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Four Of The Suspects Arrested For Assaulting Two NYPD Officers Fled NYC By Bus To California Border Town; Actor Carl Weathers Dead At Age 76; Interview With Gov. Ned Lamont (D-CT): Connecticut To Cancel Medical Debt For 250,000 Residents; Judge In Trump's DC Election Interference Case Postpones Trial. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired February 02, 2024 - 15:30   ET



BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN HOST: A senior law enforcement official tells CNN that four migrants arrested for assaulting two NYPD officers have fled New York City after being released from custody without bail. According to the source, a faith-based organization gave the men bus tickets and they're currently headed to a California town on the U.S.- Mexico border.

The source says that law enforcement has no legal authority to chase the suspects or try to prevent their escape to Mexico, meaning it is unlikely they'll be back for a court date. CNN chief law enforcement analyst John Miller joins us now. John, what could be done potentially to try to keep them from leaving the country?

JOHN MILLER, CNN CHIEF LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, not much. Right now, by order of the court, since the district attorney's office did not request that bail be set in this case with those defendants, they were released on their own recognizance. So theoretically they could go anywhere in the United States or even into Mexico and come back as long as they showed up for their court date.

The circumstances of how investigators believe they departed New York, which was to show up at a faith-based organization that has a re- ticketing operation. It's for people who were bussed up here from places like Texas. If they want to get re-ticketed and go somewhere else, they can sign up with this organization and they'll take care of the cost of the tickets.

In this case, they were traveling under names that were not their true names and more than one witness has identified them as the people involved in the assault. So if investigators are right that they have left New York, if they left under false names and they're going to Calexico, California, which is literally on the border with Mexico, it seems highly unlikely they'd be returning to court to face felony charges.

SANCHEZ: John, New York, like other cities, has struggled to keep up with a recent surge in migrants. It's caused political tension between New York City Mayor Eric Adams and the Biden White House. This case obviously putting a spotlight on this issue, right? MILLER: It is, and this incident has become a lightning rod because

what you see here is a violent attack against police officers trying to maintain order in front of a migrant shelter.

The men being sought are all migrants. They are also people who have been arrested and charged with numerous criminal violations, robbery, larceny, assault since they've been here, which is just a couple of months. And the effect on that is casting a very bad light on a migrant population.

Probably 170,000 have passed through New York in the last year and a half. There's probably about 64,000, 65,000 here now, 99.9 percent of whom are hardworking people who are really here trying to find a new life and get a job, first of all, to take care of themselves, send money home and take care of their families here. This has caused a shadow to be cast across that community, which is really unfortunate for the honest, hardworking migrants, the people struggling and the people trying to help them.

SANCHEZ: John Miller, thank you so much for the update, John.

MILLER: Thanks, Boris.

SANCHEZ: Of course -- Brianna.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: We have some breaking news. Actor, director and former football player Carl Weathers has passed away. Weathers is best known for his roles in Rocky, Predator and Happy Gilmore.

Your kids probably know him as the voice of Combat Carl in Toy Story or as Grief Karga in the Star Wars series The Mandalorian. Weathers' manager says he died peacefully in his home. He had recently turned 76 years old.


STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Carl Weathers debuted on the silver screen in 1975 in the blaxploitation film Bucktown.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is keeping him up, Bill? I don't know.

ELAM (voice-over): But he became a star playing the cocky boxing champ Apollo Creed in the 1976 hit Rocky.

What started out as a low-budget sleeper won three Academy Awards, including Best Picture.

CARL WEATHERS, ACTOR, DIRECTOR, FORMER FOOTBALL PLAYER: The whole world's going to see the real Apollo Creed, lightning fast and hard to catch. No plan, no job and just business.

ELAM (voice-over): Weathers appeared in three Rocky sequels, playing Rocky's nemesis, manager and friend. The former linebacker with the Oakland Raiders earned a degree in drama from San Francisco State University. He said he was inspired to become an actor watching Sidney Poitier in the 1958 movie The Defiant Ones. Years later, Weathers starred in its TV remake. Along the way, he embodied the 80s strongman, sharing the big screen with Charles Bronson in Death Hunt.

WEATHERS: Make it easy on yourself, Dutch.


ELAM (voice-over): And later, Arnold Schwarzenegger in Predator.


ELAM (voice-over): Weathers also took charge on the small screen on shows like Fortune Dane and Tour of Duty.

But one role Weathers felt gave him a chance to go deeper as an actor was chief of police in "In the Heat of the Night." The part allowed him to grapple with tough social issues.

WEATHERS: Now you're threatening to commit a serious crime, Mr. Beaufort.

ELAM (voice-over): Weathers appeared in the show's last two seasons and said the more cerebral role was a happy break from years of back- breaking stunts.

WEATHERS: Damn alligator bit my hand off.



ELAM (voice-over): Weathers found comic relief in his career as Adam Sandler's alligator-hating golf instructor, Chubbs Peterson in Happy Gilmore. In Arrested Development, he played a penny-pinching acting coach.

WEATHER: All I know is no chain codes. Do you want the check or not?

ELAM (voice-over): In 2019, Weathers found a new young audience in the popular Star Wars series The Mandalorian, playing the leader of an intergalactic bounty hunter Guild. He received an Emmy nomination for that role and directed many episodes of the show.

WEATHERS: It's always such a joy to provide entertainment for people who really enjoy what you do.

ELAM (voice-over): Carl Weathers, an action star who lit up screens with heft and heart.



SANCHEZ: The state of Connecticut plans to offer an unprecedented break from medical bills for thousands of its residents. Today, the governor announced the state is going to cancel roughly $650 million of the medical debt for about a quarter million of its residents. He said $6.5 million in unused COVID funds will be used to satisfy that debt. The White House reports that medical debt is the largest source of debt in collections, more than credit cards, utilities, and auto loans combined.

Joining us now is Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont. Governor, thank you so much for sharing part of your afternoon with us. What ultimately led you to this decision and what is the process going to be like to implement it?

GOV. NED LAMONT (D-CT): Yeah, Boris, nice to see you.

Look, we've got a quarter million folks in the state of Connecticut. They've got a cloud hanging over them. It's called medical debt. Due to no fault of their own, they got sick. They ended up hospitalized. Maybe there was some surprise billing. Maybe there was a high deductible, whatever. Just when they're on the mend trying to feel better, then they find out they've got this debt hanging over them, $2,000, $3,000, $5,000.

So we're able to cancel debt for about 250,000 people, as you pointed out, lift that cloud out from under them, help them get going again.

Basically, if you want to let people get going, help them build wealth, you start by eliminating that debt. It's going to make a big difference in their lives.

SANCHEZ: You mentioned the numbers. It comes to about one in ten residents in your state that have medical debt in collections. Why is that such a widespread problem?

LAMONT: I think it's the high cost of health care, high deductible systems. Sometimes there are surprises that come in. It is probably the biggest type of debt that leads to bankruptcy. We're trying to liberate people, give them that head start. You know, when you're coming out of an illness, the last thing you need is a big bill hanging over your head.

SANCHEZ: So who qualifies for the program? How do people find out if they're eligible?

LAMONT: Mainly it's working families, folks earning up to about $125,000 a year or paying 5 percent of their income in bad debt or medical debt expenses, trying to liberate them a little bit. We're now contracting with a not-for-profit. They'll be going to the hospitals, seeing how much of this debt we're able to write down. We're doing this in association with the hospitals.

SANCHEZ: I'm imagining that there are viewers out there not in Connecticut that are probably wondering if this is something that their governor might consider. Have any other leaders reached out to you about this?

LAMONT: Yes, Connecticut is the first state in the country to do this on a statewide basis. So we have had other outreach. You know, as you pointed out, Boris, it's $6.5 million. We're getting 100 to 1 return on this, you know, for giving probably $650 million in debt. So I think it's something more and more governors are going to be following up on. It liberates a lot of their citizens.

SANCHEZ: I noted that you said something about the high cost of health care being one of the central contributing factors to having medical debt in collections like this.

I'm wondering what you think the White House or Congress could do to potentially alleviate that problem on a national basis.

LAMONT: Well again, I got to hand it to the Biden administration, their expansion of Medicaid, what we're doing in the state of Connecticut. We call it Covered Connecticut.

All families earning less than about $50,000 a year. We can take care of all their health care costs, no deductibles, no out-of-pocket co- pays, making a big difference there. But we still have a way to go.

SANCHEZ: Yes, it is one thing, too, to cancel debt, and it's another one to prevent it from happening. What kind of steps do you think lawmakers at any level should take to try to keep folks out of this precarious situation?


LAMONT: Yes, that's a great question, Boris. First and foremost, primary care. Make sure more and more of those insurance dollars go to primary care. Make sure that all of our citizens, no matter what their background, they get the option to see that doctor, take care of some of the tests you need, things that can head off what could be a big problem later on.

SANCHEZ: Governor, I wanted to expand on something because in sort of explaining your decision, you previously said that families of color are disproportionately affected by medical debt. You're hoping that by eliminating this, they'll have more breathing room to build generational wealth. Talk to us about that factoring into this.

LAMONT: It's a big deal. If you want to build wealth, A, you start by eliminating debt like this. We're working with our employers to pay down student debt as well. Then we have a program in place to help people buy their first home.

Nothing's free. You're going to have to come up with half the down payment. We come in alongside. We've had thousands of people able to afford their first home, maybe start a business. That's how you build wealth. Give people ownership. Ownership begins by eliminating debt like medical debt.

SANCHEZ: And you've argued that this isn't just financial, that canceling this debt helps alleviate a significant emotional toll facing Connecticut's families. I imagine you've spoken to folks that are in this situation. What's your message to them?

LAMONT: You get whacked with a serious illness. You're in the hospital. You come out. You're hoping you're on the med. Then you find out, my gosh, my insurance didn't cover nearly as much of this as I thought it was going to be. That's a double whammy.

We're trying to take that cloud out from under. I hear that from families all the time. I think it's being much appreciated. I think you're going to see more of this around the country. There's such leverage you get for that down payment.

SANCHEZ: Governor Ned Lamont, thanks so much for joining us this afternoon.

LAMONT: Nice to see you, Boris. Thank you.

SANCHEZ: Of course, take care -- Brianna.

KEILAR: All right, we're following some breaking news. The March 4th trial date in former President Trump's federal election subversion case has been vacated. Let's go right to CNN's Katelyn Polantz for more on this. Katelyn, tell us what you're learning.

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME INJUSTICE REPORTER: Brianna, the federal court now has said that Donald Trump's trial date set for March in Washington, D.C. that case about the 2020 election, election subversion, it's not going to happen as scheduled on March 4th.

Now, things were already moving toward that trial with jury selection set to begin next week. It can't happen, and the trial can't begin at the beginning of March because there's too much on hold here. In this case right now, we are still waiting for a federal appeals court to make a decision on presidential immunity, the immunity and the protection around the presidency and whether Donald Trump can be charged and tried in this case.

And there's other things that have to happen before trial. And so Federal Judge Tanya Chutkan in the D.C. District Court, she's saying March 4th, it's off the calendar, vacated, removed, canceled, postponed. That's where we are now. It's not going to be the first case against Trump going forward when he faces criminal charges. And Judge Chutkan says the court will set a new schedule if and when the case returns back to her court once the appeals are over -- Brianna.

KEILAR: All right, that is a big development that it is going to be postponed there. Katelyn Polantz with the latest. Thank you. And we'll be right back.



KEILAR: Right now, authorities are trying to remove an airplane from the home that it crashed into overnight. This is a crash that killed the pilot and also two people on the ground. The FAA says at this moment it's not clear what caused the plane to crash, but audio from the moment of the crash could obviously provide crucial evidence.

We have CNN's Carlos Suarez following the story for us. Carlos, tell us about this audio.

CARLOS SUAREZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brianna, so in the moments before that plane crashed, audio from air traffic control captured the pilot, recorded the pilot saying, quote, I'm losing engine. Sometime after that, folks who live in the area where this happened reported hearing what sounded like a loud explosion.

You can see from the video just how intense this fire was from this plane crash. As you noted, all of this happened last night in Clearwater, Florida. That is near Tampa.

Now, the FAA says that the pilot and two people on the ground died, and flight tracking data shows that the pilot took off from Vero Beach. That is on the east coast of Florida. The pilot crossed over to the west coast and went down about 3 miles north of an airport in the Clearwater area.

Here now is another pilot on air traffic control describing the scene last night.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It look like they went into a building It looks like they went into a house. I can't really tell. And there's still active flames down there and a lot of smoke coming from it. He's definitely into a house. The whole house looks like it's demolished.


SUAREZ: Brianna and Boris, in all, four mobile homes caught fire. The folks that were in the three homes that surrounded kind of the main mobile home that was hit by this plane were told were able to get out.

The names of the victims have not been released. And right now, the FAA, as well as the National Transportation Safety Board, they are investigating just what happened here -- Guys.


KEILAR: All right, Carlos, thank you for that report. We'll be right back.


SANCHEZ: Have you ever wanted something so badly, you put yourself at great personal risk to get it, like potentially climbing into a claw machine? That's exactly what happened to one determined toddler in Australia.

This is 3-year-old Ethan stuck inside a Hello Kitty claw machine after climbing in through the dispenser.

KEILAR: I feel like this happens more than we realize. But police say they had to come up with an out-of-the-box idea to get him out safely, so they asked him to back up into a corner, face away from the front pane. [16:00:00]

And then they shattered the glass, and one swift blow there, Ethan winning the top prize, a big hug from his parents.

SANCHEZ: Is that all he went home with?

KEILAR: I know, give the kid a toy.

SANCHEZ: Give him a Hello Kitty toy. He deserves it.

KEILAR: Are you surprised there's no safety exit? Because I feel like Ethan is not the first child who's tried this.

SANCHEZ: 100 percent. Modern problems require modern solutions, and if you want it that bad, you shouldn't listen to me. This is why I don't have kids, at least yet.

KEILAR: Like it's not the last time.

SANCHEZ: I wouldn't tell them to do terrible things.

KEILAR: They need an exit there.

All right, "THE LEAD" with Jake Tapper is our exit. It starts right now.

SANCHEZ: Have a good one.