurrying away from our Drew Griffin.


DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Director Helman, can you talk to us, please? Can you please talk to us, Director? Director Helman? Director Helman?


COOPER: She's director of the Phoenix VA, and now she finally did agree to talk with our Drew Griffin after screeching away in her vehicle. Late today at 5:58 Eastern Time to be precise, we got word she and two others have now been placed on administrative leave. This could be a very big deal.

Drew is working his sources. We're going to have more on this later in the hour.

First, though, Flight 370. Today Malaysian authorities releasing a preliminary report on the disappearance that's been criticized as too late and containing far too little. What little there is, though, is not flattering. The document of wasted time and wasted opportunities to contact the Boeing 777, to track it, investigate whether it was in trouble and ultimately find the remains of it. Rene Marsh begins our coverage.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 32 Flight Cleared for takeoff MAS370. Thank you. Bye.

RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION AND GOVERNMENT REGULATION CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Almost two months after Flight 370 vanished, Malaysian authorities finally released an initial report to the public. The five-page document doesn't explain why the plane went missing but does make clear the hours after the flight disappeared there was confusion and misinformation. Moments after the flight's now famous final communication.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Malaysian 370 contact Ho Chi Minh 120 decimal 9. Good night.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good night, Malaysian 370.

MARSH: The plane's transponder goes off causing it to disappear from radar at 1:21 a.m. local time. But the report shows it was 17 minutes before air traffic controllers in Vietnam asked their counterparts in Malaysia what happened to the plane. During that time, the flight unexpectedly turned left eventually re-crossing the Malay Peninsula. Malaysian military radar tracked it but did nothing.

The report also shows during this time Malaysia Airlines may have added to the confusion, sending two messages to air traffic control. Both of which turned out to be false. The first at 2:03 a.m. claiming the plane was in Cambodian air space. It wasn't. The second message at 2:35 a.m. saying the plane was tracking to Beijing. Again, the information was wrong.

5:30 a.m., four hours after the plane disappeared from radar search and rescue was alerted. Precious time lost to confusion. The plane continued south far into the Indian Ocean. The last partial satellite communication coming at 8:19 a.m.

The report includes maps of three possible crash sites, red indicating the most likely.

Also released, passenger seating assignments in the cargo manifest, which lists lithium ion batteries among the materials being transported. The report itself is brief. It did contain one recommendation saying real-time tracking flight should become the international standard.


COOPER: And Rene Marsh now joins us from Washington.

So, I understand, family members of the missing also received the report?

MARSH: That's right, Anderson, and to hear the families tell it the report is somewhat irrelevant. It doesn't tell them anything new that gets them closer to finding out what happened.

Now this was the preliminary report from Asiana. I wanted to show you this. It's pretty short here, it's just this paragraph. Compare that to the preliminary report from Air France, 128 pages.

The bottom line here is that the country in charge of the investigation can tell you as little or as much as they want to. And to be fair, they really in this case don't know a lot about what happened to the plane.

That said, there is still a lot of information that they could have included here that is not in here, virtually no detailed information on the plane. Its maintenance history, engine or performance data. Nothing about air traffic control staffing in Kuala Lumpur, the number of controllers or even their experience level -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right, Rene Marsh, appreciate the update.

An awful lot to talk about with our panel. Aviation analyst and private pilot, Miles O'Brien is here, aviation correspondent Richard Question, CNN analyst David Gallo, director of Special Projects at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and co-led the search for Air France Flight 447, and CNN aviation analyst David Soucie, author of "Why Planes Crash: An Accident Investigator Fights for Safe Skies."

Richard, you've been talking about this report for a long time that it needs to be released. You pressed the Malaysian prime minister who said it would be. It's now out there. What do you make of it?

RICHARD QUEST, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: It is, as Rene said, the mistake they could get away with in terms of the detail. What else to say, the Air France report, the 128 pages, it was nicely padded out with lots of graphs and pictures of air traffic control regions between Brazil and all that sort of thing. And that's what we might have expected here. You might have expected a bit of a treatise on ACARs, and some documents about transponders, all that sort of thing that gives a fuller picture.

COOPER: Or even some of the basic questions that the families wanted to know about the ELTs and things that you could --


QUEST: Yes, you could have filed all of that in, absolutely. It would have given a fuller picture. But as a preliminary report it is unimpeachable. It does what needs to be done. It is all of this other stuff, where the real story is today, Anderson. It's all the various documents that we got that were released on the instructions I'm told of the prime minister who insisted that these were released, as well.

COOPER: Documents about what was in the cargo, about lithium batteries, and we're going to talk a lot about that.

The delay, though, that we see in this preliminary report not only in realizing that there was a problem but even longer delay in actually starting the search. Would it have made a difference?

QUEST: It wouldn't made -- I don't believe it would have made much of the difference, the final outlook. If you look at the plot of the map -- of the plane and you plot it against the various times in there, the plane is well and truly on its way by any reasonable time.

You've got to allow air traffic control a certain leeway. I'm going to be charitable. Say up to two hours before you push the big red button that says crisis. Even so, right at the end, Anderson, there are times when you've got gaps of 37 minutes, 44 minutes, 36 minutes, all these gaps before -- so there was plenty of opportunity for somebody to do something a little bit sooner.

COOPER: David Soucie, you've been involved in the investigations like this. I mean, four hours to start the search?

DAVID SOUCIE, CNN SAFETY ANALYST: Yes, I think starting the search isn't the only point. The point is that the military radar had picked up this aircraft and knew it was there prior to the search during that four-hour period. So why that wasn't communicated back. It's the same problem we have with 911 when -- that happened here in the United States. The military radar was tracking those airplanes but they had no way to communicate directly to the civil radar.

So the civil radar knew something was going on. The military knew something was going on but they didn't communicate together. Since that time, we did do that. We have very good communication. The military radar when they send out the primary ping, they see also back to them what aircraft it is. It's identified to the transponder just like it is -- as it is here, as it should have been there.

And now I am questioning, why didn't ICAO not take that rule, push that forward and make International Civil Aviation Authority. That's what they're there for.

COOPER: Right.

SOUCIE: Is to make sure our citizens, when we travel in other countries, are protected to the same level we are. Why did that not happen? That's my question.

COOPER: Miles, you've covered scores of aviation disasters. To you the reaction time of the Malaysians, how does it compare to others you've seen?

DAVID SOUCIE, CNN SAFETY ANALYST: Very slow. Embarrassingly slow. Tragically slow, Anderson. Because if there had been a simple phone call and either direction from the military radar room to the civilian or vice versa, I suspect two and two would have added up. Because you had a missing civilian airliner on one side and you had an unidentified blip on the other side. And presumably that would have had somebody get into a fighter aircraft to intercept.

And here is where it gets tragic. If it really was a deliberate act and suddenly there's an F-18 on your wing tip, could the whole chain of events have ended right there perhaps without the tragedy we talk about?

COOPER: And in terms of the size of the report, Miles, I mean, 10 pages long. We talked about the Air France Flight, 128 pages long.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: You know, I'll take what we can get, Anderson. I didn't expect a lot. I frankly expected less because if you look at the basic form for our preliminary report for ICAO, the narrative required is supposed to be 200 words or less. That's according to the form. So that's practically a tweet.

But the bottom line is, we've always wanted more information. We still need more information on this. For the families this is just excruciating.


O'BRIEN: It's been disrespectful to them. The emotional toll on them.

COOPER: And David Gallo, I mean, what's interesting in the report highlights a wide range of assumptions about the speed of the aircraft. I mean, at one point it's 323 knots, and they estimated could be 350 knots. That makes a huge difference in terms of -- I mean, assuming it ended up in the water, where it might have ended up.

DAVID GALLO, CO-LED SEARCH FOR AIR FRANCE FLIGHT 447: Yes, all those little changes in speeds or heading. By the time we're done with that, the link -- the flight seven hours, plus, you're talking about big differences where it may have impacted the ocean. And that's huge when you're talking about searching the seafloor. But we've seen what the Bluefin searching the six-mile radius area. How long that's taken. Imagine if it was off by another 10 times that.

COOPER: And Miles, I mean, again, you have a huge variety in terms of altitude. At one time it assumes the plane flew an altitude of 31,000 feet, and other time assumes the plane was at 15,000 feet. That's a huge difference.

O'BRIEN: Yes, the -- and this is where this big gap. That map, I'm not quite sure where they derived their assumptions because one of the -- one of the altitudes which they used which leads to that red box which is supposedly the more likely box which is where they've heard the pings, and where the search is indicating, assumes 30,000 feet. And yet 323 knots, which is much slower than you would expect at that altitude.

So I'm a little confused on these numbers. On the speed and altitude that they chose to build these assumptions. You know, it doesn't take -- as we just discussed it doesn't take much variance in speed to change the search location by literally hundreds of miles.

COOPER: Right, a lot more to talk about ahead. We're going to take a short break. We're going to continue the conversation.

A quick reminder, you can set your DVR so you never miss the program.

Next, more on the cargo mentioned in the report that Richard alluded to. Batteries like these that are usually safe but always flammable.

There's that and new developments as well on the Donald Sterling affair. NBA owners meeting late today to begin deciding his fate as owner of the L.A. Clippers but how easy is it going to be to really get him out? Will he fight it.

Just now, releasing word of what transpired in that meeting among other owners. We'll talk about that ahead.


COOPER: More now on the revelations in that preliminary report on the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. Specifically regarding some of the cargo, what was traveling along with the 239 passengers and crew. The flight manifest showing nearly 2500 kilos or about 5400 pounds of lithium batteries.

Now initially back in March, the airlines seal said the amount was 200 kilos, less than a tenth as much. Either way the stuff is not -- if it's not manufactured right and handled properly it can cause a lot of damage as Randi Kaye found out.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At 30,000 feet, this laptop may be enough to bring down a jumbo jet. Watch closely, it's about to catch fire. Inside is a lithium battery. When it gets too hot, it ignites just like this FAA training video demonstrates.

In the last two decades or so the FAA reports more than 140 incidents involving batteries in cargo or baggage. In most cases, the batteries were undeclared. Baggage handlers noticed luggage on fire or hot to the touch. On-board laptops, even flashlights started to smoke.

Even though lithium batteries can cause this, they are still allowed in the electronics in the passenger cabin. But in 2008, the FAA banned loose batteries in checked luggage. A limited amount of batteries are still allowed to be checked if packaged properly. The concern is they could short circuit.

(On camera): A short circuit can happen by chance. Say a loose battery in a person's checked luggage comes into contact with keys or coins or even jewelry. That can create a circuit or a path for electricity. The current flowing through that short circuit creates extreme heat leading to sparks and fire.

(Voice-over): Lithium batteries burn so hot they can melt the body of a plane.

KIT DARBY, COMMERCIAL PILOT: Nothing brings the fear of god to a pilot like having a fire or smoke in the airplane. You just can't pull off to the side of the road and hop out like you can in a car.

KAYE: This YouTube video shows how quickly lithium batteries can fuel a chain reaction. In 2006, fire forced a UPS plane to make an emergency landing in Philadelphia. Investigators found electronics containing lithium batteries in the cargo. The pilot survived.

And this is what was left of a UPS plane after it crashed in Dubai in 2010. The Boeing 747 was carrying 80,000 to 90,000 lithium batteries. A chain reaction fire filled the cockpit with smoke. Both pilots died.

Following the UPS crash in 2010, the FAA wanted to tighten the rules on battery shipments in cargo planes, too. Even classify them as dangerous goods. Industry groups and lobbyists fought back hard. The final compromise approved by Congress in 2012 blocked proposed tougher federal rules on transporting lithium batteries on planes. Instead, relying on international standards set by the U.N.

Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.


COOPER: And we're back with Miles O'Brien and Richard Quest and David Soucie.

As we said it's really interesting when we look at this report. We're going to put it up on the screen. On the cargo manifest that was released today by the Malaysians, it says, quote, the package contains lithium ion batteries.

You know, David, when we look back on all we know about this flight, how big a concern to you are those things? I mean, how many questions does it raise?

SOUCIE: It's not only about these flights, it's about those previous flights that she was talking about. 3707. These batteries are very volatile. They put off gases, hydrogen chloride. They put off sulfuric acid. If -- when you look at those flames that are coming out of those, the batteries, it's those gases that are burning and flaming and causing that damage. Very, very hot. It burns very, very hot.

COOPER: It's interesting, though, Richard, I mean, Malaysian Airlines earlier had said that this was in compliance with all international regulatory requirements and said they were non-dangerous good. That doesn't mean, though, that they aren't potentially dangerous.

QUEST: No, it doesn't mean they're not potentially dangerous. But the way Bill makes it clear, the package must be handled with care. A flammable hazard exist, et cetera, et cetera. My understanding is that these were packaged in accordance with the procedures. And they were in the back of the aircraft in the -- makes a huge amount of difference. But everything I have been told about these lithium ion batteries is that they do not believe they were a cause of anything going wrong.

SOUCIE: But therein lies the problem. They met those standards. Well, let's look at the standards. We have higher standards here in the United States. They can't be on passenger aircraft like that. They can't be put together.


COOPER: These amount of batteries would not be on a passenger aircraft in the United States.

SOUCIE: No. Not -- except on cargo aircraft.

COOPER: Right.

SOUCIE: That's why you put it on cargo aircraft. Especially 5,000 pounds worth of them. You know --

COOPER: Miles?

SOUCIE: Go ahead, Miles.

O'BRIEN: I got tell you, I burned a lithium battery in the hotel room, and it practically burned down the entire hotel room. And the --


SOUCIE: Why were you doing that?

O'BRIEN: I was charging up batteries and gear. It was not a pretty scene and all I can tell you is I don't want to fly with all those batteries beneath me. And I think that's a very good rule. And just because Malaysian Air says they were packed well and they were in the back, do we really know that?

COOPER: Right. I mean --

O'BRIEN: We don't really know that.

SOUCIE: We don't.

COOPER: I mean, to you, David Soucie, you had talked earlier to somebody who checked on the batteries and the pingers and that they weren't even being stored properly in a warehouse.

SOUCIE: Yes. That's correct.

COOPER: I mean, obviously it is a different issue --


COOPER: But I mean -- if one battery isn't correctly how do we know for sure that they're packaging these things correctly?

SOUCIE: Well, there's just two different divisions. You've got the maintenance division, which is the guy I had talked to was doing surveillance. He wasn't doing the cargo. But as you recall maybe a month ago or so we talked about how many reported incidents there were with these batteries. Most of them in loading or taking off because that's when they're most vulnerable to some kind of damage is when they're being put on the aircraft by a forklift or --

COOPER: Right.

SOUCIE: Any other kind of metal that's going on the airplane.

COOPER: You know, Miles, when you look at where this plane disappeared and there was a thing, a mention of this in "The Wall Street Journal," one person familiar with the investigation, said to "The Wall Street Journal" that it all might be a coincidence. But if you were choosing the one moment in the flight to go dark this moment right when it was getting into the Vietnamese air space was the moment. That if it was a technical failure it's a pretty extraordinary coincidence. To that you say what?

O'BRIEN: Yes. Well, handoffs are the opportunity for something like this to happen. Because there is this period of time when one guy has said good night and the other guy is supposed to pick up the ball. And during that period of time each thinks -- each person thinks the other is talking to the aircraft. And so if you wanted to disappear that is the time to do it. There is an opportunity there.

You know, you talk about this 17 minutes of time before Ho Chi Minh City started wondering where the plane was. That's a long period of time but not unprecedented as part of the routine course of action in handoffs on a day to day basis.


O'BRIEN: So it happens, it is an opportunity time.

COOPER: Miles O'Brien, good to have you on. David Soucie, Richard Quest as well.

Up next, breaking news, the director of the Phoenix VA put on leave just one day after we aired this interview with her. Our own Drew Griffin did it with her. She's facing allegations that veterans died while waiting for care and a secret list that kept the reality of those wait times hidden. It's unbelievable. Drew joins us with all the new development.

Later tonight, deciding the fate of L.A. Clippers owner, Donald Sterling. The first step as you know taken. And the owners talking today, what they've decided ahead.


COOPER: We're now in the breaking news on the top of the program sparked by our exclusive investigation into vets dying, while waiting to see doctors at the Phoenix Veterans Hospitals and two other facilities. The woman who runs the Phoenix hospital tonight along with two others on her staff have just been placed on administrative leave. Their boss, Veterans Affairs Erik Shinseki, explaining in a statement, quote, "These allegations if true are absolutely unacceptable."

We've continually asked for an interview with him. He's refused. Less than 24 hours after we aired this report, this has occurred, which showed the VA Director Sharon Helman scurrying away in a car, driving away from our cameras, from our Drew Griffin. And finally she sat with our Drew Griffin trying to explain allegations that her hospital kept a secret list of veterans, each of whom had been waiting up 21 months just to see a doctor.

A retired doctor at that hospital and other sources say that secret list was being kept so that the public and Helman's bosses would not know just how long veterans were waiting for care there. With up to 40 veterans died waiting to see a doctor.


SHARON HELMAN, PHOENIX VA DIRECTOR: Those were the allegations that we've asked the Office of Inspector General to review.

GRIFFIN: But those are the allegations I assume that you two would know direct knowledge of.

HELMAN: Again, those allegations are ones that the Office of Inspector General are reviewing right now. When we heard about this during the Health of Veterans Affairs Committee, it's the first time we have heard about those allegations and that is why we've asked the Office of Inspector General to come in and do a thorough and impartial review.


COOPER: Now Sharon Helman and her medical chief of staff denied the allegations of a secret list. However, just two hours ago, as we mentioned, VA Secretary Shinseki announced that Helman along with her associate director and a third employee at the hospital are now on administrative leave until further notice.

Our investigative reporter Drew Griffin has been on this story from the start, he broke the story of the possible 40 deaths and secret list two weeks. Joins us now.

So, Drew, this news today is really the first indication we've had that Secretary Shinseki was showing any interest in this?

GRIFFIN: Yes, and the VA secretary has been under fire, Anderson, not only from us but from many in Congress for paying what they see is very little attention. The cases across the country of veterans who have been dying, waiting for care at VA hospitals. It took these allegations of a hidden list to get him to finally act.

But I want to show you what may also have prompted him to act today. In fact just a couple of hours ago. We've been trying to get an interview with Eric Shinseki as you said since last November. Last night we told you about the 54 or so employees that work in his public affairs office to handle scheduling his interviews. Well, today we decided to try and reach every single one of them and asked them one more time for an on the record interview with Secretary Shinseki.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm calling to put in a formal request for an interview with Secretary Shinseki.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We've been asking to speak to him for six months and we'd really want to talk to him about delays in care at VA hospitals around the country.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Allegations of a secret list at the Phoenix VA that could have contributed to as many as 40 veterans dying because of delayed care.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And who is the best person that you recommend? Drew Brooky. OK.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. So it's Drew's decision whether or not the interview will happen? This slant on this story -- no, I -- well, we don't have a slant on the story but we've been asking for the secretary's reaction to this, and his comments and for him to respond for six months.


GRIFFIN: Anderson, we called 20 different government numbers in that Public Affairs Office. Five answered. Three of those people told us we needed to talk with a public affairs officer named Drew Brooky. And as you heard, one of them even asked what our slant was. Well, for the record, Drew Brooky is exactly the person we have been asking, e-mailing, calling and trying to get an interview since November of last year. And the response has always been either we're going to get back to you or simply no.

Well today, we have yet to hear back from Drew Brooky, but we did get this press release at 5:50 tonight announcing that the Phoenix VA director, Sharon Helman, is now on leave -- Anderson.

COOPER: It's amazing to me, I mean, these are -- again these are public officials. That their job is to be transparent. Their job is to present information to the American public. I mean, the fact that they're like dodging and weaving and squealing off in their cars running away from you. That the head of the VA won't do an interview with you, in all the months you've been investigating this, it just boggles my mind.

I mean, this started back in November. You got questions about delays and care from several VA hospitals, not just Phoenix. And I mean, Congress has been asking questions.

GRIFFIN: That is exactly -- exactly right. The lack of response is becoming a bit of a sick joke. We know at least 23 veterans died because there was delayed care at veteran's hospitals. That is what the VA has admitted to, 23. We know several veterans died in Pittsburgh because of the bacteria that was running through the water system in the VA hospital and the VA officials there tried to hide that fact from patients and even staff.

And now it is alleged 40 veterans died in Phoenix waiting for care. It is an -- and also waiting for care, many of them on a secret list so their names would remain hidden. Yet there is no one being held accountable. And all of these letters, I want to show you all of these letters, these are from members of Congress and the Senate asking Eric Shinseki exactly what and who is being held accountable for all of this mess.

The House Veterans Affairs Committee says the lack of response, Anderson, is so bad. This is what they are doing in Congress. They are keeping an electronic tally on its web site every time a reporter or member of Congress or government or official on a committee does not get any response. And tonight again you can add one more to that list. Our request today for an interview with VA Secretary Eric Shinseki is now being ignored.

COOPER: Again, you know, every politician, everybody in government loves to say that you know, veterans, you know they have served our country and they deserve the best care possible. They don't deserve to be waiting for months just to see a doctor. I mean, we're not even talking about you know, a course of treatment. These are people who have served our country just to see a doctor. They are waiting for, for months. That is outrageous.

GRIFFIN: It really is. You know, the vets get political lip service every time there is an election. Both parties go down to these VA veterans conferences. They talk a good game. They talk about improving benefits and access to health care. They also specifically in this last election talked about transparency and even specifically talked about cutting down wait times. People in office right now. In fact, the person that is in the White House talked about that. That is why this is so disturbing. The lack of transparency and until now the lack of any action.

COOPER: It is incredible. Drew, I appreciate you keeping an eye on it. We'll continue. Coming up, a committee of Donald Sterling's colleagues talks about whether to oust the disgraced clipper's owner. What the head of the NBA said late today coming up next.

Also ahead an exclusive interview with Amanda Knox. After that, new report from an Italian appeals court making startling and fresh claims about the murder of Meredith Kerchur. What Knox told CNN's Chris Cuomo when we continue.


COOPER: Well, looks like the NBA is wasting no time in trying to oust banned Clippers owner, Donald Sterling over his racist remarks. Today, a ten-member committee of NBA owners had a meeting to talk about what happens next. In a statement just a short time ago, the NBA said and I quote, "This afternoon, the Advisory Finance Committee met via conference call to discuss the process for termination of Donald C. Sterling's ownership of the Los Angeles Clippers.

The committee unanimously agreed to move forward as expeditiously as possible and will reconvene next week. Sterling now has five days to respond to the charges and the Board of Governors has to then vote within ten days.

Let's talk about all the legal ramifications, CNN legal analyst and criminal defense attorney, Mark Geragos, and CNN legal analyst and former federal prosecutor, Sunny Hostin. Mark, let me start with you. I was reading this piece in the "L.A. Times" today, they said the NBA tried to kick Sterling out back in 1982. He told he's sell the team and then basically just rode the storm out. He waited until it lost steam. This really seems to be a guy who knows how to hang on for dear life. Do you think he is going to go quietly into the night?

MARK GERAGOS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: No, I don't think there is any chance at all. In fact, I'm not so sure that the NBA doesn't face some rather formidable obstacles. It was reported that he holds the team in a family trust. I don't think necessarily that they can terminate him through the family trust. And if they have approved the team being held in that legal entity they have got enormous problems trying to terminate him.

Now, he at some point that doesn't mean there wouldn't be a negotiated surrender, but I think at this point, it's not going to be a situation where the NBA by-laws say you can get rid of somebody if they have financial problems. This is based on the first amendment and there are a whole lot of problems for him to just summarily terminate him.

COOPER: Also Mark, if he were forced to sell he would get hit with a lot of capital gains taxes, whereas if he just gave it to his family members who are currently part owners he would be able to avoid all that. So his family would take a big financial hit if he sold it.

GERAGOS: Yes, that is absolutely correct and that is one of the reasons they got it in a family trust, I'm sure. I think there are also significant issues. You know, Adam Silver took pains to talk about that this was only to Mr. Sterling, not to Mrs. Sterling. She has got all kinds of options, as well, and is basically running the team if you believe what is being reported. And I just don't think that they're going to be able to do this in a summary fashion.

COOPER: Sunny, what do you think? Shelly seems to indicate that she is sticking in.

SUNNY HOSTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: This is one of the few times Mark and I agree. I have been saying all along, Shelly Sterling really is a player here, and a lot of people are disagreeing with it. She is part owner of the team, the bottom line, very difficult to hurt family trust. They're put in place to protect assets --

COOPER: Some of his kids are also a part of this.

HOSTIN: That's right. So Mark, I mean, you would agree. It is not something that is going to be summarily done. Plus we know this is a really litigious guy. He sues people just for the sport of it. He sues his mistresses and fights with the Justice Department. This is somebody who has lawyered up at this time. Maybe you, Mark, are one of his lawyers, they're figuring out all sorts of maneuvers.

COOPER: Mark, I have to ask you about V. Stiviano. I mean, you know L.A. better than anyone. You deal with a wide variety of celebrities and people who want to be celebrities. What is her next move? She is walking around town in this sun visors, with one of their names on her hat. She has multiple names.

HOSTIN: I like that hat, I have ordered one.

COOPER: This is such to me an L.A. character.

GERAGOS: She is the quintessential L.A. character. I asked before we came on, I said do you think sunny would want her daughters to grow up like V.? Not one of the visors, this is not exactly a role model.

HOSTIN: I always said women who sleep with other women's men, you know, there is a special place in hell for them and that room is extra hot.

COOPER: Wait, what? Women who sleep with other women's men --

HOSTIN: Yes, husband.

COOPER: You absolve him of any responsibility in this?

HOSTIN: He is responsible, as well, but with V. Stiviano, the bottom line --

GERAGOS: Wait, can we ask one question? This gal was 27 when she hooks up with this 77-year-old guy who was then 76, really, do you think it was because of -- it was not for the hard body.

HOSTIN: That is right, she is not a noble character, but she has done the country a service by exposing this horrible racist.

COOPER: She has done the country a service. Yes. OK, Sunny, thank you. Mark Geragos as well. The Sterling case may have opened the Pandora's box, if this is the new standard, then the concept of what crosses the foul line may have implications for other owners. Randi Kaye takes a look.


KAYE (voice-over): In Orlando, Florida, another outspoken basketball team owner is suddenly back in the spotlight. It was 2009 when Rich DeVos, who owns the Orlando Magic first opened up about AIDS patients.

RICH DEVOS, ORLANDO MAGIC OWNER: AIDS is a disease that people gain because of their actions. It was not like cancer.

KAYE: DeVos was talking with his hometown newspaper, "The Grand Rapids Press." And he did not stop there. When asked about same-sex marriage, here is what he said.

DEVOS: Live your life, I will respect you, but don't keep asking for favors. Don't ask for a concession on a marriage issue, which is not vital to them, in my opinion.

KAYE: Then he went further.

DEVOS: I deal with a lot of wonderful gay people. I hire a lot of them. I use them, they're terrific. I am good friends with them. KAYE: Even before that DeVos had fueled protests for giving $100,000 in support of an anti-guy margay marriage amendment in Florida which passed, controversial, to be sure. But are his personal beliefs now considered to be over the line for an NBA owner?

LZ GRANDERSON, SENIOR WRITER, ESPN: Once you start to monitor what owners say now you really open yourself up to saying well, which remarks are OK and which ones are not OK?

KAYE: ESPN senior writer, LZ Granderson wonders where the league will draw the line and how will it decide who to punish?

GRANDERSON: If you're in league with an openly gay player, how then do you turn a blind eye towards owners?

KAYE: And what about players? Remember in 2011 when Los Angeles Laker Kobe Bryant reacted to a foul call? He was caught on television saying this. Bryant was fined $100,000 and apologized on the radio days later. And what about cases of sexual harassment? Hall of famer Isaiah Thomas was sued when coaching the New York Knicks by this woman, a Knicks executive. She claims he verbally abused her and tried to kiss her. She says she was fired after complaining.

ISIAH THOMAS, FORMER HEAD COACH, NEW YORK KNICKS: I am very innocent and I did not do the things that she accused me of in this courtroom of doing.


KAYE: In 2007, a jury found Thomas and Madison Square Garden liable for sexual harassment. The Garden was asked to pay more than $11 million. Isaiah Thomas paid nothing. Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.

COOPER: Up next, an exclusive interview with Amanda Knox after a new Italian judicial report says she is the one that fatally stabbed her roommate.


AMANDA KNOX, CONVICTED OF MURDERING HER ROOMMATE: I did not kill my friend. I did not wield a knife. I had no reason to.



COOPER: Tonight, Amanda Knox is speaking out in an exclusive interview of after an Italian Appeals Court released a shocking new explanation for its decision to convict her in the murder of her roommate, Meredith Kerchur trial. She and her boyfriend were convicted in 2009 and then cleared, then convicted again. The judge says there was an argument over rent money and it was Knox herself who caused the fatal wound, not her boyfriend or Rudy Guede who was also later convicted. Knox maintained her innocence all along and did so again today in an exclusive interview with Chris Cuomo.


KNOX: I did not kill my friend. I did not wield a knife, I had no reason to. I was in the month that we were living together we were becoming friends. A week before the murder occurred we went out to a class call music concert together like -- we had never fought.


COOPER: Chris spoke at length with Amanda Knox, he joins me now. This new report out of the Florence Court says that not only was Amanda Knox involved in this that she actually delivered the blow that killed Meredith Kercher.


KNOX: If I were there I would have had traces of Meredith's broken body on me and I would have left traces of myself around Meredith's corpse. And I am not there and that proves my innocence.


COOPER: She is obviously referring to DNA. What do you make of this? She is standing by her story.

CHRIS CUOMO, ANCHOR, CNN'S "NEW DAY": I think her level of emotion is indicative of how surprising this result is in the motivation, in the decision of the judge.

COOPER: It is surprising to her?

CUOMO: It is very surprising to her because this judge goes farther than any judge before. The knife being the murder weapon, her being the killer, these are all things that are familiar. The way the judge describes that her DNA on the hilt of that knife, that is the murder weapon even though it was dismissed before. He believes all three, Rudy Guede, the man convicted, and her boyfriend, all conspired to kill Meredith Kercher and it is Amanda Knox that delivered the final stab that killed her.

COOPER: This has been her life, from the time she was 20 years old to now. I want to play some of the exchange. She has been able to carve out a life. You talked to her about this.


CUOMO: You started in 2007, it is now 2014. For you and your life, is it present day? Are you able to be present day or are you still trapped in 2007?

KNOX: It is definitely a limbo. My entire adult life has been weighed down and taken over by this tremendous mess. This -- I mean, on the one hand I have my life in Seattle. I get to go to school. I get to be with my family and friends, and I'm so grateful to have them. They really helped me get through this. I guess I'm just one of the lucky ones.

CUOMO: How so?

KNOX: Well, because I'm actually -- I'm actually supported by people and people have looked into my case as opposed to have forgotten me. And people who know about what kinds of things happened to lead to wrongful convictions have come out and said things in support of me. And that is -- that has made a huge difference in my life. I don't feel as alone as I could.


COOPER: You talked to her, I think it was May of last year. Does she seem different than she did back then?

CUOMO: I think she is growing up in a way. I think she is stunted in a way and I think there is real anxiety now. This is one step away, and she says she has people who support her. But the question is are those people on the supreme court in Italy because she is suffering from two real problems. One, is one of perception, what I call a problem of first impression that they had there. The first image that she didn't act right.

The second image she has to deal with is she is forced to make the case for her own innocence. And there is something that always makings credibility questionable in that, when somebody said I didn't do it and didn't do it and being their own attorney in effect. It is a rough spot for her. And the politics of the situation seem to dictate that the chance that the Supreme Court overturns this is not great, probably not a 50/50 proposition. So she is having to deal with that. She knows the stakes better than anyone.

COOPER: That is incredible, I'll look for the interview. And you can tune in to Chris Cuomo's exclusive interview, the trial of Amanda Knox at 10 p.m. Eastern here on CNN.

Up next, Anthony Bourdain on where to find some of the best street food in the world. I sit down with him next.


COOPER: Sunday night on CNN, a new episode of "PARTS UNKNOWN." Anthony Bourdain traveled to Mexico. I tried to convince him not to be afraid of street tacos in Mexico. Take a look.


COOPER: You go to Mexico City, and the place I spent time in, the day of the dead, the legendary spot where tourists go. But you see a different side of Mexico.

ANTHONY BOURDAIN, HOST, CNN'S "PARTS UNKNOWN": On the one hand, Mexico is a place I deeply love and I feel a personal connection to. I work with and relied heavily on Mexican cooks for much of my career. It is a country we have a sort of tortured and deeply hypocritical relationship with. I feel both in my former business of food, culturally, our favorite foods.

COOPER: Culturally how?

BOURDAIN: We claim to not want them, we claim to not want them in, yet we can't live without Mexican restaurant workers, our economy would collapse.

COOPER: Do you like real Mexican food?

BOURDAIN: I love real Mexican food, I love the subtle flavors of handmade, you know, the sauces. I love a simple greasy street taco made with a homemade tortilla, made by somebody who really cares.

COOPER: So you will eat one on the streets in Mexico?

BOURDAIN: Some of our happiest moments of the day, we put our cameras down and eat the straggly little tacos in the street.

COOPER: I feel like if I do that I will get sick.

BOURDAIN: These people can't afford to put it in the refrigerator, if they bring to market what they think they're going to sell they cook it right there. They make the tortillas fresh, the tacos fresh, not the sad bitter things you get in the chains. It is a beautiful thing.

COOPER: But you must have known, like somebody must have told you the right stamp to go to, no?

BOURDAIN: If I see a lot of Mexicans eating there, I'm there.


COOPER: You guys got an iron stomach. You can catch "PARTS UNKNOWN," Sunday, 9 p.m. Eastern on CNN. It's a great show.

That does it for us. We'll you see again at 11:00 tonight. Hope you join us. "SMERCONISH" starts now.