Date: May 1, 2015
Guest: Kweisi Mfume, Kisha Hebbon, Doug Gansler, Matt Katz, John
Wisniewski, Matt Katz, Helen Holton, Keith Haynes
STEVE KORNACKI, GUEST HOST: Charges in Baltimore, indictments in New
Let`s play HARDBALL.
Good evening. I`m Steve Kornacki, in for Chris Matthews.
We`ll get to the indictments in the "bridge-gate" scandal in New
Jersey in just a moment, but we begin with the stunning news today from
Baltimore`s top prosecutor that six police officers there have been charged
in the death of Freddie Gray. Marilyn Mosby told reporters, quote, "No one
is above the law," and she said Gray`s death was the result of mistreatment
he suffered by the officers.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARILYN MOSBY, BALTIMORE CITY STATE`S ATTORNEY: Following transport
from Baker Street, Mr. Gray suffered a severe and critical neck injury as a
result of being handcuffed, shackled by his feet and unrestrained inside of
the BPD wagon.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: And the most serious charge, second-degree murder, was
filed against the driver of the police transport van. The other officers
face charges ranging from involuntary manslaughter to assault, police
misconduct and others.
According to Mosby, the initial arrest of Freddie Gray was illegal,
and officers repeatedly ignored Gray`s requests for medical attention.
Mosby also had this message for the protesters who`ve taken to the
streets since Gray`s death.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MOSBY: To the people of Baltimore and the demonstrators across
America, I heard your call for "No justice, no peace." Your peace is
sincerely needed as I work to deliver justice on behalf of this young man.
To those that are angry, hurt or have their own experiences of injustice at
hands of police officers, I urge you to channel the energy peacefully as we
prosecute this case.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Reacting to the news today, Baltimore mayor Stephanie
Rawlings-Blake said she was, quote, "sickened and heartbroken." Meanwhile,
Gloria Darden -- that`s the mother of Freddie Gray -- told Buzzfeed, quote,
"I feel good because we got all six of them." She also spoke directly to
her son. Quote, "You can rest, Freddie. You can rest. You can be in
As marchers return to the streets of Baltimore, we are joined by NBC
News`s Lester Holt, who is at City Hall. So Lester, you were there earlier
in the week. You`re back now in the wake of this really stunning
Just what is the mood you`re encountering tonight in Baltimore?
LESTER HOLT, ANCHOR, "NBC NIGHTLY NEWS": Well, on the streets and the
neighborhoods that we saw only a few nights ago rioting, there was actual
celebrations. I encountered one mother who was going to take her kids to a
class, instead she brought them to the street corner that was kind of the
center of the celebration and said, I wanted them to witness history.
And she was talking about it in such terms. I said you, Sound like
you`re almost describing a historic civil rights moment, and that`s what
she said she believed it was, a moment when there was accountability for
police, something that she believes has been missing here for a long time.
There have been protesters in the street again tonight, but again, a
much more celebratory mood, talking about a justice. And of course, we`re
all reminded this is only the beginning of the justice process. Where this
leads, no one knows. But certainly, there are a lot of folks in this town
who didn`t think it would happen.
You mentioned -- you used the word "stunning." I`ve used it myself.
I don`t know if the charges are so much stunning or the speed, the fact
that the report was handed over by police only yesterday. I don`t think
anybody saw this coming immediately, but we now know that the prosecutor`s
office had essentially been doing their own concurrent investigation, which
brought them to these charges, Steve.
KORNACKI: Yes, Lester, the speed and also, I think, the content of
the message from the prosecutor today. We had the quote there for you at
the top of the show, but the idea -- you were talking about the protesters
being so skeptical that any kind of charges were going to be filed, and now
here`s the prosecutor speaking directly to them and saying, I heard you,
and now I`m acting.
HOLT: Well, I think one of the more remarkable things that stood out
to me was the fact she made note and filed charges around the fact that he
shouldn`t have been in that police van in the first place, that they had --
in her estimation, they had no grounds to even arrest Freddie Gray, so it
begins right there.
That sends a larger message because we have heard in communities like
this complaints of police harassment. We know that there is -- there`s
data from around the country that blacks are more likely to be arrested,
arrested at a higher rate than whites.
This sends a message that may resonate well beyond Baltimore, this
notion that Freddie Gray was singled out simply because he made eye contact
with a police officer and ran. The knife he had with him, which had been
reported to be an illegal switchblade, she says was not illegal. So again,
in her estimation, he should not have even been placed under arrest.
KORNACKI: All right, NBC`s Lester Holt, live in Baltimore, appreciate
the time tonight. Thank you very much.
And the state`s attorney, Marilyn Mosby, said today the officers, as
Lester was just saying, never had probable cause to arrest Freddie Gray in
the first place. Let`s watch that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MOSBY: The knife was not a switchblade and is lawful under Maryland
law. These officers subsequently removed the knife and placed it on the
sidewalk. Mr. Gray was then placed back down on his stomach, at which time
Mr. Gray began to flail his legs and scream as Officer Miller placed Mr.
Gray in a restraining technique known as a leg lace (ph), while Officer
Nero physically held him down against his will until a BPD wagon arrived to
transport Mr. Gray.
Lieutenant Rice, Officer Miller and Officer Nero failed to establish
probable cause for Mr. Gray`s arrest, as no crime had been committed by Mr.
Gray. Accordingly, Lieutenant Rice, Officer Miller and Officer Nero
illegally arrested Mr. Gray.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: All right, let`s bring in Jayne Miller from our Baltimore
affiliate, WBAL. Jayne, thanks for taking a few minutes tonight.
So to start on that, if you would, that question of the timing, of the
speed. All of the indications we were getting as recently as last night
were this is not something that`s going to be coming today, maybe not
something that`s going to be coming any time soon. Then all of a sudden
this morning, that police report comes back, and now we have the charges
What accounts for that quick speed? Do we have a sense of that?
JAYNE MILLER, WBAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the state`s attorney`s office
had been conducting its own investigation since April 12th -- April 13th,
when the injury to Freddie Gray occurred. So while there was a police
investigation, and that was very much part of what the state`s attorney did
today, there was also an independent investigation -- more independent
investigation by the state`s attorney office that was going on
simultaneously before Gray`s death.
And we were in the neighborhood. We saw their investigators going
door to door, tracking down witnesses -- very active investigation at that
time. So it was really running parallel to the police investigation, and
the key was getting the autopsy report, as the state`s attorney said today.
She said it was presented to them today with that homicide ruling.
Let me tell you about the process here. This has been charged through
a charging document. What`ll happen now, which is a very routine process
in the state of Maryland, is this case will now be presented to a grand
jury. There may be additional evidence. There may be the tweaking of the
evidence. And then grand jurors will decide whether to issue indictments.
Those indictments may tweak the charges. They may -- you know, there
may be some different charges, as well. And that`ll happen over the next
three weeks. That is exactly what happens in most of these cases.
Most crimes in Maryland, at least in the city of Baltimore, get
charged through a charging document -- exactly what happened today. And
then the officers are processed. They`re booked. They are going through
their bail process as we speak. And then case goes to a grand jury.
Generally, indictments are issued. And then they will come back into
court for arraignment and then they`ll be out of the lower court, the
district court, and they`ll be in the circuit court, which handles more
KORNACKI: Now, the six officers charged in Freddie Gray`s death were
defended today by the Baltimore police officers union, and here was that
group`s president, Gene Ryan.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GENE RYAN, BALTIMORE FRATERNAL ORDER OF POLICE: We`re disappointed in
the apparent rush to judgment, given the fact the investigation into this
matter has not been concluded. Our officers, like every other American
citizen, are entitled to due process. We will continue to support them
throughout this judicial process, which we believe will result in a finding
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: All right, so Jayne, you laid out the process that we`re
looking at over the next few weeks here, next few months maybe. But in
terms of the substance here, in terms of what these officers are being
charged with, can you walk through quickly basically what the case is
that`s being made here, one of the officers actually being charged with
second degree murder, the others with involuntary manslaughter?
What is the sort of theory of the case here?
MILLER: Well, the theory of the case is that according to -- first of
all, the theory of the case starts now with that -- what the -- what is
being described as the alleged illegal arrest. So it starts there. So now
he`s in their custody when he really shouldn`t be because, allegedly, they
didn`t have probable cause to arrest him.
But after we get to that, he gets put in the police wagon. Baltimore
police policy is clear that a prisoner has to be seatbelted to secure him.
That did not happen in this case, according to the evidence.
Secondly, if a prisoner needs or requests medical attention, then an
officer has to get that. Again, allegedly, that did not happen in this
This is a kind -- this is an injury that occurred at some point in
that timeline, and then because he was unresponsive by the time that second
prisoner is loaded into the van, what that indicates is that it occurred
enough time before that for his condition to be really seriously
So that second degree murder charge against the van driver, the van
drive has the most responsibility for his safety -- that second degree
murder charge is called "second degree murder depraved heart," and that`s
really just his wanton disregard for human life.
And because of this long time from the time he -- he -- the theory
about when he suffered the injury, his condition starts deteriorating, he`s
unresponsive, they see him unresponsive, they still don`t call a medic.
They get to the district. He`s not breathing.
The man we interviewed yesterday, who was the other man in the -- the
other prisoner in the wagon -- he says that they took him out of the wagon
first at the police district before they ever tended to Freddie Gray, even
though Freddie Gray is the one who wasn`t breathing.
So there may be much as 60 minutes that passed from the time this
injury occurred until he gets to Shock Trauma. That`s what amounts to the
case. This is a negligence case. This is a disregard for the rules and
procedures you`re supposed to follow, and as a result, somebody dies.
That`s the kind of case this is.
KORNACKI: All right. Wow. Jayne Miller, WBAL, appreciate the time
tonight. Thank you very much.
Now let`s bring in NBC`s Ron Allen. He is outside that CVS drug store
that`s become ground zero for the protesters. Ron, I see some protesters
behind you right now. Tell us what`s going on.
RON ALLEN, NBC CORRESPONDENT: Yes, there`s this huge crowd that`s
just arrived, Steve. They are filing through this intersection of
Pennsylvania and North, which has been the epicenter of protest, of
confrontation, of the riot that happened here on Monday. They`ve been
walking around town from City Hall to the inner harbor area, and now
they`re here over the past couple of hours.
All this began right after the prosecutor announced the charges
against the officers. They -- people have been gathering. They`ve been in
the streets. They`ve been celebrating. They`ve been joyful. They`ve been
cautiously optimistic. They`ve been skeptical. They`ve been shocked and
surprised. There`s been a range of emotions has been going on out here.
People are genuinely amazed that this happened, I think, because this
isn`t a thing that usually happens. Police officers are not usually
charged with crimes when young black men die in America. So it`s a
stunning development, and it`s something that people are calling historic.
And they`re also saying that they hope this becomes a model for what
happens around the rest of the country.
A young man that I was standing with here just a minute ago made
what`s perhaps the most profound point I`ve heard all day. He said that
this is the result of people going out and voting not long ago, voting for
a new prosecutor, for Marilyn Mosby, putting her in office back in
November. She took office in January.
That, he said, correctly so, is perhaps the most -- one of the most
significant reasons why we are here today, because this person who is now
in charge of prosecuting crimes in this area is a young African-American
woman who`s from this community, who`s been -- she`s actually from Boston,
but she`s been a part of this community. She is as similar to many of
these protesters as you will find in the country, perhaps. She`s one of
the youngest prosecutors in the country. That`s very significant. That
connects the dots.
Back in Ferguson a few months ago, they had an election in November.
They elected three African-American city council members. That`s going to
change the dynamic there.
So for all the history that`s been made here, perhaps, for all the
significance that`s happened here, for all these -- the arrests that have
happened here, that, as this young man pointed out, is profound and
important, as well, something that we should all perhaps focus on as to why
change is happening, why things are changing in the country, and why we`ve
come to this day that we have today -- Steve.
KORNACKI: Yes. Thank you, Ron Allen, for that. And I don`t know if
people caught, but behind Ron, there was a very encouraging scene we saw as
he was speaking. One of the protesters, it seemed, went over and hugged
one of the police officers. They smiled at each other -- one of the more
encouraging scenes we`ve seen this week.
Anyway, I`m joined now by Kweisi Mfume. He`s the former Maryland
congressman, former president of the NAACP, joins us now. Can I just ask
you to start the mood right now, compare it, if you would, to the mood a
couple nights ago.
KWEISI MFUME (D-MD), FMR. CONGRESSMAN: Well, if I`ve got my finger in
my ear, it`s because it`s awful loud here. There are several marches that
have just gone by.
I mean, the mood here is obviously a little different. There`s less
anger and more appreciation that, at last, people are seeing some aspects
of justice begin to take hold -- the fact that Maryland Mosby today came
forward in a very succinct and detailed and transparent way and offered up
enough information that allows people on the ground to connect the dots of
what happened when, and she gave a complete timeline, as well as a complete
set of circumstances that go with it.
So people here are -- I don`t want to say buoyant. They are hopeful
that this, in fact, represents the beginning of a process that very often
doesn`t take place. Usually, when something like this happens around the
country, people are pushed to the side. Officers will get a slap on the
wrist, or the case will be thrown out.
This is very decisive on her part. And as someone who knows Marilyn
well, I can tell you that she`s done her homework. She`s not swayed by
pressure. She feels strongly committed to justice and strongly committed
to the belief that no one is above the law.
KORNACKI: Yes, you make the point there that we`re -- I think we`re
accustomed, in these situations to -- you know, it seems in a lot of cases
to end with the officers not being charged in sort of similar situations.
Your reaction this morning? Were you surprised?
MFUME: Was I surprised by what?
KORNACKI: That they`re being charged.
MFUME: Well, I`m -- I`m not surprised that the state`s attorney took
the action that she did and that she found the facts and brought the
charges because she found probable cause. No, I`m not surprised.
What I didn`t (ph) get surprised by was the fact that although
everybody was focusing on the police investigation, she clearly had enough
sense and determination to begin back on April 13th her own investigation,
as she said, for 12, 14 hours a day with her entire investigative team, so
that when the Police Department finally came forward with their conclusion
-- information and their decision (ph) in the investigation, she said, I
already had it. I`ve got that already.
So what took place here I think surprised a lot of people simply
because Marilyn Mosby took it upon herself to do her own thorough
investigation, to verify it over and over again, to find in this case, as
she did, probable cause and then to move forward with these charges.
KORNACKI: And I thought one of the things that was so striking in her
statement today, again, was that she spoke specifically -- she spoke
directly to the protesters saying, I have heard you, I want you to keep the
peace now while I pursue justice in this case.
But do you think when we talk about the speed of this -- a lot of
people saying they`re surprised it happened so fast, that today, and not a
week from now, not a couple weeks from now, that it`s today that she brings
the charges. Do you think the reaction from the community we`ve seen this
week had an effect on the timing of this?
MFUME: Well, the community, as I said before, basically is pleased.
We know this is a long process. There will be motions and appeals and an
attempt to change venue on it. But at least the process has started.
And I should tell you this. Marilyn Mosby comes in this without
anything pushing her one way or the other. She comes from three
generations of policing, so she has that aspect of it. She`s a victim.
She saw her cousin killed on her doorstep when she was a teenager. It
affected her so much that she wanted to go to college and then go to law
school and then to fight for justice as a prosecutor.
She lives in this community. Her and her husband, before anybody knew
them, bought an old house, built it up, raising their two daughters there.
She was invested here before any of this happened and before she ever got
elected to office.
So the sincerity of what she brings to this position, quite frankly,
is something that is refreshing and that we don`t see in other places. And
I think that has given her the credibility for people here on the ground to
believe that although there are a lot of things that will happen before
this is over, at least their state`s attorney looked at the evidence and
came forward with a conclusion.
KORNACKI: All right, Kweisi Mfume, former congressman, former NAACP
head, thanks for joining us tonight. Appreciate it.
MFUME: Thank you very much.
KORNACKI: And coming up, we are going to get to the law in this case,
the prosecutor in Baltimore announcing an array of charges for those six
police officers, ranging from misconduct in office and assault right up to
second degree murder in one case.
and later this hour, the other big political story of the day, the
indictments in the "bridge-gate" scandal in New Jersey.
This is HARDBALL, place for politics.
KORNACKI: All right, MSNBC`s Joy Reid is in the thick of that protest
going on right now in Baltimore. Joy, what`s going on around you?
JOY REID, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: All right, Steve, I`m standing here
with some of the young people who are involved in this really massive march
that I believe started at City Hall and has made its way to Penn --
Pennsylvania North, and it`s now making its way down the street here.
Let me talk to a couple of these people and see why they`re here.
Starting on the end, a young man with a sign that says, "End the curfew."
Tell me, why do you have that sign? Do you think the curfew has gone
on too long?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s a major violation of our freedom just to have
a curfew in a city like this. It`s not OK.
REID: And let me ask you guys, what were your impressions when you
heard that the police officers, you know, that were involved in the death
of Freddie Gray were charged? What was your impression?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think it`s a step in the right direction,
definitely, but we want to see convictions. We want to see them convicted
for the indictments. We don`t want it to just go by the wayside.
Everybody needs to stay active and continue pressing on.
REID: Yes, one of the things that we have noticed is obviously the
youth of the crowd, but also the multiethnic makeup of the crowd. Why did
you think it was important to be here?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It`s hugely important. It`s not an issue just for
African-Americans, you know? Police brutality and what happens to Freddie
Gray affects all of us, and until all of us take a stand against it, this
will continue to be an issue.
REID: Yes. And how about you? Why did you think it was important to
be here today and do you think that the Freddie Gray case is going to
actually change policing in the country?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, I came from Florida this morning just for
this march, and the way how I see it, this is a tipping point, so you can
either act like you don`t know what`s going on and act like this is an
isolated event, or realize that this has been going on for decades in this
country, centuries, technically, and hopefully the consciousness of America
wakes up, and they -- they realize that something has to change.
REID: Yes, absolutely.
Well, when prosecutor Mosby said that this day was for the young
people who are part of this movement, the black lives matter movement, she
was talking about people like these young folks that stopped with us here
today. So, you can see the mood here today. People feel determined to
keep going with it, and I think they feel like they have had a small
success -- back to you, Steve.
KORNACKI: All right, Joy Reid on the scene in Baltimore, thanks for
And much more from Baltimore, also the indictments today in the
Bridgegate scandal in New Jersey -- HARDBALL back offer this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARILYN MOSBY, BALTIMORE STATE`S ATTORNEY: The findings of our
comprehensive, thorough and independent investigation, coupled with the
medical examiners determination that Mr. Gray`s death was a homicide, which
we received today, have led us to believe that we have probable cause to
file criminal charges.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
That was Baltimore`s top prosecutor, Marilyn Mosby, who moved swiftly
and dramatically today, charging six Baltimore police officers with crimes,
including murder and manslaughter, in the death of Freddie Gray.
She detailed how Lieutenant Brian Rice, Sergeant Alicia White, Officer
Caesar Goodson, officer William Porter, Officer Garrett Miller and officer
Edward Nero all played a role in Gray`s death.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MOSBY: Lieutenant Rice, Officer Miller and Officer Nero failed to
establish probable cause for Mr. Gray`s arrest as no crime had been
committed by Mr. Gray. Accordingly, Lieutenant Rice, Officer Miller and
Officer Nero illegally arrested Mr. Gray. Upon arrival of the transport
wagon driven by Officer Caesar Goodson, Lieutenant Rice, Officer Nero and
Officer Miller loaded Mr. Gray into the wagon, and at no point was he
secured by a seat belt while in the wagon contrary to a BPD general order.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: The Baltimore police union says in a written statement that
-- quote -- "None of the officers involved are responsible for the death of
Today marks only the start of the legal process to hold accountable
who killed Freddie Gray while in the custody of the Baltimore Police
And joining me now is former Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler
and former prosecutor and now a defense attorney Kisha Hebbon.
Doug, let me start with you.
You have heard the sort of theory of the case being offered by the
prosecutor today. Does that fit with the charges being brought, including
this one case of second-degree murder?
DOUG GANSLER, FORMER MARYLAND ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, look, there`s
two different courts of opinion that are being dealt with, or two different
courts here. One is the court of public opinion and one is the legal
And as you just said, the legal system begins today, and the charges
are actually quite interesting. You know, look, we don`t know really what
happened. She put her -- the timeline out there today. And, obviously,
the most difficult charge to ultimately prove before a jury will be the
second-degree murder charge, the depraved heart, because it will be pretty
difficult to show that there was an intent to kill by any of the police
officers, particularly someone who was just driving the paddy wagon, who
drives paddy wagons every day and somebody`s spine was hurt.
KORNACKI: Doug, I don`t mean -- can I stop you there, but I want to
define this term for everybody.
KORNACKI: Because we think of second-degree murder, my response as a
layman on this stuff is, well, first-degree, that means intent, that means
GANSLER: And deliberation.
KORNACKI: Second-degree doesn`t. What`s the difference here because
it adds this idea of depraved heart? Specifically, what does that mean?
GANSLER: Well, yes. And first we have to have premeditation and
deliberation, so they had to wake up that morning and want to kill Freddie
The second-degree would be such circumstances that anybody in those
circumstances would know that the conduct that they did would kill in this
case Freddie Gray. That`s going to be very difficult to show. Involuntary
manslaughter, which four of the officers were charged with, will also be
interesting to see how that comes out because what they have to show there
is the death can be accidental, which given the theories that are sort of
out there, that might -- that would certainly make sense, but if it`s
accidental as a result of some sort of negligence, you now have involuntary
The negligence on this case would not be using the seat belt on
Freddie Gray, a police policy that had been put in nine days earlier and
had never been in place for years and years and years before that. Will
they be able to convince a jury, and where will that jury be, that in fact
that was negligence that led to this accidental death?
KORNACKI: Kisha, do you think Mosby is reaching here at all?
KISHA HEBBON, FORMER PROSECUTOR: I think what the state`s prosecutor
did is do what a lot of prosecutors do, in that they charge an array of
They charge more serious offenses and then they go all the way down to
like in this case there`s an aggravated assault, I believe. And the reason
why prosecutors do that is because it increases the options of having a
conviction of something. It`s like the jurors will have an option as
opposed to saying, OK, is it only a depraved heart murder or was it an
So, I see this all the type and I think it`s extremely typical in
KORNACKI: Let me ask you, too, Kisha. An interesting statistic here.
I think, since 2005, 54 cases in which officers shot a suspect to death, in
a majority of those cases, when they go to trial, the officers are not
convicted. Seems like once you get into the courtroom here, is there
something that favors the officers when you get to a jury?
Well, I think this case is totally different because here there`s no
shooting. There`s a man who was arrested, placed in the back of a police
van and suddenly he`s sick, he`s asking for medical attention, and then he
dies a week later. So if there`s no indication that there was a fight
between Mr. Gray and the officers or that he had a gun or that he went for
an officer`s gun, this case is going to be totally different from what
happened in, say, Ferguson or in the Trayvon Martin case, because here it`s
clear that there was some kind of misconduct and obviously a crime.
GANSLER: Well, and those cases also have self-defense as an element
of the case and whether or not the police officer in those cases was
In this case, that might be a little bit different. There`s obviously
no self-defense claim here by the police officers and the protocol issue is
really going to come down to the seat belt. And the reason why, by the
way, until nine days ago they didn`t have a policy of doing a seat belt is
because no police officer wants to put a seat belt on somebody who is
acting out potentially and might bite them, spit at them and that kind of
And that`s going to be a fact-finding mission that the jury ultimately
will have to decide.
KORNACKI: All right, thank you to Doug Gansler and Kisha Hebbon.
Appreciate the time tonight.
We are going to keep an eye on everything that`s going on, on the
ground in Baltimore right now.
And up next, the other big political news of the day, indictments in
the Bridgegate scandal in New Jersey.
This is HARDBALL, the place for politics.
KORNACKI: Welcome back to HARDBALL.
In addition to the big story of criminal charges in the Freddie Gray
case, we have got more breaking news tonight on the crime and punishment
beat. This is the big one surrounding New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.
David Wildstein, one of Christie`s top officials at the Port
Authority, appeared in a Newark federal court today to plead guilty to two
counts of conspiracy and criminal misconduct for his role in the scheme to
shut down the George Washington Bridge in the fall of 2013. In addition to
Wildstein`s plea deal, two other high-level members of Christie`s staff,
his deputy chief of staff, Bridget Kelly, and his top official at the Port
Authority, Bill Baroni, have also now been charged in a nine-count criminal
indictment for their alleged role in the same conspiracy and its cover-up.
In his guilty plea today, David Wildstein told a federal judge that
he, Kelly and Baroni shut down the bridge as an act of revenge, targeting
the Fort Lee mayor for refusing to endorse Christie`s reelection.
Wildstein is facing a maximum of 15 years in jail, although he will likely
be sentenced to significantly less time because of his cooperation with the
The charges again Kelly and Baroni carry a maxim penalty of up to 86
years in prison. This all comes as Chris Christie of course prepares to
make an announcement about running for president which could come as early
as this month. Christie`s office says that today`s news affirms that the
governor had no involvement in or prior knowledge about this conspiracy.
Bill Baroni and Bridget Kelly also maintain their innocence.
I`m joined now by John Wisniewski, the New Jersey assemblyman who co-
led an investigation by state lawmakers into the scandal. It was evidence
that his committee uncovered which led to the U.S. attorney`s criminal
investigation. And Matt Katz is a reporter here with WNYC in New York.
Thank you for both for joining us.
And, Assemblyman, let me start with you.
JOHN WISNIEWSKI (D), NEW JERSEY STATE ASSEMBLYMAN: Sure.
KORNACKI: Your panel looked into this last year and in your final
report, you could find nothing to pin on Chris Christie. The U.S.
attorneys looked at this and he said today that in this scheme, he doesn`t
think anybody but these three are going to be charged. He didn`t find any
smoking gun on Chris Christie.
Does that mean Chris Christie should be considered in the clear on
WISNIEWSKI: Well, I think it`s premature to make those conclusions.
I also think that it doesn`t really adequately characterize what our
report or what the U.S. attorney said today. Our report said that we
didn`t have any findings one way or another about the governor`s
involvement. Mr. Fishman today said that based on the evidence he has, he
doesn`t foresee any additional charges.
But this is more than just continuing to press the narrative that the
governor knew nothing about this. I mean, the fact of the matter is, is
people that he trusted, people that he put into position, people that were
his spokespeople at the Port Authority carried out a very bizarre and very
mean-spirited plan to deprive people in Fort Lee of the ability to get
This is not just simply about whether or not an indictment will come.
It`s about the moral responsibility of a man like Chris Christie.
KORNACKI: But do you believe you have -- you have David Wildstein,
his lawyer, for instance, saying again today that Chris Christie knew about
these lane closures as they were happening, that there`s some evidence that
exists, he says, that would back it up. I mean, have you looked at this?
Do you believe that Chris Christie knew about this either before or during
WISNIEWSKI: I find it hard to accept the governor`s statement that he
knew nothing about what people who were in his employ were doing.
Steve, we all know how governor`s offices work. Bridget Kelly didn`t
wake up one morning and decide to close these lanes because she thought it
would be a fun thing to do. Somebody gave her the authority. Somebody
gave her the direction to do this. We don`t know who that is. So there`s
still a lot of unanswered questions with this. We don`t know where that
will go and clearly the facts that the U.S. attorney has deduced thus far
say that there`s nothing to charge anyone else on this incident.
But he`s also said that based on the facts that they have so far. So,
there are unindicted co-conspirators that the U.S. attorney mentioned, and
we don`t know who they are or what they may say in the future.
KORNACKI: Bridget Kelly, speaking of her, broke her silence today in
a press conference, affirming her innocence and declaring her intent to
take this case to trial. Let`s watch what she said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRIDGET ANNE KELLY, FORMER CHRISTIE CHIEF OF STAFF: I am here today
to say that I will no allow the lies that have been said about me or my
role in the George Washington Bridge issue go unchallenged. Contrary to
the way I have been described by some of my former colleagues, I am not
stupid. I am not weepy, insecure, unqualified or overwhelmed.
Let me make something very clear. I am not guilty of these charges.
For the indictment to suggest that I was the only person in the governor`s
office who was aware of the George Washington Bridge issue is ludicrous.
David Wildstein is a liar.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Matt Katz, that sounds an awful lot like to me that if this
thing goes to trial, Bridget Kelly as part of her defense is going to be
pointing the finger either at Chris Christie or at people very close to
Chris Christie, when she says it`s ludicrous to say that I`m the only one
in that office that knew about this.
MATT KATZ, WNYC REPORTER: And I agree. I thought that was a pretty
big bomb she dropped. It was more significant than David Wildstein`s
attorney, who says evidence exists.
She was out front. It was her saying it and she said other people in
that office knew. And, you know, the U.S. attorney hasn`t said who those
other people are yet. We don`t know who those other people are yet. And
it does. It continues these questions about, well, maybe somebody else
does have something indicating that this goes up to the governor.
The governor can very fairly say that all these investigations, 16
months later, nobody has brought this into my office. Nobody has proven
that I had anything at all to do with this, but there`s still obviously
unanswered questions and there`s going to be potentially be trials going on
while this guy is trying to run for president.
I mean, imagine the split-screen of this situation for him. He`s
going to be in New Hampshire, trying to -- presumably trying to win the
nomination, and at the same time Bridget Kelly is going to be on trial
potentially disclosing all the dirty secrets of the governor`s office and
making allegations about, you know, who else may have been involved in
It`s -- he had a good day in that sense that he didn`t get charged
with anything, but he had a bad day in that this is going to keep going on
and on for him.
KORNACKI: Well, and speaking of Christie, in a previously taped
interview that aired on FOX News tonight with Bret Baier, Christie
reaffirmed his innocence.
Here`s what he had to say.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, FOX NEWS CHANNEL)
GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), NEW JERSEY: There`s not one been fact, Bret,
that has come out over the course of the last 15 months that`s contradicted
anything I have said after an internal investigation, after a highly
partisan Democratic legislative investigation or after a U.S. attorney`s
Nothing has come out that contradicts what I said in an hour-and-15-
minute-long press conference the day after this became public. And nothing
will, because I was not aware of it. But I am accountable for it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: Matt, I wonder if you can make sense of this, because I
scratched my head at something today.
You have David Wildstein saying and you have the feds saying in these
indictments that, hey, look, what was this, what were these lane closures,
it was to punish the mayor of Ft. Lee because the mayor the Ft. Lee didn`t
endorse Chris Christie`s re-election in 2013. He`s not saying who among
those three, the prosecutors aren`t saying who among these three would have
masterminded or come up with that scheme.
But it does raise a more basic question that nobody addressed to me.
Where would the impulse to do something like that come from in the first
place? I mean, it`s such an uncommon, extreme, disproportionate response
to a mayor of a town of 30,000 people not endorsing you. Where does an
idea like that originate in the first place?
MATT KATZ, WNYC REPORTER: Right. You know, the U.S. attorney today
failed to kind of present a narrative of how this all went down. We don`t
know what preceded the "time for some traffic problems" e-mails from
Bridget Kelly that was allegedly the order to shut down the lanes. We
don`t know whether this was part of a coordination with the Christie
campaign, the -- the -- there was some question about whether the Christie
campaign folks may not have been able to be charged because they weren`t in
a public position or maybe they weren`t involved in this at all.
Fishman did not -- the Fishman -- the U.S. attorney did not divulge
any more details beyond what`s in the indictment and what that has failed
to do is sort of give us the fuller picture about why this would have
happened. I mean, it is a wild, wild thing that happened here to close
lanes to the busiest bridge in the world just to get back at a Democrat who
didn`t endorse a Republican in a race that everybody knew the Republican
was going to win. So, yes.
KORNACKI: And by the way, just in terms of the politics of that.
Yes, a Democrat and Republican, it`s not that he endorsed the Democrat. He
just refused to endorse anybody, which in politics usually that`s a win,
when a guy from the other party won`t endorse his own party`s candidate
you`re doing something right. Even that wasn`t enough.
Anyway, thank to Assemblyman John Wisniewski, Matt Katz. Appreciate
Up next, we are going to go back to Baltimore where protests are under
way once again on the streets in response to the stunning announcement
today that the six police officers involved in Freddie Gray`s arrest are
now facing criminal charges.
You`re watching HARDBALL, the place for politics.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARILYN MOSBY, BALTIMORE STATE`S ATTORNEY: I heard your call for no
justice, no peace. Your peace is sincerely needed as I work to deliver
justice on behalf of this young man.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KORNACKI: All right. We are back.
There has been a dramatic change in the mood on the streets of
Baltimore since the announcement of criminal charges against the officers
involved in Freddie Gray`s death.
For more on that now we go live to MSNBC`s Craig Melvin who is
standing by in Baltimore.
Craig, describe the scene, please.
CRAIG MELVIN, MSNBC CORRESPONDENT: Steve, you know what, I want to
show you a picture here. We`re in West Baltimore and there`s been so much
attention paid to the images that divide us.
For the past 10 or 15 minutes, I`ve watched no less than 100 people
here walk up to the national guardsmen who have been protecting the streets
and the neighborhoods for the past few nights, to pose for pictures and the
guardsmen being extremely gracious.
And this has been the scene that`s been unfolding here for the past 20
or 30 minutes. You would think the Ravens have won the Super Bowl, or the
Orioles the World Series. I mean, it`s pretty much a party atmosphere
You`ve got some drummers that have been banging for the past hour or
so. There was a street parade of sorts, a spontaneous street parade about
20 or 30 minutes ago. A lot of the folks I`ve talked to here, Steve,
pleasantly surprised by the announcement today, pleasantly surprised that
the officers were indicted.
A number of them also understand though that this is very much the
beginning of the process. I want to bring in someone who`s -- you`ve lived
here in west Baltimore for how long?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: For like ten years.
MELVIN: Ten years?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, originally from New York.
MELVIN: What`s your first name?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Lisa.
MELVIN: What`s your last name?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Logan.
MELVIN: Lisa Logan. You`ve seen this unfold the past few days in
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In my neighborhood, right around the corner from
where I live at.
MELVIN: Have you ever felt unsafe over the past few days?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Actually, I don`t feel unsafe because the
community has welcomed me because I live my life -- I`m a transgendered
woman, but they have welcomed, and they have embraced me so to see this in
my neighborhood is really just like wow. I`m glad for the verdict and as
well coming out in the street.
MELVIN: You said verdict, but you understand the charges.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Charges. I fully understand it, but you know
what I`m saying, just -- just this and inkling alone shows some kind of
hope, you know what I`m saying, that we blacks here in this community have
some kind of --
MELVIN: What happens if the officers who are charged aren`t convicted?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There`s no way in God`s green creation they
can`t be charged because something happened to this man, this young man in
the back while in police custody. So something happened. So there`s no
reason why nothing can`t be charged.
MELVIN: This scene that we`ve watched play out over the past few
hours, young, old, black, white. It`s like a street party.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don`t call it a street party. If you want to
say street party or celebration or anything like that, it`s justice, you
know what I`m saying? Something that this community needs -- a black man
going into custody and then die. How many other people have died in this
tragedy and nothing has come out of it? This is something. This is a
start, you know what I`m saying, a conversation or anything.
But what I want to know is why the mayor took so long to even say
anything or in reference -- or the police department. Why did it take so
long for them to be even charged with it? If I killed somebody or hurt
somebody, I`d be charge that had same day when I got arrested?
MELVIN: Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You`re welcome.
MELVIN: Steve, I want to move down just a little bit here. Excuse
me, I`m sorry -- and show you a little bit more of the scene as it unfolds
here on Pennsylvania and West.
You can also look up and see the helicopters. At one point, there
were five -- five helicopters. This is the only one that we say right now.
But, again, it`s a surreal scene in West Baltimore as you can see the
armored personnel carriers moving down the street as people dance in front
Again, the curfew, in effect tonight, folks should be off the streets
from 10:00 p.m. until 5:00 a.m. Officials here in Baltimore saying that is
going to be the case.
KORNACKI: It`s amazing, Craig, such a departure from what we were
seeing just a couple days ago. But appreciate that report. That`s some
great stuff there. Craig Melvin live in Baltimore.
Our coverage from Baltimore is going to continue after this.
KORNACKI: We are watching protests right now not just in Baltimore
but in cities across the country. Right now, we have live pictures from
Seattle. That`s where hundreds of people have taken to the streets for the
city`s annual May Day march. They`ve been bolstered by the group Black
Lives Matter, who are demonstrating over the death of Freddie Gray.
Also in Philadelphia, across the country, where police clashed with
protesters last night. There are more demonstrations going on tonight.
Back after this.
KORNACKI: As this week ends, the mood in Baltimore seems to be
changing considerably. We talked about political leadership.
And joining me now is Baltimore City Councilwoman Helen Holton, and
Maryland State Delegate Keith Haynes.
Councilwoman, let me start with you. The end of the week, we just had
a really fascinating report on the ground from Craig Melvin, just talking
about, talking to some of the protesters about how the mood changed
I just wonder if we can take a bigger picture look at the events of
the last few days when you look at the leadership, whether it`s a governor,
whether it`s the mayor, whether it`s the prosecutor today -- who emerges in
your mind this week as having really done a good job of leading this city?
HELEN HOLTON, BALTIMORE CITY COUNCIL: I`m going to tell you,
everything has to point to our state`s attorney, Marilyn Mosby, as well as
Congressman Elijah Cummings.
Congressman Cummings from the beginning of the outbreak and the unrest
was here on the ground. People know him. We love him. He`s been here
with the people in the trenches, demonstrating what it means to be in
leadership, not afraid and in the ground with the people. We are the
State`s Attorney Marilyn Mosby has taken her task to heart in doing
what she`s been asked to do. She has studied the evidence. She came out
today. She made a statement. Indictments came down.
We are at the beginning of a process -- a process that will take some
time. And just as she said this afternoon, we need peace as we seek
justice. And so, we`re here on the ground to ensure that even in
celebration, that we remain peaceful in our community.
KORNACKI: Delegate Haynes, let me ask you about the mayor of the
city, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. How do you assess her performance this
KEITH HAYNES, MD HOUSE OF DELEGATES: Well, let me first say that we
have experienced in the city of Baltimore something that`s almost
unprecedented in the last 48, 50 years. And so, as we have navigated
through the events of the last two weeks, from peaceful protests to this
time last week where things began to really reach a boiling point, to where
we are now, where people begin to see that the first step of justice has
taken place. You can always look in hindsight, but I have to tell you,
it`s been turbulent waters for anyone who is an elected official to
navigate this past week and a half.
So, I will simply say that I`m glad we`re at this point. I think
that, in hindsight, even when anyone can probably say, we should have done
this, or actions should have been done better or worse, but the thing we
need to focus on is that we`re at a point where it`s calm in the city.
People are still protesting, but doing it nonviolently and looking forward
and working together to pull together to move forward and bring this city
to where we want to take it.
KORNACKI: All right. Councilwoman Helen Holton and Delegate Keith
Haynes, appreciate you joining us tonight. We`ll be right back after this.
HOLTON: Let me just say this, let me just say --
KORNACKI: That`s HARDBALL for now.
"ALL IN WITH CHRIS HAYES" starts now, live from Baltimore.
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