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Man Accused Of Killing 4 University Of Idaho Students Declines To Enter Plea; Police Launch New Search In Madeleine McCann Case; Paul Whelan, American Detained In Russia, Speaks To CNN; Verified Twitter Accounts Share Fake Image Of Explosion Near Pentagon. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired May 22, 2023 - 15:30   ET



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: The man accused of killing four University of Idaho students was in court today facing murder charges that could send him to death row. But when it was time for Bryan Kohberger to enter a plea, neither he nor his attorney would do it. CNN's Veronica Miracle is here with more on today's proceedings. Veronica, walk us through what happened today because it was pretty unusual.

VERONICA MIRACLE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It was unusual, Brianna. Well, first off, a judge read Bryan Kohberger his rights. He read all of the charges, those four counts of first-degree murder and that one count of burglary. And Brian Kohberger responded to the judge and said he understood the charges that he faces. But when it came time to enter a plea -- as you mentioned -- he didn't do it and neither did his attorney. Take a listen to what happened in court.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is Mr. Kohberger prepared to plead to these charges?

ANNE TAYLOR, BRYAN KOHBERGER'S ATTORNEY: Your honor, we will stand silent.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because Mr. Kohberger is standing silent, I'm going to enter not guilty pleas to each charge.


MIRACLE: So, I spoke to a University of Idaho law professor who said this could have happened for a number of reasons. The first being this case is under a lot of scrutiny. It is highly publicized. And so, it's possible that they didn't want to enter a plea one way or another to provide any kind of characterization. Obviously, if he entered a guilty plea, he would be admitting guilt. If he entered a not guilty plea, then it's possible that people would become outraged that he's not taking responsibility for his alleged actions. And so, by not entering a plea either way and by staying silent, it just doesn't provide any kind of characterization.

Another possibility, according to this law professor that I spoke with, is that it's possible both parties are negotiating behind closed doors. Some kind of plea deal could be in the works and it could be that this was part of the talks that they're having.

And then lastly, it could be that he is just not cooperating and is being difficult. So, we don't know exactly why this happened but there are a number of reasons that I listed that could be the case.

So now that the judge has entered not guilty pleas on behalf of Bryan Kohberger, the prosecution has 60 days to decide if they will pursue the death penalty. And when the judge told Bryan Kohberger that he is facing life in prison or possibly the death penalty, he remained emotionless -- Brianna.

All right, Veronica following this case every step of the way. Veronica Miracle, thank you -- Jim.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN HOST: Well, a possible update after all these years in the Madeleine McCann case. We have learned that Portuguese police are conducting a brand-new search related to the British girl's disappearance some 16 years ago. Crews are setting up at a reservoir near the resort where her family was staying when she vanished. Anna Stewart is following all of this from London. And Anna, it's a reservoir. Do we know why this reservoir is of interest and why now? What has led to this step?

ANNA STEWART, CNN REPORTER: Well, why now is a very interesting question. We don't really know. We should mark though that it was Maddie McCann's 20th birthday earlier this month. That was marked by her parents and they pledged they would never give up.

Now what we do know about the reservoir it's about 30 miles inland from Praia da Luz -- that's the resort where Maddie McCann went messing. And it was actually searched before. The body of water was searched all the way back in 2008. Not much was found. Some animal remains, a sock completely unrelated to the case.

New information we have in from our affiliate news channel CNN Portugal suggested the search this time, Jim, is going to focus much more on the area around the body of water. So, actually on the land, perhaps the woodlands that you can see there in some of the videos that we're showing.

Now we also know from CNN Portugal that the tip off for this fresh search has actually come from the German prosecutors.


Now that is very interesting given, they have in their custody, in prison, Christian Brueckner. He is a convicted rapist and pedophile, currently serving time for rape. He is the lead suspect in the case. So, while we don't know why, we don't know what the new information is, it certainly suggests that there is new information and that is what led them to reopen and launch a whole new search in this area 30 miles from where Maddie McCann went missing all those years ago.

SCIUTTO: Now this is a difficult question -- but have officials said whether they're searching specifically for evidence or remains or have they not specified?

STEWART: Not specified whether it's remains, her clothing, she went missing wearing pajamas. Whether it's something different that they're looking for in terms of evidence. But also, Jim, I would say that they're being very tight-lipped, particularly from the Portuguese side. You have to remember, we've had 16 years of many twists and turns, lots of dashed hopes and really up to this point, absolutely no breakthroughs in this case.

SCIUTTO: Yes, gosh, I know just the frustration and the torture for those poor parents and it's all happening in the public eye as well. Anna Stewart, thanks so much for covering as always -- Boris.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN HOST: Coming up, in an exclusive CNN interview, American prisoner Paul Whelan is speaking out about his detainment in Russia and his prospects of being released.

Plus, he's calling it his own tin cup moment. We're hearing from the club pro who outshined some of golf's biggest stars this weekend, even hitting a hole in one. CNN NEWS CENTRAL returns in moments.



SANCHEZ: Now to a CNN exclusive. American Paul Whelan, detained in Russia for five years is speaking to CNN. The former Marine called CNN from a prison camp in remote Mordovia where he's being held. Saying that he has renewed optimism about his release despite being left out of previous prisoner swaps. Listen to this.


PAUL WHELAN, AMERICAN DETAINED IN RUSSIA (via phone): I remain positive and confident on a daily basis that, you know, the wheels are turning. I just wish they would turn a little bit more quickly. I'm more confident now. You know, I feel that my life shouldn't be considered less valuable or important than others who have been previously traded.


SANCHEZ: CNN's Jake Tapper is covering this next hour on "THE LEAD." He joins us now. Jake, are others sharing Whelan's optimism about a potential release?

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR, THE LEAD: It really comes down to what the Russians want. It's no longer a question -- as far as I've been able to report -- about whether or not the Russians are willing to swap somebody for Paul Whelan. It's a question of who and whether or not the United States has any Russians that are of commensurate value for what the Russians think Paul Whelan is. It may be that the Biden administration is going to have to lean on an ally who has a high- value Russian to free him.

But let's focus more on what Paul Whelan himself feels in terms of his confidence. Because he gave this great interview to our own Jennifer Hansler and he talked at length about this.


WHELAN: I have been told that I won't be left behind, and I have been told although Evan's case is a priority, mine is also a priority. And people are cognizant of the fact that this is having an extremely negative impact on me and my family. And I'm told that the government is working, you know, tirelessly to get me out of here and to get me home so they can then focus effort on Evan and his case.


SANCHEZ: Sad situation with him and his family. Obviously, we've heard from his sister several times and even then --

TAPPER: Yes, and she'll be on "THE LEAD" later today talking about this case and the latest on it.

SANCHEZ: We look forward to that. Also, Jake, speaking of another detained American, you got a chance to speak with the NSA -- the National Security Advisor, Jake Sullivan, about Navy Lieutenant Ridge Alkonis. He's been detained in Japan. He passed out apparently behind the wheel and killed two people. What did Jake Sullivan say?

TAPPER: So, a tragic accident and the question is, the Alkonis family feels as though Ridge was not treated fairly. And he's been in prison now for more than 300 days and there's a big effort to get him out or at least to get him transferred to the U.S. justice system for this horrible accident.

Everybody agrees there was no drugs or alcohol involved. So basically, what Sullivan said is just because we're not talking about it don't think that we're not talking about this behind the scenes with the prime minister, with others, to do everything we can. So that's another area where there's a lot of focus as well.

SANCHEZ: Yes, the Biden administration clearly trying to handle all of these detained Americans as quickly as possible. Jake Tapper, look forward to "THE LEAD".

TAPPER: Thanks, buddy, appreciate it.

SANCHEZ: Of course --Brianna.

KEILAR: Coming up, how this fake image of this explosion near the Pentagon sparked a very real scare. That's not even the Pentagon.



KEILAR: Golf crowns a new major champion, but the guy who really stole the show was Michael Block, a pro, a club pro, a golfer from Mission Viejo, California -- my hometown -- whose day job is working at a public golf course teaching people how to play golf. And here's the moment that catapulted him into spotlight. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Get in the hole.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. No! No way! No way!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Rory, did it go in?


KEILAR: Yes, it went in. And that shot, that hole in one helped Block finish 15th. It earned him almost $300,000 and it secured him an invitation back to one of golf's biggest championships again next year. He spoke to CNN this morning about this wild four days.


MICHAEL BLOCK, GOLF PRO WHO FINISH 15TH AT PGA CHAMPIONSHIP: It is a tin cup moment without a doubt. I mean, I am a club pro. I teach golf.


I'm a head golf professional in Mission Viejo. And for me to be out here with these guys, Rory McIlroy on Sunday, Justin Rose on Saturday and to have the Rochester people out here, that are the biggest supporters of golf I've seen in my life, was absolutely unbelievable and was a dream come true.


KEILAR: Block will tee off again at the Charles Schwab Challenge This Thursday. What a story, Jim, and here he is representing Mission Viejo so well.

SCIUTTO: Certainly, a great story there.

But something else we're following today. We saw just how quickly a fake image and false news can spread on Twitter and around the Internet, causing confusion, even in this case a brief dip in the stock market. Multiple verified -- verified we should note -- Twitter account shared this fake image purporting to show an explosion, some sort of attack at the Pentagon.

Thankfully, no such incident occurred. CNN's Donie O'Sullivan has been following the story for us. And Donie, you see here nexus between well, AI, true fake news, but also what appears to be a pretty pregnable Twitter verification system, right, in terms of how it works. What it reads out and what it clearly doesn't. I mean, and it came together in a dangerous way here.

DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Exactly, Jim. Look, a lot of things happening here all at once. But it tells us a lot about the information and misinformation environment that's out there today. Look, Twitter changed its verification rules a few months back taking

away the blue check marks from a lot of news organizations, from a lot of journalists. Basically, before Twitter -- if you had the blue mark, Twitter had verified that you are the person you claim to be. That's totally changed now under Elon Musk. So, anybody can really kind of go out there and pretend to be anybody else and get their little verification mark.

In this case, we saw today, an account purporting to be link to the Bloomberg news network. Tweeting out this, saying that there had been an explosion at the Pentagon. That account was totally fake. It had nothing to do with Bloomberg. It has now been suspended. But from that, it got shared elsewhere. It got picked up by some media outlets in both India, and we also believe Russia.

And as you mentioned, a dip in the stock market. And the image itself -- as you can see there -- people who are familiar with Washington, D.C., will notice that is not the Pentagon. And that is clearly quite a crude fake image. But still, it worked and it still had an impact.

SCIUTTO: Now, Donie, I remember weeks ago Elon Musk when he took over Twitter said that one of his priorities was to get rid of fake accounts and so on. And make, well, verify it more. I mean, this is a case where the opposite happened. Has Twitter copped to this all in any way?

O'SULLIVAN: No, not at all. And you know, when media contact Twitter at the moment, there's an auto response, which is a crude emoji from the company that he's fired all his communication staff there. So, we haven't heard anything from Twitter. But I will just say, Jim, look, obviously, going into the 2024 election campaign with this sort, you know, of all this AI imagery, video, sound, and also a platform where people can pretend to be people they're not, it could spell trouble.

SCIUTTO: 100 percent was sickly my concern when I was watching this unfold. Donie O'Sullivan, thanks so much -- Boris.

SANCHEZ: Now to some of the headlines we're at this hour. Next week, jury selection begins in the trial of Scot Peterson. He is former school resource officer who was on duty during the horrific shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Peterson was widely criticized for failing to go inside the school to confront the shooter. Among the charges he's facing, seven counts of child neglect.

Also, more than a year after the sudden death of beloved Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins, his successor has been named ahead of an upcoming tour. Josh Freese who was friends with Hawkins, has officially joined the band. Their new album out next month will be the first since Hawkins' passing.

And billionaire Jeff Bezos is tying the knot again. The Amazon founder and his girlfriend Lauren Sanchez are engaged -- according to a source close to the couple. They first went public with their relationship in 2019. Sad to report, Brianna, he is off the market. KEILAR: Congratulations to them. So, what does one wear to a high-

stakes Oval Office meeting on pulling the U.S. economy back from the edge of disaster? Dress shoes, sneakers, which is it? Whatever it is, people have very strong feelings about it. We'll have that story, next.



KEILAR: Finally, a great debate has erupted from this image of a White House meeting that happened last Tuesday. Are we showing it? Here you go. All right, here it is. And you see the little circle there. In this case, we're not talking about the debt ceiling. We're talking about the dress shoes. Observers noted three of the five men in this image are wearing the sneaker shoe and that prompted the question, can the hybrid footwear be worn in the Oval Office, or should it? Hard no from some sartorial leaders.

SANCHEZ: Now the style director of GQ told "The Times" it was, quote, awful, quote, the worst possible choice. They are trying to pass this techie monstrosity off as proper dress shoe. Who does that? He points out the Oval Office demands a hard souled shoe.

SCIUTTO: It's a good thing we hold things to a higher standard. Because no one here would ever wear silly shoes.

SANCHEZ: No, no, of course not. --

SCIUTTO: -- for the office.

SANCHEZ: I believe -- I don't know about you guy -- I believe that if you're wearing a suit, you wear only the finest footwear. The "polics by crolics" (ph) got it from my friend Sallie (ph) -- thanks Sal.

KEILAR: OK, the day that I walked into your office and you were wearing those, like in good faith, he was wearing these.


What the heck are those?

SANCHEZ: I wear them for comfort.

SCIUTTO: Is it like the mask where they give you special power when you put those on?

SANCHEZ: I feel more confident. I feel stronger. I feel more comfortable. Maybe not for the Oval Office though, right?

KEILAR: I think not. I think you got to be comfortable though. I think comfort.

SANCHEZ: 100 percent.

SCIUTTO: I think style over comfort.

"THE LEAD" with Jake Tapper starts right now. Ask him.