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Florida Rescue Efforts Continues; Bill Cosby Conviction Overturned. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired June 30, 2021 - 15:00   ET



ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: Top of the hour. Thank you for joining me on NEWSROOM. I'm Alisyn Camerota. Victor is off today.

And we're following breaking news out of Pennsylvania. Bill Cosby is officially a free man. A short time ago, we're told he left prison after the Pennsylvania state Supreme Court overturned his sexual assault conviction, citing that he was denied fair trial.

Cosby, you will remember, was found guilty in 2018 of three counts of sex crimes.

Joining us now, CNN correspondent Brynn Gingras and CNN legal analysts Areva Martin and Joey Jackson.

So, Brynn, let's just start here.

The court argued that there was a vast violation of Cosby's due process rights when he was charged. What does that mean?

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it essentially goes back to a deal that he made with the then Montgomery County district attorney, Bruce Castor.

As a side note, that name might be familiar. He was on the former president's legal team after the insurrection in the second impeachment. And, essentially, the higher court was saying that this non-prosecution agreement sort of paved the way for Cosby to sit down in a civil deposition.

The testimony in that civil deposition was incriminating, and essentially it was used against him when charges were brought forth later by a different district attorney. And the higher court essentially said, that wasn't fair.

Now, we're getting reaction from all around, as this really has -- just breaking. Remember, we got this opinion just before 1:00, and now we're talking about Bill Cosby, the comedian, basically out of prison for a 10-year term that he only served a few years of.

Let me read that from his attorney, essentially telling CNN that: "We are ecstatic with the Supreme Court's decision. We always believe that this is how the case would end. We are grateful and happy that not only was the conviction vacated, but he was discharged, meaning case closed."

And, of course, you can imagine how this is making the accusers. We know of more than 50 that had come forward. Some testified in the trial that eventually convicted him. We do have a response from Gloria Allred, who represented many of those accusers at the time.

And she says: "My heart especially goes out to those who bravely testified in both of his criminal cases. Despite the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's decision, this was an important fight for justice. And even though the court overturned the conviction on technical grounds, it did not vindicate Bill Cosby's conduct and should not be interpreted as a statement or a finding that he did not engage in the acts of which he has been accused."

So, again, we're getting this response in by the minute. But everyone, I think, collectively still in shock that this is where we are at from just this morning, and really just a few days ago, when he was denied parole also conviction.

CAMEROTA: It's all happened so quickly.


CAMEROTA: So let's bring in Areva Martin and Joey Jackson.

Joey, Brynn just alluded to the former DA, OK, the DA who decided to pass in 2005 on prosecuting Bill Cosby. So, Bruce Castor, he's a bit of a lightning rod. He represented Donald Trump during the second impeachment.

Did he screw something up? Is this his fault? Or is this commonplace that you would make a deal like this with a suspect?

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: So it's not that it's commonplace.

Here's where it stands. Obviously, there's a lot of victims out there. And they're heartbroken, I think, today, based upon what they saw, right?

CAMEROTA: For sure.

JACKSON: We saw a movement. And that movement culminated in one of the top people of all time really being brought down and held accountable for conduct.

But the law has to be broader than that. And it has to focus on what is precedent, what do we do, and what is legally proper and right? So it's not so much, Alisyn, about who did right, wrong or whatever. It's about this. What happened back at the time is that the matter was investigated.

Whether you like that prior DA's decision or you dislike it, he entered into what he found to be a non-prosecution agreement. What that meant to Bill Cosby and his team was that he will not -- I repeat -- will not be prosecuted.

Now, you can scream at that. You can hate that. But that was that DA's considered judgment, DA being district attorney. What this court said, that, in reliance upon that, you had Bill Cosby waive a right which we all share, right against self-incrimination. And he then entered into a deposition and he gave very damaging and incriminating testimony, talking about quaaludes, talking about Benadryl, talking about all types of things that he didn't have to talk about.

And he only did because his lawyers said, go talk, you're not going to be prosecuted. Then he was prosecuted. And so what the court is saying, as a matter of precedent, you cannot have a representative of the commonwealth say you will not be prosecuted, you speak, you are prosecuted, and then there's nothing wrong with that.


The court found a lot to be wrong with that.

CAMEROTA: Areva, in terms of those incriminating things that Bill Cosby did testify to in 2005, let me just read a little excerpt of it to remind everyone, because the vast majority of the 50-plus women who say that Bill Cosby sexually assaulted them say that he drugged them.

And he never admitted that, until this deposition in 2005, where Andrea Constand's attorney asks him: "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?"

Bill Cosby replies: "Yes."

And, Areva, I just remember you and I speaking so many times during the whole lead-up to the Cosby trial about all of these women that were coming out of the woodwork. And today they are beyond crestfallen.

AREVA MARTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, Alisyn, I think this is a horrible decision. I respect the judicial process. And I respect decisions made by the highest court in the state, like the Supreme Court here in the state of Pennsylvania, but I think they got it wrong.

First of all, there was a lot of dispute over whether there actually was this non-prosecutorial agreement between former DA Castor and the Cosby team. A lower court -- two lower courts in Pennsylvania found that that agreement either didn't exist or it wasn't binding.

And what this Supreme Court is essentially doing is giving this power to a district attorney to enter into what essentially is a side agreement, not sanctioned by a court. Constand didn't even know about this agreement until she was told about it from a reporter. Giving these prosecutors the ability to not prosecute sexual predators, and then saying that agreement can be used as some form of almost blanket immunity -- I think the court got it wrong.

But I want to say to those women -- and I have represented so many of them that found their voice in this MeToo movement -- the court did not in any way vindicate Bill Cosby, didn't find that Constand's testimony was non-credible. It didn't find that he did not commit those acts.

So those women that have come forward that have been incredibly brave should continue to speak up against sexual assault and sexual molestation.

CAMEROTA: But, I mean, Areva, I hear you, and I'm so glad that you're saying that. And of course I agree with you.

But they overturned his conviction. Not only did they let him out of prison. He's no longer a convicted sex offender.

MARTIN: No doubt about that. And not only did they let him out, Alisyn, they told the prosecutors in the state of Pennsylvania you cannot prosecute him again.

The prosecutors asked for a remedy and one remedy being the opportunity to file charges against him and have a third trial without using that deposition testimony that Joey just talked about. But the court shut the door on that. The court said, no, that is not an appropriate remedy. And the only remedy, according to this court, is to allow him to go free.

And that's a huge blow, I think, to the MeToo movement. It's a huge blow to women that have spoken out against sexual assault. But we should keep in mind this is one case in one court. And although it is a big blow, it doesn't impact other cases around this country that have gone forward as a result of the prosecutor in Pennsylvania having the courage to prosecute Bill Cosby.

CAMEROTA: Areva, Joey, Brynn, thank you all very much.

With us now is one of Bill Cosby's accusers, Victoria Valentino.

Victoria, I'm sorry that you and I are talking under these circumstances. I know how gratified you were when Bill Cosby was convicted.

How did you feel when you heard what happened this afternoon?

VICTORIA VALENTINO, BILL COSBY ACCUSER: I was just absolutely in shock. I was stunned.

We had just gotten a letter not that long ago saying that his parole was preemptively denied. His three-to-10-year sentence was coming up to a parole hearing in September, September 25, in fact, this year. And once we heard that his parole was denied because he showed no remorse and refused to participate in any of the programs for abusers, they felt that it was worthy of being declined.

And for this to come out of left field is just -- it's a gut punch. I mean, there's -- there's no other way to describe it. And for a legal glitch to come up after all of this is just -- what does that say about a woman's worth, a woman's value?

Do our lives mean nothing? All of the lives that he damaged, not to mention our children, how we respond to our children and our personal relationships, it has impacted the lives of well over women, the 60 that came public and those of us who did not go public because they were fearful.


So here we are back to square one. I mean, we can't even say, yes, we're going to prosecute him again, because, apparently, the whole verdict has been literally overturned. I mean, that's outrageous. I'm infuriated.


CAMEROTA: I hear you. I hear you.

VALENTINO: My insides are shaking.

CAMEROTA: I understand, Victoria.

And I remember I interviewed you the day after his conviction. And you told us: "It was the most exciting thing I have heard in a long, long time. I was so thrilled."

I mean, for you and so many of the accusers, this was such a long wait for justice at the time. It had been decades that you have carried around, as you say, that the pain of what had happened to you, and so many of the fellow survivors felt that way. And you felt as though finally you had gotten some justice.

And now just tell me where you were when you heard the news this afternoon, and what your immediate thought was.

VALENTINO: Well, I was planning on a very nice, quiet day in the garden. And I was just having my second cup of tea. I'm on the West Coast, beautiful day.

And I was planning on just being peaceful today. And when I got the call, I was just so shocked. I couldn't even process what I was hearing at first. And, of course, as you might imagine, my phone has been blowing up not just with media, but friends and survivors. And everyone is just outraged. Everyone is stunned.

How is this possible? We were suddenly validated, vindicated after all of this. And then we really were the kick-starter of the MeToo movement, the Weinstein women coming out. We had the hunting grounds about rape on college campuses. We had "Spotlight" with the rape in the Catholic Church, and us. And then that gave permission, really, validation and encouragement to the Weinstein women, who then saw that we weren't eviscerated or beheaded in the public square. And they had the courage to come out, and one thing after another, the domino effect of women finding their voices and feeling empowered to speak out against their perpetrators.

I think, for many years, everybody thought that women who were raped or sexually assaulted or incest victims were in the minority. But, no, that's not true, Alisyn. It was because we didn't have a voice and people were afraid to speak out.

But because we spoke out, and we saw justice with Cosby, everyone else felt empowered and spoke out. And now I think that women who have been molested from childhood on have been proven to be more in the majority.

And this is really a sad statement about a woman's value, a woman's worth, what is happening right now. And we need to -- we need to do something about this. I just don't know what. I'm so stunned. My stomach is in knots.


Nothing will change that tidal wave that you began. Nothing takes that away. You did spawn the MeToo movement. I remember. I watched it all and reported on it all, and nothing will change that, Victoria.

But I certainly understand the blow that you're feeling today and the setback. And you will tell us what your next move is. And I will look forward to talking to you again.

Victoria Valentino, thank you very much for joining us with your thoughts today.

VALENTINO: Thank you, Alisyn, for having me. Thank you.


I understand that there is a tweet that I want to read from Phylicia Rashad, but it's hard for me to read it that far away.

Yes, I need somebody to hand me a piece of paper or put it in front -- here we go.

"Finally," she says, "a terrible wrong is being righted. A miscarriage of justice is corrected."

And Phylicia Rashad, I believe, has always supported Bill Cosby. I mean, she worked with him. I think that they were close friends. And so she feels differently than the other -- than the women who call themselves survivors today.

OK, still ahead, a CNN exclusive in Surfside, Florida. We have a closer look at the rescue efforts and the serious challenges the crews are facing at this hour.



CAMEROTA: Officials in Surfside, Florida, say they have confirmed the deaths of 16 people. Searchers found for more bodies overnight in the rubble of the condominium building that caved in last Thursday.

The mayor of Miami-Dade County says 147 people remain unaccounted for at this hour.

CNN's Rosa Flores has been covering this story from the very beginning.


So, Rosa, I understand you have more information on the search.


I'm actually here with Chief Scott Dean. He is the team leader in charge of the Florida Task Force 2. He's with the city of Miami Fire Rescue.

First of all, Chief, thank you for your time, because I know that you are just so busy right now.

We have been talking a lot about the dangers, a lot about how grueling the job is for your men and women. I just want to start, first of all, with how they're doing.

SCOTT DEAN, MIAMI FIRE DEPARTMENT ASSISTANT CHIEF: They're doing good. They're actively doing search-and-rescue throughout this operational period, with the main goal of trying to find people that are trapped underneath the rubble and get them out and hopefully just get as much help to them as possible, if we can find somebody.

FLORES: We learned overnight that there were some tunnels, some voids that were found, that some more bodies were located.

Can you tell us where these tunnels are, or any other details about that?

DEAN: Well, as we start to delayer the building, and moving the big pieces of concrete, like the flooring off, using the crane operations that you have seen behind us, it creates these void spaces in between floor to floor.

So we will send in our search people, such as our tech info individuals, to use cameras to look into see if we can find anything, as well as our live find dogs to go and see if they can smell anything. And if it's big enough, we will send a rescuer there to see if we can identify, if we can find any particular big enough hole that has somebody potentially still alive in.

FLORES: Now, we have learned that there's about 200 search-and-rescue personnel at any point in time on the rubble. Can you help us understand a little more what makes up a team?

DEAN: A task force is made up of multiple factors, 90 percent of them being fire department, which is the most elite individuals from the fire service around the country, this particular incident around the state of Florida.

On top of that, the other remaining balance is, we have specifically doctors, trauma physician as well, structural engineering individuals, tech info individuals, and then our canine handlers, which handle our live find and our human remains dogs as well.

FLORES: What happens when a body is located?

DEAN: We try to give it the respect that it deserves. And we remove the rubble around that individual. We will mark it, so that we have it captured, so that we know the location of where that victim was found.

And it's kind of like putting a piece -- a puzzle piece back together to create the full puzzle because we're trying to identify if there's other family members in that area, so that we can look in the other specific areas around there to see if we find any other people that might be either trapped or deceased.

FLORES: Now, I have noticed that there are markings on the building. Can you explain why that is?

DEAN: Yes, so these specific markings was when the first few companies came in, they wanted to -- they cleared out and did primary and secondary searches of the people that were still inside the structure that didn't fall with the rubble.

So what it means for us is that when we come in that we know that all those -- that remaining building has been searched, and that we don't need to make an entry and put ourselves in more danger than what is needed.

FLORES: Now, we learned that there are stability issues with the building. What can you tell us about what operations you are able to do around it safely?

DEAN: Oh, yes, there's definitely stability issues, because we don't know why it fell from the beginning.

So we are concerned. We have our structural engineers from all over the state monitoring the building 24/7 to make sure it's as safe as possible, preventing a secondary collapse, as we move debris and heavy machinery in.

So we're just monitoring it to make sure that it's as safely as possible so that our guys and girls don't get hurt while they're in there.

FLORES: Now, you were telling me about how this is a deployment for you and your team. Even though your home might be close from here, you really can't leave, I think.

Kind of explain that to us and how that works and how that could impact perhaps the mental preparation for you and your team.

DEAN: All the task force that are operating, there's eight teams in the state of Florida that were waiting for activation orders when this incident occurred.

Once that happens, we are owned from the state, so we are no longer -- even if it's in our backyard, we don't go back to our agencies or to our homes. We stay on site 24/7, so that we can continue operations and get this mission completed.

FLORES: And, finally, the mental toll on your team, Chief? How are they doing?

DEAN: There's the possibility that this is going to happen. We all understand the magnitude of this event and how many people we're looking for.

Right now, they're doing really well. All the teams are doing really well, with the sole objective of getting the mission complete. We know there will be issues we have to deal with later. But right now, our sole objective is to find anybody that's potentially alive and get them out, and then, if we come across any deceased, to make sure that we get them the proper respect that they deserve.

FLORES: Chief, thank you so much -- Alisyn, back to you.

CAMEROTA: Rosa, thank you very much for bringing us that interview.

My next guest has two dear friends who are still missing in the collapse. She says she is still praying for a miracle as search crews look for 147 people, including these friends, Arnie and Myriam Notkin.


Fortuna Smukler joins me now. She is also the North Miami Beach commissioner.

Commissioner, thank you for being here. I'm sorry that your friends are still missing.

Tell us about Arnie and Myriam.


Arnie was a very well-known P.E. coach in the Miami Beach community. He taught for so many years. And until this day, since last week Thursday, people have been reaching out, worried about Arnie, telling me stories about Arnie.

Myriam was -- Myriam is the mother of three girls that I went to school with, their oldest and I same grade through from elementary to high school graduation, both beautiful people. And the smiles on the face that most people see is the real smile that they always had every single day.

CAMEROTA: And, Fortuna, are you still holding out hope? I mean, Myriam was, I think -- or is 81 years old. Arnie is 87. It's

day seven of the search. Do you hold that hope at this hour?

SMUKLER: We have to. I have to.

We can't -- we can always just hope for the best. I know seven days is a long time. We just -- we have to -- we don't have anything left except to hope for it. Maybe they got lucky, they were in a pocket. Other families might have gotten lucky like that. But we just -- we need to pray.

And if, God forbid, they don't make it, we need to least pray that their remains are found. That's also as important.


Myriam was not just your friend. She was also the treasurer of the condo board for Champlain Tower South. And it sounds like she -- I think she was the treasurer for five years. She quit in 2019. And it sounds like she quit because she was very frustrated by the inaction. She basically says: Enough is enough. I'm done. They're not listening to me.

Did she ever share any of those frustrations with you?

SMUKLER: You know, she did not.

But I have spoken to many people and -- throughout the years, not just now, with condo -- related condo associations. And it's almost like in -- a condo war that goes on inside between the different sectors of people that want to take control and do things their way.

So, I can only imagine how Myriam felt, from the stories that I have heard in the past.

CAMEROTA: Yes, Fortuna Smukler, thank you very much for sharing your thoughts about your dear friends. And, obviously, we're praying for a miracle too.

SMUKLER: Thank you. Thank you. And thank you for having me.

And thank you to our Miami-Dade County mayor, Daniella Levine Cava, and to the rescue workers from Miami-Dade and from other countries that have come. We really appreciate it.

CAMEROTA: Absolutely. Everyone is working around the clock, all praying for a miracle.

SMUKLER: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: Fortuna, thank you. We will speak to you again.

OK, this is some breaking news just in. Moments ago, Bill Cosby just arrived home. This has all happened in -- with such lightning speed, it's been incredible today to understand that Bill Cosby's conviction of sexual assault was overturned by the Pennsylvania state Supreme Court today.

And then he was released from prison. And now he is home. He has just arrived back at his -- outside of Philadelphia at his home in Pennsylvania. And you can sort of see him walking in, it looks like, with some help from someone.

his belongings are being gathered. And Bill Cosby is a free man today. He had been sentenced to three to 10 years in prison for the sexual assault of Andrea Constand. And the Pennsylvania Supreme Court decided that that could not stand, that there had been a mistake made in the prosecution of this case because of a deal made by a previous DA.

And his conviction was overturned and his sentence was immediately vacated, and he is now a free man and has just returned home from prison.

Obviously, we will continue to follow that breaking news.

We have more breaking news.