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Florida Rescue Efforts; Bill Cosby Conviction Overturned. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired June 30, 2021 - 14:00   ET



ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: We do have breaking news.

Bill Cosby will reportedly walk out of prison this afternoon a free man. A short time ago, the Pennsylvania state Supreme Court overturned Bill Cosby's sexual assault conviction. He was found guilty in 2018 of three counts of sex crimes and sentenced to 10 years behind bars.

CNN's Brynn Gingras is following this story.

How did this reversal happen?

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's a shock to everyone at this point, I think, on both sides, even his attorneys, who are actually headed to the prison right now to get Bill Cosby.

We're told by his attorneys that they have not spoken to him, but they do expect him to come out, get in their car this afternoon. And they're expected to go to the Cosby home.

I want to read you a quick statement, because that's the latest we're hearing, and then we will get into the finer details of what this appellate court decided.

The statement from the Cosby family, from his attorney, Andrew Wyatt, says: "I want to thank the Supreme Court, who saw the light and saw the truth. Mr. Cosby was originally given a deal by Bruce Castor in which he was granted immunity. He gave up his Fifth Amendment rights in hopes that he would get back to work, back to life. And he always showed up for any legal matters and questions on his own accord.

"Charges should have never been brought against Mr. Cosby. I want to thank the attorneys who successfully argued his appeal and especially Mrs. Cosby, who stood strong and was here for Mr. Cosby every step of the way and supported every idea and strategy from the attorneys and the team. And she always knew that Mr. Cosby was innocent."

So, that's really, honestly, the crux of it, essentially, the appellate court deciding that this deal that was made with the then Montgomery County district attorney, Bruce Castor, who may be a familiar name to you, Alisyn, because he represented President Trump after the insurrection -- essentially, that happened back in 2005 with Cosby, which allowed Cosby then to feel like he had immunity to then go forward and give these dispositions -- depositions, rather, where he incriminated himself.

And then those depositions were then used against him when charges were basically brought forward more than a decade later. And that's what the appellate court is saying was his due process was violated.

So this is really just stunning at the moment. But what we are hearing is this 78-year-old -- or -- 80...


GINGRAS: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: He's 83, yes.

GINGRAS: Eighty-three-year-old comedian, who many thought that he would be in prison for the rest of his life, is now going to be walking as a free man, when we know, during these court trials, more than 50 women were coming forward.

And you have to remember, again, to put this in context, this was the first celebrity in the MeToo movement that was accused and also convicted. This was like a pivotal moment in that movement to sort of pave the way. Of course, we saw Harvey Weinstein after that and many others. And so this was -- this was huge for women to say they can come forward and actually get justice.

And now it looks like that that's all somewhat in question as to, how much justice did they really get?

CAMEROTA: Absolutely.

I have interviewed close to a dozen of those women personally. I have spoken to some today already. And they are devastated by this.


CAMEROTA: I mean, they took the risk of coming forward and telling these hideous stories about what they say he did. And now that just -- his conviction has been overturned. So that feels like justice denied to them at this moment.

Brynn, thank you very much for that reporting.


CAMEROTA: With us now is CNN senior legal analysts Elie Honig and Laura Coates.

Laura, I just -- I start with the same question that I asked Brynn. How did this happen? Was this something that the former DA, not the one who got the conviction for Cosby, the former DA, Bruce Castor, did he do something dubious here? Is this a result of some sort of backroom deal that he did?

LAURA COATES, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, this is the result really not with the judges or the court of appeals that Bruce Castor would have had this sort of a deal.

The deal he had was with Bill Cosby back many years ago. I think it was 2004, when he said, hey, listen, I have made a judgment call about the likelihood of being able to prosecute successfully Bill Cosby, again, who was alleged victimizing at the time Andrea Constand, before any criminal trial had ever been brought.

He made an assessment about the likelihood of success and offered instead for the opportunity not to prosecute him, so that she could pursue civil litigation remedies against him. Now, under that agreement, Bill Cosby agreed then to make statements under a deposition that provided for civil relief, not criminal prosecution.

So this was actually argued a lot prior to the trial. Remember, leading up to the criminal trial, Bill Cosby's attorneys were very adamant that he should not be prosecuted because they had this deal. They didn't want his deposition to be used against him in any way.

They believed he had been guaranteed that it would never come or see the light of day. And, remember, there was a trial court judge who said, we're going to change that. It will not only be the light of day. It can also be used in some form or fashion in this existing criminal prosecution.

And so this was teed up before the trial, but after a jury found him guilty, after a jury heard all of the evidence, after a jury weighed the testimony of people who actually were there and testifying in court and also, of course, the victim, survivor Andrea Constand, well, the jury made their determination.


And so now you have to ask yourself to what extent the jury was relying on those deposition-related statements, as opposed to what else they heard in the trial? The appellate court seems to think that they never should have had the opportunity to hear any of it and the entire criminal trial should have been precluded.

It's pretty shocking.

CAMEROTA: Elie, just to remind people, I just want to pull up the "New York" magazine cover, OK? These are the women who felt compelled to come forward and speak out about what they say Bill Cosby did to them, OK?

There are at least 50 so-called victims. And I say that because his conviction has been overturned, so now it's hard to know what to call them at this point. They were accusers. And they came forward and told their story. And so for them this morning, it's very confusing for what's happening.

Explain how it can be that he could be convicted in 2018 and -- but, before that, as Laura was saying, in 2004 or '5, that the DA could have promised him that he wouldn't be prosecuted.

ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, Alisyn, it's got to be so devastating for the victims. I know you said you have spoken with some of them. I have certainly dealt with many sexual assault victims over the years. It's just got to be heartbreaking for them.

This is important. The court did not say Bill Cosby is innocent. The court did not say Bill Cosby didn't do any of this. What the court said is a deal is a deal. And going back to 2004, as Laura said, the DA at the time, Bruce Castor, made a deal, essentially, the court found, with Bill Cosby.

That deal was, the DA said, we don't think we have enough evidence to charge and criminally convict Bill Cosby. Now we can certainly second- guess that. But that was Castor's opinion at the time. And, as a result, because the DA had said we won't be charging criminally, that forced Bill Cosby to testify in a civil deposition, because, if you have criminal charges hanging over you, you can take the Fifth.

But once the DA says, I'm not going to be charging you, then you cannot take the Fifth. And that's the deal that the court said. That led Bill Cosby to give this deposition testimony, which was then used against him, and then it doesn't matter what happened after that, as new DAs came in and they said, we're not living by that deal. We're going to charge him anyway.

But the Supreme Court said, too bad, future prosecutors, later prosecutor. The deal that Bruce Castor made back in '04, '05, that's a deal, that's binding. So that -- it's really a legal decision here based on that deal that Bruce Castor made.

It is not a finding that Bill Cosby didn't do it, that the charges against him were wrong, that the evidence was insufficient. This is a legal ruling only, if that's any consolation for people to know.

CAMEROTA: I don't know. I mean, we will be speaking to some of the survivors later in the program. I don't know if that will be any consolation to them, because just hearing that he's going to walk out of prison this afternoon has been such a shock to them.

And so, Laura, about that deposition, what a lot of these women say is that he drugged them,he drugged them, and then had sex with them. And he never admitted that, until a deposition, that deposition that he gave in 2005, where the attorney said -- Andrea Constand's attorney says: "When you got the quaaludes, was it in your mind that you were going to use these quaaludes for young women that you wanted to have sex with?"

This is the question posed by Andrea Constand, by her attorney. Bill Cosby replies: "Yes."

And that was part of what this hinged on. He admitted it in this deposition. And -- but you're saying that now that that shouldn't have been allowed in his criminal trial?

COATES: Well, that's what the court has now found, that it should not have been allowed.

Let's just be clear. I want to be very clear in the language that we use here. It is one thing to show the magazine cover of all the women who have accused Bill Cosby. It's also a different leap to go to who actually was able to testify at the trial.

And we know that made a difference here, not to minimize anyone's allegations. But it made a difference in how the trial court allowed people to actually testify to substantiate and buttress the credibility of this testimony of Andrea Constand, who was the one victim whose actual case was before that particular trial jury.

And so it's important to make sure we distinguish, because it's important for looking at the deposition in terms of when we talk about the admission that he made. At all times, Bill Cosby has denied -- as we all know, has denied that he was at all guilty, in spite of that particular statement that he made.

But it did not preclude the jury from actually disagreeing with his statement and believing that he, in fact, needed to have accountability, and they convicted him. Even as late as, I think, last week, he was denied parole, in part because he failed to demonstrate remorse.


He refused to take, I believe, a sex offender course while he was incarcerated, consistently professed his innocence, which, of course, is the right of people to do.

But given the volume of what you're talking about, and the volume of allegations, it seemed to belie common sense that he would not have remorse or have admitted something even at that point when he was serving in prison.

And so, right now, a lot of this is in many respects with people confusing in part because it feels like a technicality. But it also shows you the underbelly of what prosecutors' deals actually look like. It's about the cost/benefit analysis that prosecutors often make in deciding how they're going to pursue justice for an accuser, if they are unable to meet what they believe will be their burden of proof.

And, as Elie pointed out, we can quibble about whether they could have proven it ultimately. Obviously, they were able to do so many years later in this trial. But now you're seeing him walk away because the court said, I'm not going to look at what happened in the trial. I'm going to look at the actual deal.

And you never would have had the trial had that agreement been honored. Now, Bruce Castor had to answer for that when he tried to, I believe, run for reelection. The public was not particularly amenable to the choices he made once they were exposed, I believe. And so you're seeing the fallout and collateral effects. But, naturally, the people who have accused Bill Cosby are in the wake of all that collateral damage and effect now.

CAMEROTA: Elie, very quickly, I know that what the survivors will want to know is, can he be retried now for any of this? HONIG: So, the only place to appeal an opinion from the Pennsylvania

Supreme Court is to the U.S. Supreme Court. I don't -- there's no way the U.S. Supreme Court will take this case.

The court, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court here says they cannot retry Bill Cosby for the sexual assault allegation against Ms. Constand, against this individual. If there's other bases to charge him for other potential sexual assaults, that could be in play. But the court says you cannot retry him for this particular victim.

CAMEROTA: I mean, Brynn, we know that the statute of limitations has passed for many of these victims.


CAMEROTA: That was the whole point.


CAMEROTA: That was why they were just waiting with bated breath for him to be -- get some sort of justice or there to be some sort of conviction.

So the likelihood that there will be any justice from here is really a tough one.


And then when you see the 50 women on the "New York" -- the cover of the magazine, it's striking.

I do want to mention something. It's something Elie and I had spoke about briefly before coming on, and he could probably talk better to this. But deep down in that opinion, though, the judges did find sort of that they're not clear on the second -- the retrial, because, remember, he went to trial, the jury was deadlocked.

And so he was re-trialed. In that first trial, only one other accuser was allowed to take the stand. The second time around, there were five women. And the judges took some issue with the fact that those many women were coming forward. Was it a character assassination of Cosby? Or were they providing proof of a pattern here?

And that is interesting to see that written down in an opinion, because then it makes you think, OK, what's going to happen moving forward, right, again, because we have been seeing these other trials, these other cases of men who are accused, not just men, but mostly men, celebrity men, being accused and some being charged and facing trial?

So I don't know if Elie and Laura have a further opinion about that. But I found that pretty striking.


Hold your thoughts on all of that. Obviously, we will be covering it throughout the next couple of hours. Thanks so much, Brynn, Laura Coates, Elie Honig. We really appreciate your analysis as well.

We will have much more on this breaking news coming up.

Also ahead, Of course, we are live in Surfside, Florida, where the search for survivors is in its seventh day. We're going to hear never- before-heard audio from the moment of the collapse captured on one survivor's phone.

That's next.



CAMEROTA: The number of victims killed in Surfside, Florida, increased this afternoon.

A short time ago, officials confirmed four more bodies have been found in the rubble. There are now 16 people confirmed dead. But 147 people are still unaccounted for. Miami-Dade County's mayor explained why that number keeps fluctuating.


DANIELLA LEVINE CAVA (D), MAYOR OF MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, FLORIDA: Please join me in continuing to pray for those who've lost their lives in this unthinkable tragedy.

We are conducting an audit of the list of those accounted and unaccounted for over the last few days. Our detectives had been working around the clock to reach every single person who we have been told may be missing by a loved one. We need to verify every report and to remove duplicates wherever possible.


CAMEROTA: CNN's Rosa Flores florists has been on site since the catastrophe happened last Thursday.

Rosa, what's happening at this hour?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, Alisyn, I caught up with the mayor, Daniella Levine Cava, after a press conference that just wrapped up to get the very latest.

And she tells me about those tunnels that we have been reporting on. Now, the commander of the Israeli team told our colleague John Berman earlier today that they had discovered tunnels overnight. This, of course, is a huge development, because, throughout this search, that has been the problem, the -- just how this building collapse is so compact.

Well, I asked the mayor about it. She says that this is definitely a sign of hope and that right now what is going on is the search-and- rescue teams are following those voids. I also asked her about what is happening with the personal belongings that are being found in the middle of rubble.


Now, we learned yesterday that the rubble, the pieces of concrete, those are being sorted. That is evidence it is going to be forensically analyzed for the investigation.

Today, we learned from the mayor that the personal belongings, those special pieces of jewelry, albums, photographs, will also be catalogued. Right now, what they're doing, the search-and-rescue teams are doing, is they're putting them in bins. They're going to be catalogued, they're going to be sorted, and then there's going to be a process of identification to make sure that these precious belongings are returned to their loved ones after this investigation.

Now, Alisyn, the other thing I want to leave you with is just the emotion here, the fire chief today emotional during the press conference, saying that it's very, very tough, very, very dangerous, the conditions here. You probably see this rain around me. It's been raining. The pile of rubble becomes very slippery.

These men and women continue to risk their lives to try to save others -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Rosa Flores, thank you very much for all of that reporting today and all of these days.

Now for an exclusive that you will see first here on CNN.

We have obtained a voice-mail from a survivor, Raysa Rodriguez. She left it calling her brother moments after she was awoken by the building starting to come down last Thursday. Rodriguez is a plaintiff in the first class-action lawsuit against the Champlain Towers South condominium association, accusing the group of recklessness and negligent conduct for not keeping that building safe.

So you're about to hear this audio of the 59-year-old resident as she witnesses the building beginning to fall around her, as she's calling out to see if a neighbor is OK.

OK, you're also about to hear bangs that her attorney says indicate the moment of collapsing.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Anybody over there? Anybody over there? Hello?














UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Let's leave.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Let's try the stairs. But wait.

I heard voices. I got to check on these guys.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This senora. This is Estella.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Let me check the stairs.

Oh, my God! What the hell!



The whole entire building is gone.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Let's leave.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Hold on. Let me check the stairwell.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Ada from downstairs.



CAMEROTA: Joining us now is Adam Moskowitz, Raysa Rodriguez's attorney.

Adam, thank you very much. That was chilling to listen to that voice- mail that she didn't know she was actually leaving a message while all of that was happening.

Has she walked you through what she was seeing while we hear those screams and while we hear her yelling, "Oh, my God"?

ADAM MOSKOWITZ, ATTORNEY: Yes, it's just been -- it's hell. I mean, it's hell here right now watching all the priests and the rabbis.

Raysa was just -- she didn't know what was going on. It was absolute hell. And she called her brother, who -- she loves her brother. And she was trying to figure out what to do. And she hung up with her brother.

But what she didn't realize is, she was still on the phone with her brother. The recording was still on. So it still kept recording what she was doing. And she was going apartment to apartment, because she was nervous that a lot of her neighbors were older and a lot of them couldn't move. And some of them had small children. And she was so nervous. She spent 10 or 15 minutes to going apartment to apartment trying to save these people.


And then she got in the stairway. And it was dark. And her brother just -- told her, just go down. But she wanted to make sure that everybody got out.

So, it's -- it's just emotional. And he just found this on his -- on his telephone. She didn't know that he had this. She just -- he was going through his phone and she didn't hang up the call.

CAMEROTA: And so, Adam, when she's saying, oh, my God, the building is gone, what was she -- what has she told you she was seeing? What does that mean? And she's in the building. So what is she seeing around her?

MOSKOWITZ: It's like a movie. You look out your hallway and there's nothing there. There's just -- there's no building there. So she couldn't figure it out.

She was trying to consciously figure out, what is going on here? But half the building is gone. I mean, the floors are just sheared off. It's not even like another building fell. Half of her building fell. So she's looking out trying to figure out, where do you go down? She didn't know. And you can't use the elevator. And she's been complaining for months, for months.

For years, Raysa has been telling the building, in photographs, in video, she has been saying, the building is falling apart. She has video of the garage. There's dripping on her car. Every week, her and her friends are complaining. And nobody listened to her, nobody.

And they said, your building is fine, your building is safe, don't worry. And this is just ridiculous. And that's why we filed a class- action lawsuit, because it needs to start now. These people need to grieve. But we need to start preserving the evidence. We need to start getting a receiver involved, if there's claims that the homeowners have. We need to make sure the insurance money is frozen, and nobody take it, because this is just horrible.

It is so atrocious. I have never seen this.


CAMEROTA: But, Adam, on the flip side...


CAMEROTA: ... they did know something was wrong with that building, as we now know. And, in fact, the condo board was presenting residents with these assessments.

I think the first one a couple of years ago was $9 million. The new one that we have heard about was going to be $15 million. And from media reports, it sounds like some of the residents were bristling at a number that high, of course, as is understandable when you're presented with a bill that might be that high.

And so how can you prove that they were culpable when they were, it sounds like, attempting to raise the funds to do the needed fixes?

MOSKOWITZ: Oh, to raise money over a year for assessments to fix the facade of a building? That's criminal. You think that somehow they're going to cure a building because they do an assessment on the homeowners for $15 million, so they could fix the pavement and they could fix the balconies and maybe they could repair some -- there were some serious structural problems with this building.

Buildings don't collapse. And a typical assessment for homeowners is not what was needed here. Somebody needed to dig deeper in 2018. And the warning signs were there. And we're going to get to the bottom of who was responsible. It could have been a parade of horribles. It could have been the antenna. It could have been the roofing company. It could have been the pool. It could have been a lot.

But Raysa Rodriguez and her friends were raising this in 2018 to deaf ears, because nobody was listening to her. And that audio that you had to hear of the most horrible night of her life should not have happened. And we're going to get to the bottom of it.

I know there's going to be state and federal investigations. But there's also going to be a legal investigation. Whether it's our firm or some other firm, somebody's going to get to the bottom of it, whether it's politicians, whether it's the state, whether it's the federal government.

We're going to freeze the evidence and make sure whoever caused horrible hell is going to be responsible for it.

CAMEROTA: Adam Moskowitz...

MOSKOWITZ: Buildings don't fall.

CAMEROTA: We hear you. And we appreciate your time. And we appreciate you sharing that audio with us. It's chilling, and it's just incredible to think of what the residents inside were seeing and hearing at that moment. Thank you for being with us.

MOSKOWITZ: Thank you. Sorry I'm so emotional. Sorry I'm emotional.

CAMEROTA: Understood, Adam. Thank you. We will speak to you again.

Still ahead, new concerns about COVID in the U.S. Do you need to wear a mask even if you're vaccinated? We will talk about some of the new guidance.

We're also continuing to follow the big breaking news that Bill Cosby is set to be released from prison at any moment, after the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has overturned his conviction for sex crimes.

We will be right back.