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Murdaugh Sentencing in Federal Court; Eric Bland is Interviewed about Murdaugh; Johnson Reveals Plans for Ukraine Aid; Lance Ulanoff is Interviewed about the AT&T Data Leak; Measles Outbreak in U.S. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired April 01, 2024 - 08:30   ET




JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: This morning, convicted murderer Alex Murdaugh faces a new round of sentencing in a federal courtroom, this time for pleading guilty to 22 financial crimes that included stealing millions from his clients and law firm. Murdaugh is currently serving two life sentences for the murders of his wife and son.

CNN's Dianne Gallagher outside the courthouse in Charleston, South Carolina, where this will take place today.

What do we expect?

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, John, this is likely the final sentencing for Alex Murdaugh for the major crimes with which he is charged. And he signed a federal plea agreement with prosecutors back in September that hinged on just one thing, Alex Murdaugh had to be honest and forthright. Last week those prosecutors said that he had failed a polygraph and asked the judge to hold Murdaugh in breach of that agreement, releasing prosecutors from their end of the deal.

Now, Murdaugh's attorneys today are going to argue that they haven't seen that exam yet and that they say the polygrapher distributed - or exhibited weird behavior, odd behavior, talking about another high- profile crime.

It is the latest in many twists in this years-long saga with Alex Murdaugh.


GALLAGHER (voice over): For the third time and just over a year, a judge will sentence Alex Murdaugh to prison.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That is the sentence of the court, and you are remanded to the State Department of Corrections.

GALLAGHER (voice over): The ones prominent, now disgraced attorney's fall from grace, a fixation in the true crime industry and the subject of several documentaries. Monday's federal sentencing likely won't immediately impacted the

current situation of the one-time heir to a low country legal dynasty, who theft and death seemed to follow.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I sentence you for a term of the rest of your natural life.

GALLAGHER (voice over): Already serving two consecutive life sentences for the gruesome murders of his wife, Maggie, and son, Paul.

ALEX MURDAUGH: Nobody, they're not - neither one of them's moving.

GALLAGHER (voice over): His dramatic six-week murder trial captivated the nation last year.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We couldn't bring you any eyewitnesses because they were murdered.

GALLAGHER (voice over): Prosecutors painted Murdaugh as a desperate thief, living a lie in fear of being found out, who killed his own family to distract from a decade long scheme of stealing millions from his clients, law firm partners and other victims.

MURDAUGH: I'm innocent. I would never hurt my wife, Maggie, and I would never hurt my son Paul Paul (ph).

GALLAGHER (voice over): It took the jury less than three hours to find him guilty.



GALLAGHER (voice over): He attempted to get a new trial this year when his attorneys claimed the clerk of court tampered with the jury, which the clerk denied. But a judge, while critical of the clerk's conduct, determined it did not affect the outcome.

JUDGE JEAN H. TOAL, RETIRED SC SUPREME COURT CHIEF JUSTICE: I find the defendant's motion for a new trial on the factual record before me must be denied, and it is so order.

GALLAGHER (voice over): Murdaugh maintains his innocence in the murderers and plans to restart his appeal. He is also currently serving a 27-year state sentence after pleading guilty in November to 22 counts of fraud and money laundering. Prosecutors estimated he stole around $12 million from clients and his law firm.

MURDAUGH: I hate the things that I did. And I am so sorry.

GALLAGHER (voice over): A fraudster who claims he embezzled from vulnerable people to support a crippling opioid addiction, like the family of the Murdaugh's housekeeper, Gloria Satterfield, who died after an alleged trip and fall at his home in 2018. Murdaugh encouraged her sons to sue him, setting them up with an attorney who then worked with Murdaugh to pocket millions in insurance settlement funds that her kids should have received.

TONY SATTERFIELD, GLORIA SATTERFIELD'S SON: I really don't have words. You lied. You cheated. You stole. You betrayed me and my family, and everybody else.


GALLAGHER (on camera): So, why does this matter, how long he's sentenced, if he's already serving two life sentences for those murders? Well, the original plea agreement would have allowed Murdaugh to serve his federal sentence concurrent, at the same time as those state sentences. And why, at this point, federal prosecutors say they might want that to now be consecutive, after the state sentences. All this hinges on whether or not Alec Murdoch win that appeal for those murder charges. If he does and this federal sentence was served consecutively, John, this would effectively keep him in prison for the rest of his life between the state and the federal charges, even if he were able to successfully appeal the murder charges.

BERMAN: So, it bears watching to be sure.

Dianne Gallagher, in Charleston, thanks so much.


SARA SIDNER, CNN ANCHOR: All right, thank you. John.

Joining me now on the phone is Eric Bland, a malpractice attorney representing several victims of Murdaugh's federal financial crimes.

You are on the phone with us and I know you're going to be in court today.

Your clients are the victims of Murdaugh's theft. What do they want to see happen? What will you be arguing for today?

ERIC BLAND, ATTORNEY REPRESENTING VICTIMS OF MURDAUGH'S FINANCIAL CRIMES (via telephone): We will be arguing, Sara, for a concurrent sense so that that means - against the concurrent sentence so that he will be serving it consecutively, meaning the federal sentence will be served after the state sentence of 27 years has completed.

Now, he's a 55-year-old man. So, the odds are he's going to die in prison. But we want to make sure that there's no opportunity for him to get out or get his state sentence reduced. And by having the federal sentence served consecutively, that will ensure that if the murder charges and convictions are reversed, he still will serve the rest of his time.

Remember, this - this is a career criminal who's hid (ph) for the cycle. He is a double murder. He is a convicted thief. He's a convicted money launderer. And he's an extremely dangerous man who is constantly scheming with his attorneys to try to game the system. And so it's up to this federal judge today to give a consecutive sentence, instead of a concurrent sentence. And that will ensure that once and for all Alex Murdaugh will be in prison for the rest of his natural life and none of his victims or society will have to worry about him again.

SIDNER: Can you talk to me a little bit about the polygraph tests, because he agreed to it as part of the plea agreement. Do you know exactly what prosecutors say he lied about on this polygraph?

BLAND: It appears that he lied about, Sara, where $6 million of the $12 million ended up. The receivers that were appointed by the court to find his assets could only find $1.7 million. So, there's a lot of money out there and there's rumors that he put money in the Bahamas. So, according to the prosecution, he was untruthful about where the $6 million went and whether he had the assistance of another attorney. They didn't name that other attorney. And so that is, according to the prosecution, a breach of his plea agreement, which will entitle the judge to give him a consecutive sentence and also give him upward enhancement.

The defense is going to argue that the polygraph is inadmissible, but he didn't fail it.


His answers may have been uncertain, but they weren't lies. So, we're going to have a battle over what does a failed polygraph or an inconsistent answer on a polygraph means this morning.

SIDNER: So, there are still $6 million out there somewhere that has not been accounted for. I'm curious if you can describe to me the damage that Murdaugh did to your clients.

BLAND: Oh, the damage is untold. This is not like Sam Bankman-Fried where it's a faceless victim or people that were investing money to try to make more money. These were people who were vulnerable, who lost loved ones and needed lifetime medical treatment, and they went to Alex Murdaugh in their most vulnerable time and he exploited them and took advantage of them and stole their money at a time when they needed it most. I mean, you know, the loss of a loved one was hard enough, but to be betrayed by somebody that they revered, and that the community revered, they're still scarred now.

Tony Satterfield, who's going to speak this morning in court, is a devout, religious man, and he has forgiven Alex. He hasn't forgotten his behavior, which is really magnanimous on his part.

But I'm going to be speaking. I don't forgive Alex, and I will never forget what he's done to my clients.

SIDNER: Eric Bland, thank you so much. I know you're heading into court very soon now. I appreciate your time.


BLAND: Thanks for having me. Bye-bye.

BERMAN: Interesting conversation with a lawyer on the way to that federal sentencing hearing right now.

New this morning, there may be a new path forward on aid to Ukraine. I want you to listen to what House Speaker Mike Johnson said overnight.


REP. MIKE JOHNSON (R-LA): When we return after this work period we'll be moving a product, but it's going to, I think, have some important innovations. The Repo Act. You know, if we can use the seized assets of Russian oligarchs to allow the Ukrainians to fight them, that's just pure poetry. Even President Trump has talked about the loan concept where we set up - we're not just giving foreign aid, we're - we're setting up in a relationship where they can provide it back to us when the - when the time is right. And then, you know, we want to unleash American energy. We want to have natural gas exports that will help unfunded Vladimir Putin's war effort there.


BERMAN: With me now, Democratic strategists and former Clinton White House aide, Keith Boykin, and CNN political commentator and president of the Manhattan Institutes, Reihan Salam.

I think what we just heard, Reihan, was the sound of a door opening a little bit. Speaker Johnson has said over the last few weeks he would put Ukraine aid on the floor in some fashion. He seems to be explaining now how he might do that.

REIHAN SALAM, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: That's right, he wants to do it in a way that's going to broaden his coalition and address some of the concerns about the idea of a blank check for Ukraine aid, but also the fact that many members of his conference really do believe that Ukraine needs to be backed up and needs to be done in a response, sustainable way. So, this seems like an encouraging development for the speaker.

BERMAN: How much room does he have with Republicans who don't want aid to Ukraine? And there are some. Maybe even including Donald Trump.

SALAM: Absolutely. The big challenge for those folks, for the rebels who essentially deposed Speaker McCarthy before him, is that there aren't a lot of other options. There isn't a huge line of Republicans who are itching to be speaker at a time when the speakership is highly vulnerable to a vote motion to vacate. So, in a way, those members are a bit chastened right now by the fact that Speaker Johnson might be their best bet.

BERMAN: So, Keith, I - one important point to make here is, is he can't do this, Speaker Johnson, without Democrats. Maybe even a significant number of Democrats. So, how much do you think the minority leader, Hakeem Jeffries, and the other people in the House, the Democrats in the House, might be willing to give Speakers Johnson here?

KEITH BOYKIN, FORMER CLINTON WHITE HOUSE AIDE: Well, if the question is about voting for Ukraine, and I think Democrats would likely be willing to support that. If the question is about supporting Mike Johnson's speakership, then we have a whole different issue at hand. And I think the problem for Mike Johnson though is, if he's relying on

Democratic votes to bail him out of any situation, Republicans in the so-called chaos caucus have already indicated that they are opposed to any such attempts to work with Democrats. So, that puts him in an untenable position where he finds himself susceptible to Marjorie Taylor Greene's motion to vacate. So, he's stuck between a rock and a hard place if it goes that route.

BERMAN: Well, let's talk about his position a little bit more because he really went into what it's like for him in a more expansive way that I've heard overnight, and how he plans, perhaps, to survive this month. Let's listen.


REP. MIKE JOHNSON (R-LA): We have to unite. We have to stand together, because when we do that, especially with a razor-thin majority as we have, we'll have better negotiation in the backroom. We'll be able to have greater standing when we argue with the Democrats about it. And third, look, we've got to drive our conservative agenda and get the incremental winds that are still possible right now.


But we've got to realize, I can't throw a hail Mary pass on every single play. It gets three yards and a cloud of dust, right? We've got to get the next first down, keep moving and we'll do that. And we can show the American people what we're for.


BERMAN: Now, there were those who noted that he was making football metaphor during March Madness and maybe they didn't mix so well there.

But, Keith, what do you think about that?

BOYKIN: Well, the incremental winds that he's talking about, what are those? I mean Republicans have been in power now for a year-and-a- half, almost two years. They said they were going to pass the budget on time, or spending bills on time. They haven't done that. We're halfway through the 2024 fiscal year. And they just passed a bill last month and they're ready to blow up the House again. We've had three speakers already in the past year, including Patrick McHenry, Kevin McCarthy, and Mike Johnson. And now Marjorie Taylor Greene is setting this up so we might have a fourth speaker. They haven't done anything to raise the minimum wage or create new jobs. They haven't done anything about health care. They haven't done anything about education or housing, or anything that the American people wanted them to do when they came into office. They said they were going to address inflation and corruption. They haven't done either of those things. They've spent all their time wasting their effort on trying to impeach Hunter Biden, who's not even the president of the United States, because they're trying to go after him to get to Joe Biden.

And so it's a reflection of the fact that the Republicans are not a serious governing party. They've seriously become only a grievance party. And I don't know how Mike Johnson works his way out of this situation. I feel sorry for him in some ways, except for the fact that I don't agree with him on anything. But I don't know how he works himself out of this - of a problem with this party that is ungoverned.

BERMAN: I'm not sure I believe you that you feel sorry for him, but, Reihan, you know, can he survive the month?

SALAM: Oh, I certainly think he can survive the month. And I think one element of this is that Donald Trump does not want Republicans in the House to be fractious. He wants them to be largely united. And I think that that's a very powerful incentive for those dissenting members of Congress.

But another thing I'll note is that, look, you know, the issue is that Republicans, with a House majority, were not in a position to govern because they control one house of Congress, right, and you have a Democratic president in the White House. Right now I believe they're going to pull together to help ensure that there's a Republican president the next time around. And I think that that's a powerful incentive for them to not blow up this speaker.

BERMAN: All right, Raihan Salam, Keith Boykin, thank you both so much for being with us. Appreciate both your time.


SIDNER: All right, are you one of the 73 million AT&T customers whose personal information has been leaked to the dark web? If you are, what you can do to protect yourself.

Measles cases are surging in the United States, up 70 percent from last year alone, with more than half requiring hospitalization. Where those cases are and what to do about them, and why is this happening, next.



SIDNER: This morning, your personal information might be up for grabs on the dark web. It is all due to a data breach at AT&T involving 73 million customers. The massive privacy breach includes data like Social Security numbers, addresses, passwords and other personal information for current and former customers. And U.S. is now - our U.S. TechRadar editor at large, Lance Ulanoff.

Thank you so much for joining us this morning.

First of all, how did this happen? Is there an explanation from AT&T as to how this data breach happened?

LANCE ULANOFF, EDITOR AT LARGE, TECHRADAR: Not exactly, although, you know, it's safe to guess that it may have been a partner. That often happens. It's usually not directly with the telcos, but they are usually working with third parties with the data. What's kind of interesting about this case is that three years ago

AT&T denied this happened. They said they didn't see any evidence. And now, because it really is 2019 and before that. So, it's really confirmation that, in fact, the breach did happen and all that data, personal data, is out on the dark web.

Lance, when you look at all of these things, Social Security Numbers, names, dates of birth, phone number, these are all the things you need to steal someone's identity. I mean, what can people do and how can they tell if their information was leaked?

ULANOFF: Yes, well, I mean, they really have to start by, you know, first of all, you know, we talked about things like passwords, Social Security Number. Now, you can't change your Social Security Number, but you can change your passwords. And it's very concerning when a password is out on the dark web because so many people reuse passwords. I keep telling people, stop doing that. Use tool like Last Pass, One Password to create passwords for them and store them for them so they don't have to remember them.

But they need to, if you are an AT&T customer, certainly you want to start doing a credit check. You know, having your identity watched by services like LifeLock and Experian that can give you reports about the details if your data is sitting out there. And then, you know, keep an eye on your credit, change passwords. Definitely, you know, if you have an AT&T password, update all of that information and keep a close eye on it.

You know, the fact of the matter is, so much of our data is out there on the dark web. If people are not doing sort of a regular rinse and repeat on their security and privacy and making sure they're updating their passwords regularly, they're going to be subject to this.

SIDNER: Yes, because once it's on the dark web, it can be sold and sold and sold to the highest bidder basically who's trying to - to impact your credit.


SIDNER: I hear that AT&T is going to pay - if you are one of the effect of customers, they will pay for, you know, getting your credit reports, or whatever the recommendations that you make.


I do want to ask you if there is any indication of how AT&T is fixing this and putting in measures to stop this from happening again.

ULANOFF: We've not heard that yet. You know they've -

SIDNER: And you laugh. That is not a good sign.

ULANOFF: I know, because they're - you know, the thing is, it takes - it is a long, hard investigation. It's difficult to figure out exactly where this happened. You know, if it happened with the third party, that's even more difficult. If it happened internally, was it - you know, was it like some sort of phishing attack? As - I always say the same thing, the weakest link in security are human beings. Social engineering attacks happen every day and companies are the biggest, richest targets. And so people have to be very smart and make sure that they're not responding to and clicking on links on email. And this is something that companies literally go through training we teach people to do - you know, to be careful about, yet it still happens.

So, I'm sure we'll hear more about this in the coming weeks and months. It is a shame it took three years for AT&T to figure out that it had, in fact, happened. Hopefully, the resolution on how it happened won't take another three years.

SIDNER: Yes, three years is a heck of a long time if your information is out there for people to grab onto. And I just want to go down your list, reset passcodes, monitor account additivity, monitor credit reports.

Is there going to be a time in which people get compensation if, for example, this data breach happens and you're - you're out a whole bunch of money because someone's stolen your identity. What - is it a lawsuit that has to go forward or what, because it keeps happening with company after company after company.

ULANOFF: I mean, look, the person - the company that owns the data, they're responsible for securing your data. So, it really doesn't matter, you know, who - you know, where the breach happened, right? It's - this really lies at AT&Ts feet.

Now, what it's going to say is that it's paying for these - these LifeLock accounts for all these people that may be affected. And, you know, maybe that's like $99 a year for a single year. And that may be what they consider renumeration.

On the other hand, if it goes beyond that, and this is the thing, AT&T right now says that it has no indication that this data has actually been sold to other parties. So, it's not -- even though it's on the dark web, people have not started to use it. So, potentially no one's been impacted. But if you have been impacted, well, that's something you're going to have to find out whether or not you can go after AT&T. And I'm no lawyer, so I have no idea really how they can do that. But certainly if it were me, I would feel like, well, somebody ought to pay for this.


Lance Ulanoff, thank you so much for breaking that down for us. Lots of people affected by this, 73 million.


BERMAN: All right, this morning, a new health alert from the CDC as measles cases this year have shot past the total for all of 2023. It's only April 1st. Ninety-seven cases have been reported across 17 states. More than half of those have ended in hospitalizations.

CNN's Jacqueline Howard is with us now.

We're three months and one day into the year and we've already surpassed all the measles cases from last year. What's happening here?

JACQUELINE HOWARD, CNN HEALTH REPORTER: That's right, John. And we see two things happening here. One, we know that some of these cases are travel related. So someone acquired the measles virus outside of the U.S. and then traveled here.

But what's really concerning, number two, we know that many of these outbreaks are happening in pockets of communities where there are low vaccination rates. And these low vaccination rates are driving these cases.

As you mentioned, John, we know that at least so far 17 states and New York City have reported a total of 97 cases. Those 97 are way higher than all of last year. In all of 2023, a total of 58 measles cases were reported.

The reason why this is concerning, measles is so contagious, if someone coughs or sneezes, the virus can linger in the air for up to two hours. So, this is what we're dealing with. But we do have a tool against this. The measles, mumps and rubella vaccine. And vaccines will really help reduce the risk of these outbreaks happening, John.

BERMAN: Yes, if you're not vaccinated and you were exposed to measles, the percentages are you get measles almost each and every time if you're not vaccinated.

HOWARD: Exactly. Yes.

BERMAN: I understand that there's an ongoing outbreak right now that's being monitored in Chicago. What's the latest there?

HOWARD: That's right. Actually, about half of all cases in the country are concentrated in Chicago. We know that Chicago has reported a total of 53 cases. We know that about 58 percent of those cases are in young children, younger than the age of five. So, that's an area where health officials are watching, right now, John. And as we continue the year, it will be interesting to see total nationally how many cases we're going to end the year of 2024 with, if we're already at a total of 97.



BERMAN: And up on the screen a moment ago we had that - that statistic, 97 percent effective.

HOWARD: That's right.

BERMAN: The measles vaccine is 97 percent effective.

HOWARD: That's so important. Yes.