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Trump Plans To Turn Himself In Thursday at Fulton County Jail; Trump And Co-Defendants Reach Bond Agreements In GA; First GOP Showdown Kicks Off Wednesday; Michael Jackson Sexual Abuse Cases Revived By Appeals Court; New England Patriots Player Got Injured That Led To Game's Cancellation. Aired 11p-12a ET
Aired August 21, 2023 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN HOST: And that's it for me and "CNN Primetime," but Laura Coates is here and she's going to break down everything you need to know on a huge legal week. "CNN Tonight" starts right now.
LAURA COATES, CNN HOST: Everything you need to know. It's a lot of pressure. Everything you got to know.
COATES: All right. Fine. You know, I will try to carry the mantle. Nice to see you, sis, as always. Good evening, everyone. I'm Laura Coates. And tonight, we are now just three days away from the former president's surrender at the Fulton County jail after you realized he was criminally charged for allegedly trying to overturn Joe Biden's election victory in Georgia. Two sources telling CNN that Donald Trump plans to turn himself in and be processed this coming Thursday.
Now, that date was set during negotiations today, apparently, with the D.A., Fani Willis, in her office over his consent bond and release conditions. We'll talk more about what that really means. The bottom line, he agreed to a $200,000 bond and a parade of his co-defendants also began reaching their own bond agreements.
This case is now marking the very first time the release conditions for Trump have included, first of all, a cash bond and also a prohibition at the outset on intimidating co-defendants or witnesses and victims, including through social media.
I want to bring in CNN legal analyst Norm Eisen. We are going to walk through what we've learned about this bond agreement. Norm, you and I are talking about this all the time in terms of what to expect. First of all, that big number, 200 grand, is that fair? Is that expected?
NORM EISEN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Uh, Laura, I do think it's fair, and I think it's expected. In one sense, it's low because that's not a number that's very meaningful to someone of Donald Trump's wealth.
In Fulton County, Georgia, the way they do these bond amounts is they set them by count. And Donald Trump runs all through this complaint, this indictment that the Fulton County D.A, Fani Willis, has put forth.
COATES: You mean, the more charges, the higher the bond?
EISEN: Exactly. So, the highest amount is actually for the most serious of the charges, the one that unifies the indictment. We've talked about it a lot.
EISEN: The RICO charge, that's $80,000 in bond and then $10,000 per each of the other charges. It totals up to $200,000. I think it's fair and reasonable under the circumstance.
COATES: Well, let's compare it to others because it wasn't only a person today. In fact, John Eastman came in earlier today. If you look at the other people who are part of the 19 slate of co-defenders there, intentional state of electors seated there, you have the co- defendant bond agreement and you've got -- you've got John Eastman, 100 grand he's supposed to pay, Kenneth Chesebro, $100,000, Ray Smith and Scott Hall, lower at $50 and $10, respectively. Why?
EISEN: Well, um, Trump was the alleged ringleader of this RICO conspiracy and the other crimes. Let's remember, he and all of these defendants depicted here are innocent until proven guilty. As a former prosecutor and a former defense lawyer, we know that well.
EISEN: Trump is the ringleader. He gets the highest amount. But as a federal judge in California said, Judge David Carter, very distinguished jurist in one of the January 6 fights, this was an attempted coup in search of a legal theory. Trump allegedly used lawyers. And so, you have two of those lawyers, two of really the ones --
COATES: Chesebro, Eastman, at least.
EISEN: Chesebro and Eastman. They are the ones who are accused of cooking up this scheme, allegedly, to come up with the fake electoral slates, to use them, to squeeze Mike Pence, to try to get him to do really outrageous and unlawful acts of essentially suspending the counter, even recognizing Trump in Congress when he won. So, they deserve --
COATES: But Eastman, of course, I don't want to cut you off, but Eastman would say this is a matter of scholarly debate, that that's his bar. Counsel lawyer is talking about this as a matter of -- he wasn't trying to be unlawful. He would suggest it was all about the legal matters and he's opining on a lot of this. I know you don't buy that.
EISEN: No. It was not a matter of scholarly debate. There is no legal basis whatsoever. It's absurd --
EISEN: -- to suggest that the vice president who has a purely ceremonial role in Congress can suspend the count, can perhaps recognize the electors of the loser of the election, can send it back to state legislatures to overturn the vote of the people. I mean, that's crazy. There's no basis legally for that.
EISEN: And then you have lesser figures, and there's a lot of them.
There are 19 co-defendants in this complaint who are accused of lesser amounts of misconduct. Smith more than Hall. So, Smith got the $50,000 amount and Hall the $10,000.
COATES: I want to compare on that point because I want to go to the next slide because really when people are looking at this, it's the bond release conditions and what he can or cannot do. I know this is where a lot meets the road and how this is all playing out.
I mean, just look at this. First of all, it's the first time we're seeing Donald Trump with bond conditions at the outset, right? Before, it was having to go back to the court to say now that maybe a Truth Social post has come out or otherwise. I mean, do you tweak something, your honor?
Most recently, under Judge Chutkan, he cannot have any threats, including social media now. He can't have contact about the facts of this case with the co-defendants, witnesses, the victims as well, and the community. What do you say to that?
EISEN: I think that it's very attuned to the lessons of Donald Trump's reaction to the three prior arrests and arraignments where he has continued very active --
EISEN: -- specifically the conditions of release, specifically talk about social media. And it's a very 21st century bond agreement.
COATES: It is.
EISEN: It even says he can't -- he can't post or repost. He can't forward the posts of others on social media that have this effect. And Laura, here perhaps is the two most ominous words in this entire agreement: direct or indirect.
Each of these categories that we see here, he's limited to no direct or indirect. What is an indirect threat to these witnesses, victims, co-defendants, unindicted co-conspirators?
You know, Donald Trump is very free and easy on social media. That's a line that he just may cross, and then we'll see what happens. COATES: I mean, taking of how modern this is, I remember prosecuting and you had a judge who would say, or the world wide web. We're very far from that now in terms of how it was discussed.
Listen to this because, Norm, even though he has all these legal challenges, there's a debate coming up on Wednesday. Some of the people who are running to oust him from the front through the RNC are already talking about how they would really pardon him or whether they would offer a pardon if they were elected president. Listen to what they're already saying as we get ready to talk to the rest of our panel.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VIVEK RAMASWAMY, REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: My top job is to reunite this country, and my way of doing that is going to be to pardon Donald Trump on day one.
MIKE PENCE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES (voice-over): I take the pardon authority very seriously. It's an enormously important power of someone in an executive position, and I just think it's premature to have any conversation about that right now.
Look, we either believe in our judicial process in this country or we don't. We either stand by the rule of law or we don't.
UNKNOWN: Would you commit to pardoning him on any federal charges against him?
GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): Well, what I've said is very simple. I'm going to do what's right for the country. I don't think it would be good for the country to have an almost 80-year-old former president go to prison.
UNKNOWN: So that's a yes?
ASA HUTCHINSON, FORMER ARKANSAS GOVERNOR, PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We shouldn't be promising and holding out the fig leaf of a pardon because that undermines our jury system.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COATES: I want to bring in Washington correspondent for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Tia Mitchell, also former associate White House counsel to President George W. Bush, Jamil Jaffer, and former FBI Deputy Assistant Director Peter Strzok. He's also the author of "Compromised: Counterintelligence and the Threat of Donald J. Trump."
And so, since you wrote the book, I'm going to start with you on this very notion, Peter, because, first of all, you have seen, really, and you have incurred the wrath of Donald Trump over time. When you talk about the bond condition saying, look, no intimidation, to Norm's point, direct or indirect, no threats and beyond, you've been an FBI agent, how realistic is that he'll be able to follow it?
PETER STRZOK, FORMER FBI COUNTERINTELLIGENCE AGENT: Well, look, the best predictor of future action is past behavior. And I think given what Trump has done, there's absolutely no way he's going to be able to honor these terms of release.
The question is, when he invariably violates it, what happens then? I would be hard pressed to see in any federal court a judge bringing somebody in and throw the book at him and say, you're going to jail, you're detained.
At a state level or county level, I suspect that's probably the same thing, but I do expect, A, Trump is not going to be able to abide by these conditions. And when he does violate it, that we'll see a slowly escalating response by the court to try and get him back in line.
But again, you're asking something that is inherently not in his nature. It hasn't been in his nature most of his professional life. It's going to come to a conflict.
COATES: You can tell a baby not to cry in some respects, right? But you know what? He said actually it might accelerate. We were talking about Judge Chutkan who said, look, the more you talk, the fastest these court dates are going to actually come. Maybe a little bit of reverse psychology happening in that realm.
But when you look at this, imagine you're his lawyer, which -- did anyone shutter just now? Okay, imagine you're his lawyer for a moment and you're thinking to yourself, how am I going to make sure that I don't overcomplicate or make my case even more complicated in any of these different venues? Because what he says in one could be interpreted to mean other cases as well.
JAMIL JAFFER, FORMER ASSOCIATE WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL TO GEORGE W. BUSH: Yeah, no doubt. But, look, part of the thing that his lawyers want to do is to complicate these cases. They want to extend this thing. They want to stretch out as long as possible. Now, I know Norm believes that they're not going to be able to do that. They're going to try to get this thing happening in the near term.
But I think the lawyers are going to work really hard to create as much noise, throw as much sand in the gears as possible. They want to stall this thing. The longer it goes, the better it is for Donald Trump politically, the more likely he is, if he's elected, to be able to get rid of some of, not all of, at least the federal charges, if he gets elected and can get the Justice Department off his back.
COATES: I mean, calling me a naive for a second to you, but it might be good for him politically, but what about the voters? Because they, in many respects, want to have some level of resolution or at least some insight as to whether this is going to be the albatross around their neck going forward for all their policy discussions or whether they're going to be able to kind of be wiped clean away.
You cover Atlanta, you know Georgia so well in all of your journalism, and you're fabulous. Tell me what you think the people of Atlanta are thinking about in Fulton County as it relates to this case over the others?
TIA MITCHELL, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION: Well, number one, I think the people of Atlanta in Fulton County want a safe procedure. They don't want violence. They don't want a January 6th coming to their city. They want to see the justice system play out in a way that's fair, fair to Donald Trump, fair to the 18 co- defendants, but that keeps everything in the courthouse.
So, I think that people of Atlanta are a little bit nervous about, you know, are pro-Trump supporters going to show up? Is there potential for some drama around either when Trump and the other co-defendants start turning themselves in or indictments in other court hearings?
But I think in the broader sense, what the people of Atlanta want is the same thing as what the people of America want, and that is accountability. We've seen recent polling and people say they do think Trump should be held accountable. They actually believe that these charges are worth pursuing, at least, again, to let him have his day in court and let's get all the facts out there.
COATES: But is Georgia unique in that? Because Georgia has already been unique in the sense that their governor, secretary of state, lieutenant governor and beyond, all sort of held the line. They were not able to even campaign with Donald Trump.
Anyway, when you look at all this, Norman, think about the timing of it. It is one thing to have accountability. But accountability seems to lose steam if it's farther away from the present time.
EISEN: Well, it's better to have it sooner. I do think that we're going to get at least one and maybe two of these trials in 2024. So that will be some accountability. The Georgia case is uniquely important for accountability because it's not pardonable. And we saw those clips.
I mean, what has it come to in the United States when you have major political figures who are speaking up against accountability and against the equal application of the laws? Hundreds and hundreds of these insurrectionists tried in D.C. gone to jail. Why shouldn't be alleged ring leaders have their day in court?
Georgia can't be pardoned away. It's okay if the Georgia case, bigger case, takes a little longer. I think we're going to see that Jack Smith case move like lightning and that will put the federal 1/6 case, will put the wind in the sails of some of the other.
COATES: How do you see it?
STRZOK: I think it's going to be interesting for a couple of reasons. One, there are overlaps in witnesses and people have been charged. Look at Mark Meadows. He is not charged. He is an even -- presumably one of the unnamed co-conspirators in the federal indictment out of D.C. He has been charged down in Atlanta.
So, if you are one of these people who has exposure in both, either as a subject or as a witness, you've got to make a calculation whether or not you're going to cooperate with the authorities, whether those are state authorities or federal authorities.
Obviously, if you don't cooperate and Trump is elected, you could get a pardon for a federal crime, but you're not going to get that at a state level. So, it's going to be very interesting to see, particularly if we have dual, one federal, one state case moving together at once, where you have people who are in different roles, that's certainly going to be interesting.
And again, the Norm's point, those are going to be the people at the higher level, the ones who are immediately in contact with Trump, the ones who can either make the case for Jack Smith or who can end up being charged alongside, next to Trump.
COATES: So fascinating. Everyone, thank you so much. Always a pleasure to hear your input and insight here.
Well, Donald Trump is now facing some pretty severe restrictions on what he can and cannot say, particularly on social media.
What's that going to mean as he's right in the middle of running for president? Well, we're going to talk about it next.
COATES: Well, tonight, former President Trump is preparing to surrender on criminal charges in Georgia. He's going to do it apparently on Thursday. And there is a historic development because after he was indicted there for his efforts to overturn the 2020 election, well, guess what? He'll have to abide by a host of rules under the bond agreement.
I want to bring in CNN contributor and former Nixon White House counsel, John Dean, and former assistant special Watergate prosecutor, Jon Sale. Nice to see you both. I got two Johns, it looks like, today. Nice to see both of you here with me.
I'll be here with you, John, because it's interesting to me what's happening, because this obviously is happening in state court. But there are discussions about the possibility of removing it, as they say, to federal court.
And in fact, Mark Meadows, the former chief-of-staff, wants in a new filing for that state court charge to be dismissed because he says this was all under the color of his position, all under his role as a federal government employee. Are you buying that at all?
JON SALE, FORMER ASSISTANT SPECIAL WATERGATE PROSECUTOR: Well, it's a good thing --
JOHN DEAN, CNN CONTRIBUTOR, FORMER NIXON WHITE HOUSE COUNSEL: Is that for John Dean? COATES: John Dean, excuse me.
SALE: Oh, yeah, which John? Okay, that's the J-O-H-N.
SALE: Go on, John.
DEAN: Let me give a shot at it. I'm one who does not think the Meadows motion will succeed. I think that it will be turned down while he was in a federal position. He wasn't undertaking work of the White House when he went to Georgia to get involved in the Georgia election. That's not part of the job of the White House chief-of-staff.
So, I think it's a reach. I think they're going to have an evidentiary hearing on this shortly. I think that's going to come out that he will not qualify as a federal employee to bring that removal action.
COATES: I mean, after all, the idea of elections is the purview of the states. It's hard to understand what a chief-of-staff for the White House would be doing in terms of allegedly meddling.
But Rudy Giuliani, Jon Sale, Rudy Giuliani, Kenneth Chesebro, John Eastman, Sidney Powell, these are all co-defendants in the Georgia case. I'm wondering what you make of their potential defenses because in order to remove anyway in federal court, you have to have some sort of viable federal defense. But there's a common theme here. These are attorneys as well. And so, what do you think might be their defenses going forward?
SALE: Well, giving them a law license doesn't give them the ability to break the law.
SALE: I mean, in removal, one of the underlying premises is they were acting legally under color of law on behalf of the president. I mean, my old friend, John Dean, will remember that his boss, Bob Haldeman, if he had contended he was immune, he wouldn't have served 18 months in prison for doing the president's bidding. So, I think that each person has a different defense.
But -- I mean, there's another way th0at's interesting, which I don't think people have talked about. Donald Trump has a claim that he has an advice of counsel defense. I'm not saying it will prevail, but he has a good advice of counsel defense. And he can argue that, look, district attorney, you've taken away that defense because every one of the lawyers who gave me advice is a co-defendant.
And so, I'm not -- now, I can't call them to testify because they're going to be sitting at council table with me and they're going to have a Fifth Amendment privilege. So, all these cases are going to have to be separated and each case has to be tried on its own merits. We call that a severance.
COATES: Well, Jon Sale, on that, I was hoping for a second on this because I've always thought that by virtue of that advice of counsel defense, it sets up quite the acrimonious, contentious relationship, right? Because the privilege normally would exist. The crime fraud exception would suggest that if you're engaged in a crime together, you don't get that same privilege.
But even if you set that aside for a second, are you suggesting that by virtue of being a co-defendant, that Donald Trump would be in a better position to say he cannot mount a viable defense because his attorneys wouldn't even have the opportunity to say whether, you know, they acted in this way, they couldn't testify in the same way because that privilege does belong to the client?
SALE: That's right. But in order to confirm or corroborate or whether or not they gave him advice, whether he disclosed everything to them, whether he relied on that advice, he certainly would want to call the lawyers to say, here was the advice they gave me. And he doesn't have the ability to call them, not through any fault of his own, but because they're all joined together.
So, this case is going to be fraught with litigation. Even though it's pardon proof, the Atlanta, Georgia case, when you have 19 defendants -- I mean, there's a RICO case going on right now in Atlanta, brought by the same district attorney, and I can't imagine how this is happening.
But it has been taking them six months to pick a jury. So, I just don't see how this case can go to trial. I think some of the other cases do have a shot of going to trial long before the election.
COATES: Well, John Dean, on that point that the other Jon was talking about just now and the idea of the attorney-client privilege, it strikes me that we are only going to talk about just a mere fraction of the people who are also co-defendants, they are a total of 19 people.
And in the other cases we've seen against Donald Trump, whether it has been Mar-a-Lago or what's happening out of Washington, D.C., in the January 6th, as it's coined criminal indictment, I wonder with this growing web of people -- I mean, there's a yearbook photo really on the screen right now as we are conversing. Are you seeing parallels to Watergate in terms of just how many people in Trump's orbit are being pulled into this?
And by the way, people who we've known about, like a Sidney Powell or Mark Meadows and many other of these people, the names not, you know, household names to most people for any reason.
DEAN: Well, actually, the Watergate special prosecution force pared down the major trial in Watergate, the cover-up trial, in which Nixon was an unindicted co-conspirator. That helped get his tapes into evidence. But there, they had Haldeman, the chief-of-staff, Ehrlichman, the former top domestic advisor, Mitchell, the former attorney general, and some lesser lights. But it wasn't a packed courtroom. It wasn't 19. I think it was six or seven at one point. Some of them got severed and dropped later.
So, the process of litigating these things, sort them out, I don't believe 19 people are going to go to trial in this case. First of all, I think some of them are going to likely flip. The prison system in Georgia is notorious for being a hellhole, and nobody wants to spend a day there. So, as I say, I think some of them will cooperate. Others may find legitimate reasons to sever. Some might go to federal court on removal. Some would stay in state court.
Incidentally, if it removes to federal court, of course, it's still a state case, but just tried in the federal building.
COATES: That's a really important point. I just want to remind the audience, too. We talk about removal. It would go to the Northern District of Georgia. But they would still have a state prosecutor. It's going to be the state law. And if convicted under that state offense, that person would still have an unpardonable offense, right?
COATES: A man of few words, John Dean, Jon Sale, thank you so much for being here, both of you.
SALE: Thanks, and nice to see you, John.
DEAN: Thanks. Nice seeing you, Jon.
COATES: Everyone, well, that was pleasant. I love the communication. Most of the Republicans, though, taking the debate stage on Wednesday have something in common, and you may not have noticed. But will it give them an advantage? I'm going to tell you what it is. Give you a little bit of a cliffhanger. It's next.
COATES: Well, the first 2024 Republican presidential debate is kicking off this coming Wednesday. The field is big. Eight candidates are fully qualified now to participate in this debate. And of those eight, drum roll please, six are or were governors. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, former vice president and former Indiana Governor Mike Pence, former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum and, of course, former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson.
So, what could their experience really mean for the debate? I want to bring in another former governor, former Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick. So nice to see you, Governor. How are you?
DEVAL PATRICK, FORMER MASSACHUSETTS GOVERNOR: Great to see you. I'm well, Laura. Congratulations on the new show.
COATES: Oh, thank you. I'm thrilled that you're here today. I always love being able to pick your brain on so many important matters. So, thank you for joining me tonight.
You know, governor, there are a lot of governors that are going to be in this debate. A lot running, of course, for the presidency and the RNC nomination. I'm wondering, over the other candidates, does being a governor give them an advantage?
PATRICK: Well, I think executive experience is important because the job, after all, is a president -- of being president is an executive job. I'll tell you, I'll be listening for two things. One is, what are they for? An awful lot of what we hear about and from Republican candidates for president and for many offices is what it is they are against. What are they for?
And the other thing I'll be listening for is, are they interested, in fact, in being president of all of us in the United States or just those who agree with that? And you hear a lot from Republicans today pandering to others who are about, you know, turning on one another instead of to one another.
And I think we need presidents and candidates for president who want to ask us and do ask us to turn to each other. That's why Joe Biden is a formidable candidate for reelection. He's shown that kind of leadership, that kind of executive, and frankly patriotic leadership. And I think any of these Republicans, governors or not, have their work cut out for him trying to defeat him.
COATES: Well, you know, it's interesting. It's shocking, really, if you think about it, that so much of the conversation has had so little to do with answering either of those two questions that you're actually looking to hear more information about. But if they're first going to face who you call formidable, they got to get to be RNC nomination process. And there is somebody who is a formidable opponent right now in one Donald Trump, at least according to the polling.
And so, what is the best strategy for the candidates to even make a dent in that lead? Because so far, the strategy has been to be quiet. His name is almost Voldemort (ph) to many of these candidates. They do not want to even name him at this point or any point in time. So, he's obviously the big elephant in the room. How do they strategize in a way that actually answers those two points?
PATRICK: Well, you know, I'm not a strategist who can help them with that. I think he does, as you say, cast a big shadow over the debate and over the campaign. But if our Constitution means anything, Laura, he will not be on the ballot.
He is disqualified from being on the ballot. As scholars from both the conservative side and the more liberal side of the Constitution have written and said publicly, he is disqualified by the 14th Amendment to the Constitution from being on the ballot. And I think --
COATES: Excuse me, governor. I don't want to cut you off, but that might be -- to use a phrase we talked about earlier, a scholarly debate or point, but presently, he is indeed on the ballot. PATRICK: He is in the conversation. He is not on any ballot. And I expect that there will be, if there needs to be, challenges to secretaries of states and others who are authorized for developing the ballots when that time comes to keep him off because under our Constitution, it is unequivocal. He is disqualified from being on the ballot.
COATES: So, let's assume for sake of argument that he indeed is on the ballot, even after all the discussions. And I've certainly read the articles and have thought about the discussions and the legal premise behind it.
But there are those right now, a former governor in state of New Jersey, Chris Christie, who has been talking about him being disqualified, not so much for the reasons you have stated, but because of his performance, because of how he was as the president of the United States.
I'm wondering if you think this upcoming debate is going to be substantive or will it be about trying to address Donald Trump and not the policies?
PATRICK: Well, I think it's probably -- it ought to be some of both in the sense that there's an awful lot of substantive content to offer in rebuttal to what Donald Trump has offered and is offering going forward. I think the big challenge for Republicans generally is to break this pattern of who's going to out bully the next bully.
I don't think Americans want a bully as the president of the United States. We want someone who is unifying, someone who is about a better future for all of us, the seen and the unseen, the left out and left back. And I don't think that we're getting that from Republican candidates so far.
And that is a real contrast to what President Biden has offered and will offer, and the Biden-Harris administration has offered going forward into the future.
COATES: I'll tell you what, going forward and thinking about it, one thing that some of these candidates as governors will have that might be a bit of disadvantage compared to others is that they do have a track record. Whether you like it or not, they will have sort of the proof of concept, and how that will be used against them or in favor of them is what some of the candidates who have never held office are now going to have to be able to attack.
Former Governor Deval Patrick, always nice to talk to you. Thank you so much.
PATRICK: Nice to talk with you, Laura. Good luck. Take care.
COATES: Thank you. Well, long dismissed sexual abuse cases against Michael Jackson's estate, well, they're now revived. We'll break down the strength of those lawsuits and, well, where we go from here and how we got here.
COATES: Two men have long accused Michael Jackson of sexually abusing them when they were children. Well, look at their day in court now. It seems a California Court of Appeals ruling the two men, Wade Robson and James Safechuck, can revive the lawsuit that had been dismissed against two companies now owned by the Jacksons estate. Robson and Safechuck made detailed molestation allegations in a 2019 HBO documentary called "Leaving Neverland." But it has been a long, hard fight to be heard in a court of law.
Robson and Safechuck first filed suit back in 2013 and 2014, respectively. But in 2017, their cases were dismissed because they exceeded California's head of limitations period.
That all changed when California passed a law effective in January of 2020 that allowed child sexual assault victims to move forward within five years of realizing they suffered psychological injury from sex and assault and up to the age of 40.
Now, their cases were revived, but then in October of 2020 and April 2021, they were again dismissed when a court ruled that the corporations were not legally required to protect them as children.
Flash forward to this past Friday now, when the appeals court ruled the lawsuits actually could again resume, writing that -- quote -- "A corporation that facilitates the sexual abuse of children by one of its employees is not excused from an affirmative duty to protect those children merely because it is solely owned by the perpetrator of the abuse" -- unquote.
Now Jackson, when he was alive, steadfastly denied ever abusing any children and was acquitted of similar allegations from a different accuser back in 2003. He died in 2009.
Jonathan Steinsapir, attorney for the estate for Michael Jackson, said in a statement to CNN -- quote -- "We are disappointed with the court's decision," later adding, "We remain fully confident that Michael is innocent of these allegations."
Joining me now is investigative journalist and author of "Be Careful of Who You Love: Inside the Michael Jackson Case," Diane Dimond, and attorney Areva Martin. I'm glad to see both of you here today. I have been so curious about this headline and this ruling ever since I saw it.
But let me begin with you, Diane, because you actually -- you first broke the news about accusations of an inappropriate relationship between Michael Jackson and a young boy back in 1993.
I wonder, based from then to now, I mean, so many years have passed, what was your reaction to Friday's ruling reviving the ability to bring this to court?
DIANE DIMOND, INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST, AUTHOR: Well, you know, I wasn't surprised because so many states now have waved their old statute of limitations. And so, I know the two men's attorney, Vince Finaldi, who is a bulldog, and I knew he wasn't going to give up.
And you know what? I think it comes down to this, Laura. If the Catholic church is responsible for what its priests did, and if the boy scouts are responsible for what their scouts did, that is what this appellate court ruled, that the same standard should apply to the businesses of Michael Jackson, even though he owned them solely himself.
COATES: Areva, I want to unpack that because people might hear this and say, wait a second, they can now go back to court, they can sue the Jackson estate again or that he can be tried post-mortem? That's not the case, as Diane is talking about and reminding us. This is about the corporations. Can you just unpack a little bit for us, Areva, as to why there is a distinction and whether the estate can be challenged?
AREVA MARTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, what we know are is that the estate is not a part of these lawsuits that are being revived. These lawsuits are against two entities that Michael Jackson was the sole shareholder, sole proprietor of, and one was the Michael or MJJ Ventures, and one was MJJ Productions.
And what the court is allowing for these two cases, as you stated in your opening, both cases had been dismissed, the 2013 and 2014 cases, based on the statute of limitations, and now this new law that California has, which allows individuals to file a case for sexual abuse that otherwise might have been barred by the statute, so that's a huge victory for the plaintiffs in this case, then the court of appeals saying that the lower court got it wrong by determining that these corporations did not owe a duty of care to these individuals.
Now, I think it's interesting to note, Laura, the appellate court says there is no comparable case law to cite. I think the decision about whether these corporations that are solely owned by Michael Jackson and the court goes on to talk about how he could have restrained himself, how he could have conducted himself in a different way so as not to cause the harm to these two men and boys at the time, I don't think this is a settled decision at all.
You have two lower courts dismissing these cases. You have an appellate court saying, no, lower court, particularly on the merit of the liability of the corporations, you got it wrong sending it back to the lower court.
So, whatever the outcome is, if this case does move forward to trial, we should expect to see continued appellate court litigation about this issue of the responsibility of these companies.
COATES: I mean, Diane, you're nodding. One of the reasons for a lot of people to be leaning in even more on instances of cases and allegations as they are right now is because, through the MeToo era in particular, society realized that people delayed their reporting. They had a very different notion of what a -- quote -- unquote -- "true victim" was, how they would operate and beyond. And it's causing some people to look at this case perhaps with a new, fresh set of eyes.
But you actually were in the court when one of the plaintiffs, Wade Robeson, testified. But he testified, remember, in defense of Michael Jackson, saying that he had not been a victim of molestation or anything inappropriate. So, given that he now is a plaintiff in this, are you surprised that when he came forward with a different story and it continues to have legs today, even with the appellate court?
DIMOND: Well, you know, let us way back to 1993 when he was a little boy and I kept hearing his name come up over and over and over from people who worked within MJJ Productions and MJJ Ventures.
I think maybe Ventures wasn't even started yet, but in my book, you mentioned my book, I write about many of the employees at MJJ Productions who told me, you know, we were lavishing gifts on James Safechuck and on Wade Robson and their mothers and anything they wanted and we were -- so this is the crux of their claim, that people within that entity aided and abetted Michael Jackson in his alleged molestation of them, and it doesn't surprise me that it took them so long to come forward or that the story changed.
COATES: I mean, certainly I've prosecuted delayed sexual assault cases, Areva. I know you're nodding as well. You've had your fair share in thinking about how this oftentimes can unfold. I will note, of course, that he, Michael Jackson, was not found, you know, criminally liable for the behavior that he was accused of having committed.
And actually, the attorney representing the estate of Michael Jackson said this, they -- quote -- "remain fully confident that Michael is innocent of these allegations." Now, the cases, as you know, which were consolidated in the appeals court, are now going to go back to the trial courtroom. And I'm wondering about how many instances, many civil trials often end or even end before they begin, Areva, in a settlement. Do you expect there to be that outcome here?
MARTIN: Well, clearly, this kind of victory where you had a case or cases dismissed twice and yet they are revived. Talk about incentives for defendants to settle a case, I think, you know, there was ever a foster child for an incentive. This is what we are looking at here.
But Laura, as you just stated, both of these men, not just one, but both of them have made prior inconsistent statements. They both have stated under oath that Michael Jackson never molested them, never assaulted them.
So, that is going to be, if these cases do move forward to trial, if there isn't settlement, that is going to be a big issue, I think, for a lot of jurors who are looking at this. You know, Michael Jackson is a beloved celebrity in his death. So, reconciling what we know about, the delayed response, how victims oftentimes suppress what has happened to them and then come forward later, juxtaposing that with these prior inconsistent statements, I don't think it's a slam dunk on either side.
COATES: Diane Dimond, Areva Martin, something tells me this is not the end of even this conversation. Thank you both for being here.
Well, another NFL player carted off the field, this time on the New England Patriots. That's just days after the Philadelphia Eagles players were taken off on stretchers. Is safety becoming an even bigger issue in the NFL?
COATES: It was a scary moment when the remainder of an NFL preseason game between the New England Patriots and the Green Bay Packers was called off on Saturday after Patriots cornerback Isaiah Bolden suffered a frightening injury. He was carted off the field in the fourth quarter. He was motionless after plotting with his own teammate, Calvin Munson, in that quarter.
The team later said that he had feeling in all of his extremities, but this is only the latest injury this preseason alone, and it can't help but remind people of what happened when Damar Hamlin had a cardiac arrest on the field in January.
Here with me now, Rachel Nichols, host of Headlines. Rachel Nichols on Showtime is with us now. Rachel, thank you for being here tonight. I mean, this injury, it was so scary to see. For so many people who were watching, it brought back some very painful and scary reminders of what happened last season. Now, his injuries are different, I understand. Is that right?
RACHEL NICHOLS, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR: Yeah, absolutely. And look, it was extremely scary in the moment because you had the same beginning circumstances, right? He just collapsed and was lying motionless in sort of a ragdoll position on the field. That's unbelievable to have to go through that if you're a teammate of his and certainly for all the fans watching. But it was pretty clear pretty quickly that things were different.
Damar Hamlin, his heart stopped. If it wasn't for the quick thinking of the medical staff on hand, he would have died. In this situation, it was pretty clear as soon as the medical staff was attending to Bolden that things were different. You saw some of his legs moving a little bit. You saw that they were not moving at the same pace they had with Damar Hamlin because obviously the situation wasn't as serious. And the team did announce pretty soon after the game, as you noted, that he had feeling in all his extremities.
He was really just kept in the hospital overnight for observation, reportedly diagnosed with a concussion, and allowed to fly back to Massachusetts with the team on Sunday morning. COATES: I mean, one of the differences is that the game was called off. Obviously, this is a preseason at this point. So, it's unlike the actual regular season games when there was a question of what to do now and how to operate in this instance.
But noting on that concussion, I mean, there has been, I understand, an 18% increase in concussions in the NFL comparing the last two seasons, by the way. Is there a reason this is increasing, all of a sudden 18% now?
NICHOLS: Yeah. I mean, it's a couple things mashed together. One thing is the NFL, to its credit, has broadened the definition of what a concussion is to be in line with what medical experts suggest. So obviously, if you broaden that out, you're going to get more people diagnosed with it.
However, what we are still waiting for is a little bit more safety equipment. We have seen the NFL investigate different style of helmets. We've also seen what's called a guardian cap. I call it a foam thingy. Some people like to call it an egg crate. Certain players have been wearing this during practice.
And this is astonishing, Laura. In those situations, concussions have decreased 52%. Fifty-two percent. And we know the effect of concussions on these players later in life. That is significant if those could be cut in half.
Now why don't we see this during a game? Well, you can take a look at what they look like. A lot of players don't want to change to something like that. It is hard to get them to play in what they're not used to. NFL can be slow to change as a league and they don't look great, and I think it doesn't really fit into the aesthetic of being this rough and ready league.
So, it'll be interesting to see if the helmet technology can catch up enough to those guardian caps that people are okay just sticking with the helmets, or the NFL has said, not right now, but it's possible. If the helmet technology can't catch up, you might see those guardian caps in a game sometime soon.
COATES: I mean, aesthetics, safety, you know what's something that's not particularly attractive? Having something you could have prevented and having it occur nonetheless. Rachel Nichols, thank you so much.
COATES: Well, thank you all, everyone, for watching. Our coverage here on CNN continues.