tv CNN Newsroom With Ana Cabrera CNN February 16, 2019 4:00pm-5:00pm PST
visit right now or call during business hours. announcer: this is cnn breaking news. we are live in the "cnn newsroom." i'm ana cabrera. the twist in the story involving "empire" actor, jussie smollett. he claimed the attackers beat him, yelled homophobic slurs, putt a rope around his neck and poured an unknown chemical on him. new evidence suggests smollett may have paid the men to stage this attack. let's go to ryan young. what more can you tell us?
>> a lot of twists and turns in this. two law enforcement officers tell cnn chicago police believe jussie smollett paid the men to orchestrate the assault. the two brothers were released without charges after discovering new evidence. the two men are cooperating with law enforcement. smollett said he was attacked january 29th by two men yelling racial and homophobic slurs. the sources tell cnn there are records that show the two brothers purchased the rope found around smollett's neck at an ace hardware in chicago. cnn failed to reach smollett's attorney were unsuccessful. you know this case has so many twists and turns. 12 detectives have been working this case around the clock. you had nationwide outrage about the case. of course, the actor himself was
questioning why people wouldn't believe him. we have the two sources saying there's so many more questions about the case and they are trying to zero in on exactly what happened. >> earlier this week, ryan, smollett described the attack on "gma." let's listen. >> i see the attacker masked and he said this maga country [ bleep ], punches me in the face. so i punched his [ muted ] back. we started tussling. i noticed the rope around my neck and i started screaming. i want them to see that i fought back. i want a little gay boy who might watch this to see that i [ bleep ] fought back. it doesn't take away from people that haven't able to do that. they ran off, i didn't. >> he is talking a lot since
this attack. clearly, the story changed quite a bit. >> right. absolutely. this is tough sound to listen to. this put a magnifying glass on the city. walking through that neighborhood, talking to neighbors, they didn't believe it. they were shocked by this. i think the other part about this, there's so many video cameras in the area, people thought the attackers would have been caught on film or at least video. we know, at one point during the interview, he says the camera he looked at was pointing north and investigators weren't able to look. what we know is investigators have been able to use a lot of technology to track down not only two persons of interest, but parts of the story. one, they were able to see the guys were able to use ride shares and get the image of the two and put out there. then, there was smollett walking back into his apartment, after this attack happened. go with all that, the phone call to 911 didn't happen for 35-40
minutes after this attack. we have been following the details from the very beginning, talking with police because they were very upset and treating it very seriously. at some point, stuff didn't start to match up. put into context, they asked the actor for his phone records and he gave a redacted list. they wanted more. he was apparently on the phone with his manager during the attack. still, the 911 call didn't come for a while. it comes to the point where we have two law enforcement sources telling us this information. look, these two brothers who were arrested at the airport on wednesday, who were then released are cooperating fully with them. this changes the investigation completely. the spotlight that has been nationwide on this story now grows larger. >> reporting in chicago, thank you for bringing us this breaking news. let's go to charles ramsay, the former philadelphia police commissioner. first, chief, what is your reaction to this latest
reporting? >> well, i mean, i'm surprised. it's certainly taken a twist. i have to admit, though, when the two individuals that were persons of interest were released, it made me start thinking something's not right with this. it didn't seem -- it seemed like it was coming together, then all of a sudden, they were released. in a case like this, high profile like it is, you know, it would lead you to believe that something developed that we didn't know about before. >> right. these two brothers were brought in, released without charges and chicago police were no longer referring to them as suspects. >> yeah. yeah. >> explain that, if they were potentially involved in staging an attack, would they, perhaps, still be implicated in a crime? >> well, i mean, they could be. it depends on the circumstances. we don't know all the circumstances right now. but, certainly, the
investigation is taking a different turn. i don't know if you know this or not, but i'm a native chicagoan, i did 30 years as a member of the chicago police department. despite the fact chicago has a reputation over the past couple years is not really all that good, it's a good department with a lot of very, very good detectives. when i learned they really had that many detectives working this case, i figured it would come in and come in quickly. >> now, the outcome of this, if this is true, how do you think they are feeling right now? what does this mean for their reputation? what does this mean for ongoing investigations of crimes that may involve what appeared, at the time, to be, you know, characteristics of a hate crime or politically motivated or something like that? >> it's not going to change the way in which you approach investigating a crime.
you always make an assumption what the victim is telling you is true. that's why you have an investigation. you have to put all the pieces of the puzzle together. you have to gather facts. if the facts don't fit, you start to become suspicious as to whether or not the incident actually took place or took place the way in which the complaintant said. there are hate crimes that occur. there are people that are assaulted. we have an obligation, as police, to investigate thoroughly. occasionally, you come across a case, for whatever reason, turns out not to be accurate. >> earlier this week, there was rumblings. local news station in chicago reported saying this attack was staged. chicago police came out and said those reports were wrong. now, here we are, how do you make sense of that? >> that's because, at that time,
they didn't have facts to support that. people can afford to speculate, whether it's media, whether it's people in the public at large, police don't have that luxury. we have to base what we say on facts, on the investigative facts that come forward during the course of the investigation. so, at that point and time, they didn't have anything that would verify that. so, i don't think they have made an official statement, yet. these are sources that you have that may or may not be 100% accurate. until the superintendent or the person in charge of the press office there, until they get out there and make a statement, you know, this is all still up in the air. but, this is certainly something that i'm very concerned about. that's a draw on resources that you simply cannot afford. if this turns out not to be true, the attack was staged and never really happened, then this individual ought to be prosecuted like anybody else
would be. >> stand by. on that note, i want to bring in a couple legal minds. joey jackson is here as well as ranado. you are from chicago, you litigated in illinois. if jussie smollett, in fact, paid the men to attack him, is that a crime? >> yeah, it is. first of all, filing a false police report when you know no crime has been committed is a class 4 felony in illinois, which is obstructing justice, which they may have done. both are class 4 felonies. the penalty is 1-3 years in prison. now, as a practical matter, people who are convicted of class 4 felonies, they don't serve time. so, you know, sometimes there's a suspended sentence.
frankly, mr. smollett will have to hope there's leniency here. i will tell you, i would expect a judge to take this very seriously and for law enforcement to take it seriously. when i was a federal prosecutor, had something like this happen to me when i was investigating a kidnapping. up very late at night with fbi agents working hard on that. it turned out the child, it wauz hoax. you know, essentially, falsely reported that, her and her friends. that was not, you know, that wasted a lot of resources and time. that pales in comparesison to t multiday investigation we heard about. a lot of work went into this by the chicago police department. mr. smollett, if this is true, should be ashamed of himself. >> joey, were there red flags that stood out to you in the reporting as the investigation continued? >> not only to me, but so many
people there were many red flags. let's talk about those. just my reaction, it's so disheartening. such hate as it relates to immigrants and race and for this to be added into the equation doesn't help anything. in terms of the red flags, there are things we talked about. what are those? when you don't report immediately, there's a 40-minute lapse. when you happen to be on the phone with your manager at 2:00 in the morning. when you are asked to turn over your phone records and you redact them. so many things didn't add up. surveillance, nothing caught on tape. we live in a day and age we get everything. why was it missing here? yes, there are red flags. there was a big concern and he should be concerned. that's because there's a real deterrent value to go after him and prosecute him. you cannot have people making up
cl claims like this when you have legitimate victims of crime and you have so many detectives working the case, rightfully, to try to get answers, to try to get justice, to try, if there's a hate crime to get the people who did it and have them accountable. now, because there's a diversion of resources, other crimes, now, are not being solved. it's problematic. i don't think a judge, in hearing a case like this, is going to be too sympathetic. >> chief ramsay, there are many laters to the story smollett told, because he's black and gay, people said it sounds like a hate crime. he said the attackers said maga country. what impact, going to joey's point, on where we are in this day and age, what impact could this have when it comes to these issues and crimes involving race or politics? >> well, i would hope that
despite this, that every case that comes to our attention is police. we investigate thoroughly. we don't make assumptions right off the bat. we owe that to the public. you can't let one case, one individual, change the way you approach investigations. you can't afford to do that. this is unfortunate. this turns out to be true, that he did, in fact, pay people to do this and this turned out to be a totally made up situation, that's very unfortunate on a lot of different levels, believe me. but, that should not take away from the fact that there are legitimate victims of crime out there and the obligation of police is to thoroughly investigate each and every one of those to bring them into custody that are responsible for the crime. >> i want to ask you about that, a similar question. earlier, i think where i was getting at and i don't know if i heard you vocalize it, does this sort of thing just piss off, for
lack of a better word, police officers because they are investigating so heavily, diverting all these resources into what turns out to be a false report? >> well, yeah, it does. i mean, listen, i worked in the detective division in the chicago police department. there's not a day that goes by you don't get fresh cases in. and those cases are assigned to a detective. when you are working one case and following up on leads, you have five, six, seven others you are not working on at thapt particular moment. everyone deserves a complete and thorough investigation. when you take resources on a case that is false, it's enough to upset everyone. i'm not in chicago and it upset me. >> smollett gave an interview to "gma" addressing accusations he made up the story. here is his response.
>> i'm pissed off. >> what is it that has you so angry? is it the attackers? >> the attackers, but also the attacks. it's like, you know, at first, it was a thing of, like, listen, if i tell the truth, then that's it cause it's the truth. then it became a thing of, like, oh, how can you doubt that? like, how do you not believe that? it's the truth. then it became a thing of, like, oh, it's not necessarily that you don't believe that this is the truth, you don't even want to see the truth. >> ranado, could those words come back to hurt him in terms of legal proceedings, moving forward? >> no question. i mean, look, it's really something to hear that. you know, he is obviously a professional actor, but, you know, that is just shocking that
somebody, to me, it's really repugnant, if he fabricated this and those words are played for a judge at sentencing, not just these, but of course you played another clip as well, i think a judge is going to take it very seriously and i think that, the state's attorney here, kim fox, who is going to have to make a chargi charging decision of how to charge the case is going to have to take it seriously. as mr. jackson said a moment ago, this is going to have a deterrent effect. a lot of people are paying attention to the case. it will signal you can get away with making false reports, wasting time of law enforcement, which is our tax dollars. there are a lot of crimes in chicago for police to deal with, real crimes with real victims. it's really shocking and something i think a judge is going to take seriously at sentencing. i would be surprised if he
doesn't get prison time, if, in fact, this is true and he is prosecuted for it. >> joey, you are our defense attorney in this group. how does smollett defend himself? >> you know, i think there's a number of ways to do that. first of all, he needs to make peace with people around him, who supported him, loved him and believed in him and his story. when ever the prosecution has you dead to rights, what you do is have a come clean moment. that's the point you look at the person and say, we are not judged by the worst thing we have ever done. we are not judged by the best thing we have ever done. the truth lies in the middle. you have to reason with the court and the prosecution and talk about the redeeming qualities in life. he's a young man with a long way to go. he's got a lot to give society. i'm sure this is a terrible mistake he wishes he had back. if the evidence is there, he has to own it and use it in a good way to encourage others not to do what i have done.
you can do better. i think that's a way to heal, to bring it together, to take responsibility, take ownership and move people forward and hope for a lenient sentence. thank you all for being with us. >> thank you. >> we have much more on this breaking news. jussie smollett stars in "empire." what the news could mean for the show, his career and the ongoing narrative that is now twisting, once adpan. you are live in the "cnn newsroom." ♪
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♪ ♪ our new, hot, fresh breakfast will get you the readiest. (buzzer sound) holiday inn express. be the readiest. back to our breaking news now. law enforcement officers tell cnn chicago police have new evidence that jussie smollett paid two men to stage an attack. he said they beat him, yelled homophobic slurs, put a rope around his neck and yelled at
him. did the media get duped? >> if it's true, they did get duped. this is starting to feel like an episode of the tv show, "empire" with the twists, turns and drama. the cliff hanger of, if he did this, why in the world would he do this? why? that's what everyone wants to know. >> do you have any thoughts about that? do we know about, you know, what else was going on in his life, his career that could point to a potential motivation? >> there was talk he was going to be written out of the show, but they said that's not true. when you see this, something that is a hoax, you think there has to be a major reason behind it. he's thrived. "empire" is a very successful show for fox. he's a very talented singer.
he comes from a massive entertainment family. his sister journey is a big star as well. it's got a lot of people scratching their head as well. why in the world, if he set this up, why would he do it and think he could get away with it? >> you'll recall after the story broke, as it has investigation was ongoing, immediately, there was finger pointing and placing blame. again, there were these different pieces and layers that evoked, you know, racial tensions. it created, again, highlighted political divisions. what does it tell you about the state of america when people instantly believe something as horrific as he described happened? >> we are a very divided nation. he said during the "good morning america" interview. he said i come hard for 45. he's been critical of trump. now, if this is true, if this is true, what the police believe, he's given them all the ammunition in the world and two
groups that have been supportive of him who are going to ask a lot of questions. they rallied around him big time. he was shown so much love. people were so angry at the thought people would actually doubt his story. he said during the interview with "good morning america," had he said the attackers were muslim, black or hispanic, the doubters would have believed him more. because he was saying it was someone who said something about maga and a trump supporter, that was causing people not to believe him. >> reports on thursday came out saying this report may have been a hoax and that's when the 21st century fox came out with a statement saying, no, no, no, he's not being written off the show. the idea that jussie smollett has been written off "empire" is ridiculous. he is a core player and we continue to stand by him.
any idea how this news, again, if true, might impact smollett's career? >> i don't see how he could continue going on "empire." lee daniels was his first supporter, he, himself, is a gay man. the cast, crew, everyone rallied behind him. how do you walk on set if you faked this whole thing? you know, he may not have been intended to be written off the show earlier, but how does he continue to be on the show, if, in fact, this is true and the story is fake. >> you and others are reaching out to his team and to, obviously, his producer to find out what is next. thank you very much for being with us. >> thank you. just a day after colin kaepernick's surprising settlement with the nfl, his lawyer speaks exclusively to us on cnn. you will hear from him here on "cnn newsroom." this is not a bed.
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♪ ♪ (clap, clap) olly. colin kaepernick set off a fire storm in 2016 when he began kneeling for the national anthem. it caused the president to say this last year -- >> wouldn't you love to see one of these nfl owners, when somebody disrespects our flag to say, get that son of a bitch off the field right now. out. he's fired. he's fired! >> kaepernick's protest became a lightning rod. now, two and a half years later, he and a former teammate reached a settlement with the league, who they accused of colluding against them.
the nfl and players' attorneys said they decided to solve the agreement. it is subject to a confidentiality agreement. there will be no comment by either party. joining us is the lawyer. there is a confidentiality agreement in place so i appreciate you coming in here. what can you tell us about the settlement? >> nothing. i can't say anything at all, except it's resolved. i can tell you, it was a long and kind of unconventional journey in this, a legal journey in the sense we brought it under the collective bargaining agreement. it was not a lawsuit, traditional lawsuit. when some people said, i wish it would have gone to court. it wasn't in court, it was under the collective bargaining. they had the union and owners collectively bargained to have grievances filed.
that's how we brought it and where it was resolved. that's the end of that. >> let me dig into that. a lot of people think, why wouldn't he try to take this all the way, instead of settling? he's become a symbol of social justice. some people may look at it and say, it appears he just wanted the money. >> i have seen that on social media. you can always see. i have a whole theory on social media behind colon kaepernick. the difference between the criminal system and fighting over somebody's liberty and the civil justice system is all you are doing is fighting over money. that's what a civil justice is. whether you file in a court or go to arbitration or mediation or in this case, a collective bargaining agreement. all an arbitrator, judge and a jury can do is shift money around. that's what we do. our justice system is based on
money. that's why you hear people say, well, he was only in it for the money. you can't go in, i often tell clients this when they come in. what do you want me to do? i can't go in and arrest somebody. i'm not a prosecutor. i'm a civil prosecutor when i have your case, but instead of putting somebody in jail, you take away their money. that's what the tort system is. so, in this case, also in collective bargaining agreements, generally, this is not just something that is unique to the nfl. in other type agreements, arbitrations, for instance, you are in a private setting. that's what people are bargaining for. they are saying, i want privacy. if you are going to bring a grievance against me i want privacy. i understand the public frustration, but, remember something, whether it's arbitration, a grievance, whether it's something else entirely, if you are not in a
courtroom and mind you, federal court where this normally, if you were going to file would be filed, there are no cameras. there are now audios in the u.s. supreme court. there's no cameras in federal and district court. >> there are rumors he will receive between 60 and 80 million can you comment? >> i can't. i talked to colin today. i talked to him today, not about anything else than his desire to play. i saw him, i have seen him, it's been a whirl win. he is the most fit vegan i have seen in my life. he inspires me every lent. to me, to my somewhat trained eye, he looks like he is ready to play. i predicted this with eric, our other client, after we had one of the hearings that eric would
play. >> and he is. >> within the last five days, he's gotten a three-year contract. i'm going to make a bold prediction, although, i have been wrong before on this, i'm going to make a bold prediction that one of three teams pick him up. >> which three teams do you think will pick him up? >> the natural is, if cram newton is out, with eric in carolina. can you imagine? >> they were both on the 49ers. >> it's the carolina -- >> panthers. >> very good. colin kaepernick -- >> testing my football. >> i was. he wanlts to compete at the highest level. this is a competitive young man. sometimes it's hard for me to remember. i have to dial myself back. he's only 31 years old. he is not over the hill. he is in his prime. you get smarter in that
position. he is wise beyond his years. >> his actions speak louder than words. he has been silent. help us understand what he was going through the past couple years. >> there's a degree of frustration, sometimes, when you are getting attacked. i think he finds he's very gandhiesque. takes inspiration and channels things, bricks are thrown at him and find a serenity. he has a great support system. nessa, who is his queen, he would say, is wonderful and a fighter, like you would not believe and a protector, a fierce protector. he's got cat and jeff and my associate, ben. he's got a great support system around him. his parents are delightful. i talk with his dad on occasion. >> have the president's attacks gotten to him? >> no.
on the contrary. you know, interestingly, we started to talk about this, interestingly, i think the bold move by nike showed what i have at least anecdotely learned over the course of this. the president's attack was a hijacking of what colin was doing. it was a perversion. it was really kind of gross. what the president did was, he was trying to take something and use it as a political issue. i think, based on what i have seen, that this was a divisive issue that was amplified by some of the things we are seeing in the news, the things you report on. we'll get to that in the coming weeks. i think what nike showed was, that isn't what america is because, this was the discussion we had with nike. i will bet you, if you come and use him as a campaign spokesperson, you are going to see. internally, i think nike
understood this and should be commended for it. they understood, he speaks to what's best of america. sure enough, it happened. for all the naysayers in the first two hours after that ad came out, nike acquired $8 billion worth of value as the campaign rolled out. nike is doing very well. his stuff sells out immediately. >> obviously, he's getting paid through that sponsorship. you say he wants to play in the nfl, he opted out of the 49ers in the 2016 season. has he been offered anything in the nfl? >> some of the urban myths are that he opted out. it's technically true, but the gm in san francisco sat down with him and had the conversation. at some point, san francisco was appreciative of what he had done. he took them to the super bowl. there's only, you know, in the
last five years, seven years, eight years, how many quarterbacks have gone to the super bowl. take tom brady out, only seven other guys. he's one of them. that's a very small community. they told him, we are going to go in another direction. yes, then he opted out rather than get cut, tested the market. seattle was the only place that talked to him. other than that, no. that was kind of the frustration with what was going on. i think the issue was hijacked by the president. i think that people kind of coward in the face of that and i think, ultimately, at the end of the day, there was a brave two or three voices in various spots that said, no, america is better than this and we are going to do the right thing. i think you are going to see, i'll make the bold prediction, you can save the tape. you'll see in two weeks, somebody is going to step up and do the right thing.
besides the panthers, it would not surprise me if bob kraft made a move. >> oh, yeah? >> that would not surprise me. and it would not surprise me if his former coach, i'll test your knowledge, makes a move. >> i don't know that on the top of my head. i have to wrap it. thank you, i appreciate you staying with us. you are going to stay with us to discuss the jussie smollett case. jussie smollett, may have orchestrated the attack he reported to police. this is according to law enforcement sources, in chicago. how in the world is this going to work out for him now, legally. more ahead on that on "cnn newsroom."
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p attack on him in chicago. mark is back with us. you have represented so many celebrities in the past. you look at this story. how would you -- >> my immediate reaction? >> yeah. >> i will tell you, my immediate reaction, when you see according to law enforcement sources, to me, that means a flashing red light because that means normally that somebody doesn't go on the record. normally, it may not be what it seems. remember, two people were picked up as supposed persons of interest, which is a new term i love. for all i know, somebody said, oh, he paid me to do it so they get out of custody. who knows. the law recognizes the fact that somebody who is a co-conspirator is supposed to be viewed with caution. that's black letter law. if this is coming from somebody who is picked up saying oh, no, i didn't beat him up, he paid me and it took a couple days before
they got there. unless there's other evidence, i would be skeptical. i'm not saying one way or another. i'm saying, don't jump and buy into everything you hear, especially when it's a leak. >> we would not be just going with any old source here. >> no, i understand you are probably getting it from a law enforcement source -- >> with credibility. >> i don't deny that. >> yeah. >> what happens is, a lot of times, what law enforcement does, this has been the supreme court said this is okay, they can lie. you know, if you lie to the police, it's a felony. if they lie to you, it's a good police investigation. >> what does it tell you that these two men, reportedly, are working with police and giving them cooperating statements and we are understanding they have new evidence that leads to this conclusion. the fact that these two men were brought in, in custody, but are let go, does that tell you they
may have entered into a cooperation agreement? >> that's exactly what it says. either cooperation agreement or admitted they did it, but said, yes, but and there's something else there. yeah, i think that's exactly right. >> this wasn't just an assault. this was painted as a targeted, perhaps politically motivated, perhaps motivated because of his race. it was called a hate crime. how does that impact things? >> that heightens the amount of focus and law enforcement resources on it. anytime you have something that is high profile, it takes it out of the bellwether of what is normal and it, that may be the theory. what i would caution is you have to push back against already assuming that's the case. there's already been rumors and denials by law enforcement in this case, about other things. i would just, i would just say, buckle up first and see what
actually comes out. see what the evidence is. when you say, are they cooperation agreement? normally not. the stateside doesn't enter into the agreement, but might have said, we are not going to file yet. we want to see something else or get us this piece of information or, maybe they are out there to do a pretext call where they are going to say, the police are leaning on us. you have to do something, hoping somebody else makes an admission. there's a meriad of possibilities. until we see something else, i would reserve judgment. >> thank you very much, mark. good to have you with us. we'll be right back. uh-oh! guess what day it is? guess what day it is! huh...anybody? julie! hey...guess what day it is? ah come on, i know you can hear me. mike mike mike mike mike... what day is it mike? ha ha ha ha! leslie, guess what today is? it's hump day. whoot whoot! ronny, how happy are folks who save hundred of dollars
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smollett. more breaking news on this saturday. we've just learned the state department spokeswoman heather nauert has dropped out of the running for the united nations. what reason did she give? >> she's been there at the state department since april. she's really won over president trump's support through talking about his america first policy. in addition to that, she really won over secretary pompeo, traveling the world with him. i want to read you part of a statement that she issued. she said she was grateful to president trump and secretary pompeo but this is the part i
want to single out. however, the past two months have been grueling for my family and therefore it is in the best interests of my family i withdraw my name from consideration. serving in the administration in the past two years has been one of the highest honors my life and i'll always be grateful to the president, the secretary and my colleagues for their support. to give you a little more about this confirmation process. it was expect that it would be a grueling process. she would have been one of the most inexperienced ambassadors to the united nations. she didn't have the foreign policy background. president trump will be announcing a knew nominee shortly. >> all right. thank you very much. i'll be right back. to make you everybody else... ♪ ♪ means to fight the hardest battle, which any human being can fight and never stop.
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we continue to follow breaking news this evening. a dramatic twist in the story involving the empire actor jussie smollett who claims he was attacked by two men last month in chicago. he told police these attackers beat him, yelled homophobic slurs, put a roam around his neck and put a not unknown chemical on him. new evidence suggests that he may have fade two men to stage the whole thing. what's the latest? >> yeah. two law enforcement sources with knowledge of the investigation tell cnn that chicago police believe jussie smollett paid two men to orchestrate the assault. the men who are brothers were released without charges after police cited the discovery of new evidence. the two men are now cooperating fully with