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Don Lemon Tonight

TheWrap: Gun That Killed Halyna Hutchins Was Used That Morning For Live-Ammo Target Practice; Election Day Preview; Seattle's First Black Female Police Chief Speaks Out; Facebook Papers Paint Damning Picture Of Company's Role In Insurrection; Charlottesville 'Unite The Right' Rally Trial Begins. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired October 25, 2021 - 23:00   ET




DON LEMON, CNN HOST (on camera): So breaking news tonight. TheWrap reporting that the gun that killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of Alec Baldwin's movie "Rust" was used by crew members earlier that morning for live ammo target practice. That is Alec Baldwin was holding the gun while rehearsing a scene.

President Joe Biden out on the campaign trail in Virginia tomorrow, stumping for Terry McAuliffe, the Democratic candidate for governor, with just one week to go before Election Day. The race is neck-in- neck.

And COVID-19 now a leading cause of death among police officers. Why are so many refusing to get vaccinated now? We're going to try to get some answers tonight.

But first, the latest on the investigation into that fatal shooting on Alec Baldwin's movie set in New Mexico. Here's CNN's Lucy Kafanov.


LUCY KAFANOV, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tonight, the first eyewitness descriptions of the fatal moment when Alec Baldwin pulled the gun from his holster on that New Mexico movie set, killing the film's director of photography, 42-year-old Halyna Hutchins.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): Two people accidentally shot on a movie set by a prop gun. We need help immediately.

KAFANOV (voice-over): Court documents released Sunday revealing chilling new details of what happened inside the building on that fateful Thursday. The film's director, Joel Souza, telling investigators that Baldwin was sitting on a wooden pew during rehearsal, cross-drawing his weapon and pointing the revolver towards the camera lens. Souza, who was wounded, said he was looking over the shoulder of Halyna when he heard what sounded like a whip and then a loud pop.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): We were rehearsing and it went off. And I ran out. We all ran out.

KAFANOV (voice-over): Hutchins was shot in the chest. Souza telling investigators that the cinematographer began to stumble backwards. And a camera member on the set remembered Halyna saying she couldn't feel her legs. The affidavit reveals it was the film's assistant director, Dave Halls, and not the armorer, Hannah Gutierrez, who handed Baldwin the prop weapon, yelling "cold gun," indicating it was safe.

DUTCH MERRICK, PROP MASTER: There's something that strikes me as odd, was where was the armorer during this time? Was she unaware? That she stepped off to the restroom for a moment. That first A.D. should never, ever reach for a gun on a set. It's unheard of.

KAFANOV (voice-over): Twenty-four-year-old Gutierrez was the armorer on "Rust" but recently said she worked as head armorer on another film for the first time.


HANNAH GUTIERREZ, ARMORERE (voice-over): Like by all means, I'm still learning. I think loading blanks was like the scariest thing to me because I was like, oh, I don't know anything about it.

KAFANOV (voice-over): Discussing her previous experience on a podcast.

GUTIERREZ (voice-over): I was really nervous about it at first and I almost didn't take the job because I wasn't sure if I was ready.

KAFANOV (voice-over): Two people who worked closely with the assistant director, Dave Halls, tell CNN he was the subject of complaints over safety and his behavior on set during two productions in 2019, including a disregard for weapon safety protocols, a failure to hold safety meetings, or to announce the presence of a firearm on set.

CNN has learned Halls was previously fired from another film after a crew member was injured in a gun incident, according to Rocket Soul Studios. Neither Halls nor Gutierrez responded to a CNN request for comment. No charges have been filed as the investigation continues.

Hutchins' son and husband were seen alongside Baldwin in Santa Fe on Saturday. Her husband posting these family photos on Instagram, writing, we miss you, Halyna.

JOSEPH COSTA, PARTNER, COSTA LAW: Producer, which Alec Baldwin is, ultimately will share some liability. Alec Baldwin is facing a situation in which he's the person who has the weapon in his hand at the time it discharges and he's also a producer on the set who is responsible for everyone on the set.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): This evening is going to be about Halyna.

KAFANOV (voice-over): In downtown Albuquerque, a candlelight vigil. Many of the mourners are part of the film and television industry. (On camera): There is grief tonight as people mourn the passing of 42-year-old Halyna Hutchins, but there's also outrage and unanswered questions about how this tragedy, how this senseless shooting could have taken place.

REBECCA STAIR, LOCATION MANAGER: I just hope all this talking does something and we get the changes that we need for a safe set. I'm sure you know we were about to strike this past Monday for safer conditions. And if the world didn't believe us about what's going on, maybe they believe us now.

KAFANOV (voice-over): People should be able to go home after performing their job.

STAIR: Yeah. A child should have a mother.

KAFANOV (voice-over): Lucy Kafanov, CNN, Santa Fe, New Mexico.


LEMON (on camera): Our thanks to Lucy Kafanov. I want to bring in now CNN contributor Nischelle Turner, the host of "Entertainment Tonight," and Dave Aronberg, the state attorney for Palm Beach County, Florida. Good to see both of you. Good evening.

Dave, I'm going to start with you. I've got to get your reaction to Lucy's reporting about the assistant director. He was fired from a different movie after a crew member was injured by a gun incident. What are the legal ramifications here? Does it raise any questions to you?

DAVE ARONBERG, STATE ATTORNEY, PALM BEACH COUNTY: Yeah, Don, that's going to come back to haunt the production crew and that guy at a civil trial, because when comes to civil liability, that shows that there's a lack of providing the reasonable care that you're owed to everyone there.

Now, as a matter of civil law, you only need to prove that by a preponderance of the evidence. It's more likely than not that there was negligence. It's different in the criminal context. In the criminal context, you have to prove more than just negligence. You've got to prove recklessness and you've got to prove it beyond any reasonable doubt. It's a very high burden.

But when it comes to civil law, it's much easier, and that's where you will see the lack of oversight, the hiring practices, the walkout, all this other stuff will come in, and I expect a lot of people to be sued who are involved with this production.

LEMON: And Nischelle, listen, when this first happened, you and I, you know, communicated. It's hard to believe that anything -- and we've been talking about it -- anything like this is even possible on a movie set. I know you have lots of insiders in the movie industry. What are they saying about what happened on the set? I mean, we know there have been many reports of crew members walking off prior to this fatal shooting. NISCHELLE TURNER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yeah. You know, Don, it seems like when we get one question answered, 15 more pop up. That's what we're dealing with because this has expanded. First it started, it seemed like a conversation with Alec Baldwin in the center of it. Now, this conversation has really expanded.

I mean, you were just talking about an incident with the first assistant director, David Halls, back in 2019. That movie that you're talking about he was fired from was called "Freedom's Path."

And that studio, Rocket Soul Studios, did send us some information tonight, "Entertainment Tonight," confirming that he was fired from that movie as well because of another incident where a prop gun went off unintentionally. That's a big deal. We just heard Dave talking about that. If there's some sort of pattern, that's a big deal.

Also, the information tonight said that Lucy was reporting that, you know, that crew members were using these prop guns with live ammo for target practice earlier in the day. That is wild. I mean, when we read that, when that -- that broke that news. It's excellent reporting by them. That shoot me because that is really a big deal.


TURNER: We have heard from so many people in the industry that they felt like there were a lot of problems on this movie set, and we do know that some of the union members walked off of the set earlier. Now, because New Mexico has a right to work state, then if you are on a union set, you can go and you can hire non-union employees to finish out your shoot if something like that happens. And so, it seems like that's what happened here.

Again, we don't know the chain of command here. We don't know if the guns were checked. We don't know why the assistant -- the first A.D. even was handling the gun. We don't know any of that. That's still part of this investigation. But again, Don, so many questions here. The minute we get one answered, there's 10 more that are following behind it.

LEMON (on camera): I want to -- listen, Nischelle, rightly so. Dave raised TheWrap's reporting, right, but to Sharon Waxman. Again, it's not CNN's reporting but it is Sharon Waxman from TheWrap who is reporting that. I want to play it so our viewers can hear what Nischelle was talking about and then get your reaction. Here it is.


SHARON WAXMAN, FOUNDER AND CEO, THEWRAP: We learned today and reported exclusively that the gun that Alec Baldwin used to tragically accidentally shoot Halyna Hutchins had been used earlier in the day for target practice with a number of crew members.

You know, it's a lot of downtime on sets, you probably know this. And there's this pastime that crew members sometimes do. It is called plinking. They go out into the rural areas. They shoot there. This is with live ammunition. We learned that this happened the morning of the day that Halyna Hutchins was killed.


LEMON (on camera): So again, we haven't verified that reporting at CNN, but the production company, Dave, referred back to their previous statement when asked about that, saying, and I quote here. "Though we were not made aware of any official complaints concerning weapon or prop safety on set, we will be conducting an internal review of our procedures while production is shut down." What does this say about the liability for the producers at this point?

ARONBERG: Huge, Don. I mean, if they were going plinking, that shows a lack of control on the set. That's the kind of thing that gets huge judgments in civil trials. So, that's a big deal. But also, it could lead to criminal liability.

Now, there's the crime in New Mexico of involuntary manslaughter. It's a fourth-degree felony, punishable by up to 18 months in prison. And the two people I think the prosecutors would focus on the most would be the armorer, the person who was in charge of making sure the gun is safe, and the assistant director, who was the person who handed the gun to Alec Baldwin and told him it was safe.

Now, they're also going to want to look at everyone who touched the gun that day. They're going to look at the chain of custody of that gun.

LEMON: Yeah, the chain of custody as Nischelle mentioned, right, of the weapon?

ARONBERG: Correct. It's an armorer's job to make sure the gun is safe. You played the interview where it's a 24-year-old who may have been over her head. So, at the very least, there's going to be a lot of civil liability here. It may not be criminal, but that new fact that just came out in that reporting could move the needle for prosecutors.

LEMON: Nischelle, the one that Lucy reported on, that she just mentioned, the armorer, 24-year-old Hannah Gutierrez --


LEMON: -- on a podcast talking about her experience and how she's still learning. I mean, that is a really huge job. They usually have a lot of experience, don't they? Is this --

TUCKER: Yeah, they do. I mean, you know, I guess the word is you do have to get into the business somehow, but this young woman, 24 years old, she had just wrapped her first film ever, a Nicholas Cage film in late August. So, this is really kind of her second big job. Her father is a legendary, you know, weapons specialist in the business. So, that's kind of how she got into this business.

But listening to her on that podcast that she was on in September talking about how she was very nervous to take the Nicholas Cage movie because she wasn't really sure how to load blanks into a gun, that's what she was most nervous about. But she really wanted to show people that safety, that weapons were safe and that, you know, how to use them safely and there was nothing to be scared of.

Those words, hearing her speak them and knowing what happened here, it's chilling. It really is chilling. And to know that she is 24 years old, very new in this business and don't know much about her background other than she was a model and then she said she wanted to be an actress and then she got into being an armorer and a weapons specialist, there are certainly questions here.

Like Dave was saying, I think that there's a lot of liability all the way around. That is the heart of the matter. We just have to continue to say this, that a woman, Halyna Hutchins lost her life. She left, you know, her 9-year-old child. She left her husband. She left a lot of people who love her. So, that still, for me, is the centerpiece of all of this.

LEMON: Well, Dave, it's always a pleasure to have you on to talk about these things. Nischelle, I've been trying to get you on since the beginning.


LEMON: I'm so glad that we finally get you this evening. I really appreciate it. You brought us some good reporting from "Entertainment Tonight" as well. Thank you both. I appreciate it. Be well.

ARONBERG: Thank you, Don.

LEMON: Election Day is a week away and one of the most competitive races in the country is closer than close tonight and attracting the attention of more than one president.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want to remind you and everybody who's watching, you don't have to wait until November 2nd to cast your ballot. You can vote early right now.



LEMON: Election Day just a week away, and Virginia's race for governor is really -- it's a dead heat at this point.


LEMON: So, President Biden is hitting the campaign trail with Democratic candidate Terry McAuliffe tomorrow. Will he give the campaign the boost it needs?

Joining me now, Larry Sabato. He is the director at the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia. Larry, it's been interesting. Good evening to you. Look, the big national races. What does Larry have to say? What does Larry have to say? This one is very important and it could foretell what is to come for the midterms and also for 2024. So, I know you don't have a crystal ball, but as close as what you have to a crystal ball, what are the polls saying to you?

LARRY SABATO, DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR POLITICS, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA: Well, they're saying that Terry McAuliffe's lead from earlier in the summer and even spring has essentially disappeared. It's a tie. It's been a tie in several different polls over the last week. There's another major poll coming out tomorrow morning that shows it dead even.

So, I have to -- if it were just one poll, I'd question the poll, but the fact is there have been so many polls saying this. It's easy to say why, Don. President Biden's ratings have sunk everywhere, even in Virginia, which gave him a 10-point victory in 2020.

The democrats in Congress, frankly, I think deserve more of the blame than President Biden. This has been a clown car and they just can't stop commenting publicly and they're parading by the cameras and making it worse.

Now, maybe if they pass something this week, you know, miracles do happen, it might lift Biden a few points and then lift McAuliffe a few points. But they have not helped at all. They've hurt rather badly.

LEMON: Can you please say that louder for the people in the back about what you just said. I think what you said really rings true. I think that the Democrats in Washington are too close to the forest, right, for the trees. They can't get out of their own way and they're not helping around the country, especially with Sinema.

SABATO: They don't care, Don. Maybe they don't care. It's an election in one state. What they're not focusing on is if Terry McAuliffe loses, I guarantee you their fund-raising will tank. But beyond that, every pundit in America, right, left and middle, including all of those on CNN, will declare Democrats dead ducks for 2022.

And so, it's going to put all of them behind the eight ball, at least those who are from competitive states and districts. It's going to hurt them. This isn't just about Virginia. But they can't seem to get focused.

LEMON: Why don't they know that, though? People outside of politics know that and they don't. Like what is the problem?

SABATO: Well, they obviously believe strongly in what they're arguing for. I give them credit for that. They know that the stakes are high, but, you know, facts are facts. You have to compromise whether you want to or not. And they're in a bubble, Don.

I mean, you've seen this for decades, really. They're in a bubble. And they interact with their staff and other members and occasionally some constituents, but they're not focused on the things that maybe people outside that bubble have focused on.

And a week from tomorrow is a day of reckoning for them, not just for Terry McAuliffe or the Democrats in Virginia. It's a day of reckoning for them.

LEMON (on camera): Mm-hmm, yep. Larry, big issue in this race is parental rights, schools. Former President Barack Obama seemed to touch on that while campaigning for McAuliffe this weekend. Take a listen.


OBAMA: We don't have time to be wasting on these phony trumped-up culture wars. This fake outrage that right-wing media peddles to juice their ratings. And the fact that he's willing to go along with it instead of talking about serious problems that actually affect serious people, that's a shame. That's not what this election is about. That's not what you need, Virginia.


LEMON (on camera): Listen, the -- it may be fake, right, what they're fighting for and the outrage, but it's real to the people there because you can see it. They believe it, right? What kind of an impact is this having on the race?

SABATO: It's having a big impact. Sometimes, I think that Republican Youngkin is running for the school board and not for governor of Virginia. He's stressing all of the school board outrages that may or may not have taken place. You know, he talks about critical race theory all the time.

Don, I've lived here all my life. I've been teaching for over 40 years. We don't teach critical race theory in Virginia. It's not in the school curriculum. But that doesn't stop him and it doesn't stop Republicans from believing it and getting very angry. And they found some dirty books in a couple of libraries. It's an outrage. This is going to change western civilization. And it's all they need because, first, they're desperate.


SABATO: They lost every election for 10 years. They know this one is very important. So, they're already enthused. They're already excited. They're already determined to show up or have already voted.

Democrats maybe -- we mentioned the D.C. Democrats and President Biden's ratings. But also, I think Democrats are more inclined to sit back and say, well, we won the last election, I don't know if this one really matters very much. I've heard that from too many people. That's just a part of the equation too, and that also is hurting McAuliffe and the Democrats.

LEMON: Well, and you know, they're lying, and it's like, yeah, they are, but what are you doing about it? Thank you.

SABATO: There you go.

LEMON: Just saying that they're lying is not enough. Thank you, Larry. I appreciate it. SABATO: Thank you, Don.

LEMON: She's Seattle's first Black female police chief and she resigned after the city council voted to cut back the department. She speaks out right here. That's next.



LEMON: Five times as many police officers have died from COVID as from gunfire since the start of the pandemic. But vaccine hesitancy among police leading to showdowns in cities all across the country. Many departments have lower rates of vaccination than the communities they serve.

So, joining me now to discuss is former Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best. She is the author of the new book, "Black in Blue: Lessons on Leadership, Breaking Barriers, and Racial Reconciliation." So glad to have you on. Thank you so much for joining us, chief.

CARMEN BEST, AUTHOR, FORMER SEATTLE POLICE CHIEF: Thank you. I'm glad to be here, Don. Very glad.

LEMON: So, the PBA, Police Benevolent Association, filing a lawsuit today against New York City over their vaccine mandate. We saw protests in New York City. That's even though, you know, over 70%, more than 70% of the officers in the city have been vaccinated. Why do you think vaccines are so divisive within police departments?

BEST: Don, that's really hard to answer at this point. I talked about it extensively in my book, "Black in Blue." Seattle, as you know, is one of the first major cities to have to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic when it broke out in Kirkland, Washington.

So, from that point on, we've been doing everything that we could in the organization to make sure that officers practice all safety precautions as they were identified and made sure that we could try to keep the officers and the public safe.

We ended up with a vaccine. And certainly, we would hope that people would want to be vaccinated because it provides a level of safety for the officers. It's just like putting on your ballistic vest or other safety equipment so that they can protect themselves, their families, their co-workers and the public which they are addressing by the thousands every single day.

So, I understand, you know, people want their individual rights and we understand that, but it is such a health and safety issue that it's critically important that officers do it. You know, we recruit from the human race. And as you know, there's a lot of division even across the country amongst other professions about people getting vaccinated.

LEMON: You know, the president and the Senate Democrats have come out against defunding the police. But on the city level, Seattle, your city counsel voted to shrink the police department by 100 officers. I know that you resigned because of that. Can you tell us why? What does the city do to -- what does this do to a city department?

BEST: Well, I can tell you this, Don, I was adamantly against defunding the organization as proposed by city council, and I talked about that extensively in the book.

But also, you know, with limited resources, if they lose another anywhere from 5% to 15% of the officers because of refusal for vaccination, they really can't afford to lose people at this time, and it really will undermine public safety for everyone who lives or works in the city.

So, clearly, we have a staffing resource issue that's being exacerbated by this issue.

LEMON: "The Washington Post" is reporting the Georgia police chief has implemented a new shoot to incapacitate program. That is a departure from the traditional police training of center mass, right? The idea to reduce fatal police shootings. There's been some blowback from within the policing community. What do you think about that?

BEST: Yeah, I haven't really examined it fully, but I can say this, traditional training is that it's very difficult to shoot to maim, that it's very -- if you're trying to -- if you've decided that the situation involves a deadly force response, then in all likelihood, that's what you need to do.

And if it doesn't require a deadly force response, then use an alternative approach to end the situation, whether that is through a taser or pepper spray or some other less lethal type of munition.

LEMON: Yeah. Let's put the book back up, please, for the chief, for Chief Carmen Best. The book is called "Black in Blue," and I thank you so much for joining us this evening. Best of luck, okay?

BEST: Thank you so much, Don. You take care.

LEMON: A whistleblower speaking out, saying, if Facebook doesn't change, there will be more violence. We're going to tell you how Mark Zuckerberg is responding. That's next.



LEMON (on camera): Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg defending his company amid thousands and thousands of leaked internal documents showing how they failed to stop the spread of extremism on the platform. This is what he said on a call with investors tonight.


MARK ZUCKERBERG, CEO, FACEBOOK: Good faith criticism helps us get better, but my view is that what we are seeing is a coordinated effort to selectively use leaked documents to paint a false picture of our company. The reality is that we have an open culture where we encourage discussion and research about our work so that we can make progress on many complex issues that are not specific to just us.


LEMON: So, I want to bring in now Mike Isaac.


LEMON: Mike Isaac is a technology correspondent for "The New York Times". Mike, hello. Good to see you. Thanks for appearing.


LEMON: Are you surprised how defiant Mark Zuckerberg is considering the damning portrait coming together? I mean, this company is allowing hate and extremism to spread and they know what's going on, right?

ISAAC: I had not heard him this emotional or sort of exactly like you said, defiant, in quite some time pretty much on any investor call that he's ever done. But you can tell or at least I can tell when I was listening today, he's actually mad.

I think he believes genuinely that the leaked documents of which there are tens of thousands of pages that me and other journalists have gone through, are only like a cross section of the company and don't represent basically the whole of Facebook. And, you know, the good things that they do as well.

So, I think he does actually believe it. And he's very upset that what he feels is just a coordinated attack ad essentially from a former employee is not representing the Facebook he knows.

LEMON: Is he right about that, though?

ISAAC: I mean, look, you know, I think it's Facebook's job to present the best possible version of Facebook to people, which they do frequently. I think it's journalists' jobs to sort of dig up the stories that Facebook is not so willing to present, which, you know, has come through in a lot of these documents.

Does it show everything that they do inside of Facebook? No. But does it show a lot of things they don't want people to see? Yeah. And I think that's important for the public to know about.

LEMON: That's a very judicious way to answer that question. I thought it was a good answer. I really did. In your reporting on these documents, you write how in August 2019 internal memo researchers said that the core product mechanics, meaning the basics of how the product functioned, have let misinformation and hate speech flourish. If it's part of Facebook's core function, do they have any interest in actually making their platform safer?

ISAAC: I mean, I really think a lot of these discussions boil down to exactly that. If people inside of the company -- if the people who know Facebook's products the best are saying, look, the way things go viral on this platform can be dangerous to people and we need to tamp those down, and folks at the top of the company are either unwilling or unable to rein that in, for whatever reason you want to say, if you think it's profit, if you think it's growth, then that's -- you know, that's really -- that's the heart of the issue, you know.

Are they going to be able to do enough if they don't change some core functions? Mark keeps saying, we'll hire more people, we're training artificial intelligence to sort of fix some of these problems, but, you know, folks inside are not fully convinced it will do the trick until you really change the core products.

LEMON: That's the issue, you know, and you're right, they have to present the best face, right, especially for the investors. We have to remember, this was an investor call, right? It's like your stockholders. This is an investor call. But when the calls are coming from inside of the House, that's harder to convince people because they are basically saying that what Mark Zuckerberg and others are saying, it's B.S., right? That they know better. They know that they could do better.

And so, I'm surprised that Mark Zuckerberg is not saying, we are going to do better. We are trying to do better. Of course, we have lots of issues, and we know that. Just give us a moment and you'll see, you know, that's what I'm --

ISAAC: No. I mean, I think -- if you remember a few years back, the big Cambridge Analytica scandals and all the data leaks in like 2018, I think he did -- he did sort of say then, you know, we're -- you know, we failed as a company, but we're trying to do better.

And I think he -- my reporting at least bears it out. I think he got tired of saying I'm sorry over and over. And now, he's just saying, no, this is how we run our company. I think we're doing a really good job of it. Yes, we're not perfect and we require scrutiny, but if you don't want to be here, then you can leave basically.

LEMON: Yeah. Well, the story is not done yet. We'll continue to report and so will Mike. Thank you so much, sir. I appreciate it.

ISAAC: Thanks, Don. Thanks for having me.

LEMON: Four years after white supremacist descended on Charlottesville, Virginia for a "unite the right" rally culminating in a woman's death, a civil lawsuit could finally hold the organizers of the rally accountable. Stay with us.




LEMON: More than four years after the deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, a federal civil trial getting underway, organizers of the rally accused of conspiring beforehand to make sure the event turned violent. More tonight from CNN's Elle Reeve.


CROWD: Jews will not replace us! Jews will not replace us!

TANESHA HUDSON, LOCAL ACTIVIST: I have never ever seen anything like this --

ELLE REEVE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): It's crazy. It's so violent.

HUDSON: It was like a civil war happening.

REEVE (on camera): On a Saturday morning.

HUDSON: On a Saturday morning.

REEVE (voice-over): Tanesha Hudson and I came within a few feet of each other on the morning of the "unite the right" rally in 2017, hours before a white supremacist drove a car into the crowd, killing a woman and injuring many people. I interviewed her after.

HUDSON: This is the face of supremacy. This is what we deal with every day being African-American.


HUDSON: I just knew something bad was going to happen that day. I think free speech ends when violence begins, right? I can't say what I want. I can't do what I want.

REEVE (voice-over): That's at the center of (INAUDIBLE), a federal civil lawsuit against the organizers of the rally that goes to trial this week.

AMY SPITALNICK, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, INTEGRITY FIRST FOR AMERICA: Many of the plaintiffs in our lawsuit were here that evening. They had been peacefully standing there, protesting white supremacists coming to their town.

Surrounded, beaten, punched, kicked. All while these extremists were chanting things like "Jews will not replace us" and variety of other violent, racist, anti-Semitic chants.

What happened that week, it was in many ways intended to be a surprise. The violence was planned in this close Discord chat where they discussed everything in advance from what to wear, what to bring for lunch, how do you (INAUDIBLE) a swastika on to a flag, how do you use free speech instruments to attack people, (INAUDIBLE) quote, unquote.

That is a racially-motivated violent conspiracy and that's not anything that is protected by the First Amendment or by any other sort of right that people have.

REEVE (voice-over): The defendants are men who made themselves white power brands. Richard Spencer, Chris Cantwell, Jeff Schoep, Matt Heimbach, Andrew Anglin, Jason Kessler and more. They've argued they were simply engaging in their First Amendment right to speech and protest, and that the violence (INAUDIBLE) police for not separating them from the counter-protesters.

But what made the alt-right grow so quickly, the internet, (INAUDIBLE) in this case because the defendants left behind an enormous paper trail of what they say were jokes about racial violence.

KAREN DUNN, PLAINTIFFS LAWYER: With an event like Charlottesville, that was national news, people might have seen the (INAUDIBLE), they might have seen the car attack on the news. But if you look beneath the surface, there is so just much more. What that evidence shows is that there was a conspiracy to commit racially-motivated violence.

REEVE (voice-over): The discovery process has turned up documents that beyond what they might mean for this lawsuit revealed to the public how this movement worked.

The exhibit list contains text messages that showed extensive planning among leaders who have tried to distance themselves from each other since 2017. They showed an embrace of violence and they showed they weren't just jokes.

(On camera): Is there like one comment that stands out to you?

DUNN: The image that has stuck with me ever since the beginning of the case was one of the Discord posts pictures. It shows a tractor running people over and it's called the protester digester. Look, there are many, many posts in this case about running over people with cars prior to the car attack on August 12. But that one to me was, like, I can't get it out of my head.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): Hundreds of fascists on all sides.

MARY ANNE FRANKS, LEGAL SCHOLAR: If you're saying organized violence on the one hand is not protected by the First Amendment, but speech that does talk about violence is protected, there are obviously going to be a question of where along that spectrum can you say the law should step in or the person doesn't protect you?

That's what this case, I think, is interestingly going to be about, which is what is that line? You have to understand the nature of internet communication and how much that changes the nature of incitements.

REEVE (on camera): No matter the verdict, you have already won because Richard Spencer says it was financially crippling. Heimbach has quite white supremacy at least officially, says Jeff Schoep. They don't hold public rallies anymore. Whatever they might be doing behind the scenes, they're not able to get numbers in public. What do you think about that?

ROBBIE KAPLAN, PLAINTIFFS LAWYER: People really need to understand that this is real, that it's out there, that it allows people from all over the country and the world to organize in ways that were previously impossible, and that's a real and present danger.

REEVE (voice-over): Tanesha says that despite all the national attention Charlottesville got after 2017, it didn't change the systems that benefit white men. That there are two systems and two sets of standards, whether that's for leaders in city government or people fighting in the streets.

HUDSON: I probably could have literally kicked one of their asses that day. But if I put my hands on them, I'm going to jail. But they did it all day. And they got to go home free.

REEVE (on camera): Well, it's very interesting that this civil lawsuit has been the biggest consequence for those organizers, not facing, like, criminal charges.

HUDSON: Right.

REEVE (on camera): What do you think about that?

HUDSON: I knew nothing was going to happen to them. Why would it? The police are on their side. I mean, we just watched this replay again on January 6. And I remember posting when the insurrection happened in the Capitol, hey, D.C., Charlottesville told you so. You believer us now? This is what they did to us. They invaded us.

But now that it happened at the Capitol, it's, oh, my goodness, they need to go to jail. Well, we told you they needed to go to jail here and they didn't go to jail.


HUDSON: Charlottesville could have done the right thing and made such a big statement, and they didn't. Charlottesville failed us. And then after Charlottesville failed us, our president failed us.


LEMON (on camera): Elle Reeve joins me now. Elle, thank you so much. Great reporting. Even after Charlottesville and January 6, the threat from white supremacy is incredibly high. You heard from Tanesha, that she thinks that the government didn't do enough, simply just didn't do enough. Are people you're talking to worry that we could see even more attacks like this in the future?

REEVE: Yes, though not from these exact guys and not these exact ideas, but the sort of us versus their way of thinking can lead to violence very easily and spreads very quickly on the internet.

So, the guys in Charlottesville, they're like Nazis. The people on January 6, they hate Nazis. They think Democrats are the real Nazis. They think Democrats should be executed in Guantanamo Bay.

So, maybe the next attack is not exactly about white supremacy or what we saw on January 6, but something that encapsulates that us versus them way of thinking.

LEMON: Yeah. Again, a fascinating report. Elle, thank you so much for that. We appreciate it. Be safe.

REEVE: Thank you.

LEMON: Thank you. And thank you for watching, everyone. Our coverage continues.