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New Day

Fiona Leaves Puerto Rico in the Dark; Marilyn Mosby is Interviewed about the Syed Case; Ohio's 9th District Battleground. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired September 21, 2022 - 08:30   ET



DEANNE CRISWELL, FEMA ADMINISTRATOR: As you just said, we're seeing half the island without water. And I saw that first-hand yesterday. I got in yesterday afternoon and was able to visit one town of Patia (ph). And that's what we would see, right, people don't have water, they don't have power. Even their EOC (ph) is operating off of a backup generator.


This was just one town. But I think this is what we're going to see as I continue to do assessments today. But there's more towns, small towns that are really hard to get to, that are having these same issues. So, for us, power and water, that's our number one priority. We need to make sure that we're helping the commonwealth get those back up and running.

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So you're still in assessment phase right now?

CRISWELL: Well, I would say we're both in life saving. That's right from the very beginning. So we are doing that and we are doing whatever we can to stabilize the infrastructure as we go as we continue to do assessments, right, because it's going to take a while to understand truly the extent of the damage for repair.

But as far as the temporary measures that we need to put in, we're doing those as we find them.


Let's talk about the power. The governor making a pretty big statement yesterday, saying, by the end of the day today he expects power will be on. This is a team effort, as you described earlier today. You guys are here to support, but you are working on power. Do you agree with that statement? Would you back the governor up on that?

CRISWELL: We are here to support the governor. I was with him yesterday and I'm going to be with him today. And we are going to do everything we can to make sure that the commonwealth gets exactly what he wants them to have. We are - we have the Army Corps are Engineers here that's also here to support with temporary power. And so it could be a combination of the grid being restored, as well as additional temporary power measures.

SANTIAGO: But, yes or no, do you think that by the end of the day -


CRISWELL: (INAUDIBLE) That level of an assessment, but we're going to support the governor in his efforts.

SANTIAGO: OK. Well, let's talk about - a little bit more about the power grid itself because there are lawmakers in the U.S. that have been very critical of the private company here, saying more should have been done to get the system ready in time for Fiona. I mean five years after Hurricane Maria. Do you agree with that? I mean can more be done in terms of getting that power grid up to par by this private company, LUMA?

CRISWELL: I think where we're at, and when we see storms like Hurricane Maria, and you experienced this. As we talked you were here. It was catastrophic and which creates really complicated recovery.

SANTIAGO: Absolutely.

CRISWELL: And so the focus on those initial - that initial year, maybe even a year and a half, is really on making sure that we're stabilizing with temporary measures to make sure we can get some level of effort back to these communities.

Then the focus switches to rebuilding, right? And as we're putting in the plans to rebuild or we're helping the commonwealth with those, we want to make sure that we're taking the time to do it in a way that's going to make them more resilient, right? We don't want to put it back the way it was. We want to make it stronger. And so the temporary pressures really help to bring things back to where they were. But as they're going through the formal rebuilding, making them stronger is really what our goal is. And so we're going to continue to support the commonwealth and their efforts to make sure Puerto Rico is rebuilt in a way that can withstand events like Fiona in the future.


SANTIAGO: John, I will send it right back to you.

CRISWELL: Thank you.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, Leyla Santiago, FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell, our thanks to both of you.

So, we're seeing widespread protests erupting across Iran after a 22- year-old woman died in police custody. The demonstrators there chanting "death to the dictator."

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: And new fallout over the case of Ahnan Syed, whose murder conviction sparked the hit podcast "Serial." The state's attorney for Baltimore City, Marilyn Mosby, now defending his release. And she'll join us, next.



HILL: There's new fallout this morning in the murder case that captured the nation. On Monday a judge vacated the conviction of Ahnan Syed, whose legal saga spawned the hit podcast "Serial." Prosecutors revealed new evidence, uncovered two other potential suspects who could have been involved in the murder of Syed's former girlfriend Hae Min Lee. Yesterday an attorney for the Lee family told NEW DAY his clients felt excluded from this process.


STEVE KELLY, ATTORNEY FOR HAE MIN LEE'S FAMILY: This is a preordained agreement between the state's attorney's office, the defense and even the courts and no one wanted to hear from or give them an adequate opportunity to oppose this.

What should have happened here is that a responsible prosecutor's office would have sat down with them and explained it to them and maybe they would have been on board with the motion. But what you don't do is you don't shut a family like this out of the process and sort of ram a deal like this down their throat.


HILL: Joining me now, the state's attorney for Baltimore City, Marilyn Mosby. Her office filed the motion that led to the judge vacating Syed's murder conviction and life sentence.

Good to see you this morning.

You just heard there from Steve Kelly. He also told my colleague, Brianna Keilar, he felt blindsided, betrayed, railroaded.

Did your office notify the family, and did you give them ample time and notice to voice their concern?


And what I have to say, first and foremost, is that I can't even imagine what it's like to be Hae Min Lee's family, who have gone through this excruciating sort of situation for two decades, right? The appellate process. And so understanding I completely empathize with that family.

But what we did, understanding and recognizing that we are now dealing with the misdeeds of other prosecutors, was that we reached out to them immediately. When we figured out the legal mechanisms in which we were going to utilize, they were the first ones to receive the motion.

My prosecutor, who led the investigation, Becky Feldman (ph), former public defender, deputy public defender, this was a year-long investigation. She reached out to the family. She said, you know, this is what we are thinking of. We gave them a copy of the motion. This was last week, right? We said, I'll give -- she gave them her cell phone number. She gave them her information. We offered counseling to them.


We also ensured that we could actually bring them forward. And we said we would alert you to the hearing date.

And the hearing date, we were surprised by how quick the hearing was set in. We filed the motion Wednesday. The hearing was set on Friday. And we alerted them. And my prosecutors went as far as to say, you know, we want you to be a part of this process. Can we get a Zoom link so that you can be a part of the process. And they agreed that they would have - they would attend the Zoom line.

And the judge in this particular case postponed the hearing for more than 30 minutes so that they could be a part of the process. And so this idea and this concept that we weren't, you know, involved or we didn't include them, that's just not the case.

HILL: So then is - so, again, just what Steve Kelly said, and we heard this, but he said, a responsible prosecutor's office would have sat down with them and explained it to them and maybe they would have been on board. You're saying you offered them that opportunity to sit down via Zoom essentially to have that explanation. So, is Steve Kelly lying here?

MOSBY: So, the one thing I will say is that we spoke to them. That the brother was adamantly opposed to it. He understood where we were. We gave a copy of the motion to Hae Min Lee's brother prior to us filing the motion. So, this idea and this concept that they were blindsided is simply not the case.

And, ultimately, it comes down to this, as the administrator of the criminal justice system, and that's - that's my role, I have to make really difficult sort of decisions and I have to ensure the justice and equality for the victims, for the defendants and those that are accused, and even for the family, that is what was done in this case. And so, you know, the idea and the concept that we did not include them is simply not the case. And this is a really difficult sort of situation to be in, and we completely empathize with them.

HILL: I'm hoping you can clear up a couple other questions --

MOSBY: It's like ripping a scab off an old wound.

HILL: Which they would likely agree with.

I'm hoping to clear up a couple of other points that are raising some questions.

So, following the hearing, the Maryland attorney general said in a statement, and I'm quoting here, the allegations related to Brady violations are incorrect. Neither States Attorney Mosby nor anyone from her office bothered to consult with either the assistant state's attorney, who prosecuted the case, or with anyone in my office regarding these alleged violations. The file in this case was made available to several occasions to the defense. So, for folks at home who may not be familiar, when they're

referencing the Brady violations there, that is the prosecutor's failure to disclose that there could have been alternate suspects, right? And the defense saying we never had that information.


HILL: What's the real story here?

MOSBY: So, what happened is this. We were approached in October 2021 by the public defender's office to actually modify and review the sentence of Adnan Syed. We did this. They approached our sentencing review units. We have one of the only sentencing review units in the entire state of Maryland where we make recommendations for release and modification of sentences.

We have already modified the sentences of over 41 individuals, none of whom have recidivated. And so based off the fact that Adnan Syed was convicted when he was 17 years old, he spent more than 20 years of incarceration, he was entitled to his sentence being modified and/or reduced.

That investigation turned very quickly. When we got the actual file, and we saw the substance of what was happening and there were several sort of red flags that were glaring red flags. Not all of the DNA had been tested. So we filed a joint motion for all of the DNA to be tested. That inconclusive DNA evidence didn't come back to us until August of this year.

But in June of this your, what we did find are notes of interviews that of individuals where we had two alternative suspects, one of whom not only threatened to kill the victim in this case, but had motive to kill the victim in the case. One of the suspects -- and both of the suspect had a pattern of violence against women and sexual assault. One of the suspects had been improperly cleared by faulty polygraph tests. There were faulty cell phone evidence that was used at Adnan's original trial.

And then another sort of major, glaring issue was the fact that we had a detective that was accused of misconduct in a separate 1999 murder case where we actually exonerated the defendant. And so when you take all of that, the totality of all of those circumstances, what we did was to file a motion to vacate the conviction of Adnan Syed because he was entitled, in the interest of fairness and justice, to a new trial.

HILL: Before I let you go, you're currently facing federal perjury and mortgage fraud charges. Just days before this motion was filed, your trial faced a second delay. That timing is raising some eyebrows. Is there a connection between the two?

MOSBY: Absolutely not.


I mean the timing of the trial, and I've been very clear from the beginning, this was a politically motivated sort of attack on me in prosecution. I'm not distracted by the bogus charges alleged against me. The government, the United States of America government, asked for a postponement. I was ready to proceed to trial, one. And, two, I'm not going to be distracted by those bogus charges. The distraction is more so that trial against me doing my job. I am the state's attorney for Baltimore City. I have to ensure equality and justice. And I'm going to ensure every single day that I'm in this position that America lives up to that ideal.

HILL: Marilyn Mosby, appreciate your time this morning. Thank you.

MOSBY: Thank you for having me.

HILL: The countdown to the midterms is on. CNN on the ground in the battleground state of Ohio. A key House race there could determine the balance of power in Washington.

BERMAN: The Washington Monument vandalized overnight. New details about the person now in custody.



BERMAN: All right, "5 Things for Your New Day."

Vladimir Putin announcing an immediate partial mobilization of some 300,000 Russian citizens for the war effort in Ukraine. This is the largest military escalation since the invasion began.

HILL: The streak is over. The national average price of gasoline rising slightly Wednesday, now at $3.68 a gallon, which ends 98 consecutive days of falling gas prices, the second longest streak since 2005.

BERMAN: The Washington Monument temporarily closed for repairs and cleaning after a vandal splashed red paint and wrote a profane message on its base. A suspect is now in police custody. His identity has not been released.

HILL: Women in Iran burning their hijabs, one woman even cutting off her long hair amid mass protests across the nation after a 22-year-old woman died in police custody. She had been picked up for wearing, quote, improper attire.

BERMAN: The family of the little leaguer who was critically injured after falling out of a bunk bed is suing the Little League World Series and the company that made the bed. Twelve-year-old Easton Oliverson suffered a fractured skull that required multiple surgeries.

HILL: And those are your "5 Things to Know for Your New Day." You can find more on these stories all day on CNN and And don't forget to download the "5 Things" podcast every morning.

BERMAN: So, the midterm elections nearly seven weeks away at this point. CNN's Dana Bash went to the key battleground congressional district, Ohio's 9th, to talk to voters about where they stand. And it could mean the difference between Democrats keeping control of Congress or not.


REP. MARCY KAPTUR (D-OH): How are you doing?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): You'd think a congresswoman in office nearly 40 years would already know most of the people here at the popular 818 Club.

KAPTUR: Are you a regular?

BASH: But it's new ground for Marcy Kaptur, whose Ohio district changed dramatically after redistricting, going from a safe Democratic seat to a place Donald Trump would have won in 2020.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're one of a few Democrats I would vote for.

BASH: For Kaptur, being a brand name in northern Ohio helps, but she's still a midwestern Democrat in a party increasingly run on the coasts.

BASH (on camera): Does your national party understand Democrats you represent?

KAPTUR: It's harder for us. What the coastal people, God bless them, don't understand is that we lost our middle class. We lost so many people who worked hard all their lives, including in many of these small towns.

BASH (voice over): Whether Kaptur wins this new battleground district will determine whether Democrats keep control of Congress or how steep the losses could be. She's relying on voters like Joe Stallbaum.

JOE STALLBAUM, OHIO VOTER: I'm in the Sheet Metal Workers Local 33 Toledo District.

BASH: A union that endorsed Ohio's Republican Governor Mike DeWine and Kaptur. His top issue this election year.

STALLBAUM: This time around it would be women's rights.

BASH (on camera): Really?

STALLBAUM: Yes. Absolutely. What matters to me is that it's your decision to make. That person's -- that woman's decision to make. Nobody else's.

BASH (voice over): These men gather most mornings at Bud's Restaurant in Defiance, a new conservative part of Kaptur's district.

BASH (on camera): Is Marcy Kaptur somebody you'll vote for?


BASH (voice over): Joe Clemens is voting for Kaptur's Republican challenger, J.R. Majewski, endorsed by former President Donald Trump.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: J.R. and go win your race. You're going to win.

BASH (on camera): Trump's endorsement is a --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It means a lot to me. I like Trump.

BASH (voice over): That's controversial, even here.

STEVE SANTO, OHIO VOTER: He tried to overthrow our government and that's the bottom line and you guys can't see it. I'm sorry.

BASH: Majewski is an election denier who was at the Capitol on January 6th, though he insists he left when, quote, it got ugly.

BASH (on camera): Is that a deal breaker?

SANTO: Oh, yes, for me. I would never vote for him. Not for any of those people that were there on January 6th.

BASH (voice over): Not a deal breaker for everyone.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think that would influence me to vote against him.

BASH: CNN's K-file unearthed evidence Majewski repeatedly promoted QAnon conspiracies, though he's since denied being a follower.

Seth Peters (ph) isn't sure about him yet.

SETH PETERS, OHIO VOTER: So I want to see how he would improve the area, how he would do in Congress.

BASH: Through his spokesman, Majewski declined an interview or to share details about any public events where he might answer such questions.

These midwestern voters are down on Democrats in Washington.

TERRY HOWARTH, OHIO VOTER: Biden's got this country, you know, Afghanistan, the border, inflation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And they are trying to separate themselves it seems like from Biden at this point. They say -- they say that in their advertisements.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Marcy Kaptur, she doesn't work for Joe Biden, she works for you.

BASH (on camera): You don't buy it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't buy it at all.

BASH (voice over): Most here say Kaptur, the longest-serving woman in the history of the House who would break that record for all of Congress if she wins, has been there long enough.

[08:55:04] SCOTT BROWN, OHIO VOTER: Not that she's not a good person, it's just that I think she's been in office long enough.

BASH (on camera): What's your response?

KAPTUR: My response is, when you come from this part of the country, all you have is your seniority. When you get there, you're outnumbered and you don't have the gavel. It takes longer to achieve something.

BASH (voice over): Still, disgust with divided political discourse runs deep.

STALLBAUM: I long for the days when we used to sit in a coffee shop or the cigar shop and we would debate the issues and then we would all laugh and we'd be friends at the end of the night.

BASH: It does still happen here at Bud's, in aptly named Defiance.


BERMAN: And Dana joins us now.

Dana, you know, it was so fascinating to hear women's rights, a top issue for a Republican voting sheet metalworker. But I know, as you've been traveling and going to district after district, you've been hearing this.

BASH: I really have been. It is over and over a top issue for voters. You could probably not see the look of surprise on my face because of all the PPE I was wearing at that construction site. But, yes, to hear kind of a burley guy, married with grown children, tell me -- I just asked generally, what's your top issue? He said abortion. And I said, wow, that is very telling.

BERMAN: Dana Bash --

BASH: And abortion rights, I should say.

BERMAN: Gotcha. No, terrific reporting. Thanks so much for sharing it today.

So, a dangerous escalation in the war on Ukraine. Vladimir Putin calls up Russia's reservists and makes a threatening reference to nuclear weapons.


BERMAN: All right, something happened at Yankee Stadium. Aaron Judge joined the ranks of Babe Ruth and Roger Maris, the only players to hit 60 home runs in the American League.


There is another league, the National League.

Judge, in the bottom of the ninth last night, Yankees down 8-4, he crushed it. The Yankees ended up winning the game because Giancarlo Stanton hit a walk off grand slam, so the Yankees won.

Judge is now just one home run shy of tying the American League record with Roger Maris with 61 home runs. And, by the way, the Yankees blew it by not signing him to a big money contract. This is going to cost them.

All right, best luck, Aly Hedges (ph).

NEW DAY continues - CNN's coverage continues right now.