Return to Transcripts main page

CNN News Central

DA Willis Accepts Wade's Resignation After Judge's Ruling; Source: Gaza Ceasefire Talks Moving in Positive Direction; "The Deputy and the Disappeared" Airs Sunday 8PM ET/PT. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired March 15, 2024 - 15:30   ET



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Says the time may well have arrived for an order preventing the state from mentioning the case in any public forum to prevent judicial pretrial publicity. But that is not the motion presently before the court.

Is that just a warning to Fani Willis or is that saying to the defendant's lawyers, hey, if you wanted to bring this before me, I may consider this and actually rule in your favor with a gag order.

PAULA REID, CNN CHIEF LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Sure. Yes. I do think it's a suggestion, right? It's definitely a light suggestion.

I also want to note though, the judge has also done something extraordinary, which is he had had two interviews in the past week. Judges overseeing high profile cases like this, they don't give interviews. Trust me. We've tried. Especially while they're weighing these key issues.

But he liked Fani Willis is running for reelection. So I think even the idea of putting a gag order on a prosecutor when you yourself are giving interviews, talking about the case, I mean, it's, we're in a place that we have never been before because of course at the, at the heart of all of this is someone running for the White House.

But yes, the idea of putting a gag order on a prosecutor in a case like this is extraordinary. It also reminds you that the judge has given two interviews in the past week and talked about this case.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN HOST: In a place we've never been before. Something we've said repeatedly over the last few years --

REID: A few, seven years, yes, seven years

SANCHEZ: or seven years or so. Let's go back to CNN's Nick Valencia, who's live outside the courthouse for us. Because Nick, there, there is this open question. Some believe that Willis may move forward now with a team that she already has in place. Some have argued that she may try to hire a new prosecutor to replace Wade. What's your reporting? What's the indication you're getting from sources?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, sure. It's only a matter of time before we find out. But look, this case is bigger than one man. Nathan Wade was of course instrumental in securing those guilty pleas, instrumental in getting the 19 indictments, you know, this historic indictment.

But this has really been a team effort. And we've seen those individuals at the table alongside Nathan Wade. During the disqualification hearings, during previous hearings throughout this process.

Dacia Young comes to mind. She's a member of the district attorney's office. And you also remember, have two special prosecutors who were hired in addition to Nathan Wade.

You have, you know, the preeminent expert in RICO and racketeering cases, John Floyd, probably the top expert in the state next to Fani Willis when it comes to racketeering cases.

And you also have Anna Cross. And we saw a taste of what she is capable of during her defense of Fani Willis during those disqualification hearings. A very prepared attorney. Somebody's argued federal cases. In fact, she, you know, there's been points where this case has gone before the federal court and she's made those arguments in front of those federal judges.

So there are still some very significant names attached to this case that Fani Willis will no doubt lean on. The question though is, will she replace Nathan Wade with somebody else or continue forward with the team, the excellent team that she has already in place -- Boris.

KEILAR: Yes. And also Nick and to that point, Paula, who's going to want the job? Because as we noticed, well, it's interesting because in her letter accepting his resignation, she mentions that there were people who had misgivings about taking the job. They were worried about their safety, family safety. And he notes, Judge McAfee does in his ruling that Wade wasn't actually her first choice, that she'd considered at least one other option, extending an offer to the former governor, Roy Barnes, who declined. So who will take the job?

REID: Yes. She's made this point repeatedly that this was not her first choice and they use that as evidence that there wasn't some sort of corrupt scheme. She said, this is not an assignment that many people would take on. And I believe in that letter, she also refers to, you know, his courage in taking this on because anytime you go after former president Trump and his allies, there are threats to you, to your family and possibly to your livelihood, depending on what you do after you finish up that investigation.

So it's unclear exactly who will take over this case. But to Nick's point, there is an entire office that has been working on this. It's going to take some time, though, to figure out this new power structure. And that's also part of what pushes this back. In addition to the proceedings that we've watched over the past two months. All of this has the effect of delaying the case, delaying the case. And this isn't something that the Trump attorneys designed.

This again was a self-inflicted wound. The decision to engage in a romantic relationship while overseeing a case like this, knowing the scrutiny, knowing they're going to come for you, everything will be scrutinized. This again, this was something that Fani Willis and Nathan Wade did to this case.

SANCHEZ: The calendar for the Trump team and Trump himself between campaigning and between being in court further complicated by this. Paula, please stand by. We have plenty more to discuss given this story, but we're going to take a quick break.

Stay with CNN NEWS CENTRAL. We're back in just moments.



KEILAR: A diplomat tells CNN that ceasefire talks between Hamas and Israel are moving in a positive direction. But we know that could really mean anything at this point. A separate source familiar with the discussions, however, warns it won't be easy to convince Israelis to agree to the latest response by Hamas. Their new proposal, Hamas's new proposal, would call for the release of Israeli women, children, sick, and elderly hostages, In exchange, though, they want Israel to release as many as 1,000 Palestinian prisoners, including 100 who are currently serving life sentences.


Pressure to reach a deal is ramping up now that Israel has approved a plan to invade Rafah, which is an area where 1.4 million people are currently sheltering.

Joining us now is Gershon Baskin, who has approved a plan to invade Rafah, which is an area where 1.4 million people are currently sheltering.

Joining us now is Gershon Baskin. He is a former hostage negotiator who negotiated the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit after five years in Hamas captivity. He's now Middle East director of the International Communities Organization.

And, Gershon, one of the biggest sticking points, of course, in these talks is this prisoner exchange issue here. What do you think about this? How big of an obstacle is this?

GERSHON BASKIN, FORMER HOSTAGE NEGOTIATOR: It is a very big obstacle because we're not only talking about 100 people who have murdered Israelis in the past. Some of the people that Hamas have requested are the biggest murderers of Israelis in the history of Arab terrorism against Israel. People who are serving tens of multiple life sentences for killing many Israelis, particularly during the Second Intifada.

There will be a great Israeli resistance to release these people. But I've been told by people in Hamas who are part of the negotiations that if Israel agrees to the other terms of the ceasefire, a partial withdrawal from Gaza now in favor of a major withdrawal in the future, and the allowing of Palestinians in the southern part of the Gaza Strip to return to their homes in the north, that they might be flexible on the issue of prisoners.

So there's an open door here, and Israel has decided to send its negotiators back to Qatar to continue the negotiations, and that's a good sign.

KEILAR: We do know that some of the parties involved, or even leaders adjacent to the parties involved, when they say they're hoping there will be a ceasefire or they expect that there will be, that there will be some agreement, sometimes it's to try to exert some pressure on the situation.

But to that point, you have Egypt's President el-Sisi saying Friday he's hoping for a ceasefire in Gaza in the next few days at most. The Qatari foreign ministry spokesperson earlier this week, he told CNN's Becky Anderson, though, that the parties are still very far apart. How are you seeing this timeline?

BASKIN: Well, I think that there is a willingness to continue the negotiations, but the bottom line is that we question whether or not there is a sincere interest on the part of Israel and Hamas to reach an agreement. Holding the hostages is the best life insurance policy that the Hamas leadership in Gaza, particularly Yahya Sinwar, the Hamas leader has.

And Benjamin Netanyahu has an interest in prolonging the war and not resolving the issue, because when the war is over and there is a permanent ceasefire, he's going to face his day of reckoning with the Israeli people who are calling for new elections and calling for a national commission of inquiry to determine who's responsible for the failure of Israel to protect its citizens on October 7th. So there are mixed interests here.

Certainly the Israeli public wants a deal done on hostages. It's the most important thing to get these hostages home, but the price that Hamas is asking for is very high.

KEILAR: So as you see this -- and tell me if I'm describing your words incorrectly -- but you're seeing this as two parties working or in charge of working towards a goal that neither one of them actually really wants to achieve.

BASKIN: That's right. I think if it was up to the people who are actually sitting in the rooms negotiating, there would be an agreement. But the political leadership on both sides is less enthusiastic about reaching an agreement.

And here we have the conflict. And Israel doesn't want to end this war until it has secured the execution of the Hamas leaders in Gaza. The Hamas leaders in Gaza want to hold on to hostages as long as they can because that protects them. That prevents Israel from moving forward with the war and doing everything that Israel would like to do.

I think that the Israeli decision to OK the plan to attack in the further 20 percent of the Gaza Strip is posturing toward the negotiations because Israel can attack unless it has a way of evacuating 1.4 million Palestinians from that area. And that will take time, and there's really no place to send them.

So we really have a very dynamic negotiation here. Let's not forget that this negotiation is between two parties who are dedicated to the destruction of each other. So it's a very strange kind of negotiation to begin with.

KEILAR: Yes, it certainly is. Gershon Baskin, we always appreciate your insights. Thank you so much.

BASKIN: Thank you.

KEILAR: Coming up, two missing persons cases with one mysterious connection. We'll have a look at CNN's in-depth investigation about the disappearance 20 years ago of two men of color in Naples, Florida. We'll have that next.



KEILAR: On this week's episode of "THE WHOLE STORY WITH ANDERSON COOPER," CNN anchor and chief legal analyst Laura Coates investigates two missing persons cases with one mysterious connection. Here's a preview.


LAURA COATES, CNN ANCHOR AND CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: What do you think happened to him?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Someone harmed him.

COATES: Do you think you know who?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think I know who allowed it to happen.

COATES: Who was that?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The focus has been on the ex-deputy, Steve Calkins.

COATES: The last known person you think to see him alive?


COATES (voice-over): On January 12, 2004, Calkins spotted Terrence Williams in his white Cadillac and pulled him over. There's no way to know what time this happened because, according to authorities, Calkins didn't report it to dispatch.


SANCHEZ: CNN's Laura Coates joins us now live. So, Laura, Felipe Santos and Terrence Williams, they disappeared three months apart about 20 years ago. What was it that they had in common? COATES (on camera): One deputy. One deputy who had contact with them.

Both men had been pulled over and never seen or heard from again after they were in the back of those squad cars.

This is one of the most riveting, compelling, and heartbreaking and frustrating stories I've ever investigated. This is a mother, Terrence Williams' mother, has been trying for 20 years to get some answer, some resolve, some sense of justice for her son, who has now been presumed dead.

It's been over 20 years. He's a father who was pulled over in a cemetery, was then identified by an officer who never reported it, never really followed up, only to say that he dropped him off at his job. Well, no one ever heard from him again.

Can you imagine what this has been like? We traveled down to Naples, Florida to try to understand what happened here. And the connection for the other gentleman, Felipe Santos, is three months before this, the mother of Terrence Williams realized in searching for her son and posting different posters and trying to get him back that there was an undocumented person who also had contact with an officer. And the last person to hear from him or be in his possession -- or his presence was this same deputy.

Can you imagine the uncanny coincidence that's happening here and all the questions where you don't know who to trust? It's unbelievable.

KEILAR: It really is. CNN senior writer Thomas Lake, who first reported on this story, is joining us now to talk a little bit more about this. Thomas, in CNN's investigation of this deputy, what were some of the biggest revelations you found?

THOMAS LAKE, CNN SENIOR WRITER: Well, there were a few things. One was that I went back and I reviewed basically every report he ever wrote in almost 17 years as a deputy. And I found that in 2001 he just stopped arresting people.

So for the rest of his career, almost three years, he never made another arrest. He wrote about 400 incident reports without arresting anyone. And what's interesting about this is I spoke with a colleague of his who believed that this guy, Calkins, had just lost trust in the justice system.

KEILAR: What does that tell you, that he stopped making arrests for three years? And what would a loss of trust in the justice system sort of lead to? I mean, where does that lead you?

LAKE: Well, in both of these cases, these two men who disappeared, they were driving without insurance or a license. Both could have and perhaps should have been arrested. And he didn't do that.

In both cases, he said, well, I took this guy to the Circle K. But there's no proof that either of them ever ended up at the Circle K. Investigators checked. In the case of Terrence Williams, the second man who disappeared, one investigator made a list of almost two dozen untruthful or inconsistent statements that Calkins made about the day he encountered Terrence Williams. So there's just all kinds of problems with the story he told about what happened on these two days.

I pored over the timelines for the days the two men disappeared. And there are moments, there are gaps in the timeline, places where Calkins' whereabouts cannot be verified. Both days have a window of almost two hours where we do not know where Corporal Stephen Calkins was.

COATES: And, you know, what's so eerie about this is that that unaccounted for time, we're talking about Naples, Florida. We're talking about areas where one could essentially go and not have tracks behind them. Where did he go for the amount of time that he was unaccounted for when they were just last with this person? Who was helping? Are they in danger? Were they in danger? Did he, in fact, never have contact again? There's something more nefarious happening here.

And that point that he was making about not making arrests anymore and being frustrated with the justice system, there is a thought that was he engaging in his own sense of justice? This story on Sunday will break it down and take you through the 20 year journey that these families have had to undergo. You will not be able to turn away.

KEILAR: Really looking forward to seeing it and certainly hoping for the answers that these families so deserve.


Laura Coates, Thomas Lake, thank you to both of you.

Be sure to tune in this all new episode of "THE WHOLE STORY WITH ANDERSON COOPER." One whole hour, one whole story airing Sunday at 8 p.m. Eastern and Pacific only on CNN.

A lengthy delay and an unexpected hero. How a beekeeper saved the day at a pro tennis tournament in California. Next.


SANCHEZ: Fans of tennis are abuzz about this. Just nine minutes into Thursday's quarterfinal match at Indian Wells, a tournament in California, play had to be stopped after bees invaded the course.


That's Spanish superstar Carlos Alcaraz swatting the air with his racket. No one was off limits. The pesky insects even attacking the chair umpire, appearing to sting him in the head.

KEILAR: Oh my God. So mysteriously or luckily. Oh, is there a beekeeper in the house? Apparently there was.

SANCHEZ: Yes there is.

KEILAR: Beekeeper turned rock star Lance Davis rushed to the court to vacuum these guys up. Don't worry. He transferred them to one of his personal hives. So humanely, and afterwards he even posed for photos with the bees. So the bees posed too, I think. Just kidding.

SANCHEZ: How did he transfer them to his personal hive?

KEILAR: He vacuumed them, and he sent them right on over to "THE LEAD" with Jake Tapper starting right now.

SANCHEZ: In a bee vacuum.