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People Magazine: Suspect "Repeatedly" Messaged One Female Victim; Baldwin To Be Charged With Involuntary Manslaughter In Rust Shooting; Florida Blocks Proposed High School A.P. African American Studies Class; U.S. & Allies Ramp Up Pressure On Germany To Send Tanks To Ukraine; Buffalo Bills Face Off Against Cincinnati Bengals Tomorrow; Man Missing After COVID Misinformation Led Him To Island Sanctuary. Aired 12-1p ET

Aired January 21, 2023 - 12:00   ET



MIKE VALERIO, CNN NEWSOURCE NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: He aims to keep customers coming back, by selling a dozen eggs, for instance, $0.25 lower than the national average.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you so much.

VALERIO: As the pressures are growing.

FRANK HILLIKER, OWNER, HILLIKER'S RANCH FRESH EGGS INCORPORATED: Our feed is over doubled. Our packaging has doubled, fuels up 50 percent.

VALERIO: The key question for the year ahead.

Frank, do you see prices coming down anytime soon?

HILLIKER: I see prices coming down a little, but I don't know exactly how much. The markets been falling.

VALERIO (voice over): A senior consumer food analysts with Rabobank says food prices may not deflate until 2024. Until then, the fracas, overpriced poultry protein will likely keep going, rolling into 2023.

In Lakeview, California. I'm Mike Valerio, reporting.


FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST (on camera): And hello again, everyone. Thank you so much for joining me. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.

We are learning new details about the actions of the man accused of killing four Idaho college students in the weeks before the murders. People Magazine reports that Bryan Kohberger followed all three of the female victims on Instagram, but they didn't follow him back. That's according to an investigator familiar with the case combined with the magazine's review of the now-deleted account. The 28-year-old is also alleged to have repeatedly message one of the young women about two weeks before the killings. Kohberger faces four counts of first degree murder and he has yet to enter a plea.

CNN national correspondent Camila Bernal is following the latest developments for us. So, Camila, what more can you tell us?

CAMILA BERNAL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Hey, Fred. So, this is important because police have not given us a link between the victims and Bryan Kohberger. They haven't said whether they knew each other, whether they had interaction. So, of course, everyone is looking for that connection for that link as we wait for authorities to confirm all of this.

And as you mentioned that People magazine articles saying that Bryan Kohberger followed all three of the female victims on Instagram. They also say that he messaged at least one of the victims repeatedly. This was in late October, just about two weeks before these killings. And we do not know why or what happened with those messages. Because, so far, according to People magazine, the victims did not respond to his messages online. So, it's unclear whether they saw these messages or whether they just chose not to answer to this Instagram message.

Now, again, we have to wait for authorities for all of the confirmation. But People magazine, saying that they were able to review the messages and the Instagram account before it was deleted. People Magazine also going even further and saying that they know that, at least, two times, Bryan Kohberger went to the restaurant where two of the victims worked.

Now, we already reported that two of these victims worked at Mad Greek in Moscow. This is one of the many restaurants on Main Street. It is not uncommon to visit this restaurant. There are many students who visit the area. We went there before we even knew that the girls work there. So, it's just common to be in that area and possibly even to be at the restaurant. Although, the restaurant though is saying that the people report is not true.

They put out a lengthy statement saying, in part, that we, "decided to collectively support the families and not share anything that could potentially harm the investigation or cause the families more stress." And they are not the only ones choosing not to speak. There is a broad and sweeping gag order that does not allow people to talk about this case, Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. Camila Bernal, thank you so much.

All right, just a day after involuntary manslaughter charges were announced against actor Alec Baldwin and armorer Hannah Gutierrez- Reed, we're learning the film Rust is still in production. An attorney for the movie tells CNN, the film will include onset safety supervisors and union crew members and will bar any use of working weapons or any ammunition.

Baldwin did not speak to reporters about the charges against him when walking into his Manhattan home on Friday. Here now is CNN Nick Watt. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Baldwin's lawyers say he was blindsided by the criminal charges. Baldwin, himself, told CNN just a few months ago --

ALEC BALDWIN, AMERICAN ACTOR: They're going to -- they're not -- they're not going to charge anybody in my mind. Criminal charges are things you avoid unless you know you can make a case.

WATT: Baldwin was a producer on Rust and an actor he was pointing the gun not knowing it was loaded towards cinematographer Halyna Hutchins when it went off, killing her.

MARY CARMACK-ALTWIES, DISTRICT ATTORNEY, NEW MEXICO: He's been charged as both. He was the actor that pulled the trigger, so, certainly, he is -- he's charged as an actor.

WATT: Baldwin denies he pulled the trigger and an actor charged for an accident on set is raising some eyebrows.

DUNCAN CRABTREE-IRELAND, NATIONAL EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, SAG-AFTRA: Actors cannot be expected and are not expected to do final safety checks.

BALDWIN: My job is not to concentrate on whether the gun is safe. We have people there for that.


WATT: Like the armorer, Hannah Gutierrez-Reed, who is charged with involuntary manslaughter along with Baldwin. Baldwin, says the first Assistant Director Dave Halls, actually handed him the weapon, told him it was safe.

LISA TORRACO, ATTORNEY FOR DAVID HALLS: We stand very firm that he did not hand the gun to Alec Baldwin.

WATT: Halls has signed a plea agreement for the charge of negligent use of a deadly weapon.

Still unanswered, how did live ammunition even get onto the set?

TORRACO: We have an idea.

WATT: So, can she share that idea?

TORRACO: I can't. And the reason I can't is we have given that information to the district attorney and they need to do their own follow up.

WATT: Accidents like this are very, very rare. Brandon Lee, son of Bruce was killed on a film set nearly 30 years ago, hit by a bullet fragment fired from a prop gun that should have been empty.

Criminal charges were never filed. This actor was holding the gun. MICHAEL MASSEE, FORMER AMERICAN ACTOR: I mean, what happened to Brandon was a tragic accident and it's something that I'm -- that I'm going to live with.

WATT: However, this criminal case against Alec Baldwin plays out. He will live with what happened to Halyna.

BALDWIN: The toughest part is we can never bring her back. Never. There's nothing we can do to undo that. I give anything to undo that. And we can't.

WATT (on camera): Now, a civil settlement was reached with Halyna Hutchins' family a couple of months ago. Part of that deal, her husband, Matthew will serve as an executive producer on Rust if filming resumes.

Now, at the time, Matthew Hutchins said that he had quote, no interest in recriminations or attribution of blame that his wife's death was a terrible accident. But now, the family says that these charges are, "warranted".

And, by the way, if Alec Baldwin is convicted, jail time is a possibility. Nick Watt, CNN, Los Angeles.


WHITFIELD: All right. There is so much to talk about. Let's bring in now Shan Wu. He is a defense attorney and former federal prosecutor. Good to see you. And Steve Wolf. He's a gun safety expert with decades of experience in the film and television industry, and the CEO of Team Good to see you as well.

So, Shan Wu, I begin with you. What do the charges of involuntary manslaughter translate to? What does it mean?

SHAN WU, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR (on camera): What -- it's going to translate to, Fred, is it's almost like a civil trial. They're going to have to show that the degree of carelessness, negligence, recklessness, rose to a level above a civil cases, jurisdiction. That is really criminal in nature.

And that is a -- in my opinion, a steep climb in this case. You'll see that sometimes, with drunk driving types of charges, someone's being grossly negligent. They know that they're doing something very dangerous.

I think the challenge here for the prosecution is they're going to have an extended civil case going on. And there's already been a civil settlement.

I was so struck by Nick's reporting just now remembering the tragedy with Brandon Lee. In that case, that actor was actually pointing the gun at Brandon, because that's what the scene called for.

Here, Baldwin's team is going to raise it may have been accidentally pointed towards Miss Hutchins. But that wasn't part of the scene. So, more to the state of mind of being accidental. So, it's a tough case for them.

WHITFIELD: It really is. And I mean, Steve, it's so great to have you, especially with your expertise on sets.

And, you know, Alec Baldwin, you know, with this charge now, even though he was handed the gun, we've heard him explain it, and others too that fire that fatal shot. He maintains it, he didn't load it.

So, can you explain to people, you know, the sequence of events before an actor, even though he may be a producer -- you know, of the film? What are the sequence of events when a gun, a firearm is handed to an actor? How many hands does it go through before getting to an actor like Alec Baldwin?

STEVE WOLF, WEAPONS SAFETY EXPERT FOR FILMS: Fredricka, there is -- there should really only be two hands. And that should be the armorer on the set, the armorer picks up the gun, opens it, in this case, rotates the cylinder, clears it, make sure there's nothing in here, and then, shows it to the actor. If the actor doesn't know how to do that themselves. They show that. And then, the actor needs to be comfortable but there's also nothing in there.

Then, the gun is handed to the actor. The armorer will tell the actor, you may point the gun here, you may point the gun here, you may not point the gun there. There are people over there. And when we're -- when they yell, cut, I want you to point the gun at the ground. I'll come over and I'll take it from you, and I'll secure it back in the safe.

That's what's supposed to happen. When Alec says he relied on experts, this is untrue, because he hired an armorer regardless of what her qualifications were. And she was not present. So, he knew that he wasn't taking the gun from the armorer.


And for Dave Halls, the first A.D., to come in and say cold gun, really should have no more important than, if the caterer came in and said, cold gun. You know, that's just their opinion, it has nothing to do with the safety chain of command. So, having worked on so many films, as he has, if he knows, Dave Halls is not the armorer, he knows that Hannah is. And he knows that he is the only person that he should rely on for that information.

WHITFIELD: So, if Alec Baldwin was negligent about that, you know that the ordinary sequence was not carried out, then, would it be his role to even do like a test firing shot of that gun to know whether or not it is, you know, safe to proceed?

I mean, if it's the assistant, the first assistant director, who would hand him the gun, you know, should he trust that it is a cold gun, it's safe, what do you do any kind of test before handling it any further and it whether it be accidental or it was fired off, and then, would hit Halyna? WOLF: You know, a visual test is sufficient. You know, if you -- if you can see that there's nothing in there, that -- that's sufficient. So, you don't have to do a drop fire test, you know, six times on every cylinder, if you've looked at every cylinder, and you know that there's nothing in there.

But that was not done. It wasn't done by Hannah, because she wasn't called on the set. And it wasn't done by Dave, because it's not his job, and he probably wouldn't know how to do it. But Alec was given an opportunity to learn how to use this gun.

Hannah did say, this is a single action Colt 45. If you haven't used one of these, I'd like to teach you how it works. And Alec said, no, I'm good. You know, and never made time to learn how to do it safely.


WHITFIELD: How do you know that?

WOLF: So, I would say, you know, if we wanted him to be, you know, do rocket surgery or something, OK, bring in an expert.

But basic firearm safety is not beyond the scope of a reasonable expectation for any actor. If you can remember 120 lines of script, you can remember for basic safety rules.

WHITFIELD: So, Steve, how do you know that, in terms of, you know, Alec, saying no, I'm OK. I'm OK. I got it?

WOLF: Well, this is in the transcript from Hannah's deposition, which, you know, so I'm not, you know, validating the veracity of the statement.


WOLF: But it was corroborated by other people on set that said, he was offered the chance to learn how to use this safely. He declined it.

So, if you've been told, here is the safe way to do something -- I don't want to hear it, then, you're accepting responsibility.


WHITFIELD: So, then --

WOLF: Also, if you take the gun from someone who's not the armorer --

WHITFIELD: Sorry. Yes.

WOLF: Then, it's not -- then, the safety is on you.

WHITFIELD: So, then, what does that tell you to then, Steve, about the first Assistant Director Dave Halls, then pleading, I mean, cooperating with the district attorney?

WOLF: I guess when he's not a team player, he's looking out for himself.


WHITFIELD: But does it say to you, he's got some kind of incriminating information besides? You know, saving your own hide to an extent -- you know, do you believe that he has, you know, some incriminating information that he felt he needed to divulge that helps solidify an involuntary manslaughter charge against on Alec Baldwin, and at the same time, save himself?

WOLF: Well, the plea made the most sense for him, because he is the guy who yelled fire in the movie theatre, right? He is the guy who picked up the gun and yelled cold gun without checking it. So, he did give misinformation to the entire crew. Because he didn't check it. And probably in his experience, you know, he gets a gun from the armorer, the armorer tells him cold gun, and he just repeats cold gun. So, it was just a matter of habit for him to yell, cold gun. But that's not how it works. You yelled cold gun, after you've personally checked it.

And each person who handles the firearm is responsible for checking its condition. The armorer checks it, they handed to the actor, the actor checks it because she's taught him how to do it. She hands it -- when he hands it back to her, then she checks it again before she puts it in the safe. So, the first rule of gun safety, you know, all guns are always loaded. So, this means that when I pick up a gun, and I check it myself, I can now say this is an unloaded gun.

The second part of that rule is that the gun remains in the unloaded status only while it is in your hands and under your control. If I set this gun down, it's now technically a loaded gun. If I hand this to someone else, it's a loaded gun. It only reverts to unloaded status when the person picking it up, checks it, and that's why you check it every single time.

And the fact that he didn't have someone there checking it, was a negligent. Alec has worked on many movie sets. He's worked with professional armorers. On his 2020 interview, he described exactly what the procedure looks like when you're working with the real armorer. And he knows that that's not what was happening.

There was no one there checking to make sure that there wasn't live ammo on the set. And that gateway point is, you know, just like people aren't supposed to bring guns on air planes. OK. Well, then, how come the TSA catches 3,000 of them a year?


Well, good, because they're the final safety point to make sure that nothing happens. The armorer is that final safety point to make sure live ammo doesn't get in the gun. So, this is a live round. It has a primer on the back. That is un-dimpled, and it has an intact case. And the bullet which is the part that comes out of it.

This is not a bullet. This is a cartridge. This is a bullet. The bullet is the projectile that comes out. This is exactly the projectile that killed Halyna and injured the director. So, how do you know that this isn't blank or dummy round?

One, a dummy round has a dimple on the back of the primer. A dummy round has holes drilled into it. You can see that. And a dummy round -- can you hear that?


WOLF: Dummy -- you hear that?

WHITFIELD: Yes, I do. That's fascinating.

WOLF: OK. So, the dummy round has B.B.s (PH) in it too.


WOLF: So, that's called a rattle check. So, when someone loads a gun that may be used on set --


WHITFIELD: There's a lot of fail safes.

WOLF: Yes. They rattle check every round.


WOLF: The provider of the ammo claims that he rattled checked every round. I don't believe that, because he was sending mixed boxes that contain both live ammo, and dummy rounds. But it doesn't matter, right? Mistakes can happen, people could bring live ammo on the set. It's New Mexico, probably half the people are carrying guns anyway.

So, the issue is not at all how live ammo got on the set. Live ammo is in the world. So, therefore, it could permeate a set. But that is irrelevant if you rattle check and visually inspect each round that you put in the gun, or if you inspect to make sure that the gun is, in fact, unloaded.

WHITFIELD: Yes. Well, on --

WOLF: So, that's why it's so essential that you have your knowledge, of the armorer being the first line of defense and the last line of defense making sure no one's getting hurt.

WHITFIELD: Sure. I mean, Steve, that's incredibly compelling. Something tells me you'll be getting a phone call to be an expert witness with that explanation, because that is the best I've heard thus far.

But then, Shan, I know that, you know, Steve, you just said, it doesn't really matter about how the live rounds got there. But that is a critical question. Is it not, Shan in this investigation? Or at least, the -- you know, the D.A.s case about, you know -- how did these live rounds even come about? Why would these live rounds be mixed in with dummy rounds on a set? Why would you ever need live rounds? So, does that doesn't the D.A. have to answer that? I mean, we know the attorney for the first assistant director said they have the answer to that. That has been shared. But how important is that, in your view, in this case, to determine, you know, where these live rounds came from?

WU: It's very important. I mean, Steve, pretty much just laid out the prosecution's case, with the negligence rising to the level of criminal culpability. They'll point out things like Alec Baldwin is experienced, just as Steve did.

The problem for the prosecution, though, isn't that, it's they had to convince a jury that Baldwin committed this crime. And that's when reasonable doubt creeps in. And reasonable doubt here is going to be issues like, why did the live ammo end up on the set? Why did the assistant director who got a better deal get to have the better deal when he is the one that announced called gun even though he wasn't supposed to?

And there's a bigger picture that I'm sure they'll bring in, which is, they're going to say, look, Baldwin's an actor, right? And actors need to follow the rules on the sets, just like anybody else. But to criminally charged the actor here, that has big repercussions for the acting industry, and that is going to permeate this as well.

So, it's one thing to be in technical violation, which is certain sounds like they were, it's another to convince a group of citizens that someone like Baldwin should be held accountable as a matter of criminal liability. And if they try the cases together, he's going to be sitting next to the armorer, who clearly, under the rules, as Steve pointed out, has primary responsibility. So, it's very challenging case for criminal prosecution.

WHITFIELD: Fascinating. Well --


WOLF: In Mexico, actually, they can't tried together, they have to be tried separately, and they don't have to establish intent on a manslaughter charge.

WU: Right.

WOLF: They simply have to establish that it occurred.

WHITFIELD: Wow. All right, both of you wearing many hats, making us all smarter. Thank you so much. Really, really fascinating. And I know we're going to be learning more as more information does become public before this case, actually goes to trial.

Shan Wu, Steve Wolf, thanks so much to both of you. Appreciate it.

WU: Good to see you.

WOLF: Thanks so much. WHITFIELD: All right. Still ahead, a Florida officials are citing a Republican Governor Ron De Santis' Stop W.O.K.E. Act as a means to block an African American A.P. studies course.


Details on that next.


WHITFIELD: Welcome back. Education officials in Florida are explaining why they blocked a new advanced placement course for high school students on African American Studies.

Last week, they told the College Board in a letter that the proposed course is, I'm quoting now, "contrary to Florida law and significantly lacks educational value". And a document later provided to CNN, Governor Ron DeSantis, his office, explains, Florida rejected the course because it includes topics like the Black Lives Matter movement, black feminism, and reparations.

CNN's Sara Sidner has more.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): Florida is where woke goes to die.

SARA SIDNER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voiceover): Florida Governor Ron DeSantis' administration has blocked a new advanced placement course on African American studies for high school students.

In a letter this month to the College Board, the nonprofit organization that oversees A.P. coursework, the Florida Department of Education said the course is, "inexplicably contrary to Florida law, and significantly lacks educational value.


While the letter did not specify what the agency found objectionable, a spokesman for DeSantis said, the course, "leaves large, ambiguous gaps that can be filled with additional ideological material, which we will not allow."

DESANTIS: Well, let me be clear, there is no room in our classrooms for things like critical race theory. Teaching kids to hate their country and to hate each other is not worth one red cent of taxpayer money.

SIDNER: The rejection of the course follows efforts by DeSantis to overhaul Florida's educational curriculum to limit teaching about critical race theory.

Though, there's little evidence it's taught in K-through 12 schools.

But in 2021, the state enacted a law that ban teaching the concept, which explores the history of systematic racism in the United States and its continued impacts.

Last year, DeSantis also signed a bill restricting how schools can talk about race with students.

DESANTIS: And I think what you see now with the rise of this woke ideology is an attempt to really delegitimize our history, and to delegitimize our institutions.

SIDNER: As DeSantis weighs a political 2024 presidential bid, his latest move signals a willingness by the rising GOP star to continue to engage in clashes over hot button cultural issues, a strategy that has boosted his standing among conservatives.

DESANTIS: We will fight the woke in our schools. We will never ever surrender to the woke agenda.

SIDNER: An apparent syllabus for the class was shared with CNN, and runs more than 80 pages, and provides a course framework covering a wide range of topics, from the Empires of Sudan, to the Haitian Revolution to Black Feminism.

LISA HILL, CO-CHAIR, AFRICAN AMERICAN STUDIES A.P. COURSE: I have been working with this for a couple of years, and we have been very careful to be inclusive. And it's not just a history course, it includes literature and art, and geography, and political science, not politics.

SIDNER: Lisa Hill is teaching the course now. She heads the History Department at Hamden Hall Country Day School in Connecticut. She is baffled by the DeSantis administration's criticism.

SIDNER (on camera): Do you think this course is teaching CRT?

HILL: Absolutely not. In fact, that's one of the statements. This is not a CRT course.

There is a conflation, an idea that this course is CRT, but with an A.P. label, which is incorrect.

SIDNER (voice over): The course is being offered as a pilot in 60 schools across the country during the 2022-23 school year. It was not immediately clear if Florida even had any schools participating in the pilot program.


WHITFIELD: Sara Sidner, thank you so much.

And next hour, I'll talk with a professor of anti-racist research about Florida's controversial decision.

Still ahead, a standoff between key Western allies is leaving Ukraine in a dire situation, as President Zelenskyy pleads for more tanks on the battlefield.

We'll discuss straight ahead. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


WHITFIELD: All right, now to a standoff over Ukraine. The U.S. and its Western allies are pressuring Germany to supply its Leopard tanks to Ukraine ahead of anticipated Russian offensive. But Germany says it isn't ready to commit to sending the tanks, which are seen as more suited for the Ukrainian battlefield than other tanks. Ukraine's President Zelenskyy, addressing a meeting of allies, saying the time for talk has passed.


PRES. VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINE: The war started by Russia does not allow delays, and I can thank you hundreds of times, and it will be absolutely just and fear, given all that we have already done. But, but hundreds of thank you are not hundreds of tanks.


WHITFIELD: Germany said it will take an inventory of its tanks, but again did not commit to sending them. Let's bring in Bill Browder here, the CEO of Hermitage Capital and the author of "Freezing Order: A True Story of Russian Money Laundering, murder, and Surviving Vladimir Putin's Wrath." So good to see you again. So, President Zelenskyy, I mean, boy, he has a way with words, doesn't he? And then he's pleading with the west, you know, for more military hardware, in particular these German Leopard tanks. Why is Germany hesitating?

BILL BROWDER, CEO, HERMITAGE CAPITAL: You know, it's sort of inexplicable this German position. They are out there on their own at this point. Everybody else is ready to supply tanks and other types of weapons and the Germans are standing there in their own area. And I should point out that this is not the first time that Germany has been in this position.

When the war first started, Britain was deploying military aid to Ukraine and they wouldn't -- the Germans wouldn't even let British Air Force jets fly over German airspace. The Germans have a long history of effectively, you know, playing both sides to the middle. And this is a very good example, and it's a shameful example.

WHITFIELD: Well, why? I mean who, you know, is the country's leadership appealing to?

BROWDER: Well, it's inexplicable. I mean, you know, you watched these images of civilians being massacred in Ukraine and it's just hard to understand. You know, the cynic in me would say that the Germans are hoping that the war will end and they could go back and do a lot of business with the Russians that there might be some kind of motivation around that, but the Germans have always been this way.

At the time, years ago, when people were saying that Russia is a dangerous place, Germany was becoming more dependent on Russian gas by building the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. The Nord Stream 2 pipeline, I should point out, was a pipeline designed by Russia to bypass Ukraine, specifically to squeeze Ukraine so Ukraine had less economic leverage over Russia because Russia wanted to harm Ukraine. And this was, you know, back in 2015, 2016, et cetera. So this is not new that Germany is doing this. We should all understand that Germany does this and we shouldn't let Germany off the hook.


WHITFIELD: We also heard yesterday that the U.S. is going to label this Wagner Group, which Putin has been relying on, right, which is a mercenary group fighting for Russia, calling it a transaction -- transnational criminal organization. And that might make it more difficult for other countries, organizations to do business with the Wagner Group. Do you think this is going to make a huge impact?

BROWDER: Well, it's hard to say. I mean this is truly a transnational criminal organization. The Wagner Group is, what they do is they take murderers and other rapists and other terrible people out of Russian prisons, and they say, if you go and fight in Ukraine for six months, you no longer have to serve your sentence. And so it's kind of the criminal brigade of the Russian military.

They do terrible things in Ukraine, rapes, murders of civilians in the most horrific way. And I should point out that the Wagner Group isn't just involved in Ukraine. They're also involved in providing mercenaries in Africa in exchange for money and resources. And they also were the ones who were involved in hacking the U.S. election. They were the ones involved in all the troll factories and so on and so forth. And so this is a very malign group. I'm surprised it took them this long to name them a transnational criminal organization.

Will the sanctions work? Sort of, maybe, possibly. But they have a lot of money coming from places that the sanctions won't touch. But it's the least we can do in terms of labeling and, you know, trying to stop this awful organization from going forward.

WHITFIELD: President Zelenskyy called time line, a Russian weapon. But how much longer can the Kremlin continue to fund this war? I mean, how much longer can Ukraine endure this invasion?

BROWDER: Well, so this is the thing. So on one hand, Putin is running out of weapons and his men are getting killed. But on the other hand, he doesn't have an electorate. He's a dictator. He doesn't care what people think of him. And so he can go on doing inflicting terrible damage on his own country without any sort of electoral effect. There's no press to get it get on his back, whereas we have democracies where over some period of time, people may grow tired and may get off the front pages. People start questioning the money that goes into it.

And so it really is, you know, I would say time is on Putin's side only because, you know, in our sort of, you know, news, short attention span world, we may not have so much sympathy in the future for Ukraine. And if that's the case, and Putin gets his advantage, and that's where he could win the war, even if he's losing it right now. And so that's why we need to give these weapons to Ukraine as soon as possible so they can finish off what they've started, which is to expel Russia.

WHITFIELD: Yes, a very sad scenario coming up on the one year marker on when the Russian invasion of Ukraine began. Bill Browder, thank you so much.

BROWDER: Thank you.


WHITFIELD: We'll be right back.


WHITFIELD: The next round of NFL playoffs kicks off in just a few hours. And tomorrow are the Buffalo Bills and Cincinnati Bengals face off just weeks after Bills' safety Damar Hamlin suffered a cardiac arrest on the field. Who can forget that? Well, CNN's Coy Wire is joining me right now from outside the Bills stadium. He's back home. Coy, tell us more about what can be expected at this game.

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR & CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is going to be absolutely one heck of a football game on the field. I mean, the Bengals, they're looking to go back to the AFC Championship game for a second straight season, the Bills for a second time in three seasons. But there's no doubt the focus is going to be more on Damar Hamlin. The first time, as you mentioned, these two teams meeting since his traumatic collapse on the field three weeks ago when they were playing.

And through this, the world, Fred, has really come to know how special of a young man Damar Hamlin is, joyful, full of love, waiting and wanting to help others. And that's inspired so many fans around the world to do the same. I caught up with two women. A Bills fan named Aaron Oliver (ph) and Emily McGeehe (ph), a Bengals fan who came together after that injury, and they launched hearts for Hamlin and Higgins, a lifesaving campaign encouraging people to get trained in CPR.

So it just shows the power of sport, bringing people together from opposing sides to uplift, inspire and unite and create positive change in the world. I do want to show you something that we visited yesterday here in Buffalo, Fred. Look how Damar Hamlin and his number three have become a symbol for spreading love. A mural in Larkin Square in Buffalo, the artist Adam Zyglis says it's dedicated to all the people who came together to support Damar and Buffalo. And he says that bringing people together is what Buffalo does best. So incredible stuff and powerful stuff happening through sport here in Buffalo, Fred.

WHITFIELD: Boy, that artist did a great job. That's really moving. All right, Coy Wire, thanks so much.


We'll be right back.


WHITFIELD: Since the beginning of the deadly COVID pandemic, many have chosen to embrace misinformation about the virus and vaccine. CNN's Randi Kaye has a story of a Michigan man who was lured by the teachings of a conspiracy theorist in 2020. And his family claims he hasn't been seen since.


ABIGAIL DANIAN, ISAAC DANIAN'S MOM: We were out of town. We came back from Chicago. He was gone.

RANDI KAYE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Abigail and John Danian haven't seen their son, Isaac, since September of 2020. That's when they say he ran off to Hawaii, to follow his so-called guru.

MATTHEW MELLOW, YOUTUBER: I've known about the end times, for many years.

KAYE (voice-over): That guru? Matthew Mellow. He goes by the name, Mortekai Eleazar, on social media, including his YouTube channel, where he offers sermons, about what he says, is Satan's plan, to destroy society, and false claims, about the dangers of the COVID-19 vaccine, which he calls, the "Mark of the Beast."


MELLOW: Today, people don't even know what the Mark of the Beast is. Those who do, still don't. They think it's a RFID chip or something of that manner.

KAYE (voice-over): Mellow had posted this recruitment video online, encouraging men to join him, and sail to the South Pacific. In it, he suggested society was doomed.

MELLOW: I'd like to extend an invitation. I'm basically the coordinator of this trip.

KAYE (voice-over): Back home, in Grand Rapids, Michigan, 20-year-old Isaac Danian signed up. His parents say, his mental health had worsened since the pandemic began, and that he'd mistakenly come to believe the vaccine was the government's way of controlling the population. Even the COVID test scared him.

He'd been encouraging his parents to sell all their belongings, and move to a bunker. At the time, they had no idea he'd been listening to the teachings of Matthew Mellow.

Labor Day weekend 2020, Isaac left home without warning. He left behind this note for his younger siblings, warning them, do not get the vaccine or you won't make it to heaven. Author and journalist, David Wolman, investigated this case for "The New York Times."

DAVID WOLMAN, AUTHOR: This guru clown, who was based in Hawaii at the time, he convinced them to fly to Hawaii and join him on this journey across a huge portion of the Pacific Ocean, to find some COVID-free place, where they could start again and escape Satan's grand plan.

KAYE (voice-over): Isaac called his parents on October 4th, 2020 from Hawaii to say he'd be off the grid for about 30 days. He would not say who he was with or where he was going.

A. DANIAN: He said it was better if he didn't. But he always said, I wish I could tell you.

KAYE (voice-over): This is one of the last text messages, Isaac sent his mother. October 4th, 2020, a photo of a giant fish he'd caught. His family never heard from him again. They would learn later from sheriff's investigators that he'd connected with Matthew Mellow, who had arranged for a couple of boat captains to sail him and his recruits to the South Pacific, where COVID hadn't taken hold.

Isaac and another man from Rochester, New York, named Shukree Abdul- Rashed would go in Captain Mike Schmidt's boat, while Mellow left days later in another boat.

MIKE SCHMIDT, BOAT CAPTAIN: They actually had a really good time these two. We caught a lot of fish.


KAYE (voice-over): The trip took a dark turn, when after almost two months at sea, Captain Schmidt approached the island of Wallis, a French territory, between Hawaii and New Zealand. Schmidt says, when he alerted local authorities about their arrival, Isaac and Abdul- Rashed panicked about having to take a COVID test to enter. He says, they did the unthinkable and suddenly jumped overboard.

SCHMIDT: They were afraid of taking the COVID test as it being the Mark of the Beast. Now, they had gotten involved with the guru. They were convinced that for sure that the PCR test had that there is things inside, along with the vaccine. And the vaccine route wasn't even really out.

KAYE (voice-over): Schmidt says he called Wallis Island authorities for help and flagged down a fishing boat to search. He believes the men had a plan to slip into oblivion with Mellow, giving up all ties to the United States.

WOLMAN: They had really been led astray by this Instagram-era want-to- be prophet guru who for some strange reason just spoke in just the right way and manner and with the right diction to draw these two young men in. It was really this witches' brew of COVID conspiracy theory meets end times prophecy, meets kind of DIY Christian fundamentalism, meets a lot of stress and turmoil regarding the 2020 election.

KAYE (voice-over): Mellow didn't respond to our repeated requests for comment. According to this French Police report, Captain Schmidt was interrogated. And authorities confiscated his 9-millimeter pistol, laptop, and Garmin GPS device from the boat. Schmidt was eventually cleared in that investigation. SCHMIDT: I never did anything to harm these guys ever.

KAYE (voice-over): Dive teams searched the area for the men but found nothing. Isaac's parents filed this missing person report with the Kent County Sheriff's Department in Michigan and have appealed to the State Department and French authorities for help. But years later, they are no closer to finding their son.

A. DANIAN: We do have hope he's alive because there hasn't been any evidence to prove otherwise. It's possible that he wanted to go off the grid. And he's in a manic state. It's possible that he was unwillingly kidnapped. It is possible that he drowned. If somebody said to you, your child probably died, would you just accept that and move on? It's not something we can do.



KAYE: Isaac's parents recently got a letter from French authorities saying that they've closed the investigation. They basically concluded that these men jumped off the boat and drowned. His parents are considering appealing that ruling. We did speak with the Kent County Sheriff's Department in Michigan, and they said that their investigation into the missing person is still open.

As far as where Matthew Mellow, this so called guru is, David Wolman, who wrote that article for "The New York Times," did track him down on an island in French Polynesia. He said he's still there peddling this nonsense and saying false claims about COVID-19. He said he's riding his bike around and handing out leaflets telling parents not to vaccinate their children.

Randi Kaye, CNN.

WHITFIELD: Thank you so much, Randi.

All right, still ahead, three active duty U.S. Marines are under arrest and facing charges for participating in the January 6th insurrection. Details about their alleged roles, straight ahead.