Return to Transcripts main page


George Zimmerman Hospitalized After Road Rage Incident; Sister Helen Prejean Comes To Defense Of Convicted Boston Marathon Bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev; Tornado Tears Texas Town Up; The Candor Of Second- Term Obama; HBO Documentary "Thought Crimes" Highlights the Cannibal Cop . Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired May 11, 2015 - 16:30   ET


[16:30:20] JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

Happening now in our national lead: George Zimmerman, acquitted two years ago in the murder of Trayvon Martin, hospitalized today after a road rage shooting incident, according to Florida police. The 31- year-old has had several run-ins with the law, including charges of domestic violence from his then girlfriend.

Let's get right to CNN's Martin Savidge, who is live in Atlanta.

So, Martin, what happened here exactly?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Jake, this happened around 12:45, 1:00, Lake Mary, Florida. That is located right next door to Sanford, Florida, which many people are familiar with because of George Zimmerman.

And apparently he involved with an altercation. Originally, it was described as road rage. Now it's been described as an ongoing dispute. The two men, I mean George Zimmerman and the other man, apparently know one another. Here's how authorities described what happened at a press conference just minutes ago.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just before 1:00 p.m., an officer from Lake Mary Police Department was flagged down by George Zimmerman in his vehicle on West Lake Mary Boulevard.

OK? He reported that he had just been involved in a shooting. Simultaneously, Lake Mary Police Department received a 911 call from a third party on behalf of a Matthew Apperson, a white male, who stated that he had just been involved in a shooting with George Zimmerman.


SAVIDGE: And that is about as much as we know.

We do know that George Zimmerman was slightly injured. He wasn't struck by apparently at least one bullet that was fired, but glass or debris did strike him in the face. As a precaution, he was transported in an ambulance. He walked into that ambulance under his own power, and then taken to a nearby hospital. He's since been treated and released.

Matthew Apperson, the name you heard there, these two men have a history. In fact, it was September of last year when Matthew Apperson was also involved with another altercation with George Zimmerman. Apperson, by the way, tells the story a little differently. He says that, today, Zimmerman waved a gun at him and so he fired in his own self-defense.

Right now, the authorities say that this is just a preliminary investigation. Nobody has been charged, but they say that George Zimmerman was not the shooter -- Jake.

TAPPER: Martin, have we heard anything from Zimmerman or his attorneys?

SAVIDGE: Well, what they're saying -- now, Don West is the attorney that represents George Zimmerman now. And he says that his client, George Zimmerman, tells him George was driving down the road when apparently behind him he noticed there was a vehicle that was flashing his lights and honking his horn.

And then that vehicle pulled alongside of George Zimmerman. George Zimmerman says he immediately recognized the man as a guy he had had problems with in the past and he rolled up his passenger-side window. And it was at that time that apparently a bullet came flying through, and narrowly missed striking him in the head.

In that storyline, George Zimmerman apparently says that he was totally innocent of anything.

TAPPER: All right, Martin Savidge, thanks so much.

A compelling day of testimony in the sentencing phase for convicted Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. A well-known death penalty opponent took the stand today and described Tsarnaev as emotional and even remorseful about the lives he took and the many people he hurt in the 2013 terrorist attack.

Sister Helen Prejean -- Prejean, rather, is an ardent opponent of the death penalty and of course the same nun depicted by Susan Sarandon in the movie "Dead Man Walking." The prosecution fought hard to keep her testimony out of court.

CNN correspondent Deborah Feyerick is live in Boston.

Deborah, the image that she painted of Dzhokhar vastly different from what we have seen and heard until today. How effective, do you think, was her testimony?

DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it was probably very effective in the minds of some of the jurors, because it was really the first time, Jake, that we got an insight into what the bomber has been thinking over the last couple of months. And Sister Helen Prejean took the stand and she effectively said that they talked about the marathon and they talked about the victims and she said Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, he lowered his eyes, his voice had pain in it and he said -- quote -- "No one deserves to suffer like they did."

And then the sister testified -- quote -- "I had every reason to think that he was genuinely sorry for what he did."

And it was very interesting, because it was the first time we had ever heard the word remorse used. What we didn't hear Sister Prejean say, however, is that Dzhokhar Tsarnaev said he was sorry. That was critically absent from the testimony.

And I spoke to a survivor after court. And that was the first thing she pointed out.


She said, look, it's been months, and he's shown no remorse at all.

But the jury was riveted. The court was riveted. Prosecutors did not want her to testify. She was very, very limited on what she could say, and she could not talk about the death penalty and trying to abolish the death penalty. So, there really were some very tight parameters, Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Deborah, one other question.

What happens next? Do we have any idea when the sentencing could actually be announced?

FEYERICK: Well, the jury is going to hear closing arguments on Wednesday.

They will get their jury instructions and then they will start deciding whether the appropriate verdict is the -- or the appropriate sentence is either life or death. So, it's really just a matter of time, because they're about to get this case.

TAPPER: All right, Deborah Feyerick, thank you so much.

Turning to a different kind of horror in a Texas town right now, a tornado vacuuming up homes and spitting them out like bits of debris, at least two dead, eight missing after a powerful twister tore through Van, Texas, destroying homes, tearing roofs off of schools and upending thousands of lives.

Officials there say nearly one-third of the tiny town located 60 miles or so east of Dallas has been reduced to a pile of rubble, as residents now face the difficult task of trying to pick up the pieces.

This dramatic footage shows a news crew running for shelter when warning sirens began blaring late last night.




TAPPER: More than 70 tornadoes were reported across the Midwest and Southern Plains over the weekend.

Let's get right to CNN meteorologist Jennifer Gray. She joins us live from the hard-hit town of Van, Texas.

Jennifer, you just got new some information about the situation there.

JENNIFER GRAY, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes. And it's actually some good news, Jake.

The number missing has gone from eight down to three. Basically, what happened was, when the tornado struck, cell phone lines were down. A lot of people were in shelters, or staying with families. They were unable to get in contact with their family. And so their names went on that missing list.

As they eventually were able to make contact with their families, the names scratched off -- still three people missing, unaccounted for, and they are hoping it is the same situation with those folks.

In the meantime, though, search-and-rescue operations still under way here in Van, a third of the town basically destroyed, anywhere from homes completely leveled. Other areas have downed trees, downed power lines. In fact, crews have been out here behind me all day and they have been chopping up those trees, getting those power lines back up, trying to get power restored.

We do hear there's about 550 homes still without power. They are hoping people will be able to get back to their homes tomorrow. Another bit of information we just learned, the National Weather Service has determined that the tornado in fact was an EF-3, and that means winds were anywhere from 130 to 145 miles per hour, so very strong here in Van.

Also, the tornado sirens did sound, Jake. We know that, but only about five minutes before the tornado struck. A lot of people were scrambling to get to their safe place. One lady was unable to get to her storm shelter, had to ride it out in her bathtub with her two dogs, just horror there.

And also some people were even still in their cars, not able to even get to a safe place. And they had to ride out the storm in their car. So, we have seen a lot of devastation here. We are also being told that they are bringing in extra lights and extra protection for tonight to help prevent any looting that may occur.

And so they're really taking measures to make sure everyone is safe tonight, especially until power gets restored here in Van, but people have really been coming together. They have been bringing all of the supplies they need, water, clothing. In fact, just a few moments ago, some of the city officials said, we have all the supplies we need. At this point, we just need your prayers -- Jake. TAPPER: Jennifer, you have been walking around all day. What are you hearing from residents, other observations, other thoughts and feelings about picking up and trying to get back to normal?

GRAY: Well, this is a really small town. It's very close-knit, only about 2,600 people.

And so this morning, especially when we were walking by the school, that's basically one of the most historic buildings here in Van. And we talked to a couple who went to school there. Now, their kids go to school there. And you can just see the destruction.

Part of the school they still use as the gymnasium looks like a near- total loss. They may be able to rebuild, but it's in pretty bad shape. And they said, you know, it just feels like our entire childhood has been destroyed.

But the other people we talked to and most of the residents here, they say, you know what? We're just happy that we're OK. All of this, we can rebuild. But we have each other. And so they are going to rebuild and they're strong. And so they will just build everything back and be stronger than ever, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Jennifer Gray live for us in Van, Texas, thank you so much.

Coming up: first lady Michelle Obama getting candid about race, admitting to being hurt by racially charged stereotypes -- what she said next.

Plus, he earned the nickname cannibal cop for writing online about his desire to kill and eat women.


And now that ex-New York City police officer is defending himself in a new documentary. That's ahead.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

In our politics lead today, obviously, the act of electing the nation's first African-American president cannot erase all the scars of the legacy of what has been called America's original sin. Just over the last few months, we have seen racial tensions boil over in communities from coast to coast.

What seems to be changing, however, is, lately, President Obama himself is now speaking out more forthrightly about his feelings about race in his life. It's a candor that some White House staffers refer to as second-term Obama.

And it appears to be contagious. It seems to be that the first lady has caught it as well. [16:45:03] Michelle Obama at a commencement speech sharing personal trials that she has faced as the nation's first African-American First Lady.

CNN's Suzanne Malveaux that been watching. Suzanne, very interesting.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDNET: You know,Jake, absolutely intriguing when you look at this, because I had a chance to cover the Obamas in the 2008 campaign and now they are just answering the questions that we were asking six years ago. Namely, addressing the very real racial component, even the ugliness, that emerged during the campaign -- and racial injustice, which many in the black community want them to tackle head-on.


MALVEAUX (voice-over): President Barack Obama and the First Lady, now taking America's racial divide head-on.

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STAETS: The only difference between me and a lot of other young men in this neighborhood and all across the country, is that I grew up in an environment that was a little more forgiving.

MALVEAUX: The president much more outspoken following Baltimore riots, and the death of Freddie Gray, the 25-year-old black man who died in police custody.

B. OBAMA: And in too many places in this country black boys and black men, Latino boys, Latino men, they experience being treated differently by law enforcement.

MALVEAUX: And Michelle Obama is now acknowledging for the first time the hurt and pain she felt from being racially stereotyped, starting during her husband's first presidential campaign.

M. OBAMA: One said I exhibited a little bit of "uppity-ism". Another noted that I was one of my husband's "cronies of color". Cable news charmingly referred to me as "Obama's baby mama". Then there was the first time I was on a magazine cover. It was a cartoon drawing of me with a huge afro and a machine gun. That knocked me back a bit.

MALVEAUX: A far cry from when the Obamas emerged on the national stage in 2004.

B. OBAMA: No other country on earth is my story even possible.

MALVEAUX: In 2008, then Senator Obama's prospect of becoming the first African-American president was almost derailed when his pastor was caught making racist remarks, forcing Obama to address race head- on.

B. OBAMA: Reverend Wright's comments were not only wrong but divisive. Divisive at a time when we need unity.

MALVEAUX: Michelle Obama, too, felt under siege. UNIDENTIFEID FEMALE: What do you think is the one thing most people

get wrong about you?

M. OBAMA: People don't think I love my country. I don't think there could be anything further from the truth.

MALVEAUX: During Obama's first term in the White House, he was reticent to address racial strife to head-on. His so-called beer summit aimed at mending fences between a white police officer and a black college professor was widely panned.

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: The backlash shocked him. And he winds up, after the arrest of Skip Gates, sitting down humbly at a sort of beer summit and the never speaks about race frankly for three or four years.

MALVEAUX: But political observers say the death of Trayvon Martin, the unarmed black teen who was killed by a white security officer, in 2012 was a flashpoint for the president, demanding action.

B. OBAMA: If I had a son he'd look like Trayvon.


MALVEAUX (on camera): Since then the White House has created an initiative called my Brother's Keeper, aimed specifically at providing economic opportunities for young black men. And the president also just rolled out a new nonprofit foundation with the same name to continue the work beyond the presidency. He said recently on "David Letterman" he is committed to creating economic opportunities for those in impoverished communities, specifically when it comes to young black men. Jake.

TAPPER: And Suzanne, tell us about this recently unveiled nonprofit, My Brother's Keeper alliance. You have new information on others who President Obama is getting involved in of the effort?

MALVEAUX: Yes, so this is about $80 million they have in commitment from various corporations and donors. So you're talking celebrities, athletes, Shaquille O'Neal, former Secretary of State Colin Powell, John Legend. These are role models and people who will come together and essentially work with the president to continue this work into the communities and really try to raise money, raise awareness, but also the opportunities for folks who really feel, like we've seen in Baltimore and in Ferguson, that have very little hope for their future.

TAPPER: All right, Suzanne Malveaux, thank you so much.

Wolf Blitzer now here with a preview of "THE SITUATION ROOM". You're going to be talking with Saudi Arabia's foreign minister about his country skipping this White House meeting for Gulf countries this week?

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST, "THE SITUATION ROOM": He was the Saudi ambassador to the United States, now he's the foreign minister of Saudi Arabia, Adel Al-Jubeir. This will be his first interview since becoming foreign minister. Lots to discuss including the surprise decision by the king, the new king of Saudi Arabia. He was supposed to be at this major Camp David summit that the president has with all of these Sunni Arab Gulf states scheduled for this week, and all of a sudden over the weekend they announced he's not coming. I'm going to ask why.

TAPPER: And a lot of Gulf countries obviously very upset with the possible nuclear deal with Iran. They think it's too soft?

BLITZER: Right, they're not happy with that. They're very worried, if you speak privately with some of these representatives from these Gulf states, they sounds a lot like Benjamin Netanyahu, who's obviously very concerned about the Iran nuclear deal as well.

[16:50:06] TAPPER: On this one issue?

BLITZER: On this one issue, that's right.

TAPPER: Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM", ten minutes.

When we come back, an NYPD officer arrested and convicted of planning to kidnap, kill, and then eat women. Now he is opening up about it all. What is he saying about these cannibalistic fantasies? Next.


TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

Time now for our Money Lead. Despite dominating the TV ratings war for eight straight years and generating countless billions for Fox, "American Idol" is getting the ax. The show spawned so many spinoffs, it's easy to forget "Idol" used to be appointment viewing for millions and millions of TV watchers. It introduced us to singers such as Carrie Underwood and Jennifer Hudson and Kelly Clarkson, not to mention music producer Simon Cowell, of course.

[16:55:01] But since the razor-edged Brit left the show in 2010, "Idol" has seen its rating and its revenues shrink. Fox announced earlier today the show will debut its final season next January. End of an era.

Should you be sent to prison for your fantasies? One could argue that a jury thought so. It found a former New York police officer guilty of conspiring to kidnap and eat women in 2013. Gilberto Valle became known as the cannibal cop, his twisted thoughts typed in web chats seen as possible threats. Would this man actually go through with kidnapping a woman, tying her by her feet, and roasting her over a fire?


GILBERTO VALLE, EX-NYPD OFFICER: This is something that was private, anonymous. It was a little bit of a skeleton in my closet and now that the massive skeleton is out, it's the epitome of embarrassment, to sit in that trial and have all these e-mails and chats read. I mean, it was like -- how the hell did I come up with something like that? It was -- it was bad.


TAPPER: That's from HBO's new documentary "Thought Crimes: The Case of the Cannibal Cop", which premieres tonight on HBO at 9:00 p.m. Eastern.

Joining me now is Erin Lee Carr, the director. Erin, great to see you. So the big question for the jury, conspiracy. Do you think that he was actually conspiring an evil act? His comments were all online. Was there any evidence of him actually planning to do any of this?

ERIN LEE KARR, DIRECTOR, "THOUGHT CRIMES": So basically it's a complicated -- complicated question and complicated answer. Gil Valle did not physically stalk any of the women that he fantasized about, but he did go down to Maryland to visit socially with one of the women he was fantasizing about. And so that -- that to the jury was what was considering an overt act. But I think the verdict was thrown out because there just wasn't enough evidence.

TAPPER: You made dozens of trips to his home. Were you ever afraid for yourself?

KARR: I mean, I wasn't really afraid. I think the scarier part was going into prison. I was in a federal prison that I visited with his family members. I think that was a lot sort of more scary than visiting an apartment in Queens. But it's a dangerous topic and he's thinking about these things about young women. So, you know, it was challenging.

TAPPER: And his wife is the one who turned him in, right? Do they have contact anymore?

KARR: They do not have any contact. Since he was released from prison, they're having custody battles or issues over his daughter, but as far as I know, they do not remain in contact.

TAPPER: It wasn't just words -- Valle also posted pictures of women, some of them his friends. What does he have to say about that? That makes it seem, in a way, more than just weird fantasy because he's actually talking about specific people. It gets even more creepier.

KARR: Yes, I think that was one of the scariest elements of the case, that he was using -- he was downloading Facebook pictures of his friends and kind of trading it to other men and women on the Internet. That's what made people so uncomfortable. But, you know, I think that he did not supply their addresses or things like that. And when he would talk with other men about these women, you know, one day it would be for $5,000. The next day for $4,000. And none of the conversations would ever be discussed, that they had talked before. But, yes. No. I wouldn't want anybody downloading my Facebook pictures at all.

TAPPER: Do you think -- did he actually fantasize about being a cannibal or just trying to shock people? KARR: I -- it's of my personal opinion that -- so vore is a fetish.

It's about the fetish of cannibalism, and given the obsessive nature of his fantasies and the amount of time he spent on the site specifically designed towards vore fetishes, that was one of his fetishes.

TAPPER: So you think he was interested -- I guess the question is -- you know, the line, and that's why you call the movie what you call it, "Thought Crimes". There are authors and filmmakers and all sorts of people who like go into the dark recesses of their brains and bring out disgusting things. How are they different than what he did?

KARR: Yes. I mean, that was a huge discussion. I worked with Andrew Rossy, the producer on this film, and we always kind of had to expand and say, you know, everyone always brought up to us Stephen King, you know, can write terrible things but he's not being put in jail. So that was an important element to incorporate, because it's not that it normalized the chats or the fantasies this young man was having, but it demonstrated that we all have these dark thoughts inside our heads and the Internet is the thing that's making it real.

TAPPER: Erin Karr, it's a great film. Congratulations. I know your dad, your late father, David Karr, longtime journalist, would are very, very proud of you. Time Warner is, of course, we should point out, is the parent company of both HBO and CNN.

[17:00:03] You can see the HBO documentary "Thought Crimes: The Case of the Cannibal Cop" tonight at 9:00 Eastern.

Be sure to join me again tomorrow on THE LEAD. I'll be interviewing exclusively New Jersey Governor, potential 2016 presidential candidate, Chris Christie. Tomorrow at 4:00 p.m. Eastern.

That's it for THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper, turning you over now to Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM".