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New Day

Alabama manhunt currently underway for escaped dangerous inmate; Amber Heard switching P.R. team in middle of defamation case; Filming of Bill Murray's movie halted for his questionable behavior; T. Graham Brown discusses friend Naomi Judd's recent passing; Beijing officials scramble to control coronavirus outbreak; Israel government pressured to do more for Ukraine; British politician Neil Parish resigns after watching pornography in Parliament; Civilians have escaped steel plant in Mariupol. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired May 02, 2022 - 7:30   ET





JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: An incredible story out of Alabama, with a dangerous man on the loose, a manhunt underway right now for an escaped inmate believed to be armed, convicted of violent crimes and charged with capital murder. And what's more, the sheriff tells "The New York Times" he believes an assistant corrections director was involved in the escape.

Officials say veteran officer Vicky White broke protocol when she transported Casey White alone Friday. By the way, they're both named White but they're not related.

She said she was taking him to what appears to be a make-believe health evaluation. The sheriffs say the evaluation was never even scheduled. The two have not been seen since. The U.S. Marshall Services, now offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to capture.

Joining me now is Lauderdale County, Sheriff Rick Singleton. Sheriff, thank you so much for being with us. Give us the latest on this investigation.

RICK SINGLETON, SHERIFF LAUDERDALE COUNTY: Well, we're still aggressively pursuing every lead that we get. The biggest obstacle we have right now is we still do not have a vehicle description of whatever vehicle they might have transferred into so far.

You know, it's -- it's a total shock to our employees that Deputy White would be involved in something like this, but unfortunately, all indications are she was.

BERMAN: Why? Why do you believe that she was involved? SINGLETON: Well, that's -- that's the question we're asking. You know, obviously, she could have willingly participated, you know, but we are also concerned that maybe somehow someone got to her and coerced her or threatened her, forced her to assist in this escape. We're not sure. I don't know -- we don't know the answer to that until we locate her.

BERMAN: What are the indications or what hints are that she may have willingly participated? There's this video which shows Casey Singleton -- you know not -- I mean, Casey White, I should say, not handcuffed, only one officer on him. Do you think that she deliberately altered the protocol?

SINGLETON: Well, that -- that photo is inside the facility itself and there are several stages to get through to get out of there from where that phone was taken. Inmates are (inaudible) on a regular (inaudible) handcuffs.

But, yes, she knew the protocol, (inaudible) two van full -- vans with four deputies and 12 inmates left the detention (ph) center en route to the courthouse.

It was just a few minutes after that that she directed a deputy to bring Casey White to the booking area and prepare him for trans (inaudible) which (ph) (inaudible) and he was cuffed and shackled when he left the facility.

And she (inaudible) to the officer that she was going to drop him off at the courthouse, turn him over to the other deputies and that she was going for a medical checkup because she wasn't feeling well.

BERMAN: What evidence, if any, have you found that the two of them have any kind of a personal relationship?

SINGLETON: Well, we haven't found any evidence that they actually have a personal relationship. You know, as a -- as an assistant director of (inaudible) White was frequently throughout the cell blocks, has contact with all the inmates at one time or another.

So, she (inaudible) opportunity to have contact with him. But as far as a romantic relationship or something like that we have no evidence or proof that that was the case, although it obviously it's a possibility.

BERMAN: And again, just so our audience knows, your audio is going in and out, she put him in the car. The two of them were the only ones in the car. She put him in the car. The car drove away. The car never seen again with them in it, correct?

SINGLETON: That's correct. It was -- never arrived at the courthouse and, you know, it was found later at a shopping center parking lot about two miles away from the detention center.

BERMAN: Talk to me about this inmate. He's a large man. And there's every reason to believe that he's armed right now, because she was armed. SINGLETON: That's correct. He's six foot nine, weighs somewhere

around 250 pounds. He's a large (inaudible) absolutely we're assuming he's armed because she was armed. So, you know, he -- people need to be careful, especially in our law enforcement partners out there if they may encounter them they need to be extremely cautious.


BERMAN: And two things can be true. She may have been involved, as you suggested, in the escape. But she could still very much be in danger at this point, given that he is armed. What's the overall threat to the community that you see right now, Sheriff?

SINGLETON: Well, I -- the community, of course, is concerned as are we. You know, she is -- she's definitely in -- in danger. Willingly or not, this is no one to mess with. And, you know, we're concerned (ph) for her safety or different (ph) circumstances.

You know, we're -- we sort to turned the lead investigation over to the U.S. Marshalls Task Force (ph) (inaudible) tremendously helpful to us along with the other federal (inaudible), FBI, Secret Service, ATF, the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency is assisting us.

We're doing everything we can, looking under every rock, trying to find every lead we can to locate them. That's our primary focus right now is locating them, getting Vicky White home, getting Casey White back behind bars where he belongs.

BERMAN: Well, you say getting Vicky White home. Do you think she could face some charges?

SINGELTON: Well, there's obviously a possibility when we determine what the motivation was for this escape.

BERMAN: All right, Sheriff Singleton, we do appreciate your time this morning. I know you're busy with what is a very active manhunt. Thank you for your time.

All right, global anger this morning after Russia's foreign minister said Hitler had both Jewish blood and likened him to Ukrainian President Zelenskyy.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Plus, we are live from the Ukrainian city where civilians who just walked out of the Mariupol compound are arriving. This as the plant takes fire from Russian forces.




BERMAN: Just before she is expected to testify against Johnny Depp at her defamation trial, Amber Heard has switched up her crisis communication team. That's according to sources. So, what does this mean? Let's bring in Laura Jarrett, CNN "Early Start" anchor and attorney-

at-law. What do you make of this?

LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR & ATTORNEY-AT-LAW: So, it's clear she knows this is not going well for her in the court of public opinion of she's switching up her P.R. team at the eleventh hour. The question is, legally whether any of it matters and whether it's too late to course- correct.

Remember, this is all about this 2018 op-ed where calls herself a public figure representing domestic abuse. That's the entire defamation case, is Johnny Depp challenging her on that. But, truth is the ultimate defense to a defamation case.

And so, this week, you're going to hear her layout, probably in very disturbing detail, all of instances in which he was physically and verbally abusive to her. She's already said a lot of this in public already, a lot of it's been publicly reported. He already lost a case in the U.K. where he tried to challenge a publisher, someone who had taken him on, on this very issue. He lost that case.

And so, some of that may come out, some of it the jury won't hear. But, it's ugly. This case has sort of been of a mess from the very beginning. And now she's going to have her chance to tell her side of the story.

BERMAN: If she's (ph) changing her communications team --


BERMAN: -- which means she doesn't like the way the world is seeing it, not doing anything with the team inside the courtroom, obviously. That would be strange --


BERMAN: -- to change in the stream (ph) of the trial. Another story involving celebrities, and that's the halting of filming of a movie that Bill Murray was working on, "Being Mortal." They stopped filming because --

JARRETT: Well, that's the thing. We don't exactly know what he's done. The details here are sketchy. But, he broke his silence about it. It was sort of in the public eye for the past week or so.

Take a listen to exactly what he told CNBC about the entire situation.


BILL MURRAY, ACTOR & DIRECTOR: I had a difference of opinion with a woman I'm working with. I did something I thought was funny and it wasn't taken that way. The company, the movie studio wanted to do the right thing, so they wanted to check it all out, investigate it. And so, they stopped the production.

(END VIDEO CLIP) JARRETT: So, if was bad enough for them to stop the production, it was clearly something. He's not apologizing. He's calling it a difference of opinion. An outside investigator is looking into exactly what happened here.

The problem for him is he has sort of a checkered past when it comes to how he treats his costars. All you have to do is Google Bill Murray fights on set with costars, and it's not just women. It's, Richard Dreyfus, he threw an ashtray. To hear Richard Dreyfus tell it, back on the set of "What About Bob," in 1991, like he has -- he has a past here.

Clearly, he's saying that, you know, there was -- there was a difference here and things are not the same as when he was a kid. Things he thought he -- were funny are not the same these days.

Plenty of 71-year-old men have no trouble getting along with their costars. So, we'll see if -- what the investigators turn up and whether the film can get back on track.

BERMAN: All right, interesting.


BERMAN: Laura Jarrett, thank you very much.


BERMAN: Brianna.

KEILAR: Naomi Judd, along with her daughter Wynonna, have been officially inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame. They were honored just one day after Naomi's death.

And according to the publication, "Taste of Country," Wynonna told the audience during the ceremony, "I didn't prepare anything tonight because I knew mom would probably talk the most. I'm going to make this fast because my heart's broken and I feel blessed. It's a very strange dynamic to be this broken and this blessed thought my heart's broken I will continue to sing because that's what we do."

And joining me now is a friend of Naomi Judd and fellow country singer T. Graham Brown.

T. Graham, thank you so much for being with us to reflect on the life of your friend here. You guys were friends for decades. I know you tweeted a picture recently, from 1987, when you were presenting CMA nominees. And I wonder what's on your mind as you're reflecting on her life and your friendship.


T. GRAHAM BROWN, COUNTRY SINGER: Wow. Well firstly, I ask everybody to pray for the family to have strength. I know these guys and they're just wonderful people. I know that you always say nice things about somebody that's passed away, but Naomi deserves every compliment you can give her.

I mean, she always had -- when I was around Naomi she was always positive, just as sweet as she could be. Wynonna's right, she did love to talk. That was one thing about her. But, she was so well- loved in the Nashville music community and admired. And we're going to miss her badly.

KEILAR: One of the things I know I appreciate and so many people appreciate about Naomi Judd, and also her daughters, is how openly they have talked about mental health struggles.

And her daughters, they say that they lost Naomi to, quote, "the disease of mental illness," which, as I mentioned, she had said -- she'd said many things publicly, including this during an interview in 2016 on GMA.


NAOMI JUDD, COUNTRY SINGER: Because they see me in rhinestones, you know, with glitter in my hair. That really is who I am. But then I would come home and not leave the house for three weeks. And not get out of my pajamas and not practice normal hygiene. It was really bad. What I've been through is extreme.

My final diagnosis was severe depression. Treatment-resistant, because they tried me on every single thing they had in the arsenal. They really felt like if I live through this I want someone to be able to see that they can survive, because there's 40 million of us out there.


KEILAR: T. can you tell us about what she was facing here in recent years with her struggle?

BROWN: I could tell you exactly what she's facing, because I have the same problem. I'm severely bipolar. Thank God that there's medicine that I take that keeps me normal.

But I've had mood swings where I get manic and think I can rule the world and then you go to this severe depression where I -- I've set there and looked at a pistol. I mean, I've had those suicidal thoughts too. And it's a terrible disease.

And I've done the same thing she's done. Come home and get in bed and not want to get out of bed. It's just the exact same thing. And I would urge anybody that's going through this to go find a great doctor, because most people can be treated for it.

And there -- you don't have to live that way. If you're -- if it's able -- if you're able to be treated and helped, I urge everybody to go, because, you know, it's a -- it's a terrible thing. It's terrifying.

KEILAR: Yes, and look, it's very clear from listening to her, especially because for her it was treatment-resistant. Did she talk about that? Did she talk about what her days were like?

BROWN: Oh, yes. Well, everybody knew. Like you said, she was totally open about it. That's one thing about that family, is they'll tell you what they're thinking. And that's one of my favorite traits of theirs.

But, yes, I think it was just common knowledge that she was going through a terrible situation. But, you know, we all thought that she was handling it OK and -- but you don't know how people think. You can't get inside their head.

And it's a chemistry experiment, you know, taking these drugs. I think it's a brain chemistry imbalance. And most people can adjust their medicine to make those symptoms go away. But it -- there's no cure for it. But you can control the symptoms a lot of times.

KEILAR: Yes, she had said publicly that the close of the 2012 tour was really a tough time for her. Can you shed any light on that? What did -- what did she say to you about that?

BROWN: Well, when you're out on the road, when you're a Judd, the pressure's on, 24/7. I mean, everybody's looking -- the Judds were a huge act. I think they sold like 20 million records. That's a lot.


And they were getting ready to go out again this year for the first time in I don't know how long it's been since they last did a show, 20 years or something like that, I think.

And she was being inducted to the Country Music Hall of Fame, which is the highest honor you can get in country music, that's the tip-top. Only the very cream of the crop gets in there. So, I'm sure she was looking at a lot of different things, you know. She had panic attacks and anxiety and depression, you know, it's -- I'm telling you, man, I've been there and -- and it's -- it's terrifying.

KEILAR: Well T., it is -- it's wonderful that she had such a great friend as you and that you guys --

BROWN: She --

KEILAR: -- could talk about -- talk about your struggles.

BROWN: She was great. She could cook. She was nice. And she was always very, very sweet and kind to me and to everybody. We're --

KEILAR: And --

BROWN: -- going to miss her, man. She was one of a kind, very driven. She made the Judds happen. I'm sure that Ashley -- Ashley's a great actor, but I'm sure that her mother helped her learn. And Ashley had that last name, you know, and I'm sure that helped. And -- but Naomi was very driven and we were proud of Naomi.

KEILAR: Well, we are proud of Naomi. She is an icon and she will be remembered as an icon. And we appreciate you being with us to talk about your friend, T. Thank you so much.

BROWN: Oh, sure. Thank you, Brianna. And God bless you.

KEILAR: You too, sir. Thank you.

It appears Ukraine's offensive is escalating after new attacks in and around Russia. And this drone strike on Russian patrol ships in the Black Sea.

BERMAN: And CNN live in Zaporizhzhia, where buses of evacuees from Mariupol expected to arrive any minute. This is CNN's special live coverage.




BERMAN: Officials in Beijing scrambling to control a growing coronavirus outbreak in the Chinese capital. They're shutting down critical businesses one by one hoping to avoid a major lockdown, they say.

CNN's reporters covering the latest from around the world.

ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Anna Coren in Hong Kong. As the Chinese government tries to avoid locking down the nation's capital due to the latest COVID-19 outbreak, authorities in Beijing have suspended all in-restaurant dining and closed schools as well as Universal Studios.

Starting Thursday, residents will also need to present a negative COVID test into public places and travel on public transport.

Well, meantime in Shanghai, which reported more than 7,300 daily cases and has been under lockdown for more than a month, officials say they will ease restrictions in six districts, impacting 7 million of the city's 25 million residents.

HADAS GOLD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Hadas Gold in Jerusalem. Israel is summoning the Russian ambassador for talks after Russia's foreign minister claimed in an interview that it doesn't matter that the Ukrainian president is Jewish since, quote, "Hitler had Jewish blood and that the worst anti-Semites are Jews."

Israel's Foreign Minister Yair Lapid said Lavrov's remarks are both unforgivable and outrageous statement as well as a terrible historical error. And that the lowest level of racism against Jews is to accuse Jews of anti-Semitism.

Now although Israel has condemned Russia's invasion of Ukraine, accused Russia of war crimes and have sent humanitarian aid to Ukraine, Israel has tried to maintain a delicate a diplomatic balance, both to act as potential mediator and because of their own security concerns. But the Israeli government is coming under increased pressure to do

more, especially as the atrocities mount, including by fully joining western sanctions against Russia.

CHRISTINA MACFARLANE, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: I'm Christina Macfarlane in London. A member of the British parliament is resigning after admitting he watched pornography twice in Parliament.

Neil Parish told the BBC that the first time he watched it, it was an accident, but the second time was deliberate in what he calls a moment of madness.

Parish, who is a member of the Prime Minister Boris Johnson's Conservative Party, admitted on Saturday that his behavior was, quote, "Totally wrong." Johnson's government is currently engulfed in a number of scandals just days ahead of crucial local elections, which will take place across the U.K. this week.

BERMAN: Good morning to viewers here in the United States and all around the world. It is Monday, May 2. I'm John Berman with Brianna Keilar. Happening now, what appears to be the successful evacuation of at least some of the civilians trapped for months in that steel plant in Mariupol. A plant that has been sort of the last pocket of resistance for Ukraine in that city.

About 100 civilians seeing sunlight for the first time at what could be weeks, even months, they've been hiding underground in basements there. They got out, but others have not.

And overnight, a Ukrainian military commander said the shelling of the site has resumed, hit by what he says are all kinds of weapons. Hundreds of people, civilians, remained trapped there, including innocent women, children and the elderly. They're running out of food, water and medicine.

We do have some new satellite images, exclusive to CNN that shows what the plant looks like now. You can see how many buildings there have just been leveled, the hollowed-out shells of these two months of Russian strikes there.

KEILAR: In the meantime, eight days of hell, President Vladimir Putin's rush to bombard Ukraine could have everything to do with May 9, known as Victory Day in Russia. Putin could be using the occasion to declare a symbolic victory in the war.

The Ukrainian military says Russian forces are pressing their offensive towards Sloviansk, an important town in the Donetsk region. Over the Russian border inside of that country.