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DNC to Block Virtual Iowa Caucuses Due to Security Worry; Dorian Strengthens to Major Category 3 Hurricane; Critics Say Bail Industry Is Profiting Off Underprivileged; Bail Bonding Companies Enlist Lobbyists to Thwart Bail Reform; Mother Sues After Giving Birth Alone in Jail Cell; Simone Biles Brother Charged in Triple Murder. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired August 30, 2019 - 15:30   ET


[15:30:00] DAN MERICA, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Iowa cannot do anything that would infringe on New Hampshire's right, no paper ballots, nothing like that. And that's what you know is at issue with the Democratic Party right now. Take a listen to what Troy Price said about the future and currently going forward with this process.


TROY PRICE, CHAIRMAN, IOWA DEMOCRATIC PARTY: Thank you all for being here on such short notice. Let me start off by saying Iowa will be a caucus and Iowa will be first. Let me repeat that, Iowa will be a caucus and Iowa will be first. We know how important this process is. We do.

When we set out to work on this, and we've been working on this basically since the day the caucuses ended in 2016. Looking at ways that we can make our process more accessible. More transparent. Get more voices in the process.


MERICA: So What happens next, the DNC is expected to officially reject their caucus plan next week, next Friday during a telephone meeting. This is going to become a political issue at some point. Julian Castro has already come out and bashed the DNC for rejecting this plan. And what you're going to have now is the Iowa Democratic Party is going to have to scramble to figure out a way to open up their caucus, allow more people to participate. But also come to the guidelines that the DNC is laying out about hacking and those concerns.

If it becomes a political issue, you may see Democratic candidates start to fight over whether there's validity in what the DNC, and the Iowa Democratic Party is doing which could be very interesting -- Ana.

ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: And it could grow and also involve Nevada's plans, I understand, so there's much more to come on this, Dan Merica, thank you.

A shocking story out of Colorado. A pregnant woman left to give birth in a jail cell alone. She says no one responded to her desperate cries for help. Now she's suing. We'll have details ahead.


CABRERA: Dorian has reached major hurricane status as a category 3 storm. All of Florida is now under a state of emergency as it prepares for Dorian to make land fall over the holiday weekend. The storm is expecting to strengthen into a category 4 hurricane before barreling into Florida Monday night. There are no evacuation orders at this time, but the state isn't taking any chances when it comes to preparations. 1.8 million meals are ready for distribution. The state order 1 million gallons of water.

Home Depot has sent in more than 160 truckloads of supplies to its stores. The Florida National Guard activated 2,500 members. The U.S. Air Force and Navy evacuated aircraft and ships. And that's not all. Officials have also launched a website to monitor nursing home generators. Miami has ordered all electronic scooters off the streets to avoid them from becoming projectiles. Disney Cruise Lines are updating their schedules to steer clear of this storm. Classes are cancelled at a number of colleges and universities. And that is really just a snapshot of the preps underway right now.

Meanwhile, Dorian is set to hit the Bahamas first on Sunday. The Bahamian Prime Minister is urging residents to quote, not be foolish and to heed evacuation orders. CNN's Patrick Oppmann is in Freeport now, what can you tell us, Patrick, about how the island is preparing?

PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, don't be fooled by the beautiful backdrop behind me. Dorian is coming this way and is going to hit the northern part, northern west part of the Bahamas, about as hard as a hurricane can. We've seen people stocking up on water and other supplies, some lines at gas stations.

When we got on the plane to come here this morning, the airline out of Miami told the tourists they couldn't get on the plane. Actually turned people away because they said there's simply no reason for visitors to come here. The hotels are closed, the beaches are empty, it is dangerous to be here.

And the Bahamian Prime Minister -- as you mentioned a short while ago -- gave a press conference and the strongest possible terms, he told people to get out of the way of the storm.


HUBERT MINNIS, PRIME MINISTER, BAHAMAS: Do not put your life and those of your loved ones at unnecessary risk. I urge you, do not be foolish and try to brave out this hurricane.


OPPMANN: And just to give you an idea of how perilous it can be. The island where we are, the highest point, natural point is about 30 feet above sea level. And that's actually much higher than other islands surrounding us. So people are being evacuated from some of these lower lying islands to the island of Grand Bahama where we are. But it's still not that high, because can you have storm surges of 10 feet or higher. Previous hurricanes they've seen that kind of storm surge here. So that's why officials are saying, get inland, because when you're on a small island like this one, there is simply no way you can get out of the storm's path -- Ana.

CABRERA: Patrick Oppmann, please stay safe, my friend, thank you for bringing us that information. We'll continue to follow developments on Hurricane Dorian.

In the meantime, new reforms are looking to end the cash bail system in the United States. But a $2 billion industry stands in the way, profiting over the poor. We'll follow the money next. Plus, the brother of Olympic Gold Medalist Simone Biles is under arrest and charged in a triple murder case. The details just ahead.


[15:45:00] CABRERA: Top 2020 Democratic hopefuls are promising a huge change to the criminal justice system. Joe Biden, Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders are among those calling to get rid of cash bail. They say it disproportionately targets the poor, where one arrest can mean a lifetime of debt, even if the charges are dismissed. CNN's Drew Griffin explains why change won't come easy.


DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Two billion is roughly how much money the bail bond business reportedly takes in across the country every year. Who pays? Underprivileged people, under arrest who find themselves facing a decision. Sit in jail for months to await trial or pay a bail bonds man to get them out.

CHERISE FANNO BURDEEN, CEO, PRETRIAL JUSTICE INSTITUTE: Most people who are arrested are actually low-income or almost no income individuals. And when we put a ransom on their liberty, it has a dramatic impact on people.

GRIFFIN: Here's how the bail system works. Let's say you're arrested and the judge sets bail at $50,000. If you have money, you can you pay it, go free and get it back when you show up for your court date. I you don't have the money you can sit in jail until trial or hire a bonds man to bail you out. The bonds man will likely charge you 10 percent, $5,000. That's a few paid to a bonds man that you will never get back. Even if you are not guilty, even if the charges are dropped. Add on interest from payment plans and fees. Often the debt can last for years. Iowa District Judge Robert Hanson says the system is flawed.

JUDGE ROBERT HANSON, IOWA DISTRICT COURT: The thing that I know is that monetary bonds do not guarantee that the bad people stay in jail. And monetary bonds do not guarantee that the safe people are released.

GRIFFIN: Many states are making changes to move away from relying on money bail. But CNN found out the business that profits from the current system, the powerful bail industry is working hard to stop reform. It has derailed, stalled or killed reform efforts in at least nine states.

One of the best examples, Iowa, a pilot program called the Public Safety Assessment Tool gave judges more information about defendants. And those deemed low risk could get out of jail without having to pay bail. Antwan Stewart arrested for stealing beer was able to walk to his job at a bakery every day while waiting for trial instead of sitting in jail.


GRIFFIN: CNN talked to more than a dozen officials in the Iowa justice system. Corrections officials, judges, public defenders who supported the program, but here is where Iowa's story takes a dark twist. Because in the middle of last year's state budget process, and out of the blue, this line was inserted into an appropriations bill which stopped Iowa's bail reform in its tracks, the public safety assessment pilot program shall be terminated. It turns out behind the scenes, there was an explanation, you just had to follow the money.

RICK OLSON (D) IOWA STATE HOUSE: Lederman Bail Bonds didn't like the program because there were defendants, people being held in jail that were getting out of jail without having to post any type of a bond. They were losing business.

GRIFFIN (on camera): That was it?

OLSON: Market share.

GRIFFIN (voice over): Lederman Bail Bonds, a huge bail bonds company in Iowa, with 150 agents across the Midwest and a drive through service just outside the gates of Iowa's Polk County jail. It's run by the Lederman brothers. This is Jacob in Des Moines who told us to talk to his brother Josh. Josh in Davenport declined interview requests.

CNN did some digging and it turns out the Ledermans may have decided money would do their talking. Since 2017 Josh Lederman has paid a powerful Iowa lobbying firm more than $74,000. He's also donated more than $36,000 to Republican campaigns in 2018. That's more money donated in one year than he spent in the past 15 years combined.

And Josh Lederman for the first time ever last year, made a donation to a Republican representative in rural Storm Lake, Iowa named Gary Worthan. Worthan's district had nothing to do with the pilot program but he submitted the amendment to the budget bill to kill the program. Worthan is co-chair of the Justice System Appropriations Subcommittee.

(on camera): Representative Worthan, this is Drew Griffin with CNN, thanks for picking up the call.

(voice over): Worthan would speak only reluctantly by phone.

(on camera): Can you explain why you were trying to -- or why you did get rid of the Public Safety Assessment Pilot Program? [15:50:00] REP. GARY WORTHAN (R) IOWA HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: Well, from your tone of voice you already decided what -- what direction this article is taking and I'm not here to be misquoted or having my comment taken out of context and this is why I don't want to be associated in any way with CNN.

GRIFFIN (voice over): This year Gary Worthan once again included language in the budget bill making it nearly impossible the program will ever restart.

Drew Griffin, CNN, Des Moines.


CABRERA: Donkeys played a critical role in American history, helping to build railroads and other infrastructure but today they are often abandoned and abused. Well, this week CNN's Hero is trying to change that. He has saved more than 13,000 donkeys giving them a second chance at life and finding them forever homes.


MARK MEYERS, DONKEY RESCUER (voice over): Donkeys speak to my soul.

(on camera): That lip will come loose. Won't it?

Donkeys are like dogs. They're amazing animals that nobody gets. I understand what they're thinking. And there are so many donkeys in so many places that need so much help.

There is nothing cuter than a baby donkey.

We're saving them, we're improving their lives. I want to see every donkey find its happiness, its happy place, its peaceful place.


CABRERA: So see more of Mark's work go to right now. We'll be right back.


CABRERA: A Colorado woman has filed a federal lawsuit after she says she was forced to give birth alone in her Denver jail cell after more than five hours of crying for help. You see it in the video. This is from July of 2018. Nurses and deputies were close by Diana Sanchez but provided little aid. At one point someone actually slides what Sanchez's lawyer says is an absorbent pad under her cell door. But ultimately, she had to do everything herself and delivering her baby.

We're not showing the full footage of the childbirth but you could see on her face just how much pain she was in. Sanchez said in the weeks after her birth that at the time of her most urgent need the nurses and deputies made her feel so rejected.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DIANA SANCHEZ, GAVE BIRTH BY HERSELF IN JAIL CELL: I felt helpless. Nobody was helping me. There were so many people there and nobody lifted a finger basically. It is indescribable. And what hurts me more though is the fact that nobody cared.


CABRERA: Her attorney said Sanchez had been arrested on an identity theft charge for cashing a check that was written to her sister. The attorney adds Sanchez took full responsibility and was ultimately sentenced to two years' probation.

CNN's Scott McLean has been tracking the story for us. Scott, no medical help for the mom or the baby during the delivery. How are officials in Denver explaining this?

SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Ana, so the Denver Sheriff Department which operates the jail said it did an internal review after this that found deputies did nothing wrong, that they followed protocol. But it also sent a statement that read in part to make sure nothing like this happens again. The Denver Sheriff Department has changed its policies to ensure that pregnancy inmates who are in any stage of labor are now transported immediately to the hospital.

Now surveillance video from inside of her cell shows that she was brought breakfast around 5:00 in the morning that day. And that is when she says she first informed the guards that she was having contractions. A couple of hours later you could see in the footage that she's knocking on the door to that cell to try to get someone's attention because according to the lawsuit that is when her water broke.

Her lawyer Mari Newman explains what happened about 15 minutes later, listen.


MARI NEWMAN, ATTORNEY OF WOMAN WHO GAVE BIRTH IN JAIL CELL: After Miss Sanchez reported her water had broken, instead of providing actual medical care all that a nurse provided to her was a thin pad to absorb some of the water that had broken. So by that time the pad was fully saturated, her very thin mattress was fully saturated. She was all alone on a hard bench in a cold jail cell, feet away from a toilet bowl giving birth to her baby with no medical care whatsoever.


MCLEAN: And, Ana, keep in mind that she gave birth almost six hours after she says she first informed guards that she was in labor. Denver Health, the entity which employees the nurses at the jail, they declined to comment because of the pending litigation.

CABRERA: Wow. Scott McLean, thank you for that reporting.

The brother of Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles is sitting in a Georgia jail facing murder charges. Police have arrested Tevin Biles- Thomas in connection with a deadly shooting that happened at a New Year's Eve party in Ohio. Three people were killed. CNN's Athena Jones is here with us now. And, Athena, what are we learn being the night and the charges?

ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, very serious charges, Ana. This happened according to police and the prosecutor's office in Cuyahoga County near Cleveland, said this happened on New Year's Eve around 11:30. There was a party at a home. Several uninvited guests walked into this party and an altercation broke out between the uninvited guests and the invited guests. Shots were fired, five people were injured, two survives but three died.

I've listened to the 911 calls, frantic calls, two people reported dead on the scene and another was declared dead at the hospital. So Tevin Biles-Thomas has been charged with murder, voluntary manslaughter, felonious assault and perjury. He is being held without bond in Georgia. He's expected to face arraignment on September 13th. So a couple of weeks from now in Cuyahoga County. But very serious charges. Three people dead after this incident.

CABRERA: OK. Athena Jones. Thank you. We appreciate it.

And that does it for me for now. Stay with me throughout the weekend I'll be holding down the fort here at CNN as we continue our coverage of Hurricane Dorian. Thank you for being here. "THE LEAD" starts now.