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New Questions Surrounding George Santos' Campaign Loans; Opening Statements Underway In Alex Murdaugh's Double Murder Trial. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired January 25, 2023 - 15:30   ET



EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUDICE CORRESPONDENT: President Biden views that -- his people view this as an indication that, you know, it's easy for these documents to inadvertently end up where they weren't supposed to be. And of course, in the case of President Trump -- former President Trump, his team thinks that this -- all of this makes much more difficult, for the Justice Department to bring any kind of charges in the hundreds of classified documents that have been recovered in Mar-a-Lago. Of course, that is yet to be seen, what that investigation turns into -- Victor and Alisyn.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: OK. Evan Perez, thank you.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: The campaign of embattled Congressman George Santos has filed updated reports with federal regulators, but they're raising more questions than answers about the source of large personal loans he said he made to his campaign. Santos who is as you know, in hot water for fabrications about his finances and his biography, and his resume. He previously said that he lent his campaign about $700,000. CNN's Jessica Dean joins us now live from Capitol Hill. So, what do the new filings say?

JESSICA DEAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's where things get a little confusing, Victor and Alisyn. So, you just mentioned, Victor, that he had previously said he personally loaned his campaign just over $700,000. Well, in this new, amended filing or filings as it were, there are a couple of loans, one for about $500,000, another for $125,000, and now the boxes to indicate that those came from personal funds are left unchecked. So it raises a lot of questions about where this money came from. If it didn't come from personal funds, where did it come from? Of course, these are very large sums of money, and there were already a lot of questions about where he personally would have gotten some $700,000. My colleague, Manu Raju caught up with him earlier today and look at how this exchange went.



REP. GEORGE SANTOS (R-NY): Let's make it very clear, I don't amend anything of my FEC stuff. So, don't be disingenuous and report that I did. You know that other campaigns hires fiduciaries. So, I'm not aware of that answer and will have an answer for the press regarding the amendment from yesterday.

RAJU: What was the --


DEAN: So again, just a lot of questions remain about the money when it comes to Congressman George Santos. And really that's also where for the House Ethics Committee, where they're going to be asked to look into his financial filings, his financial disclosures, Victor and Alisyn. Where are the discrepancies here? Where did some of this funding come from? Those are a lot of the questions that a lot of people are asking right now.

BLACKWELL: Jessica Dean, thank you so much.

CAMEROTA: Let's bring in Alyssa Farah Griffin. We also have a CNN political commentator and former Trump White House communications director senior editor. And Ron Brownstein is a CNN political analyst and senior editor for "The Atlantic." George Santos is exhausting, and I guess that's the point, Alyssa. I mean, it's like we -- it all blurs together. I can barely keep track of the various lies.

However, the campaign filings might be in a different category. One of the watchdog groups that looks at these things, the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington says it could be that this is the single sloppiest bookkeeping of any candidate we've ever seen. It is the most confusing SEC filing we've ever seen. This is in a different category and maybe will there be repercussions for this one?

ALYSSA FARAH GRIFFIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: So there will be, Yes. It's not a crime to lie about your mom being killed on 9/11, some of the horrific and just bizarre outright lies he told. Two frankly lie, to lie in politics, people do it in Washington every day. You can't lie about campaign finance. I think he knows that the clock is ticking on his time in Washington. Listen, he's going to run out his Congressional seat until the next cycle. But the SEC will catch up with him on this. This is not something you can play fast in loose with, saying you're contributing -- are loaning your campaign money when in reality, you're not showing where that money is coming from. This is where he's most likely to get caught up. The House Ethics Committee investigation which is separate, really only has teeth so long as he's a sitting member of Congress, which I can't imagine --

CAMEROTA: Alyssa, sorry to interrupt up. We're go to opening statements now. This is for the Alex Murdaugh case.

CREIGHTON WATERS, SOUTH CAROLINA SENIOR ASSISTANT DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: ... p.m. and the defendant over there, Alex Murdaugh, took a 12-gauge shotgun and shot him in the shoulder -- in the chest and the shoulder with buckshot, and the evidence is going to show it was a million to one shot he could have survived that. But after that another shot went up under his head and did catastrophic damage to his brain, and his head.


The evidence is going to show that Paul collapsed right outside that theatre, and just moments later -- just moments later, he picked up a 300 blackout which is tight with ammunition and an AR-style rifle, and the evidence is going to show that the family had multiple weapons throughout the property, picked up that 300 blackout rifle and opened fire on his wife Maggie, just feet away near some sheds that used to be a hangar. Pow, pow. Two shots, abdomen and the leg, and took her down. And after that, there were additional shots, including two shots to the head and again, did catastrophic damage and killed her instantly.

The evidence is going to show that neither Paul nor Maggie had any defensive wounds. Neither one of them had any defensive wounds, as if they didn't see a threat coming from their attacker. And the evidence is also going to show that both Maggie and Paul were shot at extremely close range.

The evidence is going to show it's called stippling. It's almost like a tattoo. That when you get shot very close to a weapon it leaves marks that the forensic pathologist can see. They were shot at close range and they did not have defensive wounds.

And the evidence is going to show that the defendant Alex Murdaugh over there told anyone who would listen that he was never at those kennels, but the evidence is also going to show from these things that every one of us, most of us carry around in our pocket, that he was there, and he was there just minutes before with Maggie and Paul, just minutes before their cell phones go silent forever, despite what he told people. I was never at those kennels. The cell phones are going to show otherwise.

Ladies and gentlemen, my name is Creighton Waters. I'm with the Attorney General's office, and I will be the lead prosecutor. I introduced myself before. With me is David Fernandez, Savanna Goude, John Meadors, Don Zelenka, John Conrad and Johnny James -- a lot of lawyers. This is a big case. It's a very complicated case, and that's why there are so many people working on it. Sitting in back of the row, we have David Owen who's the lead investigator. We have Lieutenant Charles Gent who's one of the agents -- special agent Ryan Kelly and special agent Peter Radomski (ph). Some of the agents that are working on the case as well as investigator Isaac Toledo who is working on the case as well. There are some of the witnesses that you will hear from as we go through this case.

The judge talked to you a little bit about him being the judge of the law, and he gives you the law. And I'm going to talk a little bit about some of the legal concepts before I turn back to those facts. Just remember, though, he's the judge of the law. So you take what he says, but I'm going to explain to you some of the legal issues from our perspective before we talk about the other things.

And the first thing is right before he went to lunch, you all, all took an oath. Everybody in this courtroom who's got involvement in this case takes an oath. Attorneys take an oath to become an attorney. You take another oath to become a prosecutor. A judge takes another oath to become a judge. Witnesses take an oath on the stands. Law enforcement take oaths to become law enforcement. But you all took an oath as well, and the reason why is that you all have the most important job in this courtroom.

Everyone raised your hand and said that you would well and truly try this case, and it's the most important job here. Because like the judge said, he's the judge of the law, but you all are the judge of the facts. You all are going to listen to what comes from that witness stand and judge those facts. But you also have to be mindful of that oath. That oath requires you to do that hard job, to make that decision, to call the strike when you see it. It's the same oath and just as important as any other oath. This might be the most important in this room.

The judge mentioned reasonable doubt. And he's exactly right. It's the state's burden to prove this case beyond a reasonable doubt. That is a cornerstone of our country. I wouldn't have it any other way. It's burden we welcome. It's what we want. It's a system that has been well tested and true, and we take that burden to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt. And I want to remind everyone that the emphasis is on reasonable. OK, it's not on any doubt. It is reasonable doubt.

Reasonable doubt is often defined, again listening to a judge, how he defines it, but reasonable doubt is a doubt that would cause a reasonable person to hesitate to act. To hesitate to act. And when you hear the evidence coming from this stand about this particular case, I submit a you won't hesitate to act. Again, remember the emphasis on reasonable in reasonable doubt.

The judge mentioned the charges, and there are four of them.


First indictment accuses Alex Murdaugh to which he's pled not guilty but accuses him of murdering Maggie Murdaugh. The second indictment accuses him of murdering Paul Murdaugh. The third indictment accuses him of possessing a firearm during the commission of a violent crime, that being the murder of Maggie Murdaugh. And the last one accuses him of possessing a firearm during the commission of a violent crime, and that being the murder of Paul Murdaugh.

And what does that mean? What is murder? Well, the judge, again, is going to instruct you. It is the unlawful killing of another with malice of forthright. And what is malice? Malice is a mental state. That's ultimately going to be for you all to determine as to what was going through Alex Murdaugh's mind when he committed these crimes.

What is malice? Malice is often been defined as the intentional doing of an wrongful act without just cause or excuse. It is the intent of inflicting injury under circumstances that the law would presume an evil intent -- an evil intent.

When you look at the circumstances of the crime, and you look at what led up to this crime, the evidence is going to show that there was malice and forethought. Forethought, what does that mean? It means it has to exist at the

moment you commit that crime. It doesn't have to be planned. It doesn't have to be planned for any long period of time. It just has to exist a split second before the crime is committed. And when you see this crime and you hear all the circumstances, the evidence is going to show that forethought existed for a while. It existed for a while in the mind of Alex Murdaugh.

You're also going to hear about circumstantial evidence. And a lot of times people hear, oh, it's just a circumstantial case. But the law says otherwise. The law says that circumstantial evidence is just good as direct evidence. And what's the difference between the two? Direct evidence is supposedly about the out of here, from what I'm told. Direct evidence is if it's sunny outside and the witness goes outside and it's sunny and they come here and they get on that witness stand. And because they saw it raining, they sit on the stand and say, I was just outside and I saw it raining. I saw it raining. That's direct evidence. They actually saw it rain.

But to give you an example of what circumstantial evidence is, is if the witness goes into a room, a room where the curtains are drawn, and when they go into that room it's sunny outside, and everything's dry. And while there in that room they see it darken behind the shades, they hear thunder, they hear the wind blowing, they hear the sounds of rain drops on the roof, and then they open up the door, and it's not raining, but everything is wet. There's puddles in the driveway. There's puddles in the street. There's puddles in the yard. There's limbs down all over the ground. And then they come in here and they say, yes, it was raining. They didn't actually see it raining, but those circumstances are beyond any reasonable doubt that it was actually raining.

Now I guess it's possible that somebody could have been standing outside the window and beating the drums to sound like thunder and blowing fans to make seem like it was the wind. And somehow got enough water to cover the entire neighborhood. That's not reasonable. Everybody understand that distinction? That's not reasonable.

Another thing -- and this is crucial -- what you are going to do in this particular case, is determine credibility or the believability of witnesses. It's going to be your job to look at the evidence and the exhibits of the case but the witnesses and decide if it's the truth, if you can believe it, if you can rely on it. And the judge is going to instruct you that you can believe one witness against many or many witnesses against one. You can believe all witnesses' testimony or part of witnesses' testimony. It's up to you. First individually and then as a product of your deliberations.

And what you are required to do there is just to rely on that good old-fashioned common sense. Does it all fit together? Is it cohobated? Does it fit with what you expect? Does it fit with what you expect how real people would act? Does it seem real? Does something seem a little off? Do something seem a little off?

You're going to see video statements of Alex Murdaugh. You're going to see body-worn camera of him at the scene when law enforcement arrives and hear what he says and what hear what he says about that night.


You're going to hear three recorded statements on video that he gave with law enforcement. In you're going to hear how things progressed about what he says, and what he says he did that night. Watch those closely. Watch his expressions. Listen to what he's saying. Listen to what he's not saying. Use that common sense. Does this seem right? Does something seem a little off?

I mentioned that Maggie was killed with a 300 blackout rifle, an AR- style rifle that chambered in 300 blackout ammunition. And you're going to hear evidence that back in Christmas of 2016, Alex Murdaugh over there bought two 300 blackout AR-style rifles. And that not long after that, one of them went missing from Paul's truck. And time went by, and in April of 2018, Alex Murdaugh replaced that rifle and bought another one. Three total blackout rifles that they have. One of them went missing years ago, and a replacement was bought.

You're going to hear evidence that Paul and his friend were using that replacement gun. They were standing right outside the side door to the gun room of the house, and they were sighting it in, firing it down into a field, and the cases were ejecting -- the casings of the empty shells from a bullet that they were ejecting out into the flower bed right there. And that there is a range across the street and they shot it there and there were cases ejected there as well.

And they were shooting that third replacement gun just weeks prior to the murders, prior to June 7, 2021 where Maggie and Paul were murdered. And you're going to hear forensic evidence that the cases that were found in that flower bed, and the cases that were found across the street at that range were ejected out of the same weapon that fired all the cases that were around Maggie's dead body. They killed her. It was a family weapon that killed Maggie Murdaugh.

And you're going to hear evidence that of those three blackouts, that Alex Murdaugh purchased, law enforcement arrives at the scene on June 7, 2021, he can only account for one of them. He can only account for one of them. That replacement gun is nowhere to be found.

You're also going to hear evidence that the type of ammunition, the exact brand, the exact model of ammunition that was used to kill Maggie, S&B 300 blackout ammunition, and 147 bullets, that exact ammunition, boxes and boxes of that ammunition is found all over the property, the very same brand and model of ammunition that was used to kill her is found in multiple locations throughout the property.

And you're also going to hear evidence the same thing about the shotgun shells that killed Paul. A federal double ought buckshot and fired round were found on the property as well as Winchester number two turkey loads, the two rounds in the shotgun that killed Paul. Family weapon, same ammunition.

You're also going to hear evidence that about a week after the murders Mr. Alex Murdaugh's father had died, Mr. Randolph, and about a week after the murders, he shows up early in the morning at his parents' home where his mother still lives in late stage of Alzheimer's in Alameda in Hampton. It's uncharacteristic for him to show up early. Uncharacteristic for him to show up at all like that.

And he comes in and he's carrying something in a blue tarp, and he takes it upstairs, and eventually law enforcement finds out about that. And they go upstairs and they find upstairs -- they find a wadded up, very, very large raincoat in a blue color that looked like a tarp. And you're going to hear evidence that it was coated with gunshot residue on the inside. On the inside.


You're going to hear other evidence of gunshot residue. You're going to hear that there was gunshot residue on Alex at the sink. You're going to hear that there was gunshot residue on the seat belt of the car he was driving. You're going to hear evidence that when law enforcement got to the scene, he had gone and gotten a shotgun -- Paul's shotgun in that magazine A was on that shotgun.

You're going to hear other evidence from DNA, gunshot residue, firearms examiners, there's going to be a lot of forensic evidence in this case, and I'm not going to get into every single one of them right now.

But I will say that a key piece of forensic evidence that you're going to hear in this case is the cell phone. Alex's cell phone, Maggie's cell phone, Paul's cell phone. You know, this is all amazing technology that most of us carry it around in our pockets. It really allows us to do a lot of things and get a lot done, but this cell phone keeps track of who we're talking to, who we're calling, who we're texting, whenever we access apps, and every time you do that, there's a record kept in this phone unless it's deleted somehow. If you are using certain apps it could even get GPS information, where you were when you did that -- it get stored on these phones. You're going to hear evidence about that.

You're going to hear evidence that when you make a call and it pains off the cell towers, the location information can be gathered from that as well. And so, it allows an investigation to take this and piece together what someone was doing on a particular day, and not only what they were doing, but who they were interacting with and how they were interacting with. And this is going to be crucial evidence.

You're going to hear that particularly Alex and Paul, but also Maggie were prolific cell phone users. To point where Paul's friends had a nickname for him about his cell phone usage. We'll talk more about that.

There's three family properties I need to talk about, OK. the first one I mention is Moselle. Moselle in Colleton County -- it's call Moselle -- and that property is a large -- this is a lot of acres. There's a main house on it and there is a driveway that goes to that main house. But it used to be an air strip and there's an air strip that goes down and then down the way just west and a third of a mile away. Just a three minute walk, four minute walk, 45 second drive is the kennels and the shed that used to be a hanger where Paul and Maggie were murdered. The main house is less than a third of a mile away. You can see the kennels from the main house. You can see the main house from the kennels.

The family also had a house in Eddystone at the beach. And the evidence is going to show that that is where Maggie preferred to stay. Particularly in the summer months. She liked the beach. She was not a hunter. She didn't want to be at Moselle. She didn't want to be at the lodge where it was hot and buggy. She like being in Eddystone. And then you'll also -- I've already mentioned the house in Alameda, which is where his parents home. On June 7, 2021, you're going to hear evidence that his father went into the hospital and the prognosis was not good. And the fact he died few days later and his mother was in late stage Alzheimer's and had that house being cared for by a caretaker and you'll hear from the caretaker.


WATERS: Yes, sir.

NEWMAN: We're going to pause for a moment.

WATERS: Yes, sir, you honor.

BLACKWELL: All right, we've heard the beginning of the opening statements from state there from the lead prosecutor Creighton Waters let's bring back in CNN's Diane Gallagher outside the courthouse. Also with us defense attorney Misty Marris. Misty let me start with you and what stands out to you about the evidence that the state says they have against Alex Murdaugh.

MISTY MARRIS, DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Yes, new evidence here, really, really important we have a blue rain coat that Murdaugh wore do his parents' house in the days after the murders, and that has to gunshot residue on it. That is something we did not know before. Also more references to gunshot residue and Maggie's DNA.

We've also seen a lot of information set forth to the jury in this opening statement relating to the guns that were used. Now, we know that the prosecutors do not actually have the weapon. But we see them putting together their case that there was a missing gun that will match the casings that were found at the scene, and that gun was purchased by Murdaugh and now cannot be accounted for.


So we're starting to see how the prosecution is going to put together their case. But that gunshot residue and that blue rain coat or blue tarp, that is going to be an essential piece of this case.

In addition, we see the prosecutors laying the stage. It's going to be cell phone data. We heard a lot about this Snapchat. We know that there might be location data. We know there's a witness coming from Google to testify. We hear that Maggie and Paul are avid phone users. They're going to use cell phone data in order to put together Murdaugh's location, his whereabouts and what happened on that night to piece it together. Another important piece, prosecutors come out of the gate say,

explaining what circumstantial evidence is. Explaining how the jurors are supposed to think about that type of evidence. So, we're really seeing this case come together. We're seeing the road map and that cell phone data appears that it's going to be a central component of the case. Lastly, body cam footage. The prosecutor said pay attention to the body cam. My guess is that's going to be at odds with what we find on that cell phone data as far as the timeline, which has been a moving target here. So, that timeline is going to be key to this case.

CAMEROTA: Diane, there are a lot of compelling things as Misty points out that the assistant DA laid out there, including that the victim's didn't have defensive wounds as one might when it's an intruder that you don't know and that you might be fighting off. What else did you hear, Diane.

DIANE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, that was all what Creighton Waters opened up with here, who is getting back into his opening statement --

BLACKWELL: Let me interrupt, Creighton Waters is continuing with this opening statement here.

WATERS: The main house has a driveway but the kennels also have a driveway. The evidence is going to show that that was actually -- is commonly used as the main driveway. In fact the mailbox is by the kennel driveway driving right past those kennels where Paul and Maggie were murdered.

I told you that you'll hear evidence that Maggie did not like being at Moselle's as much as she liked Eddystone, the beach house. But that on June 7, 2021, she came back to Moselle. In the evidence is going to show that she arrived about 8:15 and the evidence is going to show that from the cell phones that Paul was there at the house -- at the main house and Alex Murdaugh himself says that they ate dinner and the autopsy is going to reflect that Paul and Maggie having similar stomach contents indicating they recently shared a meal together.

About 8:30, 15 minutes after they arrived, Paul's phone starts moving towards the kennels. You're going to hear evidence again that the defendant said he was never at those kennels, that he was napping after they ate. And he was at the main house and never went there.

You're also going to hear evidence about how much Alex uses his own cell phone and it would be unusual for him to be anywhere without his cell phone.

At 8:44 and 55 seconds, Paul recorded a video. He was down at the kennels because he had been talking to a friend of his and you're going to hear from this friend because his friend's dog was in the kennels and they thought there was something wrong with the tail. And Paul was recording a video of it to send to his friend.

8:44 and 55 seconds. And on that video -- and you'll see that video and you'll hear from witnesses that identify Paul's voice, Maggie's voice and Alex's voice. Told anyone who would listen he was never there at 8:44 and 55 seconds, there's a video. The evidence will show that he was there. He was at the murder scene with the two victims. More than that, just over three minutes later, 8:49 and one second, Paul's phone locks forever. Never reads another text, he never sends another text, he doesn't answer calls.

Three minutes after that video has the defendant at the murder scene with the two victims Paul's cell phone goes silent forever.