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American Morning

Boston's 'Big Dig' Black Eye; Man Freed from Prison 22 Years after Being Wrongfully Convicted

Aired July 12, 2006 - 07:30   ET


MILES O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: And later a New York man walks free after spending 22 years behind bars for a crime he did not commit and we are there as he orders his first Starbucks. Ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.

MILES O'BRIEN: Welcome back to the program. I'm Miles O'Brien.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Brianna Keilar sitting in today for Soledad.

MILES O'BRIEN: Good to have you with us this morning, Soledad's still a little bit under the weather there, resting her voice, whispering to those kids all morning long. Robert Novak is done with the CIA leak investigation. The syndicated columnist, former CNN analyst is out this morning with a secret, one that he held close to his vest as the CIA leak case unfolded. Well now we know his source, there is an open question, though, who else talked to him. AMERICAN MORNING's Bob Franken live now from Washington with more. Hello, Bob.

BOB FRANKEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well I hope you're seated Miles, that you're bracing yourself. After three years with the long-awaited column, Robert Novak is telling us, frankly what we've known for quite some time. Also part of what he told the grand jury about a year after he had outed Valerie Plame as the CIA operative and caused this huge investigation here. He is now telling us that his secondary sources, the ones who confirmed things, included the political chief at the White House, Karl Rove, and Bill Harlow who at the time was the CIA press person, a job I've always likened to the Maytag repairman.

At any case, what he is not telling us, what he did tell the grand jury is who his primary source was, a senior White House official. That of course is extremely important, but he says he has never gotten permission to publicly identify that person, although he did before the grand jury. So as I said, something that had so gripped Washington for so long ends in this sort of whimper, at least for those of us Miles in the news biz who have the attention span of a gnat.

MILES O'BRIEN: Yeah, I'm sorry, are you talking to me? Let me ask you this, he did try to clear up some -- well there was a lot written about him possibly cooperating, taking the fifth, on and on it went. He says in this column none of that is true, right? FRANKEN: None of that is true and that he had been badgered by various representatives of the media, I might say that that included some here at CNN when he still worked here. But in any case he says he's cleared the air somewhat.

MILES O'BRIEN: Present company accepted of course, no present company I'm sure at the top of the list! Any way, go ahead.

FRANKEN: In any case, he is saying that he has cleared the air at least as much as he can. Now that it leaves, and there's always something left, something very tantalizing, who was his primary source.

MILES O'BRIEN: Save it for the memoir I guess. Alright Bob Franken in Washington, thank you. Brianna?

KEILAR: Thanks, Miles.

A new black eye for Boston's Big Dig, legendary for cost overruns and construction problems, the massive highway construction project is near completion but its problems are far from over. The death Monday of a motorist in one of Boston's tunnels has brought new questions and outrage. Here's AMERICAN MORNING's Dan Lothian.


DAN LOTHIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You may only traveled on Montana's back roads through Iowa's corn fields or New York's busy streets, but your tax dollars helped pay for Boston's infamous and now deadly tunnel known as the big dig.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I'm very disgusted with what's going on with that tunnel. I just passed through it the other day and I don't think I want to go through it again.

LOTHIAN: That follows the death of 38-year-old Melina Delvai in one of the tunnels Monday night. Three ton concrete panels of the ceiling came crashing down on her car. Her husband, 46-year-old Angel, was driving at the time, crawled from their crushed Honda to safety. Jillez Alacar was driving by and tried to help.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was a lot of stuff on top, you know. But I can't do nothing, you know. I was trying to save her. I was trying, to you know, take her out of there, but it was too dangerous.

LOTHIAN: Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney cut short his vacation in neighboring New Hampshire to tour the accident site and express his outrage.

GOV. MITT ROMNEY, (R) MASSACHUSETTS: People should not have to drive through the turnpike tunnels with their fingers crossed.

LOTHIAN: The big dig a series of tunnels and roadways designed to smooth out Boston's congested traffic, is the nation's most expensive public works project ever, $12 billion over budget. Its construction problems also have been monumental, defects caused water to leak into the tunnel system and at one point rocks rained down on about a half dozen cars. In the latest case the chairman of the agency responsible for the dig big says a steel bolting system gave way, causing Monday's accident. Now state and federal investigations are under way to determine why.

MATTHEW AMORELLO, CHAIRMAN, MASSACHUSETTS TURNPIKE AUTHORITY: This is an awful l of situation that occurred and we will leave no stone unturned and no expense spared in pursuing any wrongdoing that may have occurred in the installation of these tile panels, these ceiling panels when they were constructed.

LOTHIAN: Governor Romney believes the chairman is partly responsible because of "failure of leadership." He's now threatening legal action in a long running battle to have the chairman removed from his job. And the state attorney general along with the U.S. attorney, are looking into whether anyone should be held criminally responsible for the deadly accident. Dan Lothian, CNN, Boston.


KEILAR: And in the 9:00 eastern hour, we'll talk with Massachusetts Attorney General Thomas Riley about his criminal investigation. Miles?

MILES O'BRIEN: In space, a couple hundred miles above us, space walk number three, just under way, happened about 15 minutes ago, as space walkers Piers Sellers and Mike Fossum entered the void for the third space walk of this space shuttle "Discovery" mission, the second mission since the loss of "Columbia" three and a half years ago and the focus very much is on repairing a thermal heat shield for a shuttle. In this case they don't need to do that because "Discovery" has checked out. But let's go and show you some pictures which just fed down a little while ago.

This is Piers Sellers gloves, $250,000 custom made gloves. How's that for isotoner plus? And there he is undoing the hatch, straightforward but an important technique. Crank it down, it's like being on an old ship or something. Out he goes into space, through the quest airlock for space walk number three. You saw in the last two space walks if you were paying attention, those were kind of heavy lifting space walks, where they had to do some serious construction work. As you look at some more pictures, there's Piers Sellers, he's getting some help from the pilot Mark Kelly, getting him ready for the six and a half hour spacewalk. There's the second African-American woman ever to fly in space, Stephanie Wilson helping out there in the unity node which leads in this case into the quest airlock and then ultimately out into space.

Now take a look at the mission last year at this time, space walkers Robinson and Nogucci were involved in this test, kind of looks like bondo or caulking doesn't it? Well, that's not too far from the mark. This stuff which is technically called no wax, but as you see get the spackling knife out there, make it smooth. It is affectionately called black goo by the astronauts. And the idea is to see if you can possibly repair, in this case they're testing out tiles, but what about the hottest parts of the shuttle when it comes back, that's the leading edge of the wing, the part of "Columbia" that was breached and caused the loss of that orbiter and crew. Can those types of heat shields be repaired in orbit? Let's listen to Piers Sellers before he left.


PIERS SELLERS, DISCOVERY ASTRONAUT: Their only opportunity to do that was under very, very cold conditions in the experiment box. So they put it on there, and then closed up the box. And as it happened, because of the very cold conditions, the stuff didn't really dry out before they had a chance to completely work it into the surface. So there's quite a lot of voids of bubbles in that sample.


MILES O'BRIEN: That's Piers Sellers referring to the previous space walk by Robinson and Nogucci. They're not going to work on this thing, the only molly bolt trick, which they figure is fairly straightforward and if they had to use it, no need to test it, put it that way. The question is would they feel safe with a hole that size protected by something you buy at Home Depot or at least it looks that way. In any case, we'll let you know how the progress goes. They just popped out and they're just getting set up. And for the next six and a half hours we'll keep you posted as space walk number three continues. A little bond-o in space.


KEILAR: And now a story that has even some doctors amazed. A set of twins born more than two months apart. Doctors delivered one of the twins, Adam, early, because of an infection. His twin brother, Jason stayed in the womb for 10 more weeks. So Adam's birthday is May 6th, Jason's is July 7th. And the boys are expected to stay in the hospital for about two more weeks. They're doing well and they actually weigh about the same right now. Their parents say they will celebrate their birthdays separately on the day that each was born.

And twins of a different kind, the Erie Zoo in Pennsylvania is welcoming two baby red pandas. These balls of fur were born June 15th. And now about a month later they're just starting to open their eyes. Handlers will figure out their genders next week and then the cubs will be named. Miles?

MILES O'BRIEN: Coming up on the program, tips on protecting your home in the storm season. We'll show you how spending just a few bucks for your windows could really save you, a lot of money and a lot of aggravation down the road.

And then there's this --


It's like stepping into a commercial or a movie, because from what I see out here now is what I've been seeing on TV for 22 years.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP) MILES O'BRIEN: A New York man walks free after spending more than two decades in prison for a crime he did not commit, and boy, oh boy, has the world changed. Wait until you see what he does when he looks at the price of a pair of pants. That's ahead on AMERICAN MORNING.


KEILAR: Imagine spending half your life behind bars for a crime you didn't commit. That's exactly what happened to a New York man wrongly accused of rape. He spent 22 years in prison and was released last week after DNA testing finally cleared him. So what's it like to be free again? AMERICAN MORNING's Alina Cho is here. I mean this is just unimaginable.

ALINA CHO, CNN ANCHOR: It is an amazing story Brianna. Good morning to you and good morning everyone. Alan Newton was just 22 years old when he was convicted of raping a woman. He's 44 now, a lot has changed. Newton is learning there's a whole new world out there and getting used to it is going to take some time.


CHO: Alan Newton says life is great. He's savoring it. Not day-to-day but moment to moment.

ALAN NEWTON, WRONGFULLY CHARGED: It's like stepping into a commercial. You know, or a movie, because from what I see out here now is what I've been seeing on TV for 22 years.

CHO: That's how long Newton was locked up, for a crime he didn't commit. In 1984, he was convicted of raping a woman after the victim identified him in a photo. More than two decades later, DNA testing, not available at the time of his trial, finally cleared him, and last week, Newton walked out of prison a free man. Not looking back, he says, but moving forward.

NEWTON: I put that anger away. I can't grow with it. It would eat me up, tear me up inside and it would make me a frustrated person. You wouldn't want to be around me.

CHO: These days, everyone wants to be around Newton. Perfect strangers.

Sorry for wasting so many years.

NEWTON: Okay, but I'm back now.

CHO: And old friends from high school.

NEWTON: Thank you.

CHO: Newton says all of this attention takes some getting used to. First order of business, at age 44, getting a new birth certificate to replace his prison ID.

How does it feel to have that?

NEWTON: I feel alive again.

CHO: Next, Newton takes a trip to ground zero.

NEWTON: This is devastating.

CHO: He watched the events of September 11th unfold on television behind bars. He worked at the World Trade Center for what was then the New York Telephone Company. Much has changed. The little things, he calls them, like cell phones and blackberries. They didn't exist back then. So, do you know how it works though?

NEWTON: No, I don't.

CHO: You've not really seen this, okay, so I'll show you. When we take him to the mall, he's immediately drawn to the cars. Everything is bigger and faster, he says, and more expensive.

NEWTON: A pair of pants $125? Times have definitely changed.

CHO: Technology, the economy, even the coffee. He's heard about Starbucks but he's never tried it, until now.

NEWTON: Cappuccino. First time for everything.

(END OF VIDEOTAPE) CHO: That was a banana coconut frapuccino. And for the record he said it tasted look a milkshake. Now as for what's next for Newton, on August 1st he'll celebrate his 45th birthday, his first birthday he'll spend out of prison in 22 years. Remember this is a man who is really starting over. In the near term, he plans to get a driver's license, find an apartment and look for a job. Down the road a bit, he hopes to finish college Brianna and maybe even go on to law school. It's an amazing story.

KEILAR: That is amazing. Is there any anger that goes along with that?

CHO: Well, you know, he said, when I asked him about the victim, do you have, who is deceased by the way. I said do you have any anger toward the victim for identifying you wrongly, for the crime. And he said, you know, no, because she didn't get any justice either. He really -- you know, think about it. This is a man who was in prison for 22 years. He says his family really helped him get through it. You know his family was there for him, he's one of eight children. This is a man who was up for parole three separate times. He maybe could have gotten out of prison earlier had he admitted guilt, but he said he wasn't about to do that because he said it would have let his family down.

KEILAR: That's an amazing story. And good for you for teaching him how to use the cell phone.

CHO: Blackberry, yes.

KEILAR: Alright thank you Alina. And Andy is "Minding Your Business" in just a little bit after a short break. Stay with us.


MILES O'BRIEN: Scruff is in or not? Right? Women love that scruffy thing don't they?


MILES O'BRIEN: Or do they?

SERWER: Where did the scruffy look come from any way? We go back to Don Johnson in the 1980's or George Michael.

MILES O'BRIEN: Yasser Arafat started it right.

SERWER: He was very old school. George Michael of course made this famous. I'll tell you a story yesterday, my producer, Paul Amon, was getting out of the subway in midtown Manhattan.

MILES O'BRIEN: He's scruffy.

SERWER: He's got the scruffy look going on. And he stumbled into what he thought was a political protest rally, women, young women, screaming "no scruff" and "we won't shave until you do."

MILES O'BRIEN: So did he run?

SERWER: They pointed at him. Someone pointed a finger right at him saying, "You better start shaving." And what this was, was a rally of women who were engaged in a viral marketing campaign with pasted on underarm hair.

Do we have any pictures of that? I hope we do. There is also Kelly Monaco -- I'm not going to go there -- models and TV stars were there. And this was a viral marketing campaign sponsored by Gillette to promote shaving. Nowhere was Gillette's name though and of course there is a website with the cool little weird video going on, where a guy wakes up in bed and looks over at his girlfriend or wife and it's scary. You have seen this?

MILES O'BRIEN: Can we show this on TV?


MILES O'BRIEN: Okay and there she is.

SERWER: We won't shave until you do.

MILES O'BRIEN: Looks like David Spade there for a minute.

Is that stubble?

In your dreams.

SERWER: In your dreams, stubble boy. I just think what's amazing about this is the fact that Gillette's name appears nowhere. And then if this actually moved you to shave you might go out and buy a Chic razor. You know, I think at some point you do need to put your name on this thing. Although this thing is still out there, maybe if you're a company you wouldn't want to put your name on there.

MILES O'BRIEN: However, yes, and the fact that we're talking about it. You know, I guess the fact that it's kind of got this gorilla feel to it, is all part of the appeal and you put brought to you by Gillette it ruins that, right?

SERWER: I guess so, yeah. It's got to look spontaneous that models in midtown Manhattan would just suddenly appear and paste underarm hair on their bodies and that sort of -- maybe it does happen in New York every day.

MILES O'BRIEN: Maybe it does, because lots of things happen in New York every day. I really can't even keep track of it.

SERWER: That's true.

MILES O'BRIEN: Alright, we've got some pictures of the president on his way to the G-8 Summit, I believe he's there, right there. Tell me more, can you tell me -- on his way at Andrews Air Force Base. He's going to Germany first and then making his way toward the G-8 Summit. Long trip and we are keeping you posted on that, ultimately that G-8 Summit in St. Petersburg. Andy, kind of a bonus, where we do a little international affairs and business, kind of a bonus.

SERWER: Shifting gears a little bit.

MILES O'BRIEN: Shifting gears you might say.

SERWER: Yes I think.

MILES O'BRIEN: Top stories after the break. Stay with us.


MILES O'BRIEN: Breaking news from the Middle East. Israel storming into its northern neighbor, Lebanon. We're live on this story for you.

KEILAR: And India on edge, the country trying to get back to work after those deadly commuter train bombings. And this morning, still no claim of responsibility.

MILES O'BRIEN: Fierce fires out west, evacuations underway as we speak. And those fires are spreading, state of emergency there.

KEILAR: And preparing and protecting this hurricane season, boarding up getting more sophisticated on this AMERICAN MORNING.