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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Greek Financial Crisis; End of Manhunt; ISIS Attacks; Prison Guard in Court for Inmates' Escape; Feds Investigating String of Fires Across South; States Pushing Back on Court's Ruling. Aired 4-4:30p ET
Aired June 29, 2015 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[16:00:08] JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: He was taken alive, and he is talking.
I'm Jake Tapper. This is THE LEAD.
The national lead, convicted cop killer and until yesterday feared fugitive David Sweat now telling authorities how his plan to head south went south and why he ditched his now dead ex-con partner, all this as a prison guard accused of helping them faces the judge right now.
Plus, some breaking news on how the investigation into this prison break has blown the lid open on all kinds of alleged corruption at the facility, including a heroin ring behind bars.
And the world lead. Attacks on three continents, including a beachside massacre in Tunisia, raising fears of an ISIS-inspired attack in the U.S. on the busiest weekend for these shores -- today, the new July 4 warning issued by July and the awful subject that the former head of the CIA predicts we might be discussing one week from today.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
TAPPER: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to THE LEAD.
We begin with breaking news in the money lead, a miserable Monday on Wall Street, the Dow plunging close to 350 points, taking many 401(k)s along for the ride today.
Alison Kosik is live at the New York Stock Exchange.
Alison, all of this is being blamed on the debt crisis in Greece.
ALISON KOSIK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Exactly.
And we did see, Jake, this sell-off accelerate as we got closer to the closing bell. But here's the thing. The sell-off happened despite the fact that the U.S. has very little direct financial exposure to Greece. The reason we saw this reaction is because there's concern about this being uncharted territory.
Lots of questions, like, what are the global implications of Greece not paying its bills? What would be the ramifications if Greece left the European Union? The biggest concern here, Jake, in the U.S. is, what are the shockwaves that Greece's financial troubles could cause here? And right now, there aren't certain answers to those questions. And that's why you're seeing the market on edge -- Jake.
TAPPER: Alison Kosik, thanks. And we're going to have much more on the plunge and how it will impact your financial situation later this hour.
Now to more breaking news in the national lead. With the 22-day manhunt now thankfully over, the guard accused of helping killers David Sweat and Richard Matt break out of prison just walked into court. Gene Palmer's lawyer says he admitted passing along a package of frozen beef to the inmates, but he claims he did not know the meat had tools hidden inside to help the prisoners cut and crawl their way out of the prison.
Palmer's court appearance comes three days after fugitive Richard "Hacksaw" Matt was shot and killed by law enforcement and less than one day after fugitive David Sweat, a convicted cop killer, was spotted, shot twice by a New York State Police Trooper, and then taken into custody less than two miles from the Canadian border.
Today, we're learning that Sweat is talking about their plan that totally, thankfully, fell apart, the moment they popped out of that manhole cover beyond the prison walls and prison worker Joyce Mitchell was not there with the getaway car. David Sweat made it closer to Canada than Richard Matt. He was finally found and killed Friday near Malone, New York.
Today, we're also learning that Sweat told authorities that the two fugitives split up because he claimed Matt was slowing him down.
Let's go to Miguel Marquez.
Miguel, police say Canada was not the original destination.
MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Not in the slightest. They hoped to be toasting margaritas in Mexico, is where they wanted to go, but when Joyce Mitchell didn't show up, it really thwarted their plans.
There was a lot of talk about whether she was their plan A. But it is clear, now that David Sweat is talking, now that we're getting a better idea of what happened there, they were in the woods and scrambling for a plan B.
MARQUEZ (voice-over): Prison break supposed to end in Mexico. Instead, convicted killer David Sweat was captured just two miles from the Canadian border after three weeks on the run.
Authorities say Sweat is talking, saying the plan was for prison employee Joyce Mitchell to pick him and Richard Matt up and head south. Instead, they headed into the woods. Sources tell CNN Sweat and Matt split up five days ago because Matt was slowing Sweat down and had become ill. A New York state police officer out on patrol by himself spotted Sweat
wearing camouflage near a barn in the town of Constable, New York.
JOSEPH D'AMICO, NEW YORK STATE POLICE SUPERINTENDENT: Spotted a male who was basically jogging up along the side of the road. He approached him. And as he exited the car, the male turned to him. He says, hey, come over here. The male kind of ignored him.
MARQUEZ: The officer pursued Sweat on foot, repeatedly ordering him to stop. When he refused, the officer opened fire, shooting Sweat twice in the torso. Sweat was unarmed, Sweat airlifted to a trauma center in Albany, where he is now being treated under heavy guard.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He will be in basically 24/6 lockdown for the rest of his life.
MARQUEZ: Residents here taking to the streets in celebration.
GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D), NEW YORK: The nightmare is finally over. It's been 22 days.
MARQUEZ: A search of Sweat's backpack revealed it was loaded with supplies, like maps, bug repellent, wipes and Pop-Tarts. It's unknown how or from where he obtained the supplies.
D'AMICO: And we believe that possibly these two males were using pepper to throw the scent off of the dogs that were tracking them.
MARQUEZ: But, amazingly, DNA from soiled underwear found near an outhouse helped lead authorities in the manhunt to track down Richard Matt. Matt was shot three times in the head and killed by police on Friday night after officers came upon a cabin where they smelled gunpowder.
As they searched the woods, they heard popping. Moments later, Matt, armed with a .20-gauge shotgun, was confronted, and fatally shot.
According to an official, alcohol could be smelled on his body. They also believe he had been ill from possibly contaminated food or water. An autopsy of Matt's body showed bug bites and blisters. And Sweat's backpack full of supplies led authorities to believe both had been living in the woods on the run for 22 days.
MARQUEZ: And it must have been a miserable 22 or 23 days out there for each of them. They only made a little over a mile a day, the place where Matt was killed and where Sweat was picked up less than 30 from Clinton Correctional Facility.
What next now for David Sweat? Well, he will be charged, say officials, with the escape, with the burglary and with other things. He will go through a court process, get an attorney, but he ain't going anywhere. He will go back to a prison somewhere, probably not Clinton -- Jake.
TAPPER: Let's hope he ain't going anywhere. Miguel Marquez, thank you so much.
Joining me now Sylvester Jones, former assistant director of the U.S. Marshals Service, a veteran of manhunts such as this, along with Chris Premo. He's the chief of police of the Village of Malone, New York, who assisted state police with the fugitive manhunt, also Edward Gavin, former deputy warden of the New York City Department of Corrections.
Mr. Jones, let me start with you.
We had you on last Tuesday. I have to give you credit. You called it. You predicted we would have these guys in three days to a week. One was killed three days after you said that, the other one captured just under a week. What led you to that make that prediction?
SYLVESTER JONES, FORMER ASSISTANT DIRECTOR, U.S. MARSHALS SERVICE: First of all, Jake, thanks for having me.
I want to take my hat off and salute the law enforcement officers and officials involved in this operation.
TAPPER: Absolutely. Yes.
JONES: The efforts were phenomenal and the collaboration was great.
But, as I mentioned last week -- and thank you -- I did say three days to a week. I -- just understanding the situation, my experience, knowing that the law enforcement effort that was out there, again, the collaboration, the resources or lack thereof for Richard Matt and David Sweat, I just thought they were running out of time.
And then I knew that that -- it was different to survive in a wooded area, just as different for law enforcement to find them as for those guys to survive in those woods.
Chief Premo, you know New York State Police Sergeant Jay Cook. That's of course the man who spotted Sweat on Sunday and finally took him down. How is he doing today?
CHRIS PREMO, MALONE, NEW YORK, POLICE CHIEF: I talked to his brother around noon. He told me that he hadn't slept all night. That's the only information I have on him.
TAPPER: He hadn't slept because of the adrenaline? Because of something else? Obviously, he's a hero.
PREMO: Yes, I would imagine adrenaline. That's something you don't expect to happen in your career.
TAPPER: We're glad that he has such good aim. Is he -- do you know him to a good shot? PREMO: Yes, he was a firearms instructor for the state police for
TAPPER: All right. Excellent.
Mr. Jones, let me say the fugitive spotted and killed Friday, Richard Matt, he was the more experienced of the two in evading captured. Now, we know Sweat told police that he ditched Matt because Matt was dragging him down. Ultimately, was it a mistake for these two to split up?
JONES: I think it was a mistake. I think that they operated on the buddy program.
They were a team. And I think they had obviously two sets of eyes, four sets of ears, and they complemented each other as far as keeping each other informed as far as what is going on.
TAPPER: Well, we're glad they made that mistake.
Mr. Gavin, let me bring you in now. You're a former New York City corrections official. Do you think it's possible that Gene Palmer, the prisoner in court right now -- I'm sorry -- the guard, the prison guard in court right now, do you think it's possible that he didn't know a hunk of frozen hamburger meat didn't contain contraband?
EDWARD GAVIN, FORMER NEW YORK CORRECTIONS OFFICIAL: Anything is possible, but when you're a sworn officer of the law and someone asks you to bring contraband into a correctional facility, a civilian, of frozen chopped meat, you have to question why he would even do that, when you consider the guy has 27 years on the job. What was he thinking?
TAPPER: Yes, if he was thinking anything.
And let me ask you, Mr. Gavin, they're obviously trying to get David Sweat to talk and give them information, how he escaped, who he evaded capture for 22 days. What kinds of things would prison officials offer him in exchange for cooperation?
GAVIN: Well, they're going to try to entice him.
He is probably going to -- he knows that they could subject him to punitive segregation or 23-hour lockdown, so what they will probably do is maybe just let him -- they will monitor him. They will make him a CMC for tracking purposes and notoriety purposes, an escape.
He will be a CMC, a centrally monitored case, notoriety for having killed the police officer, for having escaped, and they will monitor him and they will let him -- they will administratively segregate him, and they won't put the harsh restrictions on him. And that may be a deal he may be able to make with them.
TAPPER: Chief Premo, let me bring you in. David Sweat was sentenced to life in prison for shooting and running over Kevin Tarsia, a Broome County sheriff's deputy. He shot him more than a dozen times, ran over him in 2002. We want to make sure to give some attention to the fallen officer.
We saw crowds of people cheering law enforcement today in Malone, New York, thanking them for their efforts. What does it mean to police to be able to get a cop killer back in custody and put him back in the hole?
PREMO: It means a lot, especially to the family of Kevin and the people in Broome County that they had to go through this again.
I still remember back in 2002, when this happened. Broome County is quite a ways away, but I remember media reports of what happened to Kevin. And I'm pretty happy that Mr. Sweat has been caught.
TAPPER: We all are.
Sylvester Jones, Chief Chris Premo, and Edward Gavin, thank you all. Glad to have a good news story involving police. Thank you so much for joining us.
The investigation into the prison break has led to a whole new discovery at the Clinton Correction Facility, signs of drugs, signs of corruption. You may remember one former worker told us parts of the prison were run like a college campus with fairly lax rules for inmates. And the problems may have been much more widespread, much worse. We're digging into that part of the story coming up next.
[16:16:19] TAPPER: Welcome back for THE LEAD.
We're following the breaking news. Prison guard Gene Palmer in the prison break case just faced a judge for the first time. He's the guard accused of passing along contraband hidden in a block of beef.
Jean Casarez joins me now live from Plattsburgh, New York.
Jean, what exactly happened in court today?
JEAN CASAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it was very brief, but let me tell you, the media presence here is trimly strong. And when Gene Palmer arrived in court, I mean, that media just absolutely encircled him as he silently walked into court. His girlfriend is with him. It appears as though, but the proceeding just ended.
And here's the best we can tell you. It was just short. Remember, this is justice court. It's a very small court. And the defense has waived on to county court, so it will go to a higher court. What that means is normally the case will go before a grand jury. So, it was a short proceeding, short because this is the preliminary court. Gene Palmer just left as the media was following his car, as he and his friend left. His attorney Mr. Dreyer from Albany, New York, just left without too many statements. He did not give a plea today. We're learning that right now. No plea
was given in this justice court. So, it's on to county court most likely at this point -- Jake.
TAPPER: All right. Jean Casarez in Plattsburgh, New York, thank you so much.
There is even more now information being uncovered during the investigation into the prison break. We are now finding out it was allegedly something like Thunderdome inside the walls of Clinton correctional.
CNN justice reporter Evan Perez is here to break this story right now.
Evan, what can you tell us? What did investigators turn up?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, what they found out from talking to some of the employees of this reason is that there's rampant use of heroin inside those walls, and they are also concerned that some prison employees are actually involved in some of the trafficking. So, now, the FBI has opened an investigation into broader corruption at this prison, including the drug trafficking problems that are going on there.
And really, you know, this is only the beginning now of what is going to be a very deep look at what's going on behind the walls there. The New York state inspector general is also doing its own separate investigation, and the FBI, which really just began looking at the escape, is now doing a much broader look at whether or not there's more -- a serious problem in this prison.
TAPPER: Fascinating, Evan Perez, thanks so much.
Evan, stay with me.
I want to turn to another story that you've been investigating. A string of church fires raising concerns across the South. Many of the churches predominantly African-American congregations after the shooting massacre at Mother Emanuel in Charleston. It's been quite shocking for many people in the South.
Evan, do investigators believe this is more than a coincidence? How many of these fires are thought to be arson? How many could be something else?
PEREZ: Well, three so far local authorities believe were intentionally set, Jake. So, now, the FBI and ATF are doing an investigation. They're required under federal law to investigate whenever there's a fire at a religious institution to make sure that there's no hate crime involved.
And as you said, most of these churches were predominantly African- American. One of them in Tallahassee that burned and it turned out to be an electrical fire. We know one in Charlotte housed not only an African-American congregation, but two Nepalese congregations. So, they're not sure what the issue there is. Certainly, it is as you
said, plenty of suspicion as to whether or not this is just a coincidence or whether someone is intentionally attacking these churches, in light of everything else going on in post-Charleston.
TAPPER: Early days of the investigation, though. I imagine you'll keep us up to date on that. Thank you so much, Evan Perez. Appreciate it.
Is the Supreme Court decision on gay marriage the final say on this issue?
[16:20:02] Well, not if you ask some leaders in some Southern states, leaders who are resisting the ruling, calling their own shots.
Plus, with more terror attacks in the headlines, new warnings of a possible strike here at home as the holiday weekend approaches.
TAPPER: Welcome back to THE LEAD.
Today's politics lead: if you thought that the U.S. Supreme Court ruling declaring same-sex bans to be unconstitutional would end the debate -- well, you were wrong. Some states counties and parishes are now pushing back against the decision.
The Texas attorney general blasted the ruling, calling it, quote, "lawless". And he's not alone. Judges and lawmakers in three other states are also fighting the implementation of the ruling.
TAPPER (voice-over): The jubilant crowds at pride parades in cities this weekend were hard to miss this weekend. Less enthusiastically some stalwart states that had upheld same sex marriage bans accepted the ruling.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Frankly, our reaction to the decision is one of disappointment.
TAPPER: But a nation that was divided before Friday's ruling is not all rainbows and kisses today.
[16:25:02] Counties continue to oppose same sex marriage, citing conflicting state laws, religious freedom, and even paperwork issues.
In Mississippi, state officials say not so fast. The right to wed will have to wait for a lower court's approval, despite the decision by the nation's highest judges. Governor Phil Bryant added that the new marriage standards, quote, "are certainly out of the step with the majority of Mississippians.
In Louisiana, a 25-day waiting period is now being suggested for county clerks before they begin issuing marriage licenses. Attorney General James Caldwell, wrote, "There is not yet a legal requirement for his states to issue them."
In Alabama, same sex couples are tying the knot in Montgomery, but in some more rural counties, licenses have been halted for all couples, the only way around the Supreme Court's decree.
Voters around the country have repeatedly rejected same-sex marriage when it's been put to a vote, but courts have ruled in the opposite direction, and polls indicate that there has been a sea change in public opinion on the issue in recent years. BRIAN POWELL, SOCIOLOGY PROFESSOR, UNIVERSITY OF INDIANA: Right now,
more people are in support of same-sex marriage than the percentage of people who voted for Reagan in 1984.
TAPPER: Professor Brian Powell has been studying same sex marriage trends for years, and he predicts pushback will not last long.
POWELL: Today, people who in Mississippi, in Louisiana, in the South where opposition is still the greatest, there support of same sex marriage is on par where other states were just a few years ago.
TAPPER: Many holdout counties and clerks are putting religious liberty front and center.
In Texas, Attorney General Ken Paxton has told officials they do not have to uphold the new Supreme Court ruling, writing, quote, "The reach of the court's opinion stops at the door of the First Amendment, and our laws protecting religious liberty." In Harris County, Texas, Friday the clerk says he simply didn't have
the correct application forms for those first in line to get hitched.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you go look at the current form, it says man and woman on the side of it. And it's got some fields that are specific to like maiden names.
TAPPER: Interestingly, Powell says coverage of the debate over same- sex marriage is what will lead to more acceptance of it, even in the pockets pushing back.
POWELL: What happens is people are basically getting used to the idea, and then they're getting more comfortable with the idea. And so, they're shifting their view from "why should that happen" to "why not"?
TAPPER: Another day, another American arrested for potential ties to the terrorist ISIS. That along with new images of deadly terror around the world have leaders here in the U.S. on alert, especially with the July 4th holiday ahead. One CIA insider is talking bluntly about what could happen given what he knows. Stay with us.