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Sources: NY Grand Jury Returns Criminal Charges, Reportedly Against Trump Org And Its CFO, Weisselberg; Bill Cosby Free From Prison After Conviction Overturned; Survivor Describes Escape From Florida Condo Collapse. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired June 30, 2021 - 21:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[21:00:00]

NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: They have seen an uptick in incidents and attacks. Germany, parts of Germany, they say, in 2020, up 30 percent. So, we do not want to be like Europe. And apparently, we're getting there. John?

JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: Nick Watt, thank you so much for that report.

The news continues. So, let's hand it over to Chris for "CUOMO PRIME TIME."

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST: All right, thank you, John.

I am Chris Cuomo and welcome to PRIME TIME.

We have breaking news on our watch. The Manhattan grand jury has returned indictments. Reportedly, they will be against Donald Trump's money-man, Allen Weisselberg, and the Trump Organization, criminal charges. The specific charges are under seal. So, we don't know the details.

But sources say Weisselberg is set to turn himself in tomorrow morning. There is no charge currently against the former president. One was not expected at this point. This would be the first criminal charge against the company, not to mention the former president's money-man.

Here's the question. Will Weisselberg make a deal, to help himself and/or his kids? And what would prosecutors want? Well, we know take any kind of political idea out of it, prosecutors only trade up, right?

So, what will this mean? It is certainly a break in the dam. The former president of the United States needs to seriously consider what is next. His company was just indicted.

Let's bring in former federal prosecutor, Elliot Williams, and former longtime Trump Organization executive, Barbara Res, Author of the book, "Tower of Lies."

Barbara, let me start with you. The suggestion I made there about Allen Weisselberg, you know him, Barbara. BARBARA RES, FORMER EXECUTIVE VP, TRUMP ORGANIZATION, AUTHOR, "TOWER OF LIES": Yes.

CUOMO: What is the chance that maybe not for him, but for his kids, he would be willing to talk about things that prosecutors would be interested in?

RES: Well, I know Allen, and he's a regular person, or at least he used to be, when I knew him. I mean, I know money and power corrupts. But I cannot imagine him jeopardizing his children for any reason whatsoever. He wouldn't do it. He just wouldn't do it. I can't see him going to jail, to be honest with you.

CUOMO: And you think that any loyalty to the Trump family would yield to the interest to his own family? The question is, do you think Barbara Res, that he knows things that could be trouble for the former president, with prosecutors?

RES: Absolutely, without a question. Anything that Allen did that resulted in some kind of illegality, or some - against the law, Trump knew about that nothing big happens at the Trump Organization without Trump's knowledge.

CUOMO: All right, so Elliot, we don't know the charges. But we do know, we've never seen a former president, in any way, come under the scrutiny of criminal charges.

And this is the Trump Organization. He is the man at the top of the pyramid. To have his main man, the CFO, brought under indictment, and the organization, what is the significance?

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR, FORMER DEPUTY ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL: It's quite significant, both for the President and Allen Weisselberg. Now look, what this means is Weisselberg has a greater incentive now to cooperate with law enforcement.

But frankly, as we saw today, in another major story that you may be covering, over the course of the show, Chris, prosecutors have a tremendous amount of power, when someone has charges hanging over their head. And the longer he waits, over making a decision, over whether to cooperate, the worse it probably gets for him.

What does it mean for the President? Well, look, when the company, you run, when both the Comptroller, and the Chief Financial Officer, this is Allen Weisselberg, are being spoken to, by law enforcement, about financial irregularities, and you are seen as inseparable from the company, it's got your name on it, and so on, then, certainly that spells potential trouble.

Now, we have no indication to believe that there are charges being brought against the President or members of his family. We don't know yet. And we will see.

CUOMO: Right. And again, not all the charges that come out tonight could be the last charges either. This is the way prosecution, sometimes work. They still have access to a grand jury to create more.

Barbara Res, the idea of what has been discussed, as the universe of illegality here, Barbara, which is, things being passed off as gifts, when they were really income to people, is that something that you ever saw?

RES: Yes, but in a much smaller way. I know that when we had certain people, working for us, Trump advised them, to put in false expenses, and they would get cash payments that wouldn't be taxed. So, he had that mindset, back when I was working for him.

And watching him give these things away, it's reminiscent of chits that I remember him handing out. It was always a quid pro quo. And it was "What can I get out of it?" And it's obviously got larger and more complex.

[21:05:00]

And these gifts are just buying off loyalty, just like giving jobs to their employees' children. I mean, what could - what could get more loyalty than that? I mean, you get - they'll do anything, you let their kids keep their jobs. I mean it's just - it's a routine that has been going on. And Trump has really raised it to an art form, I think.

CUOMO: It's all about where the line is, right? Loyalty plays a one thing, if they go into the illegal to another.

But then Elliot, it becomes a type of illegality, and that matters for two reasons. One, how impressed the public will be with these charges? Two, what kind of pressure they mean on the people who are indicted?

So, if this is really about the kind of stuff that we're talking about, with Barbara, and I right now, which is what's been in the news, is that really enough to make Weisselberg feel the pinch, that his life is going to be ruined, unless he makes a deal?

WILLIAMS: Well, if you've ever been inside a prison, it's pretty bad. So, I hesitate to say that any criminal charge isn't enough to make someone feel the pinch.

These are charges, when you talk about these fringe benefit prosecutions, also know that they - it's one of the rare charges that brings potential liability to both the company, and the individual, because they're both seeking to evade paying taxes.

But I think we should wait and see what the charges are tomorrow. But when it comes to both, A, going to jail, regardless of what age you are in life, and B, charges being potentially held over the heads of your children?

Chris, you and I are parents, Barbara, I don't know - I don't know if you are. But, however the thought of your children going to jail, or paying serious fines, is enough of a motivator to make someone act. And if prosecutors are looking into his children, that's certainly something significant.

CUOMO: How often is the first wave of indictments, not the last, when you're doing this kind of white-collar criminal investigation?

WILLIAMS: Yes, they're quite complex, because they require going through financial records, and statements, and phone calls, and interviews with individuals, and so on. So, it wouldn't be inconceivable for more charges to come.

People should not - everybody's asking the question "Is the President going to be charged with a crime?" And it's just hard to know, at this point. Certainly, prosecutions can grow, and build, and so on. But more importantly, wait and see what the indictments say tomorrow, and then move from there.

CUOMO: Well remember, they have a burden of proof. They don't want to swing and miss against President Trump. All due respect to the Manhattan D.A.'s office, I'm not suggesting that this is about politics.

But the person at the top of the food chain is elected. And the last thing you want is former president Donald Trump saying you came after them, and missed. It would be bad for that person.

And that is part of the consideration in all prosecutions. Let's be honest. They want to know how it's going to look. They're doing this for the public. What will the public think?

Now Barbara, what do you say to supporters of the President, who say, "Ah! This is penny-ante. He never knew about any of this stuff. They're just trying to get him. He's not a bad guy. People are just jealous. And this is about politics, not about anything that Trump ever did that should be punished."

What do you want people to know about him, and how he did his business?

RES: Anyone that says that, Trump supporters, I've written off now, completely in their member selves (ph). But anyone that says that has no interest in really knowing what the truth is.

Because I mean, you've seen it. He's demonstrated it. But I think that he admits too. When he was saying how brilliant he was that he used the Tax Code, "I am so brilliant," well, what's he saying? He knows that the Tax Code was used.

So, he doesn't know this part of the Tax Code being used? I would tell them just - I'd tell them to read my book. But I would tell them just get real.

CUOMO: Well we'll know more about the charges. And we'll understand whether or not this - where this seems, in terms of a prosecution strategy. We'll know much more, when we know the charges. They are under seal. But things rarely stay quiet.

Elliot Williams, thank you very much.

Barbara Res, appreciate the personal perspective on this as well.

Thank you both.

RES: Thank you.

WILLIAMS: You too, Chris.

CUOMO: OK, another big story, breaking on our watch. The pictures, I don't think anybody was expecting to see today, Bill Cosby is a free man. Pennsylvania's highest court vacated his sexual assault conviction, and they said something else that you need to know, because it's not being reported correctly. And it makes this even more controversial.

The attorney, who got the conviction thrown out, joins us next.

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CUOMO: The question is why is Bill Cosby a free man? Dozens of sexual assault claims that led to a hung jury, and then a conviction in a retrial.

So many stories with similar patterns of drugs and assault, and yet he is home now, for the first time since 2018, after serving about three years, of an estimated 10-year sentence.

We saw he flashed a peace sign, to news choppers, as he did. But Andrea Constand and others, her case was the one that sent him to prison, she, dozens of other accusers, they may just have lost any sense of peace, maybe forever.

So what is the why? What's the reason? It wasn't new evidence. There was no witness changing their story. This is not about his innocence.

The Pennsylvania State Supreme Court is taking issue with a non- prosecution deal that Montgomery County D.A. Bruce Castor - you remember him from Trump's second impeachment trial?

He made a deal with Cosby's team, in 2005. Simply stated, "You testify in the civil suit, and there won't be criminal charges." It opened the door to Cosby giving up his Fifth Amendment right against self- incrimination, when he testified, in that civil deposition.

The fact that his statements were used against him, years later, the court found, denied him of his due process rights.

[21:15:00]

You ever hear the expression fruit of the poisonous tree? In the law, that suggests a situation, where you weren't supposed to ever try him. You made a deal.

And then, you got this other testimony evidence from this civil trial, and you wanted to then use it, in a criminal trial, when you said you wouldn't do that. Now, that is fruit of the poisonous tree, and you can't use it.

So, the court ruled for his immediate release, and barred future prosecution on these charges.

In a statement, Constand and her lawyers say the ruling is not only disappointing, but of concern, and that it may discourage those who seek justice for sexual assault, in the criminal justice system.

They add, "We were not consulted or asked our thoughts by Mr. Castor concerning any agreements, concerning immunity or anything, and we were not made aware if there were any such discussions."

Now, while Cosby was silent, this afternoon, he did speak later to ABC. Here's a little bit of it.

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BILL COSBY, AMERICAN COMEDIAN: Nobody had the sense to say "Wait one second, this doesn't match up with the truth, this is not what I was taught in college, this is not what I was taught at home, et cetera, et cetera."

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CUOMO: I don't know what that's supposed to mean. So, let's bring in one of Cosby's attorneys now, Jennifer Bonjean.

Thank you, Counselor.

JENNIFER BONJEAN, ATTORNEY FOR BILL COSBY: Thanks for having me, Chris.

CUOMO: And just to be clear, you don't take exception to anything I said, introducing this segment, right? I mean, he wasn't found innocent. He wasn't exonerated. This was a procedural issue that the trial should have never happened. Fair point?

BONJEAN: Well I do take issue with one point is that this was a prosecution on one person's claim, one person's allegation. This wasn't an indictment, involving five women, 60 women, whatever the number is. This was one woman's claim that was prosecuted. So, I think that that needs to be made clear.

And also, I would point out that these are constitutional safeguards. This isn't just a matter of technicalities, or - we are talking about major constitutional principles, on which our criminal justice system rests. And that's why the remedy was a strong one.

So, apart from that, I agree that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court wasn't speaking to the guilt or innocence as to Ms. Constand's claims. But it was a single person's claims that were brought in that trial.

CUOMO: I'll deal with that in one second. But, in terms of the procedural issue, take us back.

BONJEAN: Sure.

CUOMO: Obviously, you knew this was an opportunity, when you were heading into the retrial, and that this criminal prosecution was taking place, after one wasn't supposed to happen at all.

Was that argued at the time? And why was the prosecution allowed to go forward at the time?

BONJEAN: Oh, sure. It was - it was argued. Only the media wasn't reporting on it. Nobody was interested in hearing that that there had been an agreement. And a lot of this energy, this angry energy, should really be directed at the prosecutors, because this is a case about prosecutorial misconduct.

You may take issue with Mr. Castor for having made the agreement in the first place. And you should also take issue with the prosecutors, who refused to honor that agreement. So, that is what the story is here.

But yes, it was raised. It was raised before the first trial. It was litigated. And Mr. Cosby and his team vigorously fought that, and stated he should never have been prosecuted, on account of this agreement.

CUOMO: You say you want to be clear that this is just about Andrea Constand. Fair--

BONJEAN: Well the--

CUOMO: Fair point. No, fair point.

BONJEAN: Yes.

CUOMO: It happens to be just true. But I don't know that it's the best fact.

When people think about the Cosby story, they think back to that "New Yorker" cover with all those women. And what was so frightening about their stories was how similar they were even though they didn't know each other.

And it raises a question to your own point. You're right, it was only one woman. And do you expect that they should bring at least another case with all these other alleged victims?

BONJEAN: Well, all of the alleged victims had every opportunity to press their claims, at the time that the statute of limitations allowed them to do so. For various reasons, they chose not to. And I'm not here to judge why they may have chosen not to.

But we still have a system of laws and rules and a Constitution that requires us to play by the rules. And you can't cheat to get a conviction, just because we now have a movement that wants to make a platform inside the courtroom for women, who chose not to press their claims, or didn't press their claims, for some reason or another.

[21:20:00]

That's fine on social media. That's fine in newspapers. But in the courtroom, we have to still follow the rules. And we can't make it a platform just about women coming forward, who didn't, at the time, when it would have been possible, to prosecute those claims.

CUOMO: Said on my paper, "New Yorker." It was "New York Magazine." That's, it's good to be accurate, but it's insignificant.

The real point is this. What does it mean to you now that Bill Cosby - he did do a few years in prison?

BONJEAN: Yes.

CUOMO: But that with all these women, and all these allegations?

And again, I don't have to tell you, these were not hand on the knee. These were not verbal suggestions. This was a pattern that he acknowledged in that civil trial of - well you're going to take exception with the word "Pattern."

BONJEAN: He - no.

CUOMO: But he acknowledged, "When you got Quaaludes, was it in your mind that you were going to use these Quaaludes for young women that you wanted to have sex with?" That's multiple women. That's behavior. That's a pattern. He said, "Yes."

Does it bother you at all that what seemed to be a pretty clear M.O. for Cosby is going to be mitigated in terms of its punishment?

BONJEAN: My job is a defense attorney. And I'm very proud of the work we did in upholding the Constitution. And I'm very proud that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court was not influenced by the court of public opinion. And so, in that regard, it does not bother me in the slightest.

I also believe that we have a trend in our courtrooms, where the courtrooms are being infiltrated by the court of public opinion. And that leads to miscarriages of justice. I believe you'll see that with the Weinstein case as well, which I consulted on. That was the same scenario.

And I have no problem with a just and righteous verdict, if you get there a fair way. But when you cheat to get there, there is no righteousness or justness in that verdict. And that, unfortunately, is what happened with Mr. Cosby's case. CUOMO: Well hold on one second. I'm with you that the game has to be played. We all know the adage that a 100 guilty men should go free, or women, so that one innocent is not punished wrongfully. I hear you.

But let's not fake the funk here either. You had a jury hear testimony from Constand, and other women, and they convicted him. So this wasn't that it was all manipulation.

BONJEAN: Well--

CUOMO: This was a real jury that got to hear it, and found him guilty.

BONJEAN: You also had a jury that heard evidence they shouldn't have heard, both in the form of this deposition that was obtained illegally.

And you also had a jury that heard evidence from frankly, other bad act, other accusers, it never should have heard, because we don't live in a world where we try people's character. We try crimes. So, I do not believe we had a fair trial. And I don't believe you can look at this verdict, and put any stock in it, frankly.

And also, let's not keep - let's keep in mind that all of this prevented Mr. Cosby from being able to tell his story, from the witness stand, because of that deposition.

So, let's not say "Oh, this is just a technicality," or "We know what really happened." You don't know what really happened. This trial would have been entirely different. And also, it never should have happened in the first place.

CUOMO: I'll give you that point, because we know it, because the Pennsylvania Supreme Court just litigated that for us. We're good on that.

The point about, "It would have been totally different," why was Cosby not allowed to testify in his own defense, because he gave a deposition in a civil trial?

BONJEAN: The point is, is that by taking that illegal deposition, using those words against him, it wouldn't - it made it very difficult for him to take the stand.

CUOMO: But they were his words. I'm just saying he could have taken the stand.

BONJEAN: They--

CUOMO: As long as he's going to tell the truth, he couldn't have been in any trouble, right?

BONJEAN: Well, I'm not talking about the potential for perjury. I'm talking about the fact that we live in a society, where you shouldn't have your words used against you.

Had he taken the stand, all of those words, that he said during this deposition, whether in whatever context, they were taken, what unfairly laid out in the way that the civil attorneys did, this was four days of deposition, it made it impossible.

No defense attorney would have - would have said "Yes, sure, take the stand, and deal with these," again, a deposition statements that were illegally obtained.

CUOMO: Bonjean, I do not disagree with you, from a perspective of legal strategy. I'm just saying, in terms of commonsense, he could have still testified.

I understand why strategically, you would have been nuts to stay on the case, if he insisted on doing it, when you knew what was coming. But I'm just saying if he had nothing to fear of his own words, he could have made a different choice.

BONJEAN: No, even innocent people plead the Fifth, all the time, if they face prosecution.

CUOMO: Absolutely. Absolutely, they do.

BONJEAN: So, I have to beg to differ.

CUOMO: But I'm saying the idea that this deposition ruined it for him, because now he couldn't testify, that's not true.

BONJEAN: No, the deposition--

CUOMO: He could. But it would have made it harder.

[21:25:00]

BONJEAN: --the deposition - it wasn't just about the deposition being highly prejudicial, if he took the stand. The words that you yourself just quoted came into evidence that were obtained illegally.

So, if someone is physically coerced, into making a statement, we recognize "Oh well, we don't - that's unfair. We can't use that statement." But this is no different in some ways, because someone was--

CUOMO: Well, coerced confession is where somebody is made to say something they don't believe.

BONJEAN: Not always. Some people are coerced into saying the truth, I guess. But you're talking about statements that were induced involuntarily, in a sense, by making promises--

CUOMO: Absolutely.

BONJEAN: --that they did not live up to.

CUOMO: Absolutely.

BONJEAN: And you talked earlier, in this first segment, what does that mean for these prosecutions, where the government needs to rely on these cooperators?

CUOMO: Absolutely.

BONJEAN: What? What? If they - you can't trust the government?

CUOMO: Can't trust them.

BONJEAN: Do you think - you think Weisselberg, or any of these cooperators, will come forward with these prosecutions, and help the government?

CUOMO: If you can't trust them?

BONJEAN: If you can't trust them?

CUOMO: No.

BONJEAN: I don't think so.

CUOMO: Me either.

BONJEAN: So.

CUOMO: That's why you got to play the game the right way. And they screwed this up. And that's what the Pennsylvania Supreme Court just said. And they can appeal it. We'll see if they can change the outcome at the next level, if they have any way to do that.

BONJEAN: No.

CUOMO: But they can't retry it, not for Andrea Constand.

BONJEAN: No.

CUOMO: Not after what the Pennsylvania Supreme Court just said.

Not after you on the procedure. It was just the particulars of what this was about and what it isn't about.

BONJEAN: I mean--

CUOMO: But Counselor Bonjean?

BONJEAN: --I understand.

CUOMO: I appreciate you making the case. You didn't have to. Thank you for taking the opportunity. It's helpful to the audience.

BONJEAN: Thank you.

CUOMO: Be well.

BONJEAN: You too.

CUOMO: All right, now look, this is stunning. And not if you are a legal scholar, OK? Not if you have been following it from a procedural perspective.

Smart people had real questions early on. How do I know? Because I read Michael Smerconish, OK? He had concerns years ago, based on what you just heard, coming from Cosby counsel. His insight landed him an exclusive interview with Cosby, while he faced trial.

So, Smerc is here to help you understand why, sure, you should be upset, but at who, and why, next.

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CUOMO: Bill Cosby being a free man, absolutely came as a surprise to a lot of people, except my next guest, friend of the show, sits in here, and does a better job, fellow attorney, Michael Smerconish. He raised the legal issues at hand, years before Cosby was even convicted of assault, in 2018.

Michael asked Cosby about it, in what would be his last public interview, before being sentenced to prison. Listen.

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MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN ANCHOR: A federal judge said, I'm paraphrasing, "If Bill Cosby is going to be out there on his soapbox, speaking about moral virtue, then it's fair for this deposition to be used against him." From a legal standpoint, I thought that was a wrong decision, and I said so at the time.

Do you want to comment on that underlying decision, which played a pretty significant role in the position in which you find yourself?

COSBY: I have an emotion about what the judge did, and I am still very much confused about how that came about.

SMERCONISH: In other words, you thought you had a deal, that case was over and the facts of it were done?

COSBY: No. It's - it's the way it was put out, and the way many people saw it, and you just said it. And I think, I think the safest way to put it is I agree with you.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CUOMO: Now, there is an answer. The trial judge said that this deal did meet the standard of something that had to be recognized as formal and operative. And then, even at appeal level, they were balancing equities here.

Now, you could argue they should have never gotten to that stage. Once they knew that there was a deal, and it was acted upon, to the disadvantage of Cosby, which it certainly was, by him speaking in his own defense, in the civil case, as directed, according to the deal, it was tainted.

Now, let's bring in Smerc.

It's good to have you. You heard me and Bonjean. What's your take on this situation?

SMERCONISH: Twofold. Number one, he was enticed to surrender his Fifth Amendment rights. And then the testimony that he offered in that deposition was used against him in the subsequent criminal proceeding. That was after he paid $3 million-plus to make the civil suit go away. So, everybody's already talking about that.

The second issue that I think requires more examination, in retrospect, is that he gave the deposition testimony, the very damning testimony. He couldn't assert a Fifth Amendment right.

But Chris, that deposition testimony remained under a temporary seal. And now, a federal judge was called upon, to make a determination as to whether that testimony should see the light of day.

And the rationale of the judge was to say to Bill Cosby, where you have donned the mantle of a public moralist, you've surrendered your privacy rights. And he cited in a footnote to the opinion, three different examples, where Bill Cosby essentially was telling other people how to lead their lives.

And one of the examples was our colleague, Don Lemon. In other words, Cosby went on Don Lemon's show, and made comments about juvenile delinquents.

And the federal judge, looking at that, looking at the so-called "Pound Cake" speech that Cosby delivered, said "Bill Cosby, you're telling other people how to lead their lives."

CUOMO: But what was the legal precedent?

SMERCONISH: "I think they have a right to know"--

CUOMO: But what was the legal precedent?

SMERCONISH: --"how you are leading your life."

CUOMO: You see? That was my problem in reading it. I get the guy's understanding, the judge's feelings. I get the opinion. I get where it's coming from. I did not get the legal basis for it.

Where do you - where does it say--

SMERCONISH: Well I don't think - I don't think it was--

CUOMO: --in any recognizable jurisprudence that he--

SMERCONISH: --Chris, I don't think it was justified.

CUOMO: Right.

[21:35:00]

SMERCONISH: I don't think that it was justified. He cited case law that I don't - that I don't think is worthwhile. But essentially he's saying, "Look, you have a public platform. I'm going to hold you to this standard."

What if otherwise the facts were the same? And Bill Cosby were an accountant, a plumber, an architect? You couldn't have made that argument. That is what made no sense to me.

And when I said so in print, and on CNN, that's when I guess Cosby decided he wanted to speak to me, before he went to trial. By the way, that was what wildly misunderstood as me somehow defending his conduct.

CUOMO: Right.

SMERCONISH: I was always making a legal argument here.

CUOMO: Right.

SMERCONISH: That I didn't buy into the logic of what was being used.

CUOMO: Right. Well, people conflate the two. And I mean, look, and that was even happening with Bonjean.

SMERCONISH: Right.

CUOMO: A little bit. Look, she won. She won on a procedural issue. And it's a procedural issue that has constitutional implications, and it matters.

And it also sucks, because you have all these women. This wasn't about a hand on the knee. This wasn't about a suggestion that they thought differently about later. This was sexual assault and a pattern of behavior that he admitted in a civil deposition that admittedly, he should have never been coaxed into giving.

But this isn't about the truth. He's not innocent. He hasn't been found innocent. Nothing that was said against him was found to be untrue, after the fact. And even his own words were damning of him.

This is about how the game is supposed to be played. And if you don't play it by the right rules, then the game doesn't matter. That's what it is. SMERCONISH: OK, I'll accept everything you've said. But please don't then say, "And it was a technicality." I'm hearing people say "Oh, he beat it on a technicality."

CUOMO: No, they should have never put him to trial.

SMERCONISH: There's nothing technicality. It's the constitutional--

CUOMO: You'll never get someone to cooperate again.

SMERCONISH: --it's the constitutional principle.

CUOMO: Yes. If you don't get this right, you'll never get someone to cooperate.

SMERCONISH: It's a serious constitutional principle.

CUOMO: That's right. Well, because if you have - if you're allowed to be duped out of your right, I mean that's what we say in the Miranda warnings, "Be careful. Everything you say can and will be held against you, so you have the right not to self-incriminate yourself."

They screwed this up. I don't know why Castor did it. I don't know why the other guys decided not to own it. They had to see that it'd be a boogie.

SMERCONISH: Well but I got to - I got to say this. I got to say this about Castor. I mean, frankly, Castor was done wrong.

CUOMO: How?

SMERCONISH: Because here was a former district attorney - Castor gave testimony, before the trial, number one, the one that ended in a hung jury, even began. Castor on, under oath said, "Here's the deal I gave this guy."

CUOMO: Right.

SMERCONISH: That was discounted by the trial court.

CUOMO: Right.

SMERCONISH: They proceeded with the trial nonetheless.

CUOMO: Right.

SMERCONISH: And, by the way, don't lose sight of this. Local politics played a role in this too.

CUOMO: No, I agree with everything you just said. I'm saying I don't know what Castor's thinking was in the deal. He'd have to explain that. I get it was about his burden of proof. But he would need to articulate it.

SMERCONISH: He's explained it to me. He's explained it to me on my radio show. He said that he didn't think he had enough, in the record, to prosecute Bill Cosby. He nevertheless believed Constand, wanted her to get compensated, and thought he was helping her--

CUOMO: Right.

SMERCONISH: --if he now got Cosby to testify under oath.

CUOMO: Right.

SMERCONISH: And she did get paid. I'm not saying that makes it right. But there's more to the story.

CUOMO: Absolutely. And it's a little bit of a weird deal. But he did have the discretion to make it. Nobody has said otherwise.

SMERCONISH: Yes.

CUOMO: But it was about the next set of prosecutors, and how the rules were changed for their convenience, in a criminal prosecution. That's what has us here today. And it is unsatisfying. And it stinks for a lot of people, who think that this was wrong.

SMERCONISH: I get it. I totally get it.

CUOMO: Because they believe what Cosby did was wrong.

SMERCONISH: Yes.

CUOMO: You've never said anything different. But the system matters. And the rules matter.

Michael Smerconish, you flagged it early.

SMERCONISH: Right.

CUOMO: You flagged it often. You were right.

Silence as acceptance.

We are forgetting nothing when it comes to keeping our eyes on Florida. But we have to make sure that we are constantly feeding understanding, and being respectful to the need for families to know where are our loved ones, is the number about who's missing even right, and why did this happen?

We have a survivor, thank God, who's going to join us tonight. She saw something that was bad, and turn into something worse, in seconds, and she managed to get out.

What she saw? What it means? Next.

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TEXT: CUOMO PRIME TIME.

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[21:40:00] (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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TEXT: LET'S GET AFTER IT.

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CUOMO: We will have a good feel for what the realities are in Florida. There's going to be heartache. There's going to be loss, like that community has never seen.

And we don't even know what the numbers are. That number, 149, I don't know if it's true. I don't know how they got it. I don't know what the vetting is that's going on. I know it's difficult. I know it's layered. I know it's complicated. I know that there's distracted focus. But I just don't have the certainty.

But here's what I do know. You made it out of that building? You are lucky to the point of the miraculous. Now, we see that in the context of how many didn't get out. Crews removed the bodies of two children from the rubble, 4-years-old and 10-years-old.

Now, no matter how many people there are there, God forbid they don't find anybody else, who's alive, which of course, gets more and more realistic every hour, but the idea of who they will find, the old and loved grandparents, the parents, the people in their prime, the kids, the teens, the pets, there are lives buried beneath.

18 now confirmed dead, a number that we're not really sure about, but it's maybe 145, more, less, we don't know. But it's a lot.

So, people are looking and thinking "How did this happen? What do we do? How do we stop it from ever happening? How do we give family some sense of closure?"

Now, take a look at this one, new video, showing debris and water, gushing into the building's garage, moments before it collapsed.

I don't know if you can see it from this, but that's what's going on. You see the pipe? See, it's pouring? It's not a storm drain, as far as we know. Why would you have a drain in the middle of the garage? So, there was a problem.

[21:45:00]

Warnings at 1:30 in the morning, but everybody's asleep at 1:30 in the morning. But then, people made it out, and they are here to tell the story.

Unit 611, of Champlain Towers South, you can see, it was right in the middle of the section that collapsed, right in the middle. Who was in there? Iliana Monteagudo. She bought that condo just six months ago.

Here she is, and that is miraculous. She is there with her handsome son. And this is a blessing, not just to their family, but to all the families. There is hope. And there is also more perspective.

Iliana, Senora, and Andy Alvarez, thank you very much both, for being with us.

ANDRES ALVAREZ, SON OF CONDO COLLAPSE SURVIVOR ILIANA MONTEAGUDO: Thank you, Chris.

ILIANA MONTEAGUDO, ESCAPED CHAMPLAIN TOWERS SOUTH DURING COLLAPSE: Thank you, Chris.

ALVAREZ: Thank you for having us on.

MONTEAGUDO: You make me cry, before I start to tell the peoples, what I feel, what happened that night, in my case, in my house.

You will ask me something, or I just start to tell--

CUOMO: I will ask you something, and then I will listen.

MONTEAGUDO: --what I feel, what is?

CUOMO: Tell them.

MONTEAGUDO: OK.

CUOMO: Tell the audience what woke you up? What did you see? What did you do?

MONTEAGUDO: Well, around 1-something, on night, I was sleeping. And a force, rare force wake up me. And when I woke up, I feel something is strange around me. And I thought that maybe I leave open the balcony door. And I run to the living room, try to close it, but at that time, can I do it?

And I - and I hear a crack behind me. Everybody said to me then don't take care with the bar, because that bar is the moisture bar, always (ph) heavier, blah, blah, blah, coming down, and it's the moment anytime.

So, I was worried for the - for the bar, and I look at the bar. But when I see the wall, the bar wasn't in there, I saw a crack starting in the ceiling, coming down, coming down fast. And that black line, open it, and open it, and open it.

CUOMO: So, what did you do?

MONTEAGUDO: Excuse my English. I don't speak English. I will try to do my best. Pardon me?

CUOMO: So what did you do? How did you get out?

MONTEAGUDO: What I do? Something inside of me said "Run. You have to run to save your life."

I run to my bedroom. I changed my robe, before the any - or the first dress that I see, I put on, I put it on, and the sandals, and run to the living room, and took my purse then last night, the other night, a few hours ago, I was putting in there, all my credit cards, my pills, that's it.

I run to there, took my purse, in my hand, my cellular phone. I blow off the candle for the Guadalupe Virgin, the - no, I don't have it right now.

CUOMO: The Lady of Guadalupe?

MONTEAGUDO: The Guadalupe - de la Virgen de Guadalupe, yes, excuse me, because you made me cry.

CUOMO: You're making me cry. You lit--

MONTEAGUDO: And I close the door.

CUOMO: --you light candles to the Lady of Guadalupe.

Just so people understand, in Catholicism, especially within Latino culture, that is a way, an icon of seeing Mother Mary as someone who protects us, against bad things.

And you had the candle lit, at 1:30 in the morning?

MONTEAGUDO: Yes those - yes, of course. And I roll off thinking something happen, can, you know, fire or whatever can happen, closed the door, and I run to the elevator, I don't know where the exit stairs was. I don't know because I don't--

(CROSSTALK)

CUOMO: So, you took the elevator down?

MONTEAGUDO: --because - pardon me?

CUOMO: You took the elevator down. Did you see anybody else? And what was happening around you?

MONTEAGUDO: No, no, no, no, no, all the hall is completely silent. No alarm start to, you know, to--

ALVAREZ: Sound.

MONTEAGUDO: --to sound. Nothing. That building, a lot of people take it like summer - summer--

ALVAREZ: House.

MONTEAGUDO: House.

CUOMO: So, it was quiet?

MONTEAGUDO: Now is sober, and they are in a different stage.

CUOMO: So, did you take the elevator--

MONTEAGUDO: I don't see--

CUOMO: --to go down the stairs?

MONTEAGUDO: The - yes. And they had the elevator, but far than my apartment, I didn't know then beside my apartment was another exit elevator.

ALVAREZ: Exit stairs.

MONTEAGUDO: If I knew that--

[21:50:00]

ALVAREZ: It's exit stairs.

CUOMO: Stairs.

MONTEAGUDO: The stairs, I'm sorry, stairs. If I knew that, maybe I would have taken that one. And I can't tell this story even now.

CUOMO: Well either way, you got to the bottom, thank God. What happened when you got down?

MONTEAGUDO: I went there to the farther - the farther, I run, run, run, run. When I opened the door, beside the elevator, I don't know what happened in there, if it is something else, an apartment, or whatever, I don't know. In that moment, I opened the door, and I finally find, or found, or whatever, the stairs. I started to go down.

CUOMO: Ah!

MONTEAGUDO: Fast, fast, fast, fast.

CUOMO: And then you found the stairs.

MONTEAGUDO: I just got into sixth floor.

CUOMO: And then you got down. What was it like when you reached the bottom?

ALVAREZ: Well this - when she started going down the stairs, Chris?

CUOMO: Yes, Andy?

ALVAREZ: From the sixth floor, to the fourth floor, the building collapsed.

MONTEAGUDO: I--

ALVAREZ: She could hear it - she could hear it behind the walls of the stairs.

MONTEAGUDO: I feel a terrible sound, terrible sound, and I knew that the building collapsed. And I had--

CUOMO: So, while she's going down the stairs, the other part of the tower falls off, and she's obviously in the part that is standing, having left the other side?

MONTEAGUDO: Yes.

ALVAREZ: Exactly. Exactly.

MONTEAGUDO: Exactly, yes.

ALVAREZ: Her - her apartment collapsed, just seconds after she exited the apartment. And what she was telling you before Chris was if she would have gone the stair - emergency staircase that was closest to her apartment--

CUOMO: She would have still been on that side.

ALVAREZ: --she wouldn't be telling you this story. She got the wrong staircase.

CUOMO: So first, Andy, I don't want to leave you out of this.

MONTEAGUDO: Yes.

CUOMO: Thank you for clarifying it.

By the way, Senora, your description is perfect. It's completely understandable. It's just unbelievable in my heart. But your words make perfect sense. Everybody understands. So thank you.

Andy, what does it mean to you that your mother is still holding your arm next to you, after a situation like this? Can you - can you believe it?

ALVAREZ: Chris, I - honestly, I can't believe it. I still can't believe it. She's told this story a million times. And every time I hear the story, I don't believe it, you know?

I've heard it so many times, and it's gone through my head so many times, and I think to myself, I go "If my mother hadn't" - she had to wake up early the next day, the next morning. She didn't take her sleeping pill, because she was afraid she was going to oversleep.

If it wasn't for that open door, because the door unhatched - unhinged from the - from its railing system, because we believe the building had shifted. So, if it wasn't for that one, maybe she wouldn't have gone through the living room.

If she hadn't seen that crack, if that crack would have been done, maybe minutes before, she would have looked at it, and said, "What's a crack doing in my living room?" She saw it moving down her wall.

If she hadn't organized her purse the night before, if she hadn't seen the security guard, now she's going to probably tell you the part, when she exited the emergency staircase, but if she had knocked on the door, on her neighbor, Hilda, the older woman, the 92-year-old lady that they found today - they found her body today, unfortunately. Our heart goes out to her family. If she would have knocked on her door, she's hard of hearing, it would have taken her maybe a while, for her to just go wake up, and go answer the door. If she would have done that, she wouldn't have been here, telling the story either.

So many things happened in a way that if any of those one things would have gone the other way, my mother would not be here. Chris, point is miracle - a miracle happened within all this tragedy.

MONTEAGUDO: God exists and angels too. That's--

CUOMO: So?

MONTEAGUDO: Because when I was running down the stairs, the only thing that I said "Oh my God! Oh God! Oh Jehovah! Please, I want to see my home - my sons, I want to see my grandsons. And I don't want to die. Please let me," because I was afraid, in the first floor, maybe the door, the exit door to this level - the three level, was stuck with--

ALVAREZ: Debris.

MONTEAGUDO: --and I can't open it. And I will get - keep trap - trapped in the - in the stairs. Many errors and many things playing together to - for me be alive at this time, I mean that is a miracle, just no doubt it.

No doubt it, because I was the only one that all the - the whole - the part of the building collapsed. Then I came, by myself, you know? And I am OK because I don't break a leg. I don't make nothing--

CUOMO: Thank God.

MONTEAGUDO: I terrify, of course, crying, of course. And I'm still praying for all the people, because all of the - all the things that are happening there was - avoidable?

ALVAREZ: Avoidable.

MONTEAGUDO: Avoidable.

[21:55:00]

CUOMO: Why? Let me--

MONTEAGUDO: Because the--

CUOMO: Let me ask Andy, Iliana. Iliana? Let me - let me ask him why.

MONTEAGUDO: I don't--

CUOMO: I've heard you say this before, when I was reading for this, that your mother believes it was avoidable Andy, that this was foreseeable. Did she have concerns about the building? Or is it about what you guys have been learning since?

ALVAREZ: Chris, she's wanting - she's wanted to live in that building, ever since she moved to Miami, 40 years ago.

She would go to the beach, on the 88th Street, for years, for - literally for years. She owned a home, not too far away from there. She ended up having to sell the house. But with the money, she got from that selling of the house, she bought this apartment.

And the building, she dreamt in living - living. She's always, for many, many years, told all her friends that eventually one day she was going to live in that building. I mean, who would have thought that this was going to happen? I mean--

CUOMO: But what I'm saying is in terms of the condition of the building, Andy.

ALVAREZ: --if let's say the building did have problems, those are problems they can fix.

CUOMO: Did she ever have any concerns about that?

ALVAREZ: I don't know. Did you have any concerns?

MONTEAGUDO: No.

CUOMO: No?

MONTEAGUDO: Nobody tell me anything.

CUOMO: All right.

MONTEAGUDO: Not the real estate and no--

CUOMO: You never got any letter. You didn't know anything about this.

MONTEAGUDO: --not - nobody from condominium association.

CUOMO: Well, look, here's what we know. Thank God you have each other and you're in each other's arms. And why it happened, we'll never know. But we know that it did happen, and thank God for that.

Senora, thank you.

Andy? God bless that you have your mother with you.

ALVAREZ: Thanks, Chris.

MONTEAGUDO: Thank you so much.

CUOMO: Right.

MONTEAGUDO: God bless you. OK. God bless you.

CUOMO: Be well.

MONTEAGUDO: Thank you so much. Bye-bye.

CUOMO: We'll be right back. MONTEAGUDO: Happy to be here (ph). Bye-bye.

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