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American Morning

Big Crackdown on Illegal Workers; Cab Driver Could be Key to Duke Rape Investigation

Aired April 20, 2006 - 07:00   ET


JEANNE MESERVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Jeanne Meserve in Washington. A big crackdown on illegal workers. This time, bosses arrested, too.
ALINA CHO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Alina Cho in Durham, North Carolina. I'll tell you how a cab driver could be key to the Duke rape investigation.

MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: Did an elementary school teacher go too far with the lesson on gay marriage? A lot of parents say yes.

CHAD MYERS, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Yesterday was a day of severe weather, not tornadoes. There was one, but he had baseball-sized hail in a number of cities in Alabama. More details on what to expect today, coming up.

O'BRIEN: Good morning to you. I'm Miles O'Brien.

BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Betty Nguyen. Good morning. I'm in for Soledad this week.

O'BRIEN: It is East meets West at the White House this morning. President Bush welcomes China's President Hu Jintao for a special meeting on several issues. Among them, that huge U.S. trade deficit, Iran's nuclear program as well. The Chinese president arriving in the D.C. area last night. He'll be welcomed at the White House about two- and-a-half hours from now. A 21-gun salute is planned.

Elaine Quijano is joining us now from the White House with more on some of the thorny issues that lie beneath the pomp and circumstance.

Hello, Elaine.


The U.S./China relationship is certainly a complicated one, politically and economically. China is the U.S.'s third largest trading partner. As you mentioned, U.S./china trade is going to be among the items at the top of the agenda. There is, in fact, a $200 billion trade deficit the U.S. has with China. Now also on the agenda, human rights. Human rights issues of course remain a top concern. Officials say President Bush plans to raise that issue with president Hu Jintao. Another big agenda item, Iran's nuclear ambitions. With sanctions against Iran certainly a an option. The U.S. of course would very much like China to get behind that. Also Taiwan, and China's continuing military build-up opposite that country.

Now as for the issue of competition, President Bush has continued to say that the United States should not fear competition from China.


GEORGE W. BUSH, PRES. OF THE U.S.: America should not be afraid of competition. We ought to welcome it, and continue to be the leader of the world, the world's economy. We ought to continue to be the leader in research and development. We need to continue to be the leader in higher education. We shouldn't lose our nerve.


QUIJANO: Now President Hu Jintao actually was in Seattle. He met with leaders from Microsoft and Boeing. But arriving here in Washington last night, as you mentioned, a chance for the president of China and the president of the United States to manage that delicate and complex relationship -- Miles.

O'BRIEN: All right, Elaine. The Chinese are very careful and pay a lot of attention to protocol. There's been a lot of discussion whether there should be a state visit or an official visit. At one point, the White House was saying official visit, not state visit. What is it?

QUIJANO: It's definitely not a state visit, Miles, you're absolutely right. The White House is being very careful though. Obviously they are making it known that there is going to be plenty of pomp and circumstance, but you know, there's sort of a high bar there to match with the previous Chinese president. The idea really is that this is more for the Chinese audience in some respects, so that they can see that their Chinese leader is being received with all of the honors afforded to a head of state. So we will, in fact, see pomp and circumstance. We will be seeing much ceremony during this arrival a little later this morning -- Miles.

O'BRIEN: So will it be a 21-gun salute or a 19-gun salute?

QUIJANO: It'll be a 21-gun salute, from what we've been told.

O'BRIEN: OK, you can bet the Chinese will be counting. Thank you very much, Elaine Quijano on the North Lawn of the White House.

This morning's meeting follows some big staff changes at the White House. As we told you yesterday, Press Secretary Scott McClellan after about three years in that high-profile, difficult job. And senior adviser Karl Rove changing his focus to the fall congressional elections solely. I asked Mary Matalin, former assistant to President Bush and the vice president as well, why staff changes are being made now in the Bush administration.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MARY MATALIN, FMR. ASST. TO THE PRESIDENT: You know, the whole notion that you just move chairs around to appease some chattering classes is not what the president is about here. It's not gamesmanship. It's not cosmetic. It's a change to be more effective going into the future for the three years. We do not have the luxury to not be an effective White House for the next three years.


O'BRIEN: New Chief of Staff Josh Bolten said Monday that he would make changes to refresh the administration -- Betty.

NGUYEN: Well, from big changes to a big crackdown on companies that hire illegal immigrants. Homeland Security, Immigration and Justice official also lay out an aggressive policy this morning, highlighted by a major interstate raid.

Homeland security correspondent Jeanne Meserve is live in Washington.

Good morning, Jeanne.


Law enforcement cast a wide net yesterday, and it caught some big fish.


MESERVE (voice-over): Agents from Immigration and Customs Enforcement swooped down on IFCO Systems facilities in Altamont, New York, Phoenix, Arizona, Houston, Texas, Westboro, Massachusetts, nearly 40 locations in all, rounding up more than 1,000 illegal workers. Seven current and former managers of the company which makes wooden pallets, crates and containers, were also arrested and charged with transporting and harboring illegal aliens, and giving them false documents.

JULIE MYERS, IMMIGRATION & CUSTOMS ENFORCEMENT: Employees in IFCO have been involved in inducing illegal aliens to work there, telling them that they should doctor their W-2s, giving them fake Social Security cards, and in fact telling them they did not need to fill out any documentation at all.

MESERVE: ICE alleges a sampling of the IFCO payroll in 2005 showed that more than half of the company's employees were using Social Security numbers that belonged to other people, some of them dead.

MYERS: The Social Security administration had written IFCO over 13 times and told them, listen, you have a problem. You have over a thousand employees that have faulty Social Security numbers, and we consider that to be a big problem. And IFCO did not do anything about it. MESERVE: In a statement, IFCO said, "It is our policy to comply with all federal and state employment requirements. We are cooperating fully with representatives from ICE, and hope to have this matter resolved as soon as possible."


MESERVE: Julie Myers of ICE says the raids are part of a new federal strategy to bring criminal charges against businesses profiting from illegal labor. The details to come late their morning from Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff.

Betty, back to you.

NGUYEN: We'll be monitoring it. Jeanne Meserve in Washington for us this morning. Thank you, Jeanne -- Miles.

O'BRIEN: More testimony for the defense today from the families of 9/11 victims in the Zacarias Moussaoui trial. The jury faces a life-or-death decision for the man who says he was part of the terrorist attack on America.

Kelli Arena has more.


KELLI ARENA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Mothers, wives, fathers and sons of some of the victims of September 11th came to help save Zacarias Moussaoui from being executed. Unlike many of the family members called by the prosecution, these witnesses offered stories of hope, of picking up the pieces and starting over. Marilynn Rosenthal lost her son in the attack on the World Trade Center.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I felt it was a patriotic thing to do. I really did.

ARENA: Patricia Perry told the jury about her son, John, a police officer who was resigning, literally turning in his badge as the towers were hit. John Perry ran to the rescue and was killed.

"We are most blessed that he was our son," she said.

The jury paid close attention, offering sympathetic nods or smiling. None of the witnesses mentioned Moussaoui or the death penalty. On the stand, they gave no reason why they chose to testify for the defense.

But outside the courtroom when pressed, one witness explained...

MARILYNN ROSENTHAL, 9/11 FAMILY MEMBER: Mr. Moussaoui is the wrong man to be on trial. There are other people who are in the custody of the U.S. government who were central planners for the 9/11 event. Those are the people who should have been on trial.

ARENA: Witnesses also spoke about overcoming feelings of anger and revenge. Anthony Aversano (ph), who lost his father, told jurors, "How I fight the terror in me is to live my life well."

(on camera): The defense is expected to call more family members to testify before it rests its case later on today.

Kelli Arena, CNN, Alexandria Virginia.


O'BRIEN: We invite to you stay tuned to CNN day and night for the most reliable news about your security -- Betty.

NGUYEN: Iraq's embattled prime minister now ready to let someone else decide his future. Amid calls for his resignation, Ibrahim Al Jaafari is asking his own party if he should seek a second term. Now that change could break the stalemate that's keeping from a new government from being formed.

CNN's Arwa Damon is live in Baghdad. She joins us with the latest on this. Arwa, the prime minister is softening his language just a little bit?

ARWA DAMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Betty.

Essentially in the letter that he wrote this morning addressed to the United Iraqi Alliance, he is saying that it is basically their decision whether or not to keep him as their nominee for prime minister or choose someone else.

Now this is him softening his language essentially, throwing the ball into their court. Now, should they decide to keep Ibrahim Al Jaafari as prime minister, that could cause problems. He is not supported by Sunni, Kurdish and secular Shia parties. Should they decide to nominate someone else, the challenge there is going to lie as to whether or not they are able to nominate someone who all parties are going to support and then form a united Iraqi government.

Meanwhile, parliament is set to convene after many delays in less than an hour -- Betty.

NGUYEN: What's on top of that agenda. Obviously you're going to be talking about -- a little bit about this. But how quickly are they going to get to work and really try to get this thing going?

DAMON: Well, Betty, that is what essentially everyone wants to know. It has now been at least four months since the election results were announced. Everybody here is waiting for a government to form. Of course this political vacuum is being blamed by U.S. and Iraqi officials and the Iraqi people as fueling the insurgency. Nearly everybody here wants to see a government finally formed. And it has to be a unity government to start to get this country under control.

Of course the political bickering will continue. The talks will continue, especially if the United Iraqi Alliance does decide to put forward a new nominee for prime minister -- Betty.

Arwa Damon in Baghdad, thank you for that. (NEWSBREAK)


O'BRIEN: A little later in the program, the White House shakeup right in advance of those midterm elections. The question is, is it to little, or too late? We'll ask former White House adviser Mary Matalin about that.

NGUYEN: Also you've heard of postpartum depression, but what about postpartum obsessive compulsive disorder. We'll look at how one mom dealt with a surprisingly common problem.

O'BRIEN: And next, could a cab driver and an ATM receipt help prove the innocence of one of the suspects in that Duke rape case?

Stay with us for an explanation.


O'BRIEN: That Duke lacrosse team rape case will apparently not end in any sort of plea bargain. Lawyers for the two men accused are reiterating their clients interest. They say the timeline the woman gives just doesn't check out. AMERICAN MORNING's Alina Cho live in Durham with more on this.

Good morning, Alina.

CHO: Miles, good morning to you.

The D.A. maintains he does have a case. All the while, he is keeping quiet about the evidence. Defense attorneys have a different strategy. They say if you follow their timeline, there is no way these two young men committed the crime.


CHO: In the fight to defend Duke lacrosse players Collin Finnerty and Reade Seligmann, defense attorneys have declared war, and their strongest weapon so far may be a cab driver.

MOEZ MOSTAFA, CAB DRIVER: Nothing looked familiar (ph) to me.

CHO: Moez Mostafa is a driver, and the owner, of On Time Taxi, a cab company in Durham. On the night of the alleged rate, Mustafa says he remembers driving suspect Reade Seligmann. Phone records show the Duke sophomore called him at 12:14 a.m. to order a cab. Mostafa says he picked up Seligmann and a friend at the home where the lacrosse party was taking place at 12:19.

MOSTAFA: They seemed calm, like normal. I didn't recognize anything different.

CHO: Mostafa says Seligmann needed money, so they drove to this Wachovia Bank. Defense attorneys say an ATM receipt will show he withdrew cash at 12:24. MOSTAFA: After they took the money out from the machine, they asked if we can go to the Cookout (ph) restaurant.

CHO: After ordering food, Mostafa says Seligmann wanted to go home. Lawyers say he swiped his dorm card at 12:41. Prosecutors say the accuser was raped after she was coaxed back into the home by lacrosse players. A next-door neighbor said he saw the alleged victim go back to the house around 12:30. At this point, defense attorneys say Seligmann was long gone. Lawyers say suspect Collin Finnerty was, too. They say Finnerty was having dinner with teammates at a restaurant, and a waitress will confirm it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm very confident. We have great evidence.

CHO: On Duke University's campus, students are showing support for the suspects by making, it T-shirts. Meanwhile, Duke administrators have joined forces with North Carolina Central University, the college attended by the alleged victim, and with Durham's mayor, to put out a statement calling for unity. The ad will run this week in all the local papers.


CHO: Prosecutors have maintained that a hospital exam will show that the accuser had injuries consistent with a sexual assault. They are also waiting on the results from a second round of DNA tests. And, Miles, the grand jury will be back here in the building behind me on May 1st to hear evidence that could lead to a third arrest.

O'BRIEN: Alina, let's put the third arrest off to the side for just a moment and talk about -- it sounds like this is headed for sure to a trial with the amount of evidence, and just the way these defense attorneys are talking.

That's right. Your assessment is right about that, Miles. In fact, Collin Finnerty's lawyer, Bill Cotter, maintains that his client is not guilty, and that there will be no plea bargain in this case.

Meanwhile, Reade Seligmann's attorney, Kirk Osborn, says his client is absolutely innocent.

NGUYEN: Alina Cho in Durham, North Carolina, thank you -- Betty.

CHO: In Massachusetts, some parents are just livid over a book that was read to their child's second-grade class. It was a fairy tale, but with a twist.

Jim Morelli of affiliate WCVB has the story.


ROBIN WIRTHLIN, PARENT: We felt like seven years old is not appropriate to introduce homosexual themes.

JIM MORELLI, WCVB REPORTER (voice-over): The book is called "King and King," and it has sparked a royal feud in Lexington. The book tells the story of a prince not interested in marrying a certain princess, but very interested in her brother.

WIRTHLIN: We did not know that it was being presented, so we cannot present a balanced view.

MORELLI: Last month, Robin Wirthlin's second-grade son was exposed to "King and King" at the Esterbrook (ph) school, during an overall lesson about weddings.

WIRTHLIN: My problem is that this issue of romantic attraction between two men is being presented to my 7-year-old as wonderful, and good and the way things should be.

MORELLI: But Lexington school committee chair Helen Cohen Said, like it or not, it's the way things are.

HELEN COHEN, LEXINGTON SCHOOL CMTE. CHAIR: We want all of our families and all of the children to feel that they're welcomed and included there. And one of the ways to do that is, you know, to show different kinds of families.

MORELLI: Lexington school superintendent added that the system cherishes diversity. "We welcome children and families of all backgrounds, included families headed by same-sex parents," but what Wirthlin wants is a say in what her children are taught.

WIRTHLIN: Let us know and let us excuse our child from the discussion.


MORELLI: That was Jim Morelli of affiliate WCVB reporting.

O'BRIEN: Coming up, as the door turns, the White House shuffle. Is it what the Bush administration needs to get back on track, or is it just window dressing? We'll ask a beltway insider.

And we're going to Katmandu, where democracy demonstrations are turning violent. Is the monarchy there about to crumble? That's ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.



NGUYEN: Coming up, a problem for new moms that is more common than most people realize. It is postpartum OCD, obsessive compulsive disorder, and it can be emotionally crippling. We'll find out how one woman is coping with it.

And later, one of the most painful days in American history brought to the big screen. Are audience ready for the 9/11 movie "United 93."

Stay with us.