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New Day

Prices for Agricultural Products Continue Rising in U.S.; Jury Finds Three Defendants Guilty of Multiple Counts Related to Killing of Ahmaud Arbery; Mother of Ahmaud Arbery Wanda Cooper-Jones Interviewed on Jury Verdict in Trial over Her Son's Killing; More "Smash & Grab" Mob Robberies, Apple, Nordstrom Store Hits. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired November 25, 2021 - 08:00   ET



TREY MALONE, AGRICULTURAL ECONOMIST, MICHIGAN STATE UNIVERSITY: -- to some extent we're also trying to pay for the uncertainty in the market place right now.

GABE COHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Trey Malone is an agricultural economist at Michigan State University.

MALONE: So we're in the middle of a perfect storm of unique events in agricultural production. I would say buckle up for a while longer of these higher input costs.

GABE COHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Some farms are stocking up on materials in case suppliers run out. Others are waiting, hoping prices will drop. All these costs, especially labor, are threatening Matt Alvernaz's California sweet potato farm.

MATT ALVERNAZ, SWEET POTATO FARMER: We were making $100,000 to $150,000 a year in profit. This year we're probably going to lose $80,000 to $120,000.

COHEN: And it's only getting worse.

ALVERNAZ: We could potentially lose a quarter of a million dollars next year. We would not have enough cash to take into the following year in order to get our operating loan in order to operate for the following year.

COHEN: Farmers are used to volatility, and both Alvernaz and Jones are now looking for ways to adapt, like downsizing or shifting to other crops.

JIM JONES, SWEET POTATO FARMER: It is going to worry you, but I ain't going to let it get me down. We'll survive somehow.

COHEN: As long as these money problems stop piling up.

JONES: We just need to get a fairer price for what we're growing.

(END VIDEO TAPE) COHEN: Now, the USDA announced $90 million in grants to help farmers get their products directly to consumers. And look, not every farmer is being impacted the same by this. Some have ACTUALLY seen the price they get go up. But it is volatile, and there is widespread concern about these rising costs that just about everyone is dealing with. And, of course, Kaitlan, the uncertainty heading into next year.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: And the uncertainty is the worst part of this. That's something the White House is trying to deal with as well. Gabe, thank you for joining us this morning. Have a good Thanksgiving.

COHEN: You, too.

COLLINS: NEW DAY continues right now.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. It is Thursday, November 25th. Happy Thanksgiving.

COLLINS: Happy Thanksgiving, John.

BERMAN: I'm John Berman. Brianna is off. That is chief White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins, and we are so grateful you are here. Nice to see you.

COLLINS: This morning, the nation is reflecting on the verdicts that the family of Ahmaud Arbery once feared might never come. Three white men convicted of murder.


JUDGE TIMOTHY WALMSLEY, SUPERIOR COURT, STATE OF GEORGIA: We the jury find the defendant Travis McMichael guilty.


BERMAN: The judge read the word "guilty" 23 times. All three defendants guilty of murdering an unarmed black jogger. Their self- defense claim dismantled by prosecutors. They now face the possibility of life in prison.

COLLINS: And you heard someone become emotional there in the courtroom after the judge read the first guilty verdict. That was Ahmaud Arbery's father, and the judge had him removed as he read the rest of the verdict. Arbery's mother was also in the courtroom and in tears as the verdicts came down. She later thanked supporters outside the courthouse.


WANDA COOPER-JONES, MOTHER OF AHMAUD ARBERY: I thank each and every one of you who fought this fight with us. It has been a long fight. It has been a hard fight. But God is good. For those who marched, those who prayed, and mostly the ones who prayed.


COLLINS: Prosecutors insist that they were confident the nearly all white jury would come to the right decision, and that the verdict was based purely on facts and evidence.

BERMAN: The attorney for William "Roddie" Bryan Jr., the defendant who videotaped Arbery's murder, doesn't see it that way. He does say he plans to appeal. Ryan Young on the ground in Brunswick, Georgia, this morning. Ryan, what does it feel like there now?

RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, good morning, John. I'd honestly say, I think people are relieved about this verdict. In fact, you had a lot of businesses that were concerned about what could happen if this verdict went a different direction. But at the end of the day, this was all about justice, especially for those inside the courtroom. I can tell you also when that prosecutor stepped out, she walked out to a bunch of cheers.


JUDGE TIMOTHY WALMSLEY, SUPERIOR COURT, STATE OF GEORGIA: I understand you have reached a verdict as to each defendant.

YOUNG: The jury handed over a folder holding their decision, ending 11 hours of deliberation over two days.

WALMSLEY: Count one, malice murder, we the jury find the defendant Travis McMichael guilty. Count two, felony murder, we the jury find the defendant Travis McMichael guilty. Count three, felony murder, we the jury find the defendant Travis McMichael guilty.

YOUNG: Travis McMichael guilty of all nine counts in the murder of Ahmaud Arbery, who was killed while jogging outside Brunswick, Georgia, last year. The judge asked Arbery's father to leave the courtroom after he cheered the first guilty verdict for McMichael. Next the verdicts for McMichael's father, Gregory McMichael.

WALMSLEY: Count two, felony murder, we the jury find the defendant Greg McMichael guilty.


YOUNG: He was found guilty on eight counts and not guilty on one count of malice murder. William Bryan, the last defendant to hear his fate, he filmed the disturbing video showing Arbery's final moments from his pickup truck.

WALMSLEY: Count three, felony murder, we the jury find the defendant William R. Bryan guilty.

YOUNG: Bryan was found guilty of six of the nine counts against him, but not guilty on malice murder. One felony murder charge, an aggravated assault with a firearm. As the judge read the convictions, Arbery's mother Wanda Cooper-Jones listened from the public gallery in tears. Outside the courthouse, supporters of the Arbery's family emotional about the decision. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Today justice was served.

YOUNG: The three defendants say they chased Arbery down because they were trying to make a citizen's arrest, claiming they believed Arbery was behind a series of burglaries in the neighborhood after seeing a video of him trespassing at a construction site of a home in the weeks ahead of the fatal shooting. After their convictions, the McMichaels and Bryan left the courthouse wearing handcuffs. Meantime, the Arbery family shared their gratitude with the crowd of supporters.

WANDA COOPER-JONES, AHMAUD ARBERY'S MOTHER: I just want to say thank you, guys. Thank you. Thank each and every one of you who fought this fight with us. It has been a long fight. It has been a hard fight. Now Quez, which you know him as Ahmaud, I knew him as Quez, may he rest in peace.

MARCUS ARBERY SR., AHMAUD ARBERY'S FATHER: We don't want to see nobody go through this. I don't want to see no daddy watch their kid get shot down like that.


YOUNG: Lead prosecutor Linda Dunikoski also getting cheers as she had her turn to speak.

LINDA DUNIKOSKI, LEAD PROSECUTOR: The verdict today was a verdict based on the facts, based on the evidence. And that was our goal, to before that to that jury so that they could do the right thing.

YOUNG: She told the jury in her closing that the defense claims of a citizen's arrest were invalid because they had not witnessed a crime, and said they couldn't claim self-defense because they instigated the confrontation.

DUNIKOSKI: I wanted to make sure that the jury understood that the self-defense case was absolute garbage, that was not what took place, and I was doing my best in the moment to dismantle it.

YOUNG: President Joe Biden also weighed in on the outcome of the trial, in a statement writing, "Nothing can bring Mr. Arbery back to his family and to his community, but the verdict ensures that those who committed this horrible crime will be punished. While the guilty verdicts reflect our justice system doing its job, that alone is not enough." And while Arbery's mother says she is thankful, another mourning in holiday for her son will be difficult.

COOPER-JONES: This will be the second Thanksgiving that we'll be without Ahmaud. But at the same time, this is the first Thanksgiving that we will have with justice for Ahmaud.

YOUNG: His family says they hope Arbery can be remembered for how he lived and not only for the way he died.

THEAWANZA BROOKS, AHMAUD ARBERY'S AUNT: Ahmaud was an amazing young man. He had a heart of gold, a smile that lit up a room. He was a giver. The world should know that Ahmaud's death was not in vain, and that we will continue to scream his name until we leave this earth.


YOUNG: And, John, when we think about Thanksgiving, we do think about family and spending time with our loved ones. And you think about that family having to sit there and look at that empty chair, that's what Reverend Al Sharpton referred to for Ahmaud, and just the fact he will not be brought back.

And one of the things that stood out to me as I was watching Kevin Gough walk back to his car. And of course, he really riled things up talking about black pastors. A black pastor from this community who he's known for quite some time, walked over, reached out his hand, and said I love you, Kevin, they ended up hugging. It was one of those things you can really tell the power of what has happened here and the relief in terms of having this all be over at this point. But we know federal charges are coming for those three men. So this is in terms of the legal part for them, it is not over just yet.

BERMAN: Ryan Young, thank you for being our eyes and ears on the ground there and the work you've done. Happy Thanksgiving to you.

YOUNG: Thank you. Happy Thanksgiving.

BERMAN: Joining me now is Ahmaud Arbery's mother Wanda Cooper-Jones and her attorney Lee Merritt. Thank you for being with us. Wanda, we saw you in the courtroom yesterday, as the verdict was being read. Take us inside there, that moment, what was it like for you to hear those words?

WANDA COOPER-JONES, AHMAUD ARBERY'S MOTHER: I sat there patiently and heard the judge give the charges, and after the first charge, I heard "guilty." I was overwhelmed with joy, because we finally got justice for Ahmaud. The word "guilty" was the word that I wanted to hear 18 months ago, and we finally got that word of "guilty."

BERMAN: You talk about 18 months ago, and for me, the end of this trial made me reflect on the beginning of this all, the murder of your son, and then how long it took for this case to be taken seriously. What lesson have you learned from this?


COOPER-JONES: What I take away from this as mom is don't give up, continue fighting. Earlier in the case it took us 74 days, 74 days to get an arrest. And I knew it was my job as mom to really find out what happened to Ahmaud. I prayed. God answered my prayers. So I'm just thankful sitting here this morning.

BERMAN: Look, as we sit here this morn morning, I certainly wish and hope this never happens to another mother again, but I think we both know that it will. And I do wonder if you think that the next time something like this happens, because of what happened in the courtroom yesterday, because of the work that you've done, that maybe it won't take 74 days. COOPER-JONES: I'm hoping, and that's also my prayer, that before

individuals decide to grab shotguns and chase someone who is running down the street and kill them, that they will also think that if they take those extreme actions, that they will be held accountable. So maybe that will lead them in a better direction.

BERMAN: And Lee, to you, counselor, you said you think this verdict in a way was an anomaly. What do you mean?

LEE MERRITT, ATTORNEY FOR WANDA COOPER-JONES: Well, we know just by the sheer numbers that -- and unfortunately, I've come to represent a great deal of families who have had loved ones killed in tragedies like this. And more often than not there is no accountability. And that has been a concern of the organizing community, of what was called a referendum on the race in the past year. And that was something that was going to be put to the test in this verdict. And we got it, an anomaly, something that doesn't happen. So I think we should pay attention to this case, see who did what differently, and we've got to replicate some of that work.

BERMAN: It is interesting, because the defense, when the jury wasn't in the room, said things about black pastors that were clearly racially motivated. You had the defense, well, the jurors were in there, making physical references that I don't need to repeat right now. I think Wanda heard them more than enough at this point, but that clearly were racially charged. But it didn't work. It didn't work. This jury, which was mostly white, didn't buy it. So what does that tell you, this morning, Lee?

MERRITT: I'd like to think that the juror received the invitation from the defense counsel to rely on the old vestiges of racism and bigotry in making their decision about whether or not the defendant's actions were justified. And I think the jury answered pretty emphatically. They were, in my opinion, and we didn't have a chance to speak to the jury as we sometimes do after trial, but I think in the coming days we'll hear, they were probably as insulted as some of the American public was about that strategy.

BERMAN: Wanda, it is Thanksgiving morning. And I wonder if you can reflect for a moment on what this day will mean for you without Ahmaud.

COOPER-JONES: This is the second Thanksgiving that my family and I will share without Ahmaud. But this is the first Thanksgiving that we can look at that empty chair and say we finally got justice for you, Ahmaud. So it is like a bittersweet moment. He's not here, but I know he is in heaven, very, very thankful that we got justice for him here.

BERMAN: What are you grateful for? What are you thankful for this morning, Wanda? And how hard is it for you to find gratitude on a day like this?

COOPER-JONES: I'm very, very thankful that God gave me the son of Ahmaud, he gave me the assignment as Ahmaud's mom. I'm very, very thankful for the people in the community, the people in the state of Georgia, the people in the United States of America who stood with us, supported us through this huge, long fight that we finally got the chance to say, we got justice for Ahmaud.

BERMAN: And the trial is over now, to an extent the country will move on. I know you won't. I know you will never move on from Ahmaud. What do you want people to remember about him?

COOPER-JONES: Since the day that we lost Ahmaud, Ahmaud implemented change. He's brought about the hate crime law in Georgia. He caused that citizen's arrest law to be repelled. And I want people to think of Ahmaud as change. Ahmaud lost his life, but he didn't lose his life in vain. He has implemented change already.


BERMAN: Wanda Cooper-Jones, we appreciate you being with us this morning. We're still sorry for your loss, we wish you a peaceful and safe and healthy Thanksgiving.

Lee Merritt, thanks to you as well.


BERMAN: Breaking overnight, two new cases of violence smash and grab robberies in California just ahead of Black Friday. Seriously, what is exactly going on here?

And nothing about this is normal. That's what one former top member of the RNC says about paying Trump's legal bills.

And what did these fans say to LeBron James on the court to get booted from the game?


BERMAN: Breaking overnight, two more smash and grab robberies in high end stores in California. An Apple Store hit in the Bay Area, and in Los Angeles another Nordstrom robbed by a group of suspects who pepper-sprayed a security guard. These are the latest in a wave of these smash and grab crimes, targeting upscale stores across the country.

CNN's Nick Watt with the latest.


NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Oak Brook, Illinois, a coordinated smash and grab swarm overwhelmed security at a Louis Vuitton store. More than 100 grand in handbags and more was stolen. In Downtown San Francisco this past weekend, another Vuitton store and more hit by a mob.


CHESA BOUDIN, DISTRICT ATTORNEY, SAN FRANCISCO: This is not a problem limited to San Francisco.

WATT: Just outside the city, burglars arms filled with merchandise made their getaway from a Nordstrom Saturday night. An employee was pepper sprayed during the brazen raid.

BRETT BARRETTE, MANAGER, PF CHANG'S WALNUT CREEK: Probably saw 50 to 80 people in ski masks, crow bars, knife, like a bunch of weapons.

WATT: They fled in ten cars. Three arrests were made, two guns recovered. Sunday night another raid at another Bay Area mall.

CHIEF LERONNE ARMSTRONG, OAKLAND POLICE DEPARTMENT: The thing that we are not used to is their willingness to actually use firearms and shoot at people.

WATT: And at the Grove, down in L.A., a Nordstrom was hit Monday night, $5,000 worth of goods stolen, $15,000 worth of damage. And this mall had beefed up security after the protests that followed the murder of George Floyd.

RICK CARUSO, OWNER, THE GROVE: You saw bad guys with 20-pound sledgehammers having a very difficult time to break a window because all of our windows have ballistic film on it.

WATT: Many more malls now beefing up security, and Californian authorities promising action.

GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D), CALIFORNIA: These people need to be held to account. We need to investigate these crimes. We need to break up these crime rings. And we need to make an example out of these folks.

WATT: In Oakland, this weekend --

ARMSTRONG: We will have tactical teams deployed throughout the city.

WATT: But as we saw what that San Francisco raid, even when cops are quick to the scene --


WATT: -- with a mob, many will still get away.


WATT (on camera): Why is this happening right now? Well, the stores are fully stocked for the holidays and there is also a market for stolen goods this time of year. And some experts tell us the penalties for this sort of crime just aren't high enough. Here in California, for example, if you steal goods worth 950 bucks or less, that's not a felony. That's just a misdemeanor.

Nick Watt, CNN, Los Angeles.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: And joining me now with how these smash and grab robberies are impacting retail, consumer and retail expert Hitha Herzog. How much is this costing retailers?

HITHA HERZOG, CONSUMER AND RETAIL EXPERT: So, we're looking at around 759,000 per one billion dollars of merchandise sold. So for every $1 billion of merchandise, $759,000 of that is going to be stolen. Now, you multiply that, we're expecting about a trillion dollars to be

spent over the holiday season. We're looking at around $70 million worth of merchandise, potentially stolen, and Nick had a point here, the felony thresholds are very, very -- they're much higher now. So these organized retail crime rings don't feel like they really have -- there is no real incentive, I shouldn't say incentive, but there is no real consequence when they go out and steal all of this merchandise, the felony, they can go -- they can walk away from it with just a misdemeanor as nick had said.

So the bar has been lowered in terms of what type of punishment they would get for going into these stores.

COLLINS: What are you hearing from retailers? Are they completely flabbergasted by this? What are they -- what is their thinking right now on having to deal with this?

HERZOG: And unfortunate aspect of it and I hate this term, but it is a perfect storm post pandemic, I guess we're still in a pandemic, but of people -- the labor force is minuscule. People don't want to go out and get jobs. They're having a hard time staffing these retail stores.

And especially on the security side, so over the course of the last ten years, when you look at how much officers, police force have been out there, it has been steadily increasing. But the last year, it is decreasing. So even in just stores where they hire private security, it has been very hard to hire that private security, but also just police in general, just to protect the streets, it has been sparse.

COLLINS: Yeah. And the security guards that they do hire are getting pepper sprayed in the face by these people. So not just them, it is also the people who work in retail, who have been through so much over the last year and now having to deal with this on their plate as well.

Hitha Herzog, thank you for breaking this down for us this morning.

HERZOG: Thanks so much.

COLLINS: So if Donald Trump is so wealthy, why is the Republican National Committee paying his legal bills? One top Republican official is telling CNN, quote, nothing about this is normal.

HERZOG: And the QAnon curious, the martial law proposing Michael Flynn has a dangerous new conspiracy theory. This one is a doozy.



BERMAN: The Manhattan D.A. has informed a top executive in the Trump Organization that he remains safe from criminal charges in its wide ranging investigation into the former president's company, at least for now.

Joining us to talk about this, CNN political analyst and Washington correspondent for "The New York Times" Maggie Haberman. Maggie, happy Thanksgiving.


BERMAN: I know you're exactly where you want to be this Thanksgiving morning, talking to us.

HABERMAN: And are you. We all are, really.

BERMAN: It goes without saying. There's nowhere I would rather be, as far as you know.

What are we to take away from where the Manhattan D.A. is right now, as he is about to leave office?

HABERMAN: Yeah, it is a, John, a really important point that Cy Vance is on his way out. We had been hearing that Vance hoped to make the charging decision related to former President Trump if there was a charge or not before he left. That's obviously not happening, given the pace of this.

Calamari is safe for now. It does not mean he's necessarily never going to be charged. They have a new special grand jury that is going forward. But this is going to drag on for some time and the longer this drags on, the more questions it is going to raise about whether they are able to prove --