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Insurrectionists in the Constitution; R. Kelly Faces Life in Prison; Li Sollis is Interviewed about Utah's Domestic Violence Laws; Poll Shows Reasons for New Vaccinations; Cedric Ceballos is Interviewed about his COVID Battle. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired September 28, 2021 - 08:30   ET



JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: There's also a separate criminal statue for seditious conspiracy.

Now, prosecution is a matter for the Justice Department to decide. And to date, they have refrained from charging Capitol Hill riots with sedition or insurrection, choosing to prosecute them instead for things like conspiracy and obstructing congressional proceedings, which is quite the understatement.

But the DOJ isn't done. And the January 6th Commission is just getting started. And every week we seem to get more evidence about the plot to overturn the election from within the Trump White House. From directing continued attempts by the ex-president, to pressure election officials, pressing the DOJ to call the election corrupt. And that's all despite the Trump campaign's knowledge that claims about fraudulent voting machines were bogus. And there's Steve Bannon telling Trump, we're going to bury Biden on January 6th in advance of the attack, the chilling six-point memo on how Vice President Pence could overturn the election authored by Trump legal advisor John Eastman.

As University of Maryland Law Professor Mark Graber, a scholar of the 14th Amendment, told me, from a constitutional perspective, there's no difference between trying to overturn an election by fraud, force or violence. All of them fall under insurrection. If none of this is to say that putting an ex-president or his lackeys on trial is likely or wise from the standpoint of stabilizing democracy, especially when Biden's AG, Merrick Garland, is trying to undo the politization of the Trump DOJ.

But these laws exist for a reason. They are tools that previous generations gave us to hold insurrectionists accountable, particularly those who abuse the power of their office and disregarded their oaths to protect and defend the Constitution. By any definition, our country suffered through an attempted insurrection. And there's nothing more serious, especially when it affects -- threatens to affect future elections. We need to be at least as determined to defend our democracy as Trump and his lackies were in trying to destroy it.

And that's your "Reality Check."

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: The avenue exists. The likelihood anyone tries to use it, John?

AVLON: Look, use the tools that were given to you. Laws exist for a reason. When we don't enforce the laws, then we stop being a nation of laws and become a nation of men. And that's where bad things start to happen, as we've seen.

BERMAN: John Avlon, thank you very much.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: We have some brand-new audio revealing officers were told Brian Laundrie hit Gabby Petito before they made this traffic stop. We're going to speak with a domestic violence expert on what went wrong here.

BERMAN: A former NBA star speaking out about his near death COVID experience. Hear what he went through in the ICU, coming up.



BERMAN: Singer R. Kelly could spend the rest of his life in prison after being convicted of racketeering and sex trafficking charges. A federal jury in New York found him guilty on all counts. His sentencing will be in May.

CNN's Laura Jarrett, co-anchor of "EARLY START," joins us now.

And I know for so many of his alleged victims, Laura, their reaction is, finally.

LAURA JARRETT, CNN CO-ANCHOR, "EARLY START": Yes, breathing a sigh of relief, really. So many of the survivors feeling like their voices were finally heard, but also wondering, what took so long?

Jerhonda Pace, the first victim to testify at Kelly's trial, reacting to the news on Instagram, saying, I'm happy to finally close this chapter of my life. Pace, like so many others, was featured in that 2019 documentary on Kelly, which in many ways serves as the catalyst for prosecutors to finally re-examine all of the allegations that had been reported about him for well over a decade.

The R&B singer was acquitted back in 2008 on child pornography charges. So this time prosecutors changed their strategy. They used a racketeering charge usually meant for going after organized crime, going after the mob, they used it to convince this jury that Kelly had used his fame and this network of enablers to create a sex trafficking ring, essentially a criminal enterprise, perhaps best illustrated by this red octopus. A drawing actually created by one of Kelly's former accountants showing Kelly at the helm.

After the guilty verdict came in yesterday, Kelly didn't show any reaction in court, but prosecutors had this to say.


JACQUELYN M. KASULIS, ACTING U.S. ATTORNEY FROM THE EASTERN DISTRICT: To the victims in this case, your voices were heard, and justice was finally served.

Today's guilty verdict forever brands R. Kelly as a predator who used his fame and fortune to prey on the young, the vulnerable, and the voiceless for his own sexual gratification.


JARRETT: Now facing ten years to life in prison, Kelly may indeed appeal this verdict. But his legal troubles are far from over. He faces state and federal charges in Chicago, also more in Minnesota. But, for now, this is the first time in the Me Too era where a man has been held accountable for hurting predominantly women of color, John.

BERMAN: Justice a long time coming.


BERMAN: But justice.


BERMAN: Thank you so much for that.


BERMAN: Brianna.

KEILAR: Some new developments in the manhunt for Brian Laundrie. CNN has obtained dispatch audio recordings that shed light on what the Moab Police were told before this August 12th traffic stop. Let's listen.


OFFICER: Do you have a phone number for the RP, maybe just a landline, and -- or a location of where our victim's at?

DISPATCH: Phone number is (MUTED) but the female who got hit, they both -- the male and the female both got into the van and headed north. RP states they seen a male hit a female. Domestic. He got into a white Ford Transit van. Has a black ladder on the back.


KEILAR: Now this audio has put the Moab Police Department in the hot seat because under Utah law officers are required to make an arrest, or issue a citation when they have probable cause to believe an act of domestic violence has occurred.


Let's talk about this now with Liz Sollis, she is the spokeswoman for the Utah Domestic Violence Coalition.

Liz, thank you so much for being with us. And just, if you can, explain the law to us, because I know, you know,

I think a lot of people's reference point for this might be some legal show where it's an issue of whether the party here (ph) may have been hit or abused is going to press charges. That's not what the law says in this case.

LIZ SOLLIS, SPOKESWOMAN, UTAH DOMESTIC VIOLENCE COALITION: Correct. So, in the state of Utah, the law reads that the law enforcement agency, responding agency, shall arrest or cite the aggressor. However, there's different factors that they're going to be looking at. They're going to be looking at whether or not there is serious, physical injury, if there's dangerous weapons present. Their primary focus should be protecting the victim, reducing harm and preventing further violence, as well as following the law.

KEILAR: One of the things that seemed confusing in this video compared to the dispatch audio is that if you're talking about who the victim is, they were looking at Brian Laundrie having a mark near his face, maybe a -- some -- a mark on his arm that was kind of hard to discern on the video. There was an issue of is -- is Gabby Petito the aggressor here.

What -- what do you say to that?

SOLLIS: So, I would say that domestic violence situations are difficult. It isn't uncommon in a domestic violence situation for both of the parties to perhaps respond to each other. There's, obviously, always a primary aggressor, but if somebody's been abused for a really long time, I -- I would say it's not uncommon for them to -- to react to a perpetrator.


SOLLIS: I also want to point out that if someone is arrested, or cited, it doesn't necessarily mean that they're going to go to jail. It could just mean that they receive a citation, much like you would receive a traffic ticket. So, I know some people I think believe that if Brian Laundrie had gone to jail, that could have saved Gabby's life. However, that's not a guarantee and it probably wouldn't have been for as long as people would have hoped given the severity of the situation.

KEILAR: Maybe he just would have been cited. I think that's a really interesting point that you make.

Liz, thank you so much.

Lis Sollis.

And if you or someone that you know is experiencing domestic abuse, please reach out to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, 1-800-799- SAFE.

And just in, why the majority of Americans are now resigned to a future with COVID. BERMAN: Plus, the Capitol hearing so many have circled on their

calendars. General Mark Milley answering questions under oath. He'll be asked about the stunning revelations in these books about his actions in the last days of the Trump presidency.



KEILAR: There's a new poll that breaks down what has been persuading Americans to get vaccinated against COVID. The delta variant overburdened hospitals and virus deaths are among the concerns shown to have driven a recent surge in new vaccinations.

CNN's Elizabeth Cohen is with us now on this.

I think this is the question everyone wants to know, what does prompt people to say, yes, I'm going to get the shot?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: Right. Exactly. This has been sort of the mystery that everyone has tried to solve in order to change these numbers that I'm about to show you.

This is the status quo in the U.S. right now. Approximately one in four people who are eligible to receive a vaccine haven't even gotten one dose. It's been around for months now and they haven't even gotten a dose. Clearly they don't want it. And approximately 1,300 people dying every day from COVID-19. That's the result of that vaccination rate.

So at Kaiser Family Foundation, they took a look at people who did get vaccinated since June 1st. So, in other words, they were kind of late to the party, so to speak. They were late in getting vaccinated, but they did get vaccinated. So what persuaded them?

So what they found was that some of the most popular -- some of the most common reasons, more than a third of people said it was because they saw the increase in cases, because of the delta variant. They saw hospitals filling up. They knew someone who would become seriously ill or who had died of COVID, or because they wanted to participate in an activity, such as traveling, that would require them to be vaccinated.

When you look at other things, like mandated by employee or vaccine from -- pressure from family and friends to get vaccinated, those were less common. Only 19 percent listed that as a major reason.

So, what you can conclude from all this, Brianna, is that really fear is what's driven people over the past few months to get vaccinated. Fear that they would end up in the hospital. Fear that they would die. And it certainly makes you think, when you look at a lot of the government and other ads, other campaigns to try to get people vaccinated, they emphasize the positive aspects of vaccination, which is good, but maybe they ought to be thinking a little bit more about emphasizing the negative thing, the terrible things that can happen if you catch COVID-19.


KEILAR: Fear, and I would add, FOMO, because they want to travel, they want to do fun things and they don't want to miss out.

COHEN: Yes. Right.

KEILAR: Elizabeth Cohen, thank you so much.

COHEN: Fear and FOMO, right. Thanks.

BERMAN: Well, look, one person who did end up in the hospital and bad, NBA all-star Cedric Ceballos, a dangerous scorer who famously won the 1992 slam dunk contest with a blindfolded dunk. He spent 20 days in the hospital, at least ten of those in the ICU, fighting for his life with COVID.

And Cedric Ceballos joins me now.

Cedric, first of all, it's wonderful to see you up and about.

How bad was it?


It was very bad.


A tough situation for myself. Obviously, you know, I want to thank the doctors and nurses and also my family members for -- for getting me through this. But it -- yes, it was touch and go and a very bad situation.

I ended up losing a lot of muscle. I have to relearn how to walk. I'm still not as stable. And then, you know, retrain the breathing and all that. But it got very dangerous.

BERMAN: You had to relearn to walk. You're still not stable. To hear that, you know, from a former NBA all-star, it did that much to your body?

CEBALLOS: Yes, you know, it's great because I would have -- was that athlete because, you know, my doctors was telling me that's what's, you know, kept me going. It really got me through, that I was in such great shape at the age of 52 and being able to sustain, you know, what COVID took away from me with the lungs and also the muscle. So, you know, it was, you know, fortunate that I -- I did keep myself in shape because I think it saved my life.

BERMAN: Well, look, I was -- I've been going through your social media. I think a lot of us were following you on social media through this. And it sounded so dire. I mean you were struggling through it. You have that picture there in the ICU. And one of the things you posted was, if I've done anything to anybody out there in the past, allow me to apologize. That sounds like someone who doesn't think they're going to make it.

CEBALLOS: Well, yes, I mean I was getting my affairs in order. I was making sure, you know, you know, trying to really get myself and my family ready for the worst. And that statement there was just for those who, you know, you know, this was my opportunity to, you know, maybe apologize, and mend those wounds. I just wanted help from each and every one of you guys around the world with fears and concerns to try to push that energy toward me so I can get through.

I think the toughest thing that, when people go through this, is, you know, one, you can't do it alone. The mental aspect of it really gets you down. You start thinking, like I said, even when I tweeted that out, you know, you start thinking, you know, for the worst. But you have to have a support system. And then also that your healthcare. You've got to have it up enough to where, you know, the doctors and nurses will be able to take care of you. I didn't get admitted until my third attempt to try to get into the emergency room. So that's -- that's a situation there where sometimes you, you know, I had to really put on an act to get admitted. Sometimes -- I told them my symptoms and they're, ah, you just go home. And sometimes that's what happens, unfortunately, with people, they send them home, and they end up, you know, not making it because they don't have the support at their house.

BERMAN: When you said you wanted to apologize, it made me wonder, do you -- do you have anything specific in mind when you were apologizing?

CEBALLOS: No. No. I mean we go throughout this world and we make mistakes. We -- you know, everybody's not perfect, but, you know, if there is people that I may know or may not know that I, you know, may have thought that I had done something or rubbed them the wrong way, and I was just apologizing for that.

BERMAN: So when I see the pictures of you in the ICU, and you weren't shy about sharing pictures. I mean you're a good looking man. You look good looking no matter what. But this is -- this is messed up. I mean you're sitting there, you know, with the oxygen there in the ICU. That looks tough there.

To me, I see that and I say, that's a reason to get vaccinated. If that's the message that people get from this, is that a positive development for you?

CEBALLOS: Well, I'm not an advocate on promoting vaccination or not vaccination. My personal choice, I think it's just personal, is whatever I chose to do, you know? It's just something that I really don't think that us celebrities or people of statue (ph) should be trying to influence or not influence people to do it because it's different. It's up to your body. You know, they're not telling you the bad part about being vaccinated. They're telling you the great parts about it. And sometimes it's detrimental to those who have health problems to get this vaccination or get the right vaccination. And so I think that, for us, this is really, you know, a personal situation.

You guys were just reporting that some people are getting it because they have friends and family that got COVID or they want to travel or their job is requiring them to. I think that that should be kept private. If you got your information or your cards and you have proof, I think you should be able to show it in privacy and not in the public domain.

BERMAN: Do you think -- do you wish you had been vaccinated to avoid the 20 days you spent in the hospital?

CEBALLOS: I never said I was vaccinated or not vaccinated. Like I said, that's personal. You know, and I want to keep what our choice that we made as a family personal. I think it's a personal thing because people's bodies are different. You know, when I was in there, I lost two friends who didn't make it out, you know. One was vaccinated. One wasn't vaccinated. And so it didn't matter, you know, at that time, between the difference because they were two different bodies, two different people, two different health situations. So I think you have to really evaluate yourself and your body and you make that choice from there.


BERMAN: Well, listen, I'm -- I'm glad you made it through. I hope that people do know that vaccines can save lives, and it is something that can -- can keep this from happening to you. But as I said, I'm thrilled you're doing well. Thank you so much for being with us today.

Cedric Ceballos.

CEBALLOS: I appreciate it. Thank you.

KEILAR: It is time now for "The Good Stuff."

A Houston mother getting her first look at her newborn son, a month after he was born. Shaquille Petaway (ph) has been battling coronavirus after testing positive a week before her delivery date. Half of that time was spent in a medically induced coma. Shaquille says that she was scared for herself and for her baby, Carter, but she never stopped fighting.


SHAQUILLE PETAWAY: As a mom, just to love and help our kids, that what we would go through for them, you know? I fought to be here with him. I didn't want to just be out of his life like that.


KEILAR: Now she is out of the hospital, as you can see. She's finally able to hold and to kiss her baby, Carter, who is so cute, I should add. He's adorable.

All right, a top U.S. military leader is facing tough questions next hour on Capitol Hill.

CNN's live coverage continues after this.