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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
A Rare Look inside the FLDS Compound; Obama Fires Back Amid Accusations of Being Elitist; Inside the Mind of a Would-be School Shooter
Aired April 14, 2008 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Tonight there are two breaking news stories on two fronts in the emotional custody battle playing out in West Texas. CNN's David Mattingly is right now inside the polygamist compound where more than 400 children were removed ten days ago amid allegations of abuse.
Gary Tuchman also has explosive new details about the phone call that triggered the whole raid. We'll get to Gary in a moment.
First, David joins me from inside the FLDS compound, which is normally strictly off limits to outsiders. David, this is remarkable. How did you get in?
DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, it was an absolutely extraordinary turn of events. Late this afternoon, the state took all of the women and children out of the shelter; took them to the coliseum in town and then separated the mothers from the children. The only mothers that were allowed to stay behind were the mothers of children that were ages 4 and under.
The rest of the mothers were offered a choice, you can go to a shelter, you can go to a safe place or you can go back to the ranch. Most of them decided to go back to the ranch. If you ask the mothers themselves, they say all of them did.
The state is telling us, however, that some of the mothers did choose to stay behind and go to this safe place but they will not tell us how many. And then we arrived here and eventually the attorneys for the ranch showed up and a decision was made to open the gates that have been closed to the outside world for the last four years and allow us inside to talk to these women about what they've been going through for the last ten days.
You can see some of that going on behind me. Some of the women are still outside. They're still talking about the events of the day. They were taken to the coliseum. They say they were lied to by the state saying that they were just told they were going to be separated for a moment and then they realized they were not going to be seeing their children again.
They believe that their rights have been violated and when you talk to them every single one of them will say that. They believe that they are being persecuted because of their religion. When you ask them about specific charges, Anderson, about what the state is alleging about the sexual and physical abuse of children here, they say that does not go on.
When you ask them how young are women when they marry here? Every single woman I talked to got married at the age of 18, 19, or 20 today. When you ask them how unusual is it that a child -- that a girl 16 years or under might be wed, they say it's very rare and usually the girl is only 16.
You ask them other questions about these allegations of sexual abuse and they say that the case that started all of this was a hoax, they believe. A caller from the outside, not a caller from the compound; that this girl Sara they say does not exist.
So they're putting out their story, this extraordinary access given to us today, essentially for damage control, because they know they're going to be going into court on Thursday and these parents are going to have to be fighting tooth and nail for custody of their children -- Anderson.
COOPER: Someone call it media manipulation, others will call it damage control or getting their story out. This is a compound where for the last year or so we have been literally kicked off of numerous times, had doors slammed in Gary Tuchman's face who's been down there. You've been down there.
Police who work for this sect in other parts of Hildale and Colorado City; they have tried to chase us off this compound. So to be allowed on it is clearly a sign either of their desperation but they're clearly trying to get their message out. I understand the lawyer right now -- I think we're seeing pictures -- the lawyer or lawyers are talking to some of the women that are on the porch. The meeting just broke up.
Do we know what the lawyers are telling these women about their options?
MATTINGLY: They said that they did meet with them prior to allowing them to speak to the media. They said that none of these women were coached. As far as their legal options go, they're going to be pressing for every single one of these families to be represented by their own attorney so that they can be fighting for their individual child's freedom, to have that child come back home and arguing their own cases.
The state as well is trying to round up attorneys for all 400 plus of these children. It's going to be a huge day when that court day begins on Thursday. That's what they're gearing up for here. And what they're telling us, they believe again that their rights were violated and they're going to be arguing to the state that all of these children did not have to be taken because of this one phone call.
COOPER: David, we've always seen this compound from aerial views, from helicopters and planes flying over. We've always seen that giant white chapel, I guess you would call it, that they built in the middle of this compound in Eldorado. Where are you in relation to that? Can you show us what you're seeing? MATTINGLY: We were only able to get a glimpse of the chapel as we came in. We came down the main drive. It is a long dirt road, a long dusty road. Then we turned off to the right and went down behind where that temple is. This is sort of a residential area.
It's a little dark here. But I'm going to walk over this way just a little bit. There's huge highways, huge roads rather here that they're not paved, they're gravel and dirt roads; everything very orderly here. We're actually standing in the middle of what is a residential area.
That area where the women were talking to us, these large log- looking like structures; these buildings we're told are actually houses housing presumably very large families here. And we were told not to stray from the path to come down here. They brought us to a specific place to do these interviews.
They asked us not to go wandering around and some of the men were standing around, watching us as we were doing our work today. But no sense of intimidation, no sense of antagonism on the part of anyone here. Again, a very, very different face we're seeing inside this compound than what we've grown accustomed to hearing about over the last four years.
COOPER: David, it is a fascinating view. We appreciate your reporting.
I should say we have noticed a certain similarity in some of the things that the women in this compound have been saying to the media over the last day or so. We want to get a better understanding of the FLDS followers in Texas.
A short time ago, I spoke with a woman named Kathleen who doesn't want her last name mentioned. She says she's been separated from her children. Listen.
COOPER: Kathleen, how many kids do you have and where are they right now?
KATHLEEN, FLDS MEMBER: I have five children and one grandchild and they are all, to my knowledge, are at the San Angelo Coliseum or pavilion in Texas.
COOPER: How old are your kids?
KATHLEEN: My oldest child is 18 plus with one grandchild. My other child is 16, 15, 11 and 9.
COOPER: And how old is your grandchild?
KATHLEEN: My grandchild is 10 months old.
COOPER: 10 months old. What is the message you're trying to get out? It's very rare -- we've tried to talk to people in your community before and have always had doors closed on us. Why now are you talking?
KATHLEEN: Because the state of Texas has confiscated our children on an alleged allegation that has no facts. And now they're holding our children and we want the children back.
COOPER: And whose idea was it to come forward and talk to the media?
KATHLEEN: It was ours, because this nation has been so prejudiced against us that they have a false image of what we are.
COOPER: What are you? Why do you live in this community?
KATHLEEN: Because that's where I choose to live. It's the nicest community in America. For instance, my children had never seen a firearm in their life until they had a firearm put in their face and told to load on a bus. You will never see your father and mother again if you don't get on the bus and do what we tell you to do.
COOPER: How many wives does your husband have?
KATHLEEN: I will not answer that.
COOPER: Why not?
KATHLEEN: I want the children back. This has to do with me and my children. That question's not pertinent to the nation knowing that we need our children back.
COOPER: I have talked to other women who were once part of your community but who said they had to flee in the middle of the night, sometimes taking their children, sometimes unable to take their children. And they say there are abuses that take place in this community.
KATHLEEN: Well, I can't -- I'm not going to quarrel with their story. My story is we have had our children taken from us on an allegation that has no foundation. Now we will do whatever it takes to get the children reunited with their mothers.
COOPER: But do you understand that there are many people watching this and many people who have heard about this story for many years now who are legitimately worried about your children or some of the other children there who they say have to get married at a young age or forced to marry older people who they don't have feelings for.
KATHLEEN: That's why they chose to leave is because they had a fear. I have no fear.
COOPER: There are also many young men, they call them the lost boys, who have they say been kicked out by the community because older men wanted the younger women and the young men were literally tossed out from their families. Have you seen that?
KATHLEEN: That does not have anything to do with the message that the state of Texas has taken away a whole community of children and withheld their parents from them on an allegation from outside. That allegation did not come from within YFZ ranch.
COOPER: So clearly, you don't want to talk about anything about the community. You just want the message out about your children?
KATHLEEN: I do. I want the children returned to their parents, to their parents, to their guardians.
COOPER: I don't want to sound cynical, but it does sound like you have rehearsed what you want to say with other people, because everybody is saying the exact same thing.
KATHLEEN: Well, sir, what would you say if your children had been robbed from you and kidnapped? What would you say?
COOPER: I don't know.
KATHLEEN: Well, put yourself in our condition. That's why we're all saying the same story because we have all had our children taken.
COOPER: Are you -- do you have an attorney yet? Do you have confidence in the system working?
KATHLEEN: My hope is that -- there is some hope that the United States constitution can have effect; that we have freedom of religion. Sir, I have been --
COOPER: Have you been able to talk to your kids?
KATHLEEN: Not for several hours, since we've been taken from them. I want you to understand that we have been put in a compound, that fort over there, brick walls, 170 women and children in a building that was 100 feet by 40 feet with two bathrooms, okay? Do you understand that? So we need the public to know that an injustice has been done against us.
In the land of the free and the home of the brave, we are being treated like the Jews were when they were escorted to the German Nazi camps.
COOPER: You're saying you were being treated like people sent to concentration camps?
KATHLEEN: Yes, we have been treated that way. In a country that professes to be free, the land of the free and the home of the brave. And we have been persecuted for our religion.
COOPER: Just for accuracy, do you actually know what happened to the Jews during World War II? Because it does not seem to be the same, just factually speaking.
KATHLEEN: I do. I am 42 years old. I'm very studied in history. I have a college degree.
COOPER: Do you believe the state -- why do you think the state did this? Do you believe what they say, that they were worried about the children? KATHLEEN: I do not believe that they were worried about the children. I believe they have been prejudiced against us from people that chose to leave that were dissatisfied with our way of life. And so they have stirred up the public opinion against our lifestyle just because of their emotions, not how I feel, it was how they felt. I may feel totally different, just as you feel totally different.
COOPER: Kathleen, I appreciate you talking. I know it's difficult. It's a difficult situation. I appreciate you taking the time to speak with us.
KATHLEEN: Thank you, sir.
COOPER: With me now on the phone is former FLDS member Carolyn Jessop. She was forced to marry at age 18 and had eight children before she and her children escaped Warren Jeff's kingdom.
Carolyn, I assume you were able to hear that mother who has been separated from her kids. It's hard to -- first of all, it's hard to believe that this is going on in this day and age that there are still compounds like this. What did you think when you heard that woman talking?
CAROLYN JESSOP, FORMER FLDS MEMBER: Anderson, you have to understand, I mean I recognized her voice. That is Kathleen, and she is --
COOPER: You know her?
C. JESSOP: My former sister wife. She was married to Meryl. She's also the one who told on me when I was trying to escape. So in the land of the free and the home of the brave, why is it that she felt so urgent to go to Meryl in the middle of the night and tell him I had my children up and I was leaving? And I nearly didn't make it out because she made that phone call.
So she believes in freedom, where is my right as a mother to take my children and flee if I believe we are at risk? You know, where are my rights? Because she didn't allow me any rights but now she's demanding rights and it's obvious that her daughter, who she is talking about with the 10-month-old baby, and by the way is not 18 plus, she's barely 18. She was probably impregnated when she was 16.
That in my opinion is abuse, and that, by the way, is one of the very reasons I was fleeing in the night. I agree with what most of these women are saying. It's true they were married at 18, some of them were married at 20, some were married at 22. But those women are also at an age of 30 and above.
Warren reset the marrying age many years ago and he reset it first from 22 and 20 down to 18. Then after a few years he reset it down to 16. And around the time I escaped with my family, my daughter was within months of becoming 14 and I knew he was resetting that age at 14. So what happened in the past was done under another prophet. It's not what's occurring now. The state went in and they found very clear felony charges of child abuse and they have acted on that. And I mean if Kathleen wants to express that her rights are being taken, I feel like she deprived me of my rights five years ago.
COOPER: You know, anybody, of course, is sympathetic to a mother separated from her kids. It's a bizarre situation; it's a difficult situation. Frankly, I don't know what to make of it.
But I can imagine some people listening to this and kind of thinking, you know, Ruby Ridge, Waco, this is a government going in against individuals, against a religious group. From your perspective, what is the crime or the crimes that have been and/or are occurring in these kind of compounds?
C. JESSOP: The crime is that first of all, if you do need help, you can't get it because when I was in Colorado City, which is a far more open community, I couldn't get help. I couldn't get authorities to come in and get me out. I had to make it out on my own. And this compound is far more locked down than that. You know, it's just difficult.
I can appreciate Kathleen's feelings and emotions that her children have been taken from her, but she knew full well when she made that call to Meryl that if he had caught me and restrained me and not allowed me to leave and take my children, she understands and her and I both know this, that Meryl would have taken my children from me and I would not have been allowed to see them again.
COOPER: So she was a sister wife, so she was married to the same man that you were married to?
C. JESSOP: Yes. She was his fifth wife, I was his fourth.
COOPER: How many wives does this man Meryl have?
C. JESSOP: You know, Anderson, I don't know. I know he had seven during the time that I was married to him. I'm aware of eight that he married after I left him.
COOPER: Do you have a message for her? Do you have a message for these other mothers?
C. JESSOP: Yes, I do. I mean, my message to Kathleen is if she feels so strongly that she has rights, why did she feel like she had the right to violate my rights to leave the society and prevent me from protecting my children and what I believe was right for them? She may believe that this lifestyle is right for her children.
COOPER: What do you think should happen now? I mean, it's a difficult situation; there are hundreds of kids in state control right now. What do you think should happen?
C. JESSOP: I think that every case needs to be heard. I think that it all needs to go to a court. If there're crimes that have been committed against children, then a judge is going to have to rule in the best interest of protecting the child. And this, by the way, is not about religious persecution. It never has been from the beginning. Nor is it about polygamy.
The officers did not go in there because they had a call that there was polygamy going on in that compound. They had a cry for help from a child and they went in to investigate that cry for help. When they got in, whether they found that child or not, that's why they went in and they did find other children that were being abused. And either way, having sex with a 16-year-old in the state of Texas is a felony. They found felony cases of child abuse.
COOPER: Carolyn, we appreciate you coming on. I had no idea that you knew Kathleen but I appreciate your perspective and we've had you on before. It's always good to talk to you. Carolyn Jessop, thank you so much for being with us.
C. JESSOP: Yes, thank you.
COOPER: We're live blogging during this broadcast. I'm not able to tonight because I have computer problems but Erica Hill is. Join the conversation, go to cnn.com/360.
Up next, more breaking news on this situation. New questions about exactly what sparked the raid in Texas. That phone call that Carolyn Jessop was talking about, some new information, one investigator is telling us that could shake up this whole case.
Also ahead, "Raw Politics." it started with the word bitter. Now it's getting pretty ugly. We're on the trail in Pennsylvania following Senators Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.
All that and more ahead on "360."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KATHLEEN: The alleged allegation that they came in here with, was that there was a Sara Barlow Jessop. It's a fictitious name. All of us are the mothers. All of us can testify there is no name that fits in that category; that fits in that condition. So, total prosecution has been done by a false report.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: That is Kathleen. Carolyn Jessop, who you just heard from, her sister wife Kathleen, so-called former sister wife; Carolyn escaped, Kathleen stayed behind. As you just heard Carolyn saying Kathleen tried to report she was leaving to her husband.
We have more breaking news now in the battle over 416 children removed from this polygamist compound in west Texas. The sect is based actually in Colorado City, Arizona, and CNN's Gary Tuchman joins me now from there with new details about the phone call that originally led to this raid in Texas and a similar call received in Colorado City.
Gary, what have you learned?
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Anderson. Tonight authorities are still looking for the girl whose call led to the raid in Texas. But at the same time they're also looking for a girl who says she's here in Arizona at the sect headquarters and says she's been abused many times.
But some investigators are now saying that the Texas girl and the Arizona girl may be the same girl. And they believe she is far away from either state right now.
TUCHMAN: Ever since Warren Jeffs, their leader and prophet was arrested in 2006, the members of the polygamist sect known as the FLDS have rarely gotten together in large groups because it draws outside attention.
That's why what we're seeing now is so rare; hundreds of cars, thousands of loyal followers, all showing up at a meeting hall at the sect's headquarters in Colorado City, Arizona. Every single woman wearing an old fashioned pioneer dress, with a telltale hairstyle, hair that is never cut, always arranged in braids or a bun. And many of the men showing up with two, three women by their sides.
Sam Brower is a private detective who investigates the sect.
SAM BROWER, PRIVATE INVESTIGATOR: Their normal Sunday church meetings were canceled when Warren went on the run. So it is highly unusual for that many people to be gathering in one place.
TUCHMAN: they were called via word of mouth to learn from their leaders what has happened to their family members who have been separated from each other in Texas. During a raid that was set off by a desperate call from a 16-year-old girl who has not been found.
And now CNN has learned authorities are investigating other calls from a girl believed to be 16, who said she was abused and trapped, not in Texas but at her home here in Colorado City, Arizona.
And now this strange twist --
BROWER: It's my understanding that the authorities have found out that it didn't take place in Colorado City.
TUCHMAN: The phone call?
BROWER: The phone call.
TUCHMAN: An investigation has revealed even though this girl has indicated she's here in Arizona, multiple calls from her have come from an undisclosed location at least hundreds of miles away.
Flora Jessop, a former member of the FLDS, who now tries to rescue children of the sect, has received many of the calls.
FLORA JESSOP: She got my number from one of the other kids I rescued.
TUCHMAN: It's puzzling, but no more puzzling than this. Authorities say that indications are the missing Texas girl, the one whose call led to the raid at the Eldorado ranch, is also now out of Texas. While one would assume that these are two different girls --
BROWER: It's also just as conceivable a scenario that there's one girl that's making, you know, those calls there.
TUCHMAN: so now authorities are trying to determine if the girl who keeps calling Flora Jessop is the same girl whose frantic phone call set off the raid. They also want to know why she doesn't know or isn't telling the truth about where where she is.
Meanwhile, back at the FLDS meeting site, leaders of the sect come out the door after the meeting and don't want to be seen by us. They run and drivers in vans keep moving their vehicles in the direction our camera goes to block our shots. People here are secretive and anxious.
COOPER: Gary, just to be clear on this breaking news, and it is significant because what really triggered this entire raid was this call allegedly from a young girl at the Texas compound. So you're now hearing from investigators that perhaps that call never came from the Texas compound and the call in Colorado about abuse never came from Colorado City and in fact may be the same person calling?
TUCHMAN: They think it may be the same person calling. That being said, they think the Texas call may have come from the compound. The second the authorities came to the compound, they may have rushed the girl out and brought her somewhere else.
As far as the calls here in Arizona, the girl may have also been here in Arizona at one time. She has been saying, this girl in Arizona has been saying, I am here in Arizona but she may be confused, she may be bewildered, she may be upset and that happens a lot here.
And I have got to tell you, Anderson, a lot different atmosphere here than down in Texas, 830 miles away. There's still a lot of intimidating going on here, a lot of enforcing. Just about a half-an- hour ago, a second meeting ended, thousands of people there again.
This time, they were praying. They had their Books of Mormon with them. And there were enforcers in large vans coming up to us in tinted windows. There were like four young men in a car. They were all holding walkie-talkies. And they were obviously told to watch us. And they kind of trapped our car into a corner at one point.
And every time we drove, they would follow us. And they followed us for miles, until we got to this site right here, where we're doing the live report just on the outskirts of town. And then they finally left. But it's a lot different atmosphere here. People are very angry. People are very upset, and people are trying to keep us away.
COOPER: We should also point out you can't go to the local authorities there for help, because the local authorities are part of this sect. They have intimidated you in the past, correct?
TUCHMAN: The Colorado City, Arizona, Hildale, Utah Marshals Office, which is their local police department, are members of Warren Jeffs' church.
We cannot rely on them in any way, shape or form. The Mohave County Sheriff's Office here in Arizona, where I'm standing right now, and 50 feet in front of me, the Washington County, Utah, Sheriff's Office, they do work hard to prosecute the wrongdoers here in town. And we can, indeed, rely on them. But they're not here very much. It's the local police who patrol this area on a 24-hour basis.
COOPER: Well, thank goodness for them. Stay safe there, Gary. Fascinating.
It's hard to believe this exists in the United States of America in this day and age. We have been doing this story now for -- I don't know -- coming on two years, I guess. And it still just -- it boggles the mind.
Still ahead: a legal reality check. So, is the case against the FLDS in Texas weakening? I mean, if this call -- if these questions over the call in fact bear -- bear out, what does that actually mean for the case? Will Texas authorities have to prove on Thursday -- what are they going to have to prove on Thursday to keep the kids in custody? Should they even keep the kids in custody? We will talk about that with Jeffrey Toobin and others ahead.
COOPER: That is one of the songs from Warren Jeffs, "Yearning for Zion." It's actually Warren Jeffs' voice singing about his Texas compound called YFZ. That, of course, is the compound that was raided several days ago. Warren Jeffs is, of course, now in jail.
Digging deeper, Texas is now facing what may be the largest family law case in its history: 416 children separated from their parents and the polygamist sect they've grown up in amid allegations of abuse. Now authorities are scrambling to find enough lawyers to try to represent all these kids at a custody hearing on Thursday.
Meantime, there a lot of thorny questions being raised, and CNN's Jeffrey Toobin digs deeper with me right now.
Jeff, we just heard in Gary Tuchman's report. There are indications now that the alleged 16-year-old girl whose call led to this raid is now out of Texas, and we don't know where she is, if she is with the authorities. Authorities are questioning whether she's the same girl who made calls about alleged abuse in Colorado City.
What happens to this case or these cases if this 16-year-old isn't telling the whole truth? JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it depends how much of the state's case was based on her testimony.
What's -- what's frustrating about the situation at this point is we don't know the precise nature of the allegations against the polygamist -- the temple at this point. So we can't sort of sort out what's -- whether what the authorities have done is justified.
Because you have two very contradictory forces at work here. You have the state, which is usually very reluctant to separate young children from their parents. And the state is also very serious about taking children away from a situation where there might be abuse and neglect. How they sort out those two contradictory impulses is what this case is all about.
COOPER: And I guess in a more normal situation, I'm not sure that's the right wording, but they would have observed people while they were still living there, but since this is an entirely closed-off compound, does it make sense that they went in the way they did and took the kids out?
TOOBIN: Well, it makes sense, if they have good evidence that these kids were being abused. I mean, in a more normal situation -- and I think it's a fair word to use in this circumstance -- you have one family living, you know, by itself, or two families living together. So you're dealing with a manageable number of children together.
What makes this circumstance so incredibly bizarre is you have hundreds of children living together and, if -- if it's a situation where several children or even one child is in danger, all of them can be perceived to be in danger. That presumably is what Texas was thinking. That's why they pulled them out of there.
COOPER: I want to play something that one FLDS mother said to journalists earlier today about being separated from their kids. Let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MONICA, FLDS MEMBER: It's very hard on them and on me. And the questioning that they do is -- it's very emotional to them. They come out of their questioning sobbing and crying. I wish I was there, at least to help them through it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Obviously, there are a lot of moms who are upset they're being separated from their kids. We're also hearing from authorities, though, that a lot of folks just aren't being honest and are kind of switching kids around and not giving their real ages.
Carolyn Jessop, who was just on, who left this compound long ago, told us that the woman we spoke to earlier, Kathleen, who says she has a daughter 18-plus with a 10-month-old child. Carolyn Jessop says that woman was lying about the age of her daughter, whose daughter was probably 16 when she got married and/or had a baby.
TOOBIN: Imagine the complexities of this investigation. Who are these children? Are there birth certificates? Can you match a birth certificate to the child? Whose parent is whom? Who's the mother? Who's the father? In the absence of DNA tests, you basically have to take the word of the children or of the adults. This is going to be an incredibly difficult situation for the Texas authorities to sort out.
COOPER: Yes, and I mean, I don't even know, are there enough lawyers in the state of Texas for all these kids?
TOOBIN: Well, I saw in one report that said there might be 300 lawyers at this hearing on Thursday. And remember, you're talking about in a rural area of Texas. So there're not probably 300 lawyers in the immediate counties, much less in this town.
So -- and each child is legally entitled to be treated separately. So you can't simply just lump them all together. That's why they all need lawyers. That's why the state has to decide why each one needs to be taken from -- from his or her home.
COOPER: I've never seen anything like it.
TOOBIN: Not me.
COOPER: Jeffrey Toobin, appreciate it. Thanks for your expertise.
COOPER: Up next, all three candidates slamming each other over who's bitter and who's an out-of-touch elitist, who's a hunter and why it should matter to the voters in Pennsylvania and across the country.
Later, a violent and troubled young man with a hit list for his school and his mother. Could she stop his attack before he carried it out? A remarkable story when 360 continues.
COOPER: The latest Gallup nationwide daily tracking poll shows Barack Obama with a ten-point lead over Hillary Clinton nationally. At least that's a growing margin since we learned on Friday about remarks he made, calling small-town Pennsylvanians bitter and prone to clinging to guns and religion.
Now, statewide polling won't reflect the uproar for a few more days. We'll see what kind of impact, if any, it has. That is, if it is truly an uproar and not just pundits and spinners doing what they always do.
In any case, Barack Obama spent another day today counterpunching while John McCain and Hillary Clinton kept riding this for all they thought it was worth.
The "Raw Politics" tonight from CNN's Candy Crowley.
CANDY CROWLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: And on the third day, Hillary Clinton hit him again.
SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I don't think he really gets it that people are looking for a president who stands up for you. And not looks down on you.
CROWLEY: Facing the Pennsylvania primary, which hinges on working-class voters, Barack Obama is accused of being an elitist. She never let up over the weekend, supporting her working-class creds with tales of when she first learned to shoot a gun and photo-ops sipping beer and tossing back a shot.
Looking to stem the issue on its head, Obama told a crowd of steel industry workers to beware of Washington insiders with promises.
SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D-IL), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: They'll even come around with TV crews in tow and throw back a shot and a beer. But if those same candidates are taking millions of dollars in contributions from the PACs and the lobbyists, ask yourself who are they going to be toasting once the election's over?
CROWLEY: The way Hillary Clinton sees things this is not just about a big win in Pennsylvania. It's about a big message to super delegates.
CLINTON: Democrats have reached out to me to say that we, you know, can't afford for people to believe that the Democratic Party is elitist and out of touch.
CROWLEY: Elitist, in Democratic Party jargon, means unelectable. Think Michael Dukakis. Think Al Gore. Think John Kerry, products of privilege, Ivy Leaguers who tried but largely failed to connect to culturally conservative working-class and rural voters. People Democrats think vote against their own economic interests, because they see the party as too liberal and disdainful of their way of life.
It is why he goes bowling and she visits diners. It is why it's important this Harvard-educated lawyer pushes back.
OBAMA: I wasn't born into a lot of money. I didn't have a trust fund. I wasn't born into fame and fortune. I was raised by a single mother with the help of my grandparents who grew up in small-town Kansas and went to school on the G.I. Bill and bought their home through an FHA loan. My mother had to use food stamps at one point. CROWLEY: And it is why this Yale-educated lawyer keeps working on it, on the ground and in the air.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Barack Obama said that people in small towns cling to guns or religion as a way to explain their frustrations.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was very insulted by Barack Obama.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It shows how out of touch Barack Obama is.
CROWLEY: The jury is out on what it all means. When Clinton brought the subject up at one event, she was jeered. The question is what bothers voters more: the original words or all that followed?
COOPER: And do we know the answer to that question, Candy? You're joining us tonight from Philadelphia. I mean, that is the million-dollar question.
CROWLEY: It really is. And the answer is I really don't know, because sometimes these things simply solidify what was already there. And you kind of watch the swing vote, maybe moving in one direction or another. But then kind of going back to where they were. So it is possible.
I mean, remember with Pastor Wright, we all thought this would have an affect on Barack Obama. And yet, you know, he got to a point where he just went right back up to where he was before. So this is a little different, because these are his words as opposed to someone else's. But I just don't think we know that.
I mean, we're seeing this Gallup poll tracking, which is day by day, and that's a three-day summation of what's been going on. So it includes Friday, Saturday, Sunday, which are the days when he was being hit the hardest.
COOPER: Tuesday is going to be a very interesting night, next Tuesday. It's going to be fascinating. Candy, appreciate it. Thanks so much.
Up next, inside the mind of a would-be school shooter. The story's really remarkable. This guy's mom saw warning signs in her son. The question is was she able to do anything to stop him?
The CNN special investigations unit report is next.
COOPER: Images, of course, seared into our memory. This Wednesday actually marks the first anniversary of the Virginia Tech shooting. It's hard to believe that it's been a year. The massacre left 32 people dead and the gunman, as well.
There were warning signs, of course, at Virginia Tech. There were signs of depression and violence, mental illness in the shooter.
Those signs were also painfully clear to the family of another young man we want to tell you about tonight. He drew up a hit list for a killing spree at his own school. Perhaps the only person that could prevent it was his mother. So would she be too late?
With tonight's "Crime & Punishment" report, here's special investigations unit correspondent Abbie Boudreau.
ABBIE BOUDREAU, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Elaine Sonnen's story about her son starts with home movies and a loving family album. Elaine and her husband adopted the boy, Richard, from this orphanage from Bulgaria. He was 4 1/2.
ELAINE SONNEN, MOTHER OF RICHARD SONNEN: I love you, Mama.
RICHARD SONNEN, ALLEGEDLY MADE HIT LIST: I love you, Mama.
E. SONNEN: And we just loved him, and he was -- he was just a big sparkle of life.
BOUDREAU: But they could have never guessed what could become of their new son when they took him back to tiny Green Creek, Idaho.
E. SONNEN: People thought he was just the greatest kid in the world, well-mannered, caring, very polite. He could be anywhere from just a really helpful great kid to a monster; a terrifying monster.
BOUDREAU: At first, the boy was at best unpredictable, occasionally acting out. But soon his behavior went from aggressive to absolutely terrifying.
E. SONNEN: He planned from the time he was 6 to kill me. He always wanted to kill me. He would shake with anger to the point he'd tell me and scream at me that he wanted to destroy me.
BOUDREAU: By eighth grade, doctors put Richard on anti-psychotic medications. He had been diagnosed as bipolar, obsessive-compulsive and suffering other disorders.
E. SONNEN: I would find notes about him wanting to kill himself. He was writing in big letters, you know, starting small, going big, "Please, please help me."
BOUDREAU: His behavior so disturbing his mother says she had a growing sense of doom. It was 1999, and like parents everywhere, Richard's parents watched coverage of the Columbine school shootings in horror. But for them, it was different.
E. SONNEN: And we stopped to look at each other and said, "This could be Richard. Some day this could be him."
BOUDREAU: But unlike the recent school shootings at both Northern Illinois University and a year ago at Virginia Tech, Elaine saw the warning signs. And she was determined to watch even more carefully to prevent a massacre.
A few years later, Richard's junior year in high school, it turned out they were right.
E. SONNEN: The most awful thing that we could have ever thought of happening was happening.
BOUDREAU: Which was? E. SONNEN: My son planning a school shooting.
COOPER: A mother's fears are growing. So was it possible that her son was on the verge of a shooting rampage?
Next on 360, the race against time and how a parent desperately tried to save innocent lives and save her son at the same time.
COOPER: In "Crime & Punishment" tonight, before the break, you heard a mother tell the story of her son, a troubled young man they'd adopted. He was planning to do the unthinkable: turn his school into his own Columbine. His threats were very real, his plot horrific. The question is could his mother stop the attack before it could be carried out?
More now from -- from special investigations correspondent Abbie Boudreau.
BOUDREAU: Richard was tired of high school bullies, tired of being a target. To get even, he studied the Columbine shooting. He actually came to worship Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold.
RICHARD SONNEN: They planned it out so perfectly and so meticulously that it just -- it's wow, you know? They're my gods.
DYLAN KLEBOLD, COLUMBINE SCHOOL SHOOTER: Do not mess with that frigging kid.
ERIC HARRIS, COLUMBINE SCHOOL SHOOTER: I will frigging kill you.
BOUDREAU: Like Harris and Klebold, he had specific victims in mind.
What is that?
R. SONNEN: That is the hit list that I had.
BOUDREAU: On it, names of eight students he wanted to kill.
You hated these people enough that you put them on a hit list?
R. SONNEN: Yes.
This is my sophomore year.
BOUDREAU: Over a high school yearbook, we get a glimpse into the mind of a young man plotting mayhem.
R. SONNEN: She was another one of them that I wanted to kill.
BOUDREAU: She looks so nice.
R. SONNEN: I actually had a crush on her.
She was also another one. It wasn't really the fact that I hated her. It was just more of the fact that she was always annoying.
My plan was to set around bombs around the school. I had pinpoints of where I wanted to go, where I wanted to do it.
BOUDREAU: Elaine was suspicious. When she confronted her son, he revealed his plan. She forced him to write his list, and she gave it to his mental health caseworker.
Later, Richard added teacher, his sister and his mother to the list. Elaine had her son committed. He spent 16 months in mental institutions before he was released.
Now a legal adult, Richard would be living on his own for the first time ever.
R. SONNEN: They gave me medication in a box, and I had to make sure that I took it myself. And they -- they weren't there to help me with the medication.
BOUDREAU: Richard began college at Lewis-Clark State College in Idaho. He was taking his meds, and they seemed to be working. By all accounts, he was a different person.
E. SONNEN: I knew he was on the road to being well.
BOUDREAU: But a year ago, one day before the anniversary of Columbine, and only three days after the mass shootings at Virginia Tech, Elaine Sonnen got a call from the police.
E. SONNEN: "We have reports that your son has made four different threats to do a school shooting at Lewis-Clark State College and Lewiston High School." My understanding was that he was going to come home, get some guns, go back, crawl up into the clock tower and basically be a sniper.
BOUDREAU: Richard Sonnen said that's not true. He says he was simply telling people about what he was going to do back in high school. He was walking on campus when police stopped him.
R. SONNEN: The cops slammed the door and said, "Get your hands up, get your hands up."
BOUDREAU: Authorities took Sonnen's statements as a serious threat, prompting them to shut down the campus and the local high school.
What did they think your plan was?
R. SONNEN: Apparently to do a shooting, to do a bombing and shooting of the college. BOUDREAU: Police tell CNN they didn't have enough evidence to charge Richard with a crime. To this day, Richard insists none of it's true. The college banned him for a year.
Is there any chance that you did make those threats?
R. SONNEN: No.
BOUDREAU: So did Richard plan his second school attack?
You don't believe what he's saying?
E. SONNEN: I believe he made those threats. I still believe it. I believed it the morning after. Richard?
R. SONNEN: OK. I don't understand it. But...
BOUDREAU: He's now living in the state of Washington, still on medication but no longer seeing a psychiatrist.
Does this worry you?
E. SONNEN: Yes. Yes, he's not getting the help and the insight from a professional that could see the signs.
BOUDREAU: Richard insists his demons are behind him. And for that, he thanks his mother.
R. SONNEN: My mom's the greatest person in the world. And she helped me through a lot, and she's always going to be my mom.
COOPER: And what that mom has been through. Why did she and Richard decide to go on camera to talk about all this?
BOUDREAU: Anderson, that's really interesting. Elaine wanted people to know that it's not always the parent's fault. Once someone turns 18, there's not much parents can do to make sure their children are getting the help they need.
As for Richard, he was hoping his story could help other teens who feel bullied and want revenge. He says his story shows violence is not the answer.
COOPER: Wow, what a story. Abbie, appreciate it. Abbie Boudreau, thank you.
That does it for this edition of 360. For international viewers, "CNN Today" is next. Here in America, Larry King is coming up.
Thanks for watching, I'll see you tomorrow night.
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