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China Reacts to Pelosi Visit to Taiwan; Jury Deliberates in Alex Jones Case; Feds Charge Louisville Police Officers in Breonna Taylor Case; Brittney Griner Sentenced. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired August 04, 2022 - 13:00   ET



ERICA HILL, CNN HOST: Good afternoon. I'm Erica Hill. Ana Cabrera is off today.

A verdict and a vow. A Russian court sentences WNBA star Brittney Griner to nine years in prison. And now the White House is pledging to pursue any possible avenue to bring her home. And the pressure is mounting at this point for some sort of prisoner swap after the court found Griner guilty of drug smuggling today. She spoke with CNN just minutes after the verdict was read as she was led away in handcuffs.


QUESTION: Brittney, how do you feel?



HILL: "I love my family."

We are covering all the angles here.

I want to start with Fred Pleitgen, who's in Moscow.

So, Fred, what happens now? Where does she go?


Well, so essentially, the court sentenced search in nine years in the penal colony. And if she does -- or she would get sent there, those are very far away from the Russian capital. Those are usually pretty tough places as well.

Our understanding is that right now because her legal team said that they are going to appeal this verdict that for now she is going to remain in the same detention facility just outside of Moscow that she has been in so far, at least as far -- as long as an appeals process would take place.

Brittney Griner, of course, was essentially appealing to the judge today for leniency in a very long speech that she gave to the judge, gave to the court asking for leniency. Let's listen to some of what she had to say.


GRINER: I know everybody keeps talking about political pawn and politics. But I hope that that is far from this courtroom.

But, again, that I had no intent on breaking any Russian law. I had no intent, I did not conspire or plan to commit this crime.


PLEITGEN: So that was one of the things that we heard from Brittney Griner again and again today, that she did not mean to break Russian law, that she wanted to take responsibilities for bringing those vaping cartridges into the Russian Federation.

Obviously, the court not going along with any of that, handing down a nine-year jail sentence. And you could really feel the anger, the frustration the part of not just Brittney Griner herself, of course, but especially her legal team, who really thought that they had been in a better place than this, Erica.

HILL: Yes, that did really seem to be coming through.

So, as you mentioned, plans to appeal. What does that process look like?

PLEITGEN: Well, they have already talked about that a little bit. It was quite interesting, because before they even went, the legal team, Brittney Griner's legal team, even went back into the courtroom to hear the verdict, they already told me that, if there's going to be a legal -- if there's going to be a conviction, that they would appeal that verdict.

They now say that they have 10 days to make that appeal. And then, of course, the legal system here has to decide whether or not that appeal will be granted. And then, of course, we will go through another process of them trying to appeal that verdict and getting at least a lesser sentence for Brittney Griner.

Again, as long as that is happening, she will remain in the detention facility that she has been in so far. Of course, Erica, we saw it again today. And one of the things that we always have to point out to our viewers, Russian courts are extremely tough. The conviction rates are extremely high, well over 90 percent. And, certainly, leniency is not something that we saw from this court today and certainly not something that Russian courts are known for at all, Erica.

HILL: Yes. No, that's for sure.

I also want to bring it now Kylie Atwood, who's at the State Department.

So, Kylie, the Biden administration has been under pressure, right, from the beginning to get Brittney Griner home. Now this nine-year sentence, though, is really increasing the pressure. What more are we hearing?

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes, well, listen, I think it's important to note that there has been a swift response from the Biden administration, as this nine-year sentence was rolled out, with the secretary of state saying that it further compounds the injustice of Brittney Griner's wrongful detention.

We also heard just minutes after that sentence from President Biden himself, calling the sentence unacceptable, saying that Russia needs to let Brittney Griner come home, and also saying that his administration will work tirelessly and pursue every possible avenue to bring Brittney and Paul Whelan home safely as soon as possible, so underscoring just how much efforts are under way within the Biden administration to get her home, but noticeably in that statement not calling on Russia to accept the offer that the Biden administration has put on this table for a possible prisoner swap.

So, we will have to walk and see where the Biden administration continues to push Russia on that front. It's noteworthy that the secretary of state actually today was in the same location as the Russian foreign minister, Lavrov. They were in Cambodia at a dinner there.


They did not have any conversations, according to a senior State Department official. But we will watch for the continuation of those conversations.

And I also want to note that Brittney Griner's agent, Lindsay Colas, she put out a statement in a tweet just a few minutes ago, saying that the Griner family is grateful for the efforts under way. The Biden administration is working to swiftly bring Brittney home, also saying that a prisoner swap, a deal is going to be challenging, but saying that is urgent right now.

HILL: And as we watch for more on that, the sports world also -- you mentioned her agent, the statement from her agent -- the sports world speaking out.

CNN's sports anchor Andy Scholes is also with us.

And we know Griner's team has a game tonight, Andy.


The Phoenix Mercury playing at the Connecticut Sun tonight, one of five games they have left on the season. And one thing is for sure, that the WNBA community has certainly not forgotten about Brittney Griner. We have seen players and teams across the league. They have worn warmup shirts with "Free B.G." on them. Her initials and number have been on the court for WNBA games all season long.

We are certainly expecting to hear from Griner's teammates and her coach later tonight. In the meantime, the WNBA and NBA putting out a joint statement after the verdict was read earlier this morning. It read: "Today's verdict and sentencing is unjustified and unfortunate, but not unexpected. And Brittney Griner remains wrongfully detained. The WNBA and NBA's commitment to her safe return has not wavered. And it is our hope that we are near the end of this process of finally bringing B.G. home to the United States."

And Griner's former Olympic coach Dawn Staley also tweeting after the verdict was read. She tweeted: "#BrittneyGriner. We will not stop advocating for your release. Hold on to God unchanging hand. We love you, B.G."

And that's something we have really seen across the sports world after the verdict, Erica, lots of players from the NBA and WNBA sending their prayers for Brittney Griner, their thoughts and using the hashtag #freeBG, as everyone wants to see her come home.

HILL: Yes, absolutely. We will continue to stay on top of any developments here.

Fred Pleitgen, Kylie Atwood, Andy Scholes, thank you all.

Also new today, federal charges for four current and former Louisville Metro police officers. This is in the death of Breonna Taylor. These are the first federal charges tied to the botched 2020 raid, when officers fatally shot the 26-year-old emergency room technician.

CNN's Josh Campbell has the latest for us here.

So, Josh, what more are we learning about these charges?

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Erica, this is significant. This is the federal government saying that they believe that federal crimes were committed by Louisville police officers on that day back in March 2020 at the residence of Breonna Taylor.

And the easiest way to think about this is in two separate categories. In one category, the federal government is saying that three Louisville police officers were engaged in falsifying information that went into the search warrant that allowed them to be at the residence that day as part of this drug trafficking investigation.

I had a career in law enforcement swearing out more search warrants than I can remember. And I don't think the American people understand just how much power police officers have. An officer goes before a judge. It's not the judge that collects the evidence. It's the officer who goes before a judge, quite literally raises their hand and swears under penalty of perjury that the information in that warrant is true and accurate.

Here, the Justice Department is saying that those officers falsified information inside that warrant and then sought to allegedly cover it up. DOJ officials spoke about this a short time ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) MERRICK GARLAND, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: The affidavit falsely claimed that officers had verified that the target of the alleged drug trafficking operation had received packages at Ms. Taylor's address.

In fact, defendants James and Goodlett knew that was not true.

KRISTEN CLARKE, ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: That false affidavit set in motion events that led to Ms. Taylor's death when other LMPD officers executed that warrant.


CAMPBELL: Now, as to the second category of charges, the Justice Department is now alleging that one Louisville police officer engaged in excessive use of force on that day.

The prosecutors say that, as these officers were going to Breonna Taylor's residence, someone inside the residence thought that there were intruders coming in, fired one shot. That -- then the officers responding with a barrage of gunfire on their own.

The Justice Department says that one of these officers actually went around the side of Breonna Taylor's apartment and fired through a window that was covered by blinds. The officer couldn't see what was beyond that window, but opened fire, shooting 10 times.

Of course, law enforcement 101 says that you have to know what you're shooting, you have to know what is beyond and around your target, and officers are accountable for every single round they fire. Here, the Justice Department saying this officer engaged in excessive force by just blindly firing into this residence.

Finally, Erica, it's worth pointing out that this isn't the last of the scrutiny for the Louisville Police Department. The Justice Department says that they are continuing their review of the entire agency in order to determine whether there is a pattern here of engaging in excessive use of force -- Erica.


HILL: It will interesting to see what those findings are.

Josh, appreciate it. Thank you.

Well, right now, a jury is deciding how much money Alex Jones will have to pay for his lies about the Sandy Hook school massacre. And as they deliberate, another revelation, the January 6 Committee reportedly taking a major interest in Jones' texts and e-mails.

Plus, a 12-year-old girl chews through restraints to escape her kidnapper and then leads police to two bodies. The sheriff of this jaw-dropping case joins us live with new details.

You're in the CNN NEWSROOM.


HILL: Right now, a jury in Texas is deciding how much Alex Jones will have to pay for his Sandy Hook lies.

A short time ago, the judge in his defamation case denied a mistrial request. That came from Jones' legal team, after the plaintiffs' attorneys revealed damning new text messages on Wednesday. Well, now the plaintiffs' lawyer dropping this new bombshell about those very texts:


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Who are you turning it over to you? Are you allowed to say?

MARK BANKSTON, ATTORNEY: Right now, I have been asked by the January 6 Committee.


HILL: Asked by the January 6 Committee.

CNN senior investigative correspondent Drew Griffin joining us now.

Drew, the plaintiffs' attorney also said numerous law enforcement and feds want those texts too. I know my ears perked up when I heard that earlier. Do we know what's in these texts?

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Not exactly, but quite subplot, I must tell you, Erica.

What we do know is that, at one point, the attorney Mark Bankston did reference some intimate exchanges or messages with Roger Stone. Certainly, Roger Stone and Alex Jones both had been asked to talk to the January 6 Committee.

Roger Stone -- excuse me -- Alex Jones did appear and did plead the Fifth. But what is in these text messages would be very interesting for the January 6 Committee, which is why apparently the January 6 Committee has now proactively asked for them.

I want you to listen why this is important, because Jones previous to January 6 was bragging about his involvement with Stop the Steal, was bragging about his financial involvement with Donald Trump's rally on the Ellipse. And he also was talking about this. Take a listen.


ALEX JONES, HOST, "THE ALEX JONES SHOW": I'm going to be speaking in D.C. Roger Stone is going to be speaking in D.C. General Flynn is going to be speaking in D.C. at multiple events.

And what you need to know is this. Roger Stone spent some substantial time with Trump in Florida just a few days ago. I have got a lot of intel I'm not at liberty to tell you yet, not just from Roger, but from other people that have been meeting with the president and war- gaming what's coming.


GRIFFIN: Erica, war-gaming what's coming. That's five days before January 6.

We know Alex Jones, of course, was there. He led his own march to the Capitol. He didn't go into the Capitol, but he led his own march there. And several people involved with their -- his show and also just guests over the time have been arrested in that. So it's easy to see why the January 6 Committee would be so interested in what is actually a defamation lawsuit in Austin, Texas.

HILL: Yes, absolutely.

And it would be interesting to see too in those texts, if we ever get to see them, right, how much of that is true, because we know there's a lot of bluster when it comes to Alex Jones, and he's been fact- checked in real time, even just in his trial, and admonished by the judge, reminded that he needs to tell the truth.

GRIFFIN: Yes, 100 percent go with the fact that everything that comes out of Alex Jones' mouth is going to be a lie until you can prove otherwise. That's basically the way he has been for the last 30 years, as we have found out and as this jury has found out.

He has been caught lying by the judge twice in front of the jury. And, of course, he was caught lying yesterday by Mark Bankston, the attorney in court -- Erica.

HILL: I mean, the twists and turns here in this one.

Drew Griffin, thank you. Appreciate it.

Also with us this hour, former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti, who's also the host of the "On Topic" podcast.

So, looking at all of this, the plaintiffs' attorney said to the judge, hey, look, I have had these requests. I'm going to turn them over unless you say to me, hey, Mr. Bankston, you can't do that. Can you see any reason here, based on what we do know, that the judge would say these can't go to law enforcement agencies and the January 6 Committee right now?

RENATO MARIOTTI, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I don't think the judge is going to do that. I think this lawyer is being very prudent by putting this in front of the judge. I think he wants to make sure that there's no allegation later that he shouldn't have done so.

Or he's basically giving Alex Jones and his attorney every opportunity to object to raise any legitimate issue they have, which is smart. I expect that he's going to wait to get a subpoena from law enforcement and/or the congressional committee.

And I think if he produces those documents in response to the subpoena, I think he's probably going to be OK. HILL: Do you think Alex Jones could be facing perjury charges here?

MARIOTTI: It sure looks like it.

I have to say Mr. Jones has a very loose relationship with the truth, as you noted a moment ago, Erica. And he is certainly somebody who, frankly, probably in his life he had brushes with that in the past, but he certainly could be facing them here.

HILL: When we look at this, too, I mean, I think everybody's jaw just sort of dropped when all this was unfolding yesterday, that his legal team was completely unaware, the plaintiffs' attorneys saying, hey, look, we let that you sent us these documents by accident.


And they didn't do anything about it. Could the legal team be facing any repercussions?

MARIOTTI: Great, great question.

And the short answer is yes. In fact, this is the sort of situation where our client is often looking at their attorney and wondering whether they have a claim against that attorney for malpractice or for breach of fiduciary duty or something along those lines.

So, unfortunately for Mr. Jones, I suspect that the attorney is going to have e-mails and other things that are going to reference that he did not tell or suggest to -- for example, Mr. Jones to lie in his deposition. He's going to argue, I assume, that Jones was the one who misled him vs. the other way around, but I think it's going to be a messy situation.

And very well Mr. Jones may have a claim against his attorneys.

HILL: You know, and as we look at all of this, too, there's so many questions now about these texts, now that we know that they exist, right, two years of everything that was on that phone.

And as Drew pointed out and played some of that sound for us there of Alex Jones bragging about what was going to happen on January 6, saying he's got a lot of intel from Roger Stone and others who are war-gaming, when you hear that, we know that these texts are available. We know the January 6 Committee is interested.

How much do you think could potentially be in there?

MARIOTTI: Well, while quite a bit.

I mean, what we ought talk about always separate truth from fiction when it comes to Mr. Jones and Roger Stone, both loose relationship with the truth, but let's face it. The Justice Department is very interested in the people who attacked the Capitol, with good reason. We know that Stone was coordinating with some of those individuals.

Obviously, Jones and Stone have a very strong connection. They're associates. He's associated with some of the other individuals, as you mentioned, who were there on January 6.

There could be a lot there, because Jones is an influential person in that movement. So I can understand why there's law enforcement interest.

HILL: Yes, it will be interesting. A lot more to come here.

And, again, we're still waiting to hear too what the jury decides in terms of those damages.

Renato, good to see you. Thank you.

And be sure to tune in to CNN tomorrow night for Drew Griffin's special report, the Alex Jones story, "Megaphone For Conspiracy." It airs right here at 11:00 p.m. Eastern.

Just hours after Speaker Pelosi's show of support in Taiwan, a major show of military force from China, China firing missiles near the island. The latest from Taipei next.



HILL: Here's a new measure of the rising tensions in and around Taiwan.

Korean Air just canceled its flight to the island for today and tomorrow because China fired missiles in the waters around the island. Officials say more than 20 Chinese warplanes entered Taiwan's air defense zone, drones flew over restricted waters, all of this part of China's retaliation for House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit to Taiwan.

China considers the self-governing democracy to be its territory.

Will Ripley is in Taipei.

So, Will, earlier today. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he hopes that Beijing will not manufacture a crisis. Is there a sense, though, that is in fact what's happening?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There certainly is a sense that China is trying to intimidate people who live here on the island of Taiwan, 24 million people, because, as Japan announced, it wasn't just missiles flying and landing in the waters around the island, but actually they flew over the island in a couple of instances.

Now, that sounds pretty scary, although they were above the atmosphere. And so the Taiwan Defense Ministry was quick to point out that while, yes, they did fly over Taiwan, they didn't pose any risks to people on the ground here in Taipei.

They did, though, however, the Chinese missiles, the ballistic missile splashed down in Japan's exclusive economic zone. That is the first time that has ever happened. Now, that -- Japan has always said that if China were to try to make a move on Taiwan, that their own security would be affected.

And, in fact, they have been putting in missile silos to some of their outlying islands. Talking about the Japanese outlying islands. So you're already seeing how this -- these military drills that encircled Taiwan that began hours after Nancy Pelosi's plane left Taipei, after she gave this speech talking about how America has this commitment to allies in Taiwan, and then she leaves, and then these Chinese ships open fire and missiles start flying.

So it's going to be interesting. They say these drills should conclude in the next 72 hours, a lot of people here in Taipei hoping things settle, Erica.

HILL: Yes, separately, I mean, related, but separate, right, House Speaker Pelosi, we have learned, visited the DMZ. What more do we know about that visit?

RIPLEY: We just know. It was actually announced a short time ago. We suspected that that was going to happen earlier today.

And this will be the highest-level American official to visit the demilitarized zone, I believe, since President Trump went there and met with Kim Jong-un. And that would have been back in 2018, I think. I mean, it's been quite a while.

So Nancy Pelosi went to go visit the area of this dividing line that I have been to many times that separates North and South Korea. It's an important thing, I think, for people to see, whether they're politicians or not, to show just how you have the -- you have democracy and authoritarianism kind of right