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Don Lemon Tonight

January 6 Committee Issues Subpoenas To Organizers Of Rally That Preceded Deadly Riot At The Capitol; House Speaker Pelosi Is Still Planning Vote On Infrastructure Bill; Britney Spears's Father Suspended As Conservator; Attorney: Laundrie Bought A New Phone Before Disappearing; Black Family Says Neighbor Harasses Them With Monkey Sounds And Slurs; Hundreds Of Convicted Police Officers Are Raking In Millions In Pension Benefits. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired September 29, 2021 - 23:00   ET




DON LEMON, CNN HOST: So here is our breaking news tonight, a second round of subpoenas in the investigation of the January 6 insurrection. The House Select Committee is issuing subpoenas to the organizers of the so-called "stop the steal" rally that preceded the deadly riot at the Capitol.

And also tonight, down the white house, Speaker Nancy Pelosi is saying that she is still planning to hold a vote tomorrow on the bipartisan infrastructure bill. But progressives are bound to vote it down if there is no agreement on the larger social safety net package.

And a decision Britney Spears has been waiting for. A judge is suspending her father, Jamie Spears, as a conservator of her estate and all of her personal affairs.

A lot to get to this hour. First, let's get right to the breaking news on the new round of January 6 subpoenas. I want to bring in now Doug Jones, a former Democratic senator from Alabama who is also a former federal prosecutor, and CNN counterterrorism analyst Philip Mudd. Good evening to both of you. Thanks for joining.

Phil, you're up first. You know the second round of subpoenas targets organizers of the "stop the steal" rally and follows four subpoenas last week of close aides and allies to the president. What does it say about the committee's focus, sir?

PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: You missed a piece there, Don. Remember, there's also a conversation, a controversy Kevin McCarthy is involved in this, about subpoenaing phone records. This is about simply put conspiracy.

Let me get you three lines together. One, you want to talk to people like Mark Meadows about whether they were involved in speaking with the organizers of the riots beforehand. You want to match that up with phone records. Did he speak with anybody, according to phone records, on Capitol Hill, or linked with the organizers of the rally about the rally beforehand?

At a third layer, you want to subpoena the organizers to have them say in combination with what Meadows says, with what the phone records say. Did you talk to the White House? The organizer or the prosecutors are going to put all this data together and say, what is the timeline look like? And here the interesting question, Don. Is anybody lying?

LEMON: Mm-hmm.

MUDD: That's the thing I've been looking at.

LEMON (on camera): All right. Doug, I want you to listen to this. This is from committee member, Jamie Raskin.


REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): We're trying to reconstruct the entire chain of events that led to the most violent assault in the U.S. Capitol since the war of 1812 -- in 1814. So, it's important for us to figure out exactly what the relationships were between the official rally organizers and the White House and the violent insurrectionists who launched the violence on that day.


LEMON (on camera): So, what sort of evidence will that committee want to see? Phone records, e-mails, things like that?

DOUG JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR, FORMER ALABAMA SENATOR, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: They're looking at all of that, Don. Look, this committee wants to make sure, as Jamie Raskin just said. They want to look at the complete record. You don't go into this looking at only, you know, in a very narrow view. You got to look at the whole events that took place before and even after.

And you do have two separate events. You've got the rally and then you've got the insurrection that occurred at the Capitol. How are those connected? Are they going to be able to connect the dots between those two events? Are they going to be able to connect the dots to communications ahead of time?

That's the charge of this community, and I really commend them for really looking at -- taking a really broad stroke at this and not getting involved in partisan politics either way, but looking at the broad picture. That's what a good prosecutor does.

It's how, I think, this committee is working right now to look so that at the end of the day, they're gonna give a report that's gonna give a complete and full picture from beginning to end and not just focusing on what happened with the president, what happened with the insurrection at the Capitol itself, but a complete picture, beginning and end, and that's really important.

LEMON: But do they have to cooperate because they can't take the fifth -- can they avoid subpoenas by taking the fifth? JONES: Well, they can avoid some subpoenas by taking the fifth, but that speaks volumes if they start taking the fifth. These folks may want to give the deposition they may not. But remember, they also --

LEMON: They can't say I don't want to get -- I don't want to be in the middle of all the politics. It's too political. I don't want to be involved in all the hatred. It's too detrimental. Rather than saying -- you know, where it speaks volumes about something else and maybe that there is complicity?

JONES: Well, you mentioned if they take the fifth, I think that that would speak volumes.


JONES: But remember, there is more to this than just their testimony. There are the phone records. There are their text messages. There are their e-mails. Those are the things that really cannot take the fifth on. Those are the things that can be produced and subpoenaed in any number of fashions.

I'm thinking I'm gonna see a lot of these people will testify because there's a number of these people, regardless of what people may think, they're not gonna have a connection between the events of a rally.

LEMON: Mm-hmm.

JONES: It's just a pro-Trump rally and violence that occurred. I think they will find some dots that will be connected, but some that will not. And I think as people get subpoenaed, as they decide to testify or not, those dots are gonna fall in place. We're gonna be able to see them.

LEMON: Phil, let me ask you about Amy Kremer, among the individuals subpoenaed. She was the point of contact after the "stop the steal" rally. She was also a key figure in encouraging members of Congress to object to election results. What will investigators want to hear from her?

I mean all of this. "Stop the steal," whatever. Nothing was stolen. All of it was built on a lie. So I think it is just odd that we are even questioning people's involvement because it's all built on a line. You understand what I'm saying?

MUDD: I do, but that's not what I've been thinking about, Don. Let me get a totally different perspective. Look, if you're an investigator coming into this, a prosecutor, an FBI agent, you're not gonna walk into that conversation asking your questions where half the time you don't know the answer. You're gonna know the answers by looking at things like, as Senator Jones was talking about, things like e-mails, social media postings.

We talked about phone records. You can have interviews with other people. I don't want to know just what happened. I don't want to deal with just about conspiracy. When I go into that conversation with her, I want to know a lot about what she did or did not do in terms of contact with the White House and what she did or did not do in terms of phone calls.

Let me give you the bottom line. I want to know if she's gonna lie. So when I say, ma'am, did you make any phone calls to the White House, to make it real simple, Don, and she says, no, I'm gonna know the answer already. I've got -- it's not just about what she says, Don. It's about what she doesn't say or what she lies about.

LEMON: Yeah. And I'm sure folks out there, if they heard our report before this, Jessica Schneider, people are getting slap on the wrist for these really egregious acts.

MUDD: Yeah.

LEMON: What does it all matter, right, if people are just gonna basically got off scot-free or just with the slap on the wrist? What is happening, Doug?

JONES: Well, Don, you know, look, I think people need to remember there are two separate things going on here. One is the criminal investigation. And I agree with the judge. I really do believe that the DOJ as well as the courts need to come down on those folks that are guilty, that they can prove guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, who will plead guilty. I think they do need to come down on them harder because I do think there is a deterrent there that needs to happen.

This January 6 commission is different. This is a commission to find out what happened. It is a broad or broader investigation. It is not a criminal case. It is not one where a commission is trying to prove somebody guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The commission is trying to get the facts, and that is important for the American people. That's a completely different situation than the trials and pleas that are going on.

LEMON: Yeah.

JONES: It's important that the American people know all of the facts that happened on that day, start to finish. And that's why I'm so proud of this commission for issuing the subpoenas, doing all that they can to get to the bottom of this.

LEMON: Listen. I think you're exactly right. Obviously, I know the difference in that, but what I'm saying is that the actors, the actual people there who did the damage, who went in the Capitol, even if it was on someone else's suggestion or whatever it was, if they're getting off scot-free, then there's this certain frustration that goes along with what's happening on Capitol Hill as well.


LEMON: Thank you both. I appreciate it. I'll see you soon.

JONES: I agree with.

LEMON: Yeah. Thank you very much.

JONES: Thanks, Don.

LEMON: Now to the make-or-break moment for President Biden's domestic agenda. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is still planning to bring the infrastructure bill up for a vote tomorrow. But progressives are vowing to sink it, okay, if there's no agreement on the social safety net package. And there isn't one.

So I want to bring in now CNN senior political analyst Ron Brownstein and political analyst Laura Barron-Lopez. Good evening to you two, as well.

Ron, you're up first. Again, House Speaker Pelosi is saying -- hey, she's gonna hold that vote on tomorrow. She's still planning on holding that vote on the infrastructure package. But given this stalemate between the progressives and the moderates, is this gonna blow up and the president's face?

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Potentially. Look, you never bet against Nancy Pelosi. She has lived on the edge and brought the ship in time and time again. That's somewhat (INAUDIBLE) than metaphor. But right now, it is hard to see where the votes are to pass the bipartisan infrastructure deal in the House, especially given the way that Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema have behaved in the last few days.


BROWNSTEIN: The republican support that might have been provided some cushion, I am told, has melted away. There are very few House Republicans probably on one hand who are going to vote for this, and that means that unless you can convince the progressives to do so, she doesn't have the votes. She's not gonna bring it to the floor. She doesn't have the votes.

And certainly, Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema had done her no favors over the last 72 hours with their public comments and their refusal really to give the progressives any indication of what even their bottom line is so that they can have a sense of the parameters of the negotiations.

LEMON: Laura, this new piece is fascinating. And I think it was a genius what you -- what is called Biden bets it all on unlocking the Manchinema puzzle --


LEMON: Did you call that yourself, by the way?


LEMON: Okay.

BARRON-LOPEZ: I'll get my editor a little bit of credit. LEMON: So, what if it's not a puzzle? What if they just don't care about his agenda?


BARRON-LOPEZ: Well, so we are seeing some movement from Manchin. Sinema, there is a little bit less right now. But Manchin is saying that he wants to undo the 2017 tax (INAUDIBLE) that Republicans passed, that that's what he wants to start with. That's kind of his opening salvo right now to the White House.

But yeah, Don, there is a lot that they have not told the president, which is why Biden is really pushing them, to just give him a number whether it's a top (INAUDIBLE) or tell him what exactly they can live with in this package.

Because Biden is betting that if he can figure it out with Manchin and Sinema, that the House centrists which are a handful of them that are also aren't on board with the social spending package right now, that they'll follow Manchin and Sinema, and then he can go to progressives with this, really detailed framework, and get them to support the bipartisan infrastructure package.

I don't think this is gonna happen before tomorrow or by the time Pelosi decides she may want to bring up a vote. And so it's very likely that she pulls it if the votes aren't there.

LEMON: Okay. Let's do the math here and let's talk reality, okay, Ron? If Biden can't get something as popularly as infrastructure done when Democrats control the House, Senate, and White House, is anything ever going to get done, police reform, voting rights? I mean, why does it seem that Democrats can't -- you know, Democrats always get in their own way?

BROWNSTEIN: Right. Look, you're seeing here the kind of the end result of trying to do big change on a slender majority. I mean, the reconciliation bill, I think, has been correctly compared to sort of the great society in a single bill. Lyndon Johnson had 68 Democratic senators and 150 seat majority in the House. There is no margin for error here.

And I think Laura is right. I mean, there is a difference between Manchin and Sinema. Manchin put out a very critical statement about the reconciliation bill today but kind of gained a framework for where Democrats could go and where he could ultimately negotiate an agreement. That's pretty much what happened on the voting rights bill in the summer, when he put out a very critical statement in an op-ed but then negotiated a bill that Democrats find surprisingly congenial.

Sinema is something else entirely. I mean, people have to no idea what her bottom line is or really what her end game is, what she is trying to achieve out of this. A pack was started today in Arizona amongst some of her original supporters to fund a primary challenger if she sinks the reconciliation bill.

But yes, this is their best shot to pass their agenda and if they can't do this, the other priorities are falling by the wayside already because of the filibuster, immigration reform, police reform, potentially voting rights.

So this -- it is hard to overstate the magnitude here. The assumption has been that it is in everyone's interest so they will find a way to do it. But, you know, that did not account for someone as quite as (INAUDIBLE) as the senator from Arizona.

LEMON (on camera): Listen. I got (INAUDIBLE) Evan Osnos was on earlier in the week and said if America wants to compete with other countries, then we've got to get our infrastructure together. If you want high speed rail, if you want Wi-Fi, a broadband, if we want to complete with other countries because that's a norm for them. And for us, we're falling behind when it comes to those innovations.

Thank you very much. See you both.

Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, in a Los Angeles courtroom, a victory for Britney Spears. Her father suspended a conservator of her $60 million estate and the pop superstar says she is on cloud nine.







LEMON: Okay, so we have more breaking news tonight, the court decision Britney Spears has been fighting for. A California judge is suspending her father, Jamie Spears, as conservator of her estate and her life and designating a temporary replacement to oversee the pop star's finances. A hearing to consider a request by Britney Spears to end the conservatorship altogether now set for November.

Let's bring in now Lisa MacCarley, estate and probate attorney. Hi, Lisa. Thank you so much for joining this evening. Good evening to you. So-


LEMON: Britney Spears's father, Jamie Spears, is no longer the conservative for his daughter. The man now temporarily in charge of her estate is someone she handpicked. How will this work? How does this work?

MACCARLEY: Well, it becomes a little challenging because Jamie has control of so many assets, and I'm sure that he has diversified where the money is located, what states. So, slowly, the new temporary conservator is going to have to go to each entity where money is kept or investments made and assert his authority and dominion over those assets.


MACCARLEY: So it's probably going to take him about a month to do that. It's a long process.

LEMON: Yeah. So we know Britney wants control over her decisions, both personal and professional. Does she have that power now in this new arrangement?

MACCARLEY: Not quite. So, suspending the conservator, her father, doesn't mean that she has been restored to all of her civil rights. So, she would still have to use the temporary conservator to make decisions to enter into contracts. So she is not quite there. The next step, November 12, is when the conservatorship is hopefully terminated and then Britney makes her own decisions again.

LEMON: Okay. So we will have to see then. Earlier this week, we learned of allegations that Jamie Spears and the security firm he hired ran a surveillance apparatus that monitor her communications and secretly captured audio from her bedroom, including conversations with her boyfriend. Is this in violation of the law and should her father be investigated if this is true?

MACCARLEY: Absolutely, especially conservator of the estate, which is where Jamie has been these last few years. But there is no question that once Britney enters her home, no matter what the status is, conservator or no conservator, she has an absolute right to privacy just as we all do.

So, yes, I'm sure that those were very upsetting allegations to learn from her attorney, from herself, her friends, and family. So, yes, I expect that there will be an investigation about that.

LEMON: A hearing to consider a request by Britney Spears to end her conservatorship altogether is set for November 12. What are the next steps for Britney's legal team?

MACCARLEY: When you say the next steps in terms of a stipulation or getting ready to terminate the conservatorship?

LEMON: Well, both. I mean everyone wants to know what's next for -- there's a hearing coming up. So what is next for her team?

MACCARLEY: Well, in terms of what's next, termination of the conservatorship means that Britney will end up having to go and hopefully find agents and investment advisers, all of the people that she is going to put together as her team.

So, right now, I think she should be drafting documents so that -- she is reviewing contracts so that when the conservatorship is terminated, she is able to get her team up to a great start and they will start taking care of her money and make the decisions.

LEMON: Yeah. Without a delay between the conservatorship and her being in control of her own self and her wealth and money and her future.


LEMON: Thank you very much. I appreciate you joining us.

MACCARLEY: Thank you.

LEMON: Thank you. New information coming out on the Laundrie family. Their attorney telling CNN that Brian Laundrie bought a new phone right before he disappeared. Stay with us.




LEMON: As the search for Brian Laundrie continues in Florida, new developments in this case. We are learning that the FBI has surveillance video of a campground from the days the Laundrie attorney says the family was there along with Brian Laundrie.

A lot to dig into with Steve Moore, a former FBI supervisory agent and CNN legal analyst Areva Martin, the author of the upcoming book "Awakening: Ladies, Leadership, and the Lies We've Been Told." Good evening.

Areva, let's start with you.


LEMON: The Laundrie family attorney had previously told CNN that Brian purchased a cell phone at an AT&T store on September 14th, the last day his parents say that they saw him. He has now said that it was purchased on the 4th. Brian left that phone at his parents' house and now the FBI has it. We don't know what happened to his previous phone and we don't know if that new phone was the only one that he brought at the store. So, I know it's a little complicated here. Does any of this make sense to you?

AREVA MARTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY: None of it makes sense, Don. What we do know is that this family went on what appear to be a camping trip during the time that Gabby was missing. And at some point, when the police -- after Gabby's parents made a report that she is missing, the police come to talk to Brian who have been on a cross-country trip with her, and rather than being able to talk to Brian and to get answers, they get met with well, here is a card for Brian's attorney, call him.

So something had to transpire during those days that Brian was home with his family, something that caused the family enough concern that they reached out and hired an attorney.

And it is really puzzling that a family that presumably knew that Brian was dating, perhaps even engaged to Gabby, that there wouldn't have been more concern, more efforts to try to find out where she was to. You know, help find her. So the conduct is very, very suspicious both not only Brian's conduct but the conduct of his parents as well.

LEMON: Steve, there's new surveillance footage from the park where Brian Laundrie and his parents went camping and it has been turned over to the FBI.


LEMON: What kinds of things will they be looking for in this video?

MOORE: Well, the problem they're going to have is what they're looking for -- they probably don't have audio for it. I think what they would be doing as FBI agents would be to canvas the entire area to find out, first of all, what they were doing there, but whether they bought things, whether they bought gear, whether they bought outdoor equipment, whatever they did, whatever activities they engaged in in the area, because they clearly wanted to get away from the potential interest around their home.

LEMON: Mm-hmm. Areva, at a press conference that happened yesterday, an attorney for Gabby Petito's family expressed skepticism that Laundrie's parents would help the FBI in their search. As an attorney, how would you characterize the behavior of Brian's parents since the beginning when their son returned home without his fiancee?

MARTIN: Well, let's face it, Don, the behavior is not only suspicious, you could say it is abhorrent and it is really immoral in some ways. Your son is dating a girl. He goes on a cross-country with her. He comes home. The girl doesn't come home with him.

You arrange for him to get an attorney. You don't speak. You don't contact the girl's family. You do nothing to help this family find their daughter. Their daughter is found dead. You still don't come forward and give the FBI, the law enforcement or family any information. It's a little hard for me as a parent of three kids to understand how any family could behave in this way.

I understand the natural tendency to want to protect your own child, but, you know, we have an obligation even beyond our own kids. And if our child has done something that is illegal or maybe put someone else in danger, I think as parents, we have an obligation to speak up. That's separate from his legal rights and people are going to slam me online about these comments but we can separate the law and the legal obligation that this family had or Brian had from what the moral thing was to do --

LEMON: Do you think -- how do you know, how do we know that he was upfront with his parents? I mean, he could have fed them a lie about what happened to Gabby. Maybe they didn't know.

MARTIN: But Don, how did they get a lawyer? Why are you hiring a lawyer for your son if you don't believe that there's something that your son shouldn't be talking to law enforcement about? That's what doesn't make sense.

LEMON: Yeah.

MARTIN: We don't know what he said to his parents.

LEMON: Yeah.

MARTIN: But you don't go and get a lawyer for your kid and say, I'm not going to let my kid talk to law enforcement or talk to the attorney unless you believe there's something at jeopardy, something at stake. We're not stupid. We can't ignore the red flags here.

LEMON: Steve, in all of this, what do you think the best lead the investigators have now?

MOORE: I think the best lead they have on finding him is --- are the phones, because he has a previous phone, he has this phone. I don't think they're going to find anything really significant on this phone, the new phone, which would indicate that it was just a shill. It was just something that he was going to lay down as a red herring.

I think the family -- the only thing that explains their behavior is conspiracy. That's the only thing that makes sense, they are conspiring to keep him out of trouble or keep him out of the hands of law enforcement. And I think the phones and the electronic evidence that you're going to have is going to be pretty profound.

LEMON: Yeah. Thank you both. To be continued. We will see you next time.

MARTIN: Thanks, Don.

LEMON: Imagine your neighbor -- okay, imagine if your neighbor was blaring monkey noises and flashing these lights at your house. We'll put them up in a second. Well, that's exactly what happened when a Black family moved into a Virginia Beach neighborhood. Here it is.




LEMON (on camera): Oh, and there's more. They join me next.




LEMON: So imagine moving your family into your dream home to start a new life only to find yourself subjected to non-stop harassment from your new neighbor. That's what a Black family in Virginia Beach has been living with. They describe an escalating campaign of racial slurs, loud music, and monkey noises.



LEMON (on camera): So, yep, a Black family moves in and a neighbor tries to drive them out with monkey noises. Local police say while the behavior is appaling, it is not criminally actionable.

Jannique Martinez joins me now. Jannique, thank you so much for joining. I'm sorry that you're dealing with this. Good evening to you. You moved in five years ago.


LEMON: What's living next to that been like for you? I mean, did it start right away?

MARTINEZ: No, it did not start right away. It started maybe about a year -- a year and half afterwards.


MARTINEZ: And it started off, you know, just during the day and again depending on which one of the family stepped out, you know, a different song would play. The lights on his house would start blinking because as we step out of our home, we would trigger sensors that would then turn on music.

We have one family, soon as they pulled up in their driveway, the music would start. Or you step outside your house, you know, everything will start recording or -- it was just constantly feeling like we are on surveillance and the music was just the cherry on top. It was a lot. But that's what it started with, was that.

LEMON: You got banjo music, monkey and animal noises, flashing lights, but there is more. I want everyone to listen to what else your neighbor is playing. Here it is.


UNKNOWN: From now on if a person uses the word nigger, it must be at least seven words away from the word guy. Tom, it appears that the nigger guy epidemic is over. Oh damn it, I said it.


LEMON (on camera): You've got three kids, right? How do you explain that to them?

MARTINEZ: To be honest with you, my oldest -- my two older kids, you know, they handled it very well. They just ignored him and just knew that he was ignorant. And they paid it no mind. But my youngest who just turned seven, he used to be terrified. I say used to be because now he's come such a long way and he's found his strength and he's found his voice.

But, Drew, you know, he's been living in this house since he turned two, so that's all he knows. And so he was terrified. He would be afraid to go get his ball if it ever went over there. He would just constantly feel like he'd come out and yell at him, which he has before. He'll call the police on the kids if they, you know, go on his lawn to get a toy. He was just so afraid of him.

LEMON: Have you spoken to him? Have you ever reached out to the neighbor and say, hey, you know?

MARTINEZ: Only one time. Again, throughout the years, we try not to talk to him or provoke him or anything. But one morning, we had just begun virtual learning, September 2020, and, you know, it was a hard time for us all. I'm working remotely and where our office is, it's right next to his open window.

And the music was blaring and I went out there. It was around 8:00. We had just log in for school. I asked him to turn it down. And his response to me was, let me call the police to make sure I'm in good standing with the law to play my music.

And I was floored because how about you just be a neighbourly person, you know, a parent, anything to just understand where I'm coming from. He was adamant that he was doing nothing wrong.

LEMON: Have you ever considered moving?

MARTINEZ: Absolutely not. No.

LEMON: So I got to tell you that we reached out to your neighbor for comment but haven't heard back. Police had told us that there is no crime being committed. As you said, he was in good standing with the law. What happens when you call police? What do they tell you?

MARTINEZ: I tell them about the noise and they said they'll come out and they do every time. They come out, they ask him to turn it down, and he turns it down. The last time I called and I expressed to them about the escalation with the N-word, and she said, ma'am, I'm sorry, there's nothing I can do, go down to your magistrate. And I said, okay, thinking that that would be a solution and, you know, this was on a Saturday.

Monday morning, I go down to the magistrate and I felt dismissed. He said that it was a figure of speech or freedom of speech or phrase, you know. And I just was like, so, where do I stand? So there's nothing I can do. He said we don't handle stuff like that. You have to go to civil court.

So I went and talked to a judge in civil court and although he was a little bit more compassionate, he just basically told me that if he didn't threaten my family or pose bodily harm that there's nothing the courts can do about it. So leaving the courtroom, I felt deflated. I felt so defeated. I just felt like I couldn't protect my kids.


MARTINEZ: I couldn't -- I couldn't imagine living like this --

LEMON: Yeah.

MARTINEZ: -- in my own home. I couldn't imagine it. It really broke my heart leaving that courtroom.

LEMON: Well, it breaks all of our hearts and any rational person as well. I hope you do find a solution. I think that there's something or someone out there, some attorney or someone who could help you with this. Listen, again, I'm sorry. I have to let you go but this is so frustrating. I can't even imagine how you feel. Thank you and you be safe, okay?

MARTINEZ: Thank you.

LEMON: Thank you. Hundreds of ex-police officers are raking in millions of dollars in taxpayers-worth of pension payments. But the thing is they've all been convicted. CNN investigates, next.




LEMON (on camera): Tonight, a CNN investigation. Most of us are probably unaware that hundreds of police officers in many states across the country, who have been convicted of serious crimes, including murder and rape, are still eligible to collect big payouts in taxpayers-supported pensions. Here is our chief investigative correspondent Drew Griffin. (BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Across the country, police officers convicted of crimes, violating the very laws they were sworn to uphold, are raking in millions in retirement payments. In California, this former sheriff is collecting a whopping $265,000 a year out of a pension that could be worth 10 million after he was convicted of witness tampering and serving time in prison.

In New York, a university police officer found guilty of manslaughter for strangling his girlfriend and setting her body on fire is eligible for a 500,000-dollar pension. And in Minnesota, fired Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin, convicted of killing George Floyd, sentenced to more than 22 years in prison, is eligible for a retirement pension worth more than a million dollars.

And they are hardly alone. A CNN investigation finds hundreds of police officers, convicted of violent and sexual felonies and on the job corruption, are still eligible for hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayers-supported pensions.

ART ACEVEDO, MIAMI POLICE: The taxpayers should not be on the hook for someone who did not end their career the way they started, which is with honor and with respect for the rule of law.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): In Washington State, retired Officer Karl Thompson is still getting paid out of a pension that could be worth more than $600,000. It was back in 2006 Thompson responded to a 9-1-1 call from two teenagers who thought 36-year-old janitor Otto Zehm looks suspicious. Zehm suffered from schizophrenia. He had come to this convenience store to buy a Pepsi and a Snickers bar after work like he always did. He had done nothing wrong.

But Officer Thompson responded with his baton out, storming into the store, and heading straight for an unsuspecting Zehm. And without a single word spoken, without a warning, Thompson beat Ato Zehm to the ground just out of view of surveillance cameras. Backup officers tased Zehm, sat on him, hog-tied him, all as horrified customers heard Zehm's final words, all I wanted was a a Snickers. Zehm committed no crime, lingered for two days in a hospital, and died.

BRITNI BRASHERS, WITNESS TO ATTACK: We didn't just watch somebody arrest somebody, but we watched a police officer murder someone in front of us.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): But no police officer would be charged with murder. For years, Spokane Police said the beating was justified in what the Department of Justice calls an extensive coverup. It took a federal civil rights prosecution nearly six years later to finally uncover the truth. Thompson was convicted of violating Otto Zehm's civil rights by using unreasonable force and attempting to conceal evidence.

MICHAEL ORMSBY, U.S. ATTORNEY FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF WASHINGTON: This case in part was to bring justice to him and to his family.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): Karl Thompson was 65 years old when he went to prison and kept collecting his $24,000 a year retirement pension behind bars. Sandy and Dale Zehm, Otto Zehm's cousins, find it all appalling.

SANDY ZEHM, OTTO ZEHM'S COUSIN: To have a taxpayer pension go on for years and years and years or the rest of your life, time after you've been convicted of a crime like that, no, I disagree.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): While some states have passed laws stripping pensions from convicted cops in more than 30 states, police officers would keep their pensions, even if they were found guilty of murder or rape while on the job. Miami Police Chief Art Acevedo believes the threat of losing a pension can be a powerful deterrent.

ACEVEDO: Pensions are something that are really important to people. And so we need to make sure they have skin in the game (ph), and when officers do the wrong thing in certain circumstances, they absolutely should be taken away.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): Police advocates say that can be unfair to the police officers and their families.

JUSTIN LUNDGREN, SPOKANE POLICE: Why build on a tragedy when the officer's life is over? They are potentially in prison, they are civilly sued. So I would be in favor of not punishing the family that has been along the side of this officer.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): Former Spokane Officer Karl Thompson is now out of prison. He is retired and has already received more than $150,000 of his pension and could eventually rake in four times that amount. He has refused to speak to CNN.

(On camera): Is Mr. Thompson in?

UNKNOWN (voice-over): May I ask who you are?

GRIFFIN (on camera): Yeah. Drew Griffin with CNN.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): CNN, as in the television station?


GRIFFIN (on camera): Yes, ma'am.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): No. You -- no.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): Otto Zehm's family believes justice was not served.

(On camera): Do you think this officer paid enough of the price?

DALE ZEHM, OTTO ZEHM'S COUSIN: He's out but I don't think he's paid enough for it. Yeah, I don't think he paid enough for it.

GRIFFIN (on camera): Don, proponents of taking away police officer's pensions point not just to the fairness for victims' families but also to at least one study that shows that the threat of taking away police officer's pensions actually leads to better police behavior. Don?


LEMON (on camera): Drew Griffin, thank you so much. And thank you for watching, everyone. Our coverage continues.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening. There is breaking news tonight.