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CNN Tonight

NYC, State and Federal Law Enforcement Agencies Meet About How to Prep for Possible Trump Indictment; Ohio School District Switching to Four-Day School Week to Combat Staff Shortages; Man Exonerated After 34 Years. Aired 10-11p ET

Aired March 17, 2023 - 22:00   ET




LAURA COATES, CNN HOST: Well, good evening, everyone. I'm Laura Coates, and this is CNN Tonight.

And, listen, we could just be days away from learning whether Donald Trump, a former president of the United States, will face criminal charges over the payment of hush money to adult film actress Stormy Daniels.

Now, let's be clear, this is far from a done deal. Until you actually see the indictment, the charges, a lot can happen between now and even the potential for that happening. But sources are telling CNN that New York City, state, and federal law enforcement agencies have been meeting all week long to prepare for the possibility of an indictment. And it will be a stunning surrender of a former president of this country.

With all that would entail, we're talking about fingerprinting, mug shots, an arraignment, a perp walk of a former president of the United States. One of his own attorneys, Joe Tacopina, telling the New York Daily News that if Trump is indicted, he won't refuse to surrender, quote, there won't be a standoff at Mar-a-Lago, unquote. We've got a lot more on this in just a moment.

Plus, the story of a wrongly convicted man sentenced to -- this number is shocking -- 400 years behind bars. Now, after 34 years in prison, he's been exonerated and finally able to walk free.

That's him hugging his mother. Sidney Holmes says he never lost hope and he's here with us tonight.

And one Ohio school district is switching to a four-day week. Kids may think it's great news but is it great news for their parents? I'll talk to the superintendent who came up with that very plan.

I said a lot to talk about tonight. And here with me now, CNN law enforcement expert John Miller, also John Hart, who is a communications director for Senator Tom Coburn, Democratic Strategist Maria Cardona, National Security Attorney Bradley Moss, and Tia Mitchell of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. I'm glad you're all here. We've got really a full house.

Let me begin with the reporting from you, John Miller, over there, because look, this is pretty significant, the idea of the coordination, the choreography, of trying to figure out what to do with an otherwise routine set of events, right, the idea of arraignment or someone turning themselves in. But you add to this, it's former POTUS. Tell me what's going on.

JOHN MILLER, CNN CHIEF LAW ENFORCEMENT AND INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: So, Laura, this is unprecedented, which is why this week leading up to today, there has been a number of meetings for planning on the idea that if this happens, it will be different than the way they've done it ever before, meaning, if you get a criminal indictment on a felony against Donald Trump, a former president, that means you've got a prisoner who's arriving in a motorcade with a security cordon escorted by armed Secret Service agents, where you're going to have to close off Hogan Place, you know, walk him into the district attorney's lobby.

And then while his Secret Service agents stand by, you'd have to go through that process of getting his fingerprints, shooting his mug shots, and then getting he and his lawyers, Joe Tacopina and others, a conference room to wait while they arrange an arraignment judge, who is going to examine the question of bail, which, of course, in the case, if he were indicted, he would be released on his own recognizance. But nobody has ever done that with a former president of the United States before.

And they're talking about will there be a throng of media? Sure there will be. Will there be demonstrators? That's possible. Will there be counterdemonstrators? That's why they've been sitting around figuring out. We need contingency on contingency on contingency.

COATES: So, thinking about all that and just the idea of choreography of that, John, I mean, are you saying, the reporting or the sources are saying there actually is perhaps a date in mind? Or this is the potential, if this should happen, they have to have a plan in place. Because once the decision is made, we'll have to move pretty quickly. That's not when you start the planning of all you just described.

MILLER: So, that's right about the planning. It's the moving part that's a little mysterious. You know, normally -- nothing is normal here, Laura.

COATES: No, nothing.

MILLER: Normally -- I know I'm talking to a former federal prosecutor, normally, you might get the indictment, you might get the indictment and have it sealed, you might arrange a surrender date and then unseal the indictment at the arraignment, enter a plea. But in this case, you've got a defendant who is in another state. That's Florida. It's not a federal charge. It's a state charge in New York State, if, in fact, the charge were to be brought.

[22:05:04] And then you could announce the indictment. You could make the arrangement with his lawyers to come up on surrender on a date that might not be the same day they announce the indictment.

COATES: Right.

MILLER: It could be a week or two out.

So, this week, we're going to be watching really carefully. You know, there may be witnesses coming in on Monday but that indictment could happen Tuesday. It could happen Wednesday. So, we're rounding third base towards home here. And as you pointed out, Laura, and we have to keep saying this, there's 23 people on a grand jury. You need at least 12 to secure an indictment. And it is entirely possible, in this case, which is unusual that they might vote the other way. Although, you know better than me, usually a prosecutor walks out of a grand jury with what a prosecutor came in looking for.

COATES: I mean, it's the old indictment of the ham sandwich adage. Now, I'm going to turn to my panel. The only thing is John is right about the minimum number of people. But if you have like 12 out of 23 who are willing to go forward on a charge, that's not a homerun. I don't care if you're rounding third base or it's out of the park. It's not a sure thing.

But just think about this that we're talking about, I mean, John, this is a former president of the United States. And as much of a norm buster as he was known to be, this is now completely uncharted territory. A possible -- again, perp walk for a president of the United States, who still claims that he should be the president of the United States? I mean, this is pretty stunning.

JOHN HART, FORMER COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR FOR SENATOR TOM COBURN: Well, let's step back and get perspective on this. Because, Laura, this is happening at a time when a majority of Republican voters actually want to move on from Trump. People forget that in 2016, he only got 45 percent of the vote. 55 percent wanted somebody else. So, if this happens, if this indictment happens, it's going to make harder for someone like a Nikki Haley to break through or others who don't believe in appeasement, who believe that economic freedom is the best way to advance.

People love the economic ladder, help the environment, do everything good that we want to do as a country.

COATES: Harder to break through. It's almost harder to break through if he does get indicted?

HART: Yes, because he will be a martyr. This will be a political stimulus plan for Donald Trump. If he's indicted over -- and think about the nature of the offenses. We're talking about the rule of law. The threat to the rule of law isn't -- it's not hush payments to Stormy Daniels. It's a former president who believes in the rule of rulers. The rule of rulers is the opposite of the rule of law. And so, we're going to take an issue that, yes, he shouldn't be held above the law, he should be held accountable, but in the scheme of things, what he did wrong in denying that he lost the election --

COATES: Hush payments are not --

HART: -- is a much bigger issue.

COATES: Hush payments in and of themselves are not illegal. However, falsifying business record, a misdemeanor, commission with another crime can be a felony. But your point is not lost in the idea of this being a part of a campaign -- I mean, you can imagine a mug shot of a former president who once chanted, lock her up, calling about political witch hunts.

MARIA CARDONA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, Laura, if this happens for Donald Trump, this is going to be a gift for him, I believe, politically, at least in the Republican primary process. Because I actually don't agree that the majority of Republican voters have moved on from Trump because he still tops all of the polls right now.

But if this happens for him -- let's remember, Donald Trump's focus has always been victimhood and has always been, you know, that he is being attacked, the witch hunt, right? It's always been about victimhood and vengeance against him. So, if this happens, this is going to be a clarion call to the MAGA extremist base that will still do anything for him and still believes that he should be president today.

COATES: But, Brad, you're at that point -- your point though, Brad -- I feel you're nodding. The lawyer in me is nodding back. We're having messaging each other, and the idea of there's a political reaction to it and then there's the -- is that the consideration if someone breaks the law?

BRADLEY MOSS, NATIONAL SECURITY ATTORNEY: Yes. And that can't be the consideration of any prosecutor, either way, whether it be a Republican or Democrat. If a law is broken, if there is a case to be brought in accordance with normal procedure, you bring the case.

And here's the concern I have in John going to the point you had made earlier, is this really the rule of law? What are we going to do, bring a charge based on hush money? Can I get a list somewhere of all the different rules and laws that things Donald Trump can violate, that he can break, that are just not worth it for him? Because I keep hearing that, are we really going to do this because of Stormy Daniels? Are we really going to do this in Fulton County because of a phone call? Do any laws apply to this man or is he just exempt from the whole --

COATES: You're from Georgia, Atlanta Journal-Constitution. There is something in the orbit about law breaking.

TIA MITCHELL, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION: There is. And, I mean, that's the unique position these elected prosecutors are put in. Because at the end of the day, it is a legal decision they're making but also you can't remove the politics from it.


And so people are still going to say, this is nothing new, we've known about Stormy Daniels since 2016. It's seven years later, and now we're thinking about bringing charges about it. So -- and I'm not saying that means don't do it. But, to me, that's part of the planning too, you know, that prosecutors having to get his talking points together should he bring charges, how is he going to justify these charges, justify the investigation and say, this is why we think, whatever step they take, whether it's to bring charges or not to bring charges, either way, he's going to have to explain that to the public. And either way, Trump's people are going to find a way to --

MOSS: And to the voters, absolutely.

COATES: Let me bring in John Miller here, because I want to bring him back in the conversation as well. Because I mean, the planning of this, we're talking about the politics and the idea of obviously if a law is violated, you remember that phrase, no one is above the law, the Manhattan D.A. looking into this issue. But in terms of the planning for protests, I mean, the planning of if this is an opportunity for somebody who has declared that he wants to run again, I can imagine him on the courthouse steps holding a press conference. And there're considerations at that point in time in terms of security for a former president in the midst of all of this. What are they saying?

MILLER: That's exactly what they're saying, which is, you know, while they don't have a time and a date for this yet if this actually happens, what do you do if Donald Trump wants to walk -- and this is not counterintuitive to Donald Trump -- wants to walk out the front door of the courthouse and hold forth on the steps with his lawyers about a witch hunt, I'm the victim of a blackmail plot by a porn star, and I am now being persecuted for being, you know, the victim of a shakedown, and this is political.

And, I mean, you can -- you can hear the talking points filling out. But, again, for police, with protesters, counter protesters, supporters, you know, the Proud Boys, and, you know, the conspiracy theorists, there're layers and layers of things to consider. Because you still have a former president who is a lawful protectee of the Secret Service.

COATES: A very important point. And if he were to hold some sort of press conference, it's not going to be a comment confined to the Manhattan D.A.'s office, not with Mar-a-Lago subpoenas being issued, Fani Willis in Fulton County, just to name a few, not to mention the Department of Justice and Jack Smith. There's potential for a lot happening here.

Thank you all. Everyone just stick around. When we come back, the potential of a four-day school week. It might sound like a dream come true to kids -- certainly my children -- but there's more to it. The school superintendent who came up with the plan is going to do some explaining as the why, next.


COATES: A school district in Ohio is adopting a new learning approach for the upcoming school year. It's a four-day in-person school week. The superintendent there is working to fix a problem that the districts are seeing across this nation. It's called teacher burnout. And under the new policy, students will go to school Tuesday through Friday, giving their teachers a day to prepare for the week ahead.

Joining me now is the superintendent of the school district in North College Hill, Ohio, Eugene Blalock. I'm glad you're here and thank you, Eugene, for joining us today. I've got to tell you, my kids would be thrilled but me as mommy thinking about my traditional five-day a week work week, I wonder about the motivation. The idea of burnout obviously a significant driving force. What is your goal?

EUGENE BLALOCK JR., SUPERINTENDENT, NORTH COLLEGE HILL CITY SCHOOL DISTRICT: Okay. Well, first of all, thank you for having me, Ms. Coates. For us, it has to do with student achievement. What we start seeing is our teachers are struggling, first and foremost, because of high absenteeism and we can't find subs. So, it's tough. We're a small district. We're about 1,400 students. And it's tough to find subs for our teachers.

And what we're finding is our teachers -- well, what we were finding was our teachers were losing their plan bail because they had internal. Unlike a lot of people say, well, you can just keep going, no. We have a situation where we have students and we have to have adults to cover those classes. So, teachers give up their plan bail and they don't get a plan bail and it's almost like somebody equated it to being on like a hamster wheel. You never get a chance to get off that hamster wheel, and it's a constant go, go, go.

And our teachers, we realize, were truly struggling with teacher burnout. I mean, you could see it in their eyes. And we believe that a five-day schedule, a five-day teacher schedule, will allow our teachers the opportunity to properly and adequately plan for our students.

COATES: Real quick, define this term you're using, plan bail. What does this mean?

BLALOCK: Okay. So, basically, in education, every teacher has basically a plan bail. So, you work, say, in a seven bail school -- seven bail schedule, you work six bails, and in one bail, you have an opportunity to plan and prepare for your students. What we're finding is our teachers are not having the opportunity to plan.

When we discussed this prior to COVID, we were doing two hours basically once a month and we were planning. In Ohio -- the state of Ohio has a state report card. And we were able to show that if teachers had adequate time to plan, that our students were making tremendous growth. We don't judge students on achievement per se but we look at individual students. So, in North College Hill, we say, every student every day. And it's important for us because we work with what some might call an at-risk group. We call at-promise. And we have to customize plans for them. So, just like you look at an athlete, you know, we're now in March Madness, you know, playing a game is easy. You know, teaching, standing in front of the kids, that's the easy part. The hard part is planning, is looking at data and using the data to drive instruction. And that's where our teachers were struggling at. And we asked the teachers what they needed.


And you know what? It wasn't money. It was time. They wanted adequate time to teach.

COATES: I understand. I mean, I remember distance learning and all the parents across the nation during the height of the pandemic praising in ways they likely should have done for years to come, the teachers for what they have done. But speaking of the parents in particular, you know, most parents, they're working a full week -- full job week. What about their ability to have care for their children on the days that they are working? They can't then turn to their employer and say, look, my kids have a four-day work week, now I get a day off too. What are you going to do to help them?

BLALOCK: Okay. For us, this is a K-12 program. And it's not an off day for anyone in the district. So, our certified teachers, they will be working, and they will be planning. When we started this conversation, we looked at barriers. The two barriers that jump out at us was, number one, food, and number two, child care. So, let me say, the pandemic taught us at least one thing, that we can do things differently. And one of those things was, as far as supporting our families with meals. So, students will have the opportunity to come up to the building to pick up meals or we'll be sending those meals home. We're working that out with our food service provider.

Now, as far as family support, that was another biggie. For us, we are going to provide limited support for K-8 students and our most vulnerable students. So, when I said that everyone will be working, so, although our certified teachers, they will be planning. Our payer professionals, our educational aides, some of the most important individuals that we have in our building who work closely with the students and the teachers every day, they will be here to help supervise and support those families and those students when they come in.

Another thing, this is not like remote learning, per se. What we're going to do -- we're not asking parents to provide any direct instruction. That day when students are at home -- so, on that Monday when students are at home, that will be what we call a spiral review. That will be opportunity for students to practice, and it also will be an opportunity for students to demonstrate to their teachers exactly what they know.

Another thing that's beautiful -- that I love about my community, North College Hill, is that, you know, we're a small, close-knit community, family-oriented. And we've already had child care providers reach out to us and say, hey, what can we do to help? What can we do to support families and the students? And they're sending information out -- last week when it was approved and I sent out my information, they were right behind me sending things out to parents saying, hey, we're here for you. We have waivers. And we're here to help you and support you.

COATES: Eugene Blalock, thank you for helping us understand it better. You certainly do make the case. I wonder if it's going to catch on. Thank you so much.

BLALOCK: Thank you for having me. I appreciate it.

COATES: Well, back now with me, my panel, and joining us Elahe Izadi, also from The Washington Post.

I want to know what you guys think. First of all, this is not the only place that this is happening in terms of even the thought of having a four-day work week. You've got Texas. More than 40 districts there have already made the switch, by the way, Missouri, where one in four are already operating on a four-day a week plan, Louisiana, the Grant Parish School Board, Montana, Nebraska. This is catching on. I don't know that parents are thrilled about it because sometimes -- I'm going to be real with you, I -- I need you to go to school, right? I need you to go to school, okay? What do you say to this?

CARDONA: I think it's something that -- when I looked at it, I was like, this is interesting. It's out of the box thinking. Now, I agree with you, we have to make sure it works for parents. I'm lucky that I can work from home whenever I need to. My husband can work from home whenever he needs to. But I know not every parent is like that.

But I will also say, I saw with my own kids and kids of my friends, there was burnout for them as well. There has been burnout for them. And I've talked to a lot of teachers that I know, and the burnout is absolutely real. And so I think to get to that kind of solution, you need to be creative. And I am interested to see what kinds of results we're going to see both from this school district as well as the ones that you mentioned. I think it could work. We certainly have to do something though.

COATES: And I think results but I also think resources. How do kids on that Monday prove what they know? I'm thinking about technology. For example, it's often incorporated in schools. What do you see?

ELAHE IZADI, MEDIA REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, it's interesting because I think the root of this whole conversation around the teachers going four days a week has to do with teacher burnout and teacher shortages. So, at this time right now, what we're talking about, are we going to go into a recession? And in some industries, like tech and media, there are lots of layoffs. In other industries, there are huge labor shortages. And one of them is in education, right?

And so what I was hearing from the superintendent in part, the big sell here is, look, we don't have enough teachers.


We're losing our teachers. We need to make this work. We're appealing to them. They just came off of the pandemic, teaching during the pandemic, remote learning was actually really challenging not just for parents and students but for teachers as well.

And so hearing that in this sector of education, like, oh, we're going to move to four-day a week, even though we're going to have this extra day for planning, which I don't know if you know teachers, I don't know how they fit their planning in to the five days they do already, I wonder if that's also going to be looked at in other sectors, in other industries where they're experiencing labor shortages to make it more appealing for them.

COATES: Well, they are thinking about four-day work weeks for the adult workers. And I know we're all giggling all of a sudden. Actually, I mean, The Washington Post had a thing today on this. It's fun to see. Because, look, they have a calculation about how much time you would get back in your life, hours, years of your life back, based on how many hours you work on average each day and your age. And so we all gave our age. We all gave number of hours on average work. And let me show you what the results are everyone here, okay.

So, John, you would get back 7,280 hours. That's 303 days back in your life if you had a four-day a week work week. Maria, you would get 4,160. That's 173 days back. I think Maria was being modest. I know you work more than that, girl. It's not election year. There you go. Elahe, you would get 12,168, it's 507 days back. Tia, 10,920 hours, 405 days back. And you -- well, you know, I'm employed at CNN. I had to make that number very high. They knew just how hard I work. I would get 572 days back of my life if that was the case.

But think about it. Would you actually want to work four days a week? Is there a -- that was our lightning round. She's done. You?

MITCHELL: Absolutely. I mean, and I think as we talk about this in totality, it -- the four-day work week for children only works if it's also incorporated for adults. Because otherwise, even if you're flexible, if you're home trying to work and your kids are saying, mom, I need help with this, or mom, I'm hungry, or dad, whatever, that still is distracting.

And so I think there's a whole conversation to be had in America not just about the educational calendar but our work calendar overall, because as we mentioned, burnout is not just for the education sector. And it's something that the pandemic has caused us to really rethink work, the work week, the work schedule, in ways that could be very constructive.

CARDONA: I think for a work-obsessed country, this is something that we need. And I actually don't know if you were to tell me tomorrow that we're only going to work four days a week, I don't even really work five days a week. I work seven days a week, right, I mean, because the kind of job that I have is literally 24/7.

And so to say that we're going to only work four days a week, I don't really think that that would be true. But I do think that, psychologically, it's something that we all need. We are the most work-obsessed country or one of the most work-obsessed countries in the world.

HART: Yes. And the nature of work has changed, and it's not going to go back to what it was before the pandemic, because of technology, because of a lot of reasons. And the best research shows both in regular work for adults but also education, it isn't so much a four or five-day week, it's the quality of engagement you have, whether it's quality instruction, ability to focus. So, that's -- yes, let these school districts innovate. Let them experiment. And I think as long as it's in the best interest of parents and kids first, let them -- let them try what's going to work in their situation and we'll see. Let's look at the results.

COATES: Look at the results, absolutely right. And while we are sort of being tongue and cheek about the hours and days we get back in our own lives if we had less work, my next guest spent 34 years of his life of a 400-year sentence in jail after he was convicted of armed robbery.

Now, Sidney Holmes, Mr. Sidney Holmes, is a free man, after prosecutors dismissed those charges against him. And he's going to join me next.



COATES: Mr. Sidney Holmes served 34 years of a 400-year sentence for armed robbery. That's right. I said a 400-year sentence. Now, he always maintained his innocence throughout, but he was looking at what amounted to a life sentence until the Innocence Project of Florida got involved.

They said there was no physical, no scientific evidence, there was no corroborating witnesses that actually linked Mr. Holmes to the crime. And, everyone, he had an alibi. He had an alibi. And on Monday, do you realized the charges against this man were dismissed. He was 22 years old at the time of his incarceration. Now, here he is at the age of 57, he's hugging his mother after being released.

Mr. Sidney Holmes joins me now along with Brandon Shak who is a staff attorney for the Innocence Project of Florida. Mr. Holmes, I am so grateful that you're here to talk to us today, and I truly thank you for coming. We've all watched this video of you hugging your mother.

Maybe people don't necessarily know your story and I'm glad you're sharing it today. But you've always maintained your innocence. What has this been like for you to have spent three decades for a crime you did not commit?

SIDNEY HOLMES, EXONERATED AFTER 34 YEARS OF WRONGFUL INCARCERATION: Well, I never gave up hope. I refused to give up hope. I refused to allow myself to just say quit.


You know, I was 22 years old, and I was sentenced to 400 years in prison. State prosecutor told me the only way I would leave would be in a body bag. So, I refused -- I did not -- never took that into consideration.

COATES: How do you keep -- go ahead, sir. I didn't mean to interrupt you. Excuse me.

HOLMES: I was never going to accept giving up.

COATES: The idea that someone would tell you that --

HOLMES: Yes. That was gut wrenching.

COATES: How did you keep your mind and your faith strong? I mean, that -- that would take a toll on the sanest of men?

HOLMES: My mother and my father. He unfortunately is not here today, but those two kept me strong.

COATES: You know, Brandon, people are hearing about the numbers, and I have been a prosecutor. The idea that someone had 400 years of a sentence for an armed robbery? I mean, homicide convictions result in far, far less. How is this even possible that that sentence was handed down?

BRANDON SCHECK, STAFF ATTORNEY, INNOCENCE PROJECT OF FLORIDA: It's unimaginable. Keep in mind that the state of Florida asked for an 825- year sentence, and the trial judge said, well, perhaps that's a little bit too much. And so, he handed down a 400-year sentence.

Essentially this has to do with back at that time a life sentence would have made Sidney eligible for parole after 25 years. A term of years sentence, a 400-year sentence, ensured exactly what Sidney said that, you know, but for this ultimate relief in vacating the conviction, he would have left prison in a body bag.

COATES: Even the idea of 25 years for a crime you did not commit, 25 years obviously too long. But the idea that there was an opportunity to have a different (inaudible) could have resulted, how did you two even connect? How did this case get to the attention of the Innocence Project? Sidney, did you reach out in some way? How did this happen?

HOLMES: I reached out to the Innocence Project and I went through the process -- a screening process. Then I also reached out to the CRU and they collaborated with the Innocence Project.

COATES: When you hear about the evidence and, you know, I used the wrong term because I don't think there was evidence, gentlemen. There was an alibi. There was no direct even circumstantial, I understand it. And the thing that tied Mr. Holmes to this, Brandon, I understand it, was just the color of the car he was driving. I must have read that wrong. Did I?

SCHECK: No. That's absolutely correct. The perpetrator in the crime was driving an Oldsmobile Cutlass, a brown Oldsmobile Cutlass. And in our post-conviction investigation over the past couple of years, we reached out to an Oldsmobile Museum, an Oldsmobile historian, who told us that was actually the most common car on the streets at the time that this crime happened.

And so, we're talking about the most common car, the most common color. And that's what connected Sidney to the crime and really, there would have been hundreds, presumably, of this exact car on the streets, maybe thousands, in and around Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

COATES: Mr. Holmes, what will you do now? I mean, we see the obvious joy that there must be, which is the understatement of a lifetime, to think about what that release must have felt like. But what now? What support do you have in place? And frankly, the lawyer in me wonders, is there a case to be made or a compensation that will be given to you from the state of Florida who convicted the wrong man?

HOLMES: Well, I can't comment on that because I really don't know.

COATES: Let me ask your lawyer. What is the answer? Is there a plan? What is next for this gentleman?

SCHECK: So, this is the next tragedy in a series of tragedies in this case, is that in the state of Florida, Mr. Holmes is actually not eligible under the state statute for compensation because he has a prior record prior to this wrongful conviction that he served 34 years for a crime he didn't commit. Florida is actually the only state in the --

COATES: So, what does that have to do with anything? Why is that at all relevant if this is the crime that he had a, you know, a wrongful conviction for? Why is that possibly the case, Florida?

SCHECK: Because that's what the state law says. There's a bill going through legislature right now that would actually change that and make somebody like Sidney and others eligible for compensation. But as of right now, in the state of Florida, under our state statute, he is not eligible. It's insane.


It's crazy. It's another strategy, like I said, in a series of tragedies in this case.

COATES: Mr. Sidney Holmes, I'd like to give you the opportunity here that -- I can't imagine why it was denied for you so long. But the world is listening and is watching you, sir. What do you want to say now that you are no longer in prison for a crime you did not commit decades later?

HOLMES: Well, there's a lot to be said. The system is badly broken and need to be fixed. You know, I was great opportunity I was given to be -- we had a great opportunity to be free. In the years to come, I hope this tragedy don't happen to another person at the age of 22. But I can say that the system needs some changing, but it's going to happen again. COATES: Mr. Sidney Powell (ph), thank you for joining us. Mr. Sidney

Holmes, excuse me sir. Mr. Sidney Holmes, I mean no disrespect. Thank you so much for being with us here today. I sincerely appreciate it. And I can't help but wonder, Brandon, how many more gentlemen just like your client are behind bars today. Thank you both.

SCHECK: Thank you.

HOLMES: Thank you. Thank you.

COATES: Crossings at the border reaching alarming highs, and I'm not even talking about the southern border that everyone speaks about. And I'll explain next as soon as I recover from that conversation.



COATES: A historic surge at the border, but probably not the one you're thinking about. In the last five months, border patrol agents apprehending nearly 2,000 people crossing into the U.S. from Canada into upstate New York and New Hampshire and Vermont. That's nearly as many as the last three fiscal years combined.

Although the numbers are, of course much, much smaller than the ones you see on the southern border, federal authorities have moved an additional 25 agents to the area. And the region's top border patrol agent is warning that traveling there on foot in winter poses significant risks to the lives of already vulnerable people making the journey.

I'm back now with our panel. Let's look at those images, Maria, when you see people, the treacherous conditions. We often think about immigration and the southern border. It's not the case exclusively.

MARIA CARDONA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No. And it's heartbreaking. And I think what this shows is that in addition to making it to the southern border, they are now making -- doing everything they can to try to get in from the northern border. That, to me, screams desperation, because that is what makes somebody leave the comfort of their own home because they are being either threatened, their family is being threatened, or they can't make a living, right?

And as an immigrant, I understand this personally, right? And so, to me, what we need to focus on is this has to be taken out of the political arena and Democrats and Republicans have got to fix this. There's got to be a bipartisan fix. You cannot have a knee-jerk reaction, which is what's happening.

Republicans always say, border enforcement first, border enforcement first. That does not make any sense. You have to have tough border enforcement. At the same time, you have to consider legal flows of migrants because until we figure out how to accommodate that -- and we need workers now, we have a huge labor shortage, this is never going to be fixed. ELAHE IZADI, MEDIA REPORTER, WASHINGTON POST: Yeah, the other backdrop

to this is also the stricter border measures that are taking place at the southern border implemented by the Biden administration ahead of May when some of these pandemic era immigration restrictions are going to be lifted.

And if you look at the past couple of months, the southern border, the migrant crossings have greatly dropped. Which I know the administration is pointing to as evidence that their approach is working. But as we're saying, the northern border is a much smaller number, but there is an increase, which, again, speaks to this idea that people are desperate, and they are trying to find any means necessary.

And at the same time, we have an administration that is moving more to the center after it campaigned on having a more humanitarian approach to immigration. And there are a lot of critics on the left, who are now saying this policy on the southern border, this mimic and mirrors the Trump administration's approach to immigration.

JOHN HART, FORMER COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR FOR SENATOR TOM COBURN: Well, look, the reality is you can't take it out of politics. And the good news to those, there's a coalition of people that I would call a shining city on a hill coalition. President Kennedy talked about that. President Reagan talked about it too.

And the idea is that we're a city on a hill. If we have walls, we got to have doors for people with the will and courage to come here legally. So, I do think you've -- in order to get to the -- to solve the labor problem we have, which is real, you do have to have a much more systematic border security system where you either bring the people in who want to get here legally, but don't allow a chaotic situation on either the southern or northern border. And it's not -- it's counterfeit compassion to encourage people to come here illegally when there's no way to handle the inflow of people.

COATES: How is this being viewed in terms of, I mean, obviously (inaudible) a lot during this administration on the portfolio of the vice president to look into this, to try to resolve a very long- standing problem. And there is pushback from both sides of the aisle for different reasons. What do you say?

TIA MITCHELL, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION: Well, I think the partisanship is where the breakdown is. Right now, as we've mentioned, it's very reactive. It's whack a mole. At the end of the day, it's the southern border. Then the southern border gets more difficult. And then people with the means try through the northern border. And then they're going to put resources there and make that more difficult.


And then you're going to have people overloading boats trying to get in through, you know, perhaps Florida or other coastlines. And until there is comprehensive immigration reform, then we're going to always have this reactionary kind of policy, where we're always looking at where are the numbers spiking, increasing and decreasing. It also -- the whole thing of different countries is treated -- immigrants are treated differently also plays into this.

For a long time, the northern border wasn't considered where immigrants from Central and South America or even Mexico gained entry into America. And now we see that starting to shift with people literally catching flights to Canada to then walk over the border into the U.S. And that's part of what shifting the conversation about the northern border.

CARDONA: And the reality is the White House can't fix this. Anything that they do is a band-aid. This has to come from Congress. And until Republicans understand that it's got to be comprehensive, it can't just be border first, because what does that mean when they say you to have a secure border? What does that mean? There will always be ways for people to come in here without documents. You have to have a comprehensive manner to be able to decrease the flows of people who want to come here.

COATES: Is there the appetite for it? That's the big question.

HART: Yeah.

COATES: At the end of the day in politics of what it means. And of course, you hear it all the time on the campaign trail. Everyone, stick around. This topic is going nowhere as we well know. Everyone, though it is March Madness and it's getting more wild as the games are going on with now a number one seed falling to a 16 seed, and the intensity isn't just happening on the men's side everyone. We got updates on the ladies next.



COATES: Well, tonight, a March Madness major upset. Sixteen seed Fairleigh Dickinson University beating number one, Purdue, by a score of 63-58. It is only the second time in NCAA men's tournament history that a number 16th team has defeated a number one seed. And let's not forget about the women.

Today is the first day of round one of the women's teams. So, the number one seeds in the women's NCAA tournament, they are South Carolina, Virginia Tech, Stanford and Indiana. And there was an upset today actually in the women's Creighton/Mississippi state game. Eleventh seed Mississippi State beating sixth seed Creighton. The final score 81-66. So, you got to stay tune and watching.

More anxiety today as well at the banks and in the markets. When will the rocky ride end for all this? We're going to talk about it, next.