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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Violence Rocks Syria; Mississippi Pardon Controversy Continues
Aired February 3, 2012 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone. It is 10:00 here on the East Coast.
And we begin tonight with breaking news out of Syria, a bloody day in Syria, one of the worst ever perhaps. We are hearing at least 200 people killed in the city of Homs in just the past few hours, 200 people dead in the past few hours. That's according to opposition activists.
Now, in a moment, you are going to hear from one of them, a brave witness talking about the shelling and the bloodshed that he says is happening right now.
First, some of the video from the latest violence. Take a look at this we found on YouTube, shelling and shooting in Homs. A fire breaks out. Again, at least 200 people killed there today according to activists in the city, including women and children.
Just moments ago, as I said, I spoke to a witness. We're calling him Danny. He's giving only his first name for obvious security reason, but he's showing his face at great risk. Listen.
COOPER: Danny, what's happening? What's the latest?
DANNY, EYEWITNESS: What's been happening, right?
DANNY: They have been bombarding an area in Homs for like three hours. They have been bombarding with bombers and tank shells. T-72 tank shills. Because part of the Syrian army defected and went to that state. The civilians went to welcome the Syrian army, so they bombarded it randomly with multiple bombs and tank shells. Tanks have it too.
In the first half an hour they have got 40 people dead. Now we have about 200 dead all around Homs. There are still people under the destruction. We can't move them. All the buildings have been falling over human beings. There are kids dead, women dead, men dead.
We can't get medication into Khaldiya. They are shooting at the Red Crescent ambulance. They are shooting at civilian cars and trying to get medication in there and we can't help them. And now, it's happening all around Homs. They are bombing us and no one is doing anything about it. The U.N. and American league are discussing it while we are just sitting here and getting killed.
COOPER: You say more than 200 dead just in the last hour or two.
DANNY: Yes, 200 dead in three hours. In the first half an hour, we have got 40 dead, in the first half hour. We got the video up on YouTube. They have been bombarding an area in Homs called Khaldiya, with mortar bombs and tank shells. There are civilians under the destruction of buildings. We can't get them out. We are trying to get medication in there and food in there. And we can't get them in. The snipers are shooting at us. So, I wanted to go in there to help them. I couldn't. The snipers are shooting at me. We are being bombarded.
COOPER: So, how random is the mortar fire? I mean, are you saying that they are just indiscriminately firing mortars into -- in to neighborhood?
DANNY: In the city. In the city. Then in an hour in civilian streets, on roof top. I just went, an hour ago, I just went on a rooftop to get civilians. The street is right next to me like 400 meters right over there. I went and picked up four civilians who are buried in the house. A mortar bomb came on the rooftop of a civilian house.
COOPER: We hear in the background -- is that sound coming from the mosque? What are they saying in the mosques?
DANNY: These are the mosques. The mosque -- they are asking help from God. They are asking help from people. They are asking -- they saying we want all negative, a positive. We have so many casualties. We have got over 500 casualties. They may not live. We don't know if they will live or not. We need blood. We are asking help. No one's helping us. The U.N. isn't doing anything about it. The Arab league isn't doing about it. They are discussing while they are having a discussion people are dying.
COOPER: You're taking a great risk by showing your face.
DANNY: I'm not afraid of this regime. If it wants to kill me -- thank you. I'm not brave. You should see what people are doing here. People are trying to move bodies out of the street and putting their lives on risk. People are getting killed just to remove a body from the street. Just to move bodies so they can bury them and they are being killed for moving the bodies. That's bravery.
COOPER: Where do you take the wounded? You can't take them to government hospitals. We have heard time and time for months now those have been taken over by the military and secret police in the hospitals. So, where do you take the wounded?
DANNY: See, we take the wounded are going to try to fit -- we smuggle the wounded. We smuggle the dead bodies into the area I'm in now which is Baba Amr, which is protected by the Free Army, but the Free Army hasn't got heavy artillery or they have Kalashnikovs, handguns. Every soldier has RPG rockets. That's all they -- the Free Syrian Army has. They can't fight a whole big Syrian army, can they? So, they smuggle them in to Baba Amr. We have three field hospitals here in Baba Amr. We get the injured people here and we try to do our best. We haven't got enough doctors. The doctor gets about more than 20 patients in an hour. He needs to have an operation. He needs to be buried. He's going to die. They don't know what to do. These aren't animals dying here. These are human beings being bombed by mortar bombs, being bombed by tank shells. And no one's doing anything about it. We're going to sit here and get killed. There is one message I would like to get out. We are not going to stop. The Syrian people won't stop if they kill millions. That we'll remember no one did anything about it.
COOPER: Why have they launched this bombardment now?
DANNY: Because the part of a Syrian army was on a barricade. Part of the barricade defected. I think it was about 50 to 60 soldiers. I don't know what they had with them.
They defected and ran away to a place called Khaldiya, an area in Homs called Khaldiya. The civilians went down to welcome the Free Syrian Army, to thank them for their bravery because the Syrian army. When the Syria army found out that, they started randomly bombing, bombarding with tank shells, with mortar bombs. It's like they're killing animals. These are human beings. They have been stabbing kids. They have been stabbing women, raping women. And no one's doing anything.
This isn't a game here. This is a reality. This is going on. All this footage you have been seeing on YouTube of women being raped, people being burned, that's all real. This is not a game. This is actually going on. And there is much more than this that we don't know about yet. This government is hiding so much more. We don't know half of what's going on yet.
COOPER: Danny, stay safe. Thank you for talking to us.
COOPER: As we sit here safe tonight in your home and wherever you are watching this, this is happening in Syria in Homs right now.
Let us know what you think. We're on Facebook, Google+. Add us to your circles. You can follow me at Twitter @AndersonCooper. I will be tweeting tonight.
Up next, a mother's plea for justice -- justice for her daughter killed in a car crash involving a serial drunk driver who was pardoned by Mississippi governor Haley Barbour, pardoned as this guy sat in jail after his fourth DUI arrest.
Also, a "360 follow": a new twist in medical mystery in upstate New York. A new woman now has come forward saying she's suffering from the same strange ticks that resemble Tourette's syndrome as girls in high school in that same area are. We're going to talk it over with Dr. Drew Pinsky.
COOPER: "Keeping Them Honest" tonight: a mom's pleas for justice, justice for her daughter who is no longer alive to the justice. Linda Smith's daughter, Charity Smith, was just 18 years old. That's her. She was working as waitress, saving her money for college, a talented artist with a lot of big dreams.
Charity died when her car hit a truck on a gravel road. You can see by the wreckage just how bad the crash was. Whose Fault it was is still being investigated. The truck wasn't damaged much that was hit. The man behind the wheel wasn't seriously hurt but he was drunk. His name is Harry Bostick, a former IRS investigator. He was arrested for driving under the influence after the crash. But it wasn't the first time he was caught drunk driving behind the wheel. In fact, it wasn't his second time. It wasn't even his third time. It was his fourth drunk driving arrest.
What makes this Harry Bostick's case so stunning is that he was pardoned by Mississippi's outgoing governor, Haley Barbour. In fact, Bostick was sitting in jail after his fourth arrest when the governor signed the pardon. This is the dash cam video of the third DUI arrest of Harry Bostick. As he was arrested, he was pardoned for a felony DUI, he pled guilty to in 2010. Here is the officer who arrested Bostick that third time.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SGT. HILDON SESSUMS, OXFORD POLICE DEPARTMENT: There was an open bottle of wine in the front seat with him. There was an open bottle of champagne on the front seat with him. He had a large cup that was full of red wine.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Bostick's blood alcohol level was twice the legal limit. This was his third DUI arrest, remember, in the same year, three in one year.
The first two were misdemeanors. For his third arrest, he was sentenced to a year of house arrest and four years in an alcohol abuse program. A about year after his third arrest, Bostick applied for the pardon. Some of his high profile friends wrote letters to the governor on his behalf. One federal prosecutor wrote, quote, "Harry no longer drinks alcohol." The parole board recommended Bostick get the pardon. Seven days later he slammed into Charity Smith's car as she pulled onto a highway. Again, it is still under investigation.
We repeatedly asked Governor Barbour, though, to come on this program and explain how he could have given a pardoned to a guy who was sitting in jail after his fourth DUI arrest, after an 18-year-old girl was dead. But so far the governor hasn't been willing to talk to our program. His often claimed they didn't know about the fourth DUI. We want to know how that possible. They didn't know when they pardoned Bostick, they are saying, that he was sitting on jail cell.
And he's never explained. The governor hasn't explained why the parole board or his office didn't do a last-minute check of Bostick's record before he signed the pardon.
On another CNN program, on John King's program, here's what Barbour said about his pardons in general of more than 200 people including four convicted killers.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HALEY BARBOUR, FORMER MISSISSIPPI GOVERNOR: The power of pardon in the state is to give people a second chance who have repented, been rehabilitated and redeem themselves.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Repented, rehabilitated, redeemed. Harry Bostick had three DUI arrests on his record, one of them, a felony. He was supposed to be in an alcohol abuse program. He swore he wasn't drinking anymore. His connected friends also said that. But he was drunk when the truck slammed into Charity's car. Rehabilitated? Obviously not.
Governor Barbour, we would love you to come on the show and answer questions. But the very least, we think you owe Charity's family some answers. Charity's mom, Linda Smith, joins me now.
COOPER: Linda, first of all, how are you holding up during all of these?
LINDA SMITH, DAUGHTER KILLED BY DRUNK DRIVER: As best as I can.
COOPER: I know you feel like your daughter has been forgotten in all of this. What do you want people to know about her?
SMITH: First of all, I know everybody just reads a name on a piece of paper. She's not just a name. Charity was a person, a beautiful person. A smart, intelligent person who had her whole life ahead of her. And you know, she loved life. She loved her art. She loved to write. You know, she was planning on -- she should be in college right now.
COOPER: That was her dream to go to college.
SMITH: Getting her degree, yes. She should be there now, you know. Working on her degree. And living and loving life.
COOPER: When you first heard that Harry Bostick was pardoned, what went through your mind?
SMITH: I was just upset. I mean, I didn't understand it.
COOPER: Had anyone from the governor's office called you? SMITH: No. No. No one.
COOPER: Their office said that he wasn't aware of the fourth DUI charge which was the charge involved and related to your daughter's death when he pardoned Bostick. Do you believe him?
SMITH: I have to. I mean, surely he wouldn't have done that. I mean, surely. He wouldn't have done that. I mean, if someone already has three and if you know there is another one, how could you? How could you do that?
COOPER: So he was sitting in jail on that fourth DUI charge when he was pardoned. At this point -- I mean --
COOPER: What can be done in your eyes to bring some justice to this?
SMITH: Take his pardon back. He should have never been pardoned.
COOPER: When you think of him right now free with his slate wiped clean, his record wipe clean. What do you think?
SMITH: I have to believe that justice will be served. I have to.
COOPER: Have you ever said anything? Have you ever seen this man? Have you ever said anything to him?
SMITH: No. No. I have never talked with him.
COOPER: Is there anything you would want him to know?
SMITH: Not right now. Maybe at a later time.
COOPER: OK. And to the governor, what would you want the governor -- Governor Barbour to know?
SMITH: If I could call this up?
SMITH: I think he should have been more thorough in what he did. Somebody didn't do right. And I know I'm not the only person who is feeling this. There are other mothers and fathers that are struggling with the same thing. And they are probably going through the same thing. You know, how did it happen?
COOPER: How do you get through each day? SMITH: It's not easy. Look, my daughter, I know she was 18. But she always told me she loved me every morning and kissed me and I did her the same. This was every day. I miss my child. And I want her to come home. But that will never happen. I will never have her again. I have bad days. I don't have good days. COOPER: You just have bad days?
SMITH: Yes. I miss my child. I love my child. I want her back.
COOPER: Linda, I'm so sorry for your loss and for now having to go through this. Is there anything else you want people to know?
SMITH: You know, I know we all make mistakes. There is nobody perfect. But when Haley Barbour said everybody deserves a second chance, my baby didn't get no second chance. Now she's not here.
COOPER: Well, Linda --
SMITH: She's not here.
COOPER: -- I wish you strength and peace in the days ahead.
SMITH: Thank you.
COOPER: It is such a heartbreaking story. Ed Lavandera has been doing a lot of digging on this course. He joins me now from Mississippi.
How did this happen? I mean, was there no mechanism in place to make sure the justice system and the parole board were in contact with one another?
ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It doesn't appear that there was. The way this all unfolded, Anderson, is that back in last summer, Harry Bostick began a process able applying for that pardon. He started gathering the letters. He was interviewed by the parole board. All of that appears to have been wrapped up by September. The parole board in Mississippi voted 3-2, a close vote, and to recommend him for a pardon.
All of the paperwork was then mailed over to Governor Haley Barbour's office. And that appears to be the end of it from what we have been able to tell.
And then it was a week later that this terrible accident happened and Charity Smith was killed. So, between the months of October, November and December into early January when Harry Bostick was finally pardoned, there was never any mechanism in place that went back and double checked that everything was still OK.
And Harry Bostick was sitting there in jail. And according to the governor's office and the parole board, they had no idea he was there and he was pardoned. He was literally walked out of the jail. I spoke with the sheriff who said he had no idea the pardon was coming down the pipe and he had to let the guy walk right out of jail.
COOPER: Is it possible he could be found culpable in the death of -- in the crash that killed her daughter and if so could he be arrested for that?
LAVANDERA: It is possible. Essentially what will happen is, those first two misdemeanors DUI charges that you spoke about earlier, those haven't gone away. It's just the third one. So, this fourth charge, we are still waiting on what a grand jury will do and what the formal charges will be. But assuming that does happen, then this fourth one would be the third one and he would have to go through the legal process on that.
But obviously it changes dramatically what the potential sentence could be if that, indeed, does happen. Of course, he hasn't been indicted yet. You know, he's presumed innocent. But all of that is still making its way through the legal process.
COOPER: Ed, I appreciate you up and continue staying on it. Ed Lavandera, thanks very much.
Still ahead tonight: a medical mystery deepens started when a dozen teenage girls at the same school developed a strange ticks, look a lot like Tourette's syndrome. Then more teens developed the ticks. Now it's not just teenagers -- the latest on what a small town in Upstate New York is facing tonight.
Also ahead: Lance Armstrong getting some very good news about the investigation into whether he used performance-enhancing drugs. We will have the latest on that ahead.
SUSAN HENDRICKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, a better than expected jobs report released today. Two hundred and forty three thousand jobs were added last month, dropping the unemployment rate to 8.3 percent, the lowest level in three years.
The Justice Department clearing Lance Armstrong of using performance-enhancing drugs. Prosecutors say they are closing their criminal probe without filing charges against the seven-time tour de France winner. They offered no explanation for the decision. Lance Armstrong denies he used performance enhancing drugs and said he's gratified to learn of the decision.
The Susan G. Komen Foundation apologizing for cutting funds to Planned Parenthood. They are reversing the decision and restoring the money. Word came after lots of angry protests.
Rescuers on Cape Cod are rushing to save the lives of the remaining beached dolphins. Of the 100 that washed up, more than 80 already died. There was no word on what triggered the mass beaching, but weather, pollution and even dolphins' social structure are all possible causes.
And trade on diamond state park is living up to its name for one Arkansas couple at least, they picked up a diamond in the rough which turned out to be a rare near-perfect gem. After a trip to the jewel cutter, the diamond is now worth more than $21,000 -- Anderson, back to you.
COOPER: "ERIN BURNETT" starts at 11:00. Let's check I.
Erin, what's up?
ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: All right, well, Anderson, the bottom line on the jobs numbers might be morning in America for Barack Obama.
Look at Ronald Reagan and Barack Obama and compare the two, and what you find is pretty incredible. We did all of that. And we will show you that tonight.
Also, Israel and Iran, could there be a strike? How would it work? We show exactly how Israel could get it done. All that tonight, top of the hour -- back to you.
COOPER: Erin, thanks.
Ahead: new developments in the medical mystery in Upstate New York, a 36-year-old woman coming forward saying she is having the same Tourette's-like symptoms as that group of high school student. But are investigators any close to figuring out of what's going on?
And a teacher in California accused of taking bondage photos of students in the classroom -- why did it take over a year for police to arrest him, and why is he still collecting his teacher's pension?
We're "Keeping Them Honest" ahead.
COOPER: Tonight, a "360 Follow." We've been reporting on this medical mystery now for a couple weeks. More than a dozen teenagers who go to the same high school in upstate New York have developed strange ticks that resemble Tourette's Syndrome. Verbal outbursts, twitching, flailing. All but one of the teens are girls.
The health department and school officials say they've ruled out any environmental cause. They conducted air quality and mold tests, released those results.
Some of the girls have been diagnosed with something called conversion disorder, a physical response to stress, mass hysteria. But many of the girls and their parents are not satisfied with that answer.
Environmental activist Erin Brockovich is now involved. She sent a team to collect soil samples. Brockovich believes possibly a chemical spill back in the '70s near the school may be linked to the ticks. The EPA is also on the case.
Now a new development. A 36-year-old woman who lives in the same town seems to have developed the same type of ticks. As a teenager, Marge Fitzsimmons said she hung out near where that chemical spill happened. She's been diagnosed with conversion disorder, and she worries that it would mean -- what it would mean if it turns out the toxins were to blame? Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARGE FITZSIMMONS, DEVELOPED MYSTERIOUS SYMPTOMS: I have to have faith in my doctors. All the lab work and CAT scans and MRIs that I've done have come back within range, within the normal range limits.
So if it ends up being environmental, then does that mean that I don't have hope of getting better? These are thoughts that go through my head.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: So Dr. Drew Pinsky has been following the story closely, as well. He joins me now. I don't understand this. I mean, are you surprised by this new person, this new information that a woman in her 30s has now, apparently, come down with similar symptoms?
DR. DREW PINSKY, HLN ANCHOR: Not necessarily. This could still be conversion, and many of these folks that are having the reaction, we're finding that there's a common thread of really significant trauma in their background. This woman you'll seeing alongside of me is someone that suffered severe trauma.
What we're trying to do now is connect the relationship amongst all these women to understand how this thing might have spread.
Now, conversion disorder can sometimes have medical issues that are contributing to it, precipitating it, making it more likely to occur. So the fact that it's being called conversion doesn't completely rule out the environmental influences. So those are continuing to be pursued very aggressively.
In the meantime, the provisional diagnosis of conversion gives the doctors treating in that vicinity something to work on, and they apparently -- most of them are getting better.
COOPER: So explain conversion disorder, because I find it fascinating, this idea -- I mean, it's also called mass hysteria. What, people are -- they're just -- one person starts this, and others join in?
PINSKY: Right, I mean, the Salem witch trials, perhaps something that people are familiar with. It's the most -- one of the most dramatic examples of this. But there are examples of this all over the world. We actually chronicled this on my program, all the different reports in the last few years.
It's not -- it's rare, but it's certainly not unheard of. And conversion itself. A single person developing single manifestations because of a psychological or psychiatric state, is not at all uncommon. You've got to remember: brain and body are tightly connected, and sometimes when it sort of blows a fuse, let's say, when stress is excessive, it comes out through physical symptoms and ticks and seizuring and blindness or paralysis. These are not at all uncommon manifestations of this thing we call conversion. COOPER: But why would the fact that one person get it and then other people get it? It just -- because it sort of opens up that idea in other people's minds?
PINSKY: Yes, yes. I don't think anybody, Anderson, could really answer that question, why this place at this time? What was it about that that made it possible for it to spread the way it did?
As an internist, you know, I ran a department of medicine at a psychiatric hospital for a long time. And one of my big jobs was always when somebody came in with a symptom that was supposed to be psychiatric, was to make sure there was not a concomitant or precipitating medical issue. And that's what is being pursued in this town.
And lo and behold, as we were following the story, we found this trichloroethylene spill, and that's now become maybe a parallel story, but it may have a causational link.
COOPER: So with this illness, what exactly does getting better mean? I mean, how long could these girls and now this woman have symptoms like this for?
PINSKY: Yes. Getting better, there's various different kinds of treatments, depending on the patient that's suffering from this.
I can tell you half of the girls, approximately half the girls, are maintaining treatment with a group, a neurology group in their vicinity near their home town. And that half seems to be getting better with supportive care, with psycho education, with family interventions. Whatever that particular patient might needs.
Actually, it also will get better with placebo, and it will get better with time by itself. So if it's conversion. And that woman you heard the -- heard the interview with a few minutes ago, the older woman -- older, in her 30s -- that she was concerned this could be a toxic influence. She was absolutely right. A toxic hit on the central nervous system is a far more grave issue than a conversion disorder.
COOPER: It's so bizarre. Dr. Drew, appreciate it. Thanks.
PINSKY: Thank you.
COOPER: Up next, days of mourning giving way to a new explosion of violence in Egypt. Why protestors are blaming the government for this week's deadly soccer riots.
Also ahead, this is a stunning story. You need to hear about it. A California teacher accused of taking hundreds of lewd photographs of his little students over several years. Images so disturbing we can't even -- certainly can't show them to you on TV.
He's facing charges. Get this: taxpayers are still paying his $4,000-a-month pension. We're "Keeping Them Honest."
COOPER: We have another "Keeping Them Honest" report for you tonight. You think your kids are safe at school, but that may have been far from the truth for more than two dozen students at a California elementary school.
Take a look at this man: 61-year-old Mark Berndt. Thirty-year- old -- thirty-year teaching veteran. Behind bars tonight in Los Angeles County, accused of lewd acts on a child. Not one child but many.
He's accused of taking at least 400 photographs, bondage photographs, of students in his third-grade classroom. At least 400 taken over a five-year period from 2005-2010.
They show what some call in-class sex scenes. The images are so disturbing we certainly can't show them to you on television, can't -- we don't even really want to go into the details of what went on in some of these pictures. So for 23 students between the ages of 7 and 10, have been identified in the photos. Authorities say there are at least ten others they're still trying to identify.
Now, this investigation began back in October of 2010 when a photo technician at a CVS drug store told police he found disturbing images of kids blindfolded. It wasn't until three months later, January 2011, when an L.A. County sheriff deputy contacted school authorities, who removed him from the elementary school.
Then he reportedly tried to fight his firing and eventually just resigned from his teaching job at the school so he could keep his pension. And because he wasn't fired, he was able to do that. He gets to keep his nearly $4,000-a-month pension and his health benefits.
The L.A. Sheriff's Department says allegations were made against him also nearly 20 years ago. But get this: prosecutors decided not to press charges back then, because they determined there wasn't enough evidence to prove that a crime had occurred.
Decades later, there are charges, serious charges, and investigators say that he took serious advantage of the students.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And the children felt this was a game. They didn't realize they were being victimized. They thought they were just being blindfolded and gagged as a game.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: It went beyond just blindfolding and gags.
Now, tonight, there's another troubling case at the exact same school. Another teacher was arrested today at the same school. This man, 49-year-old Martin Bernard Springer, he's accused of fondling two seven-year-old girls in a classroom. The alleged attacks happened in the past three years, again at the same school.
Joining me now is John, superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District. I mean, I guess the question on everybody's mind is how could this have happened on school premises in a classroom?
JOHN DEASY, SUPERINTENDENT, LOS ANGELES UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT: That's exactly why we're investigating it, and that's why we're working with the police to try to understand that. And how that could have happened over a period of time.
COOPER: If school officials, if you view the charges against the teacher as brave enough to warrant being fired right away, should parents have been alerted what was going on at their kids' school for more than a year?
DEASY: So we followed the direction of the police, like I assume you do also, in that when the police tell you to act and do a certain thing, we follow that. The police were very clear that we were not to be involved in the investigation. And we followed everything to the letter of the law that they directed us to do.
COOPER: What's amazing to me, though, is that this guy still gets a pension. I mean, that this guy still gets lifetime health benefits, nearly $4,000 a month, as part of his pension. And that's a pension, I think, that California taxpayers, even the alleged victim's families, are paying for.
DEASY: I think it's outrageous. I think that's part of the law that absolutely should be change. In California currently, there are other very high-profile cases. There are two that raise this question that you raise, and I happen to agree with you.
COOPER: Even while this guy had been fired, though, he was able to challenge the firing and resign, which allowed him to keep his pension. It's -- I mean, I've read studies about how hard it is in California to fire bad teachers. Not just teachers, you know, who have done something -- committed a crime like this, but I mean, just terrible teachers out there. That for you, do you want to see that changed? Is that one of the things you would like to see changed?
DEASY: Absolutely. I mean, there are two other parts of the law which make no sense to me whatsoever. And that is, in a case like this, not all cases -- in a case like this where someone is clearly being investigated for either being involved in drugs and narcotics or being involved in any kind of criminal act involving a youth, that investigation should take place when they're not being paid.
The second part is that when a person in California, the superintendent and the board recommend the person be terminated, they're not the last say in the process. There's a whole process involving an administrative law judge and a panel of three teachers who ultimately make the final decision.
COOPER: So it's other teachers who are really deciding, and this administrative law judge, deciding whether or not a fellow teacher gets fired? DEASY: That is correct.
COOPER: I mean, that's -- obviously, I mean, that's just a system that is not tenable. There have been so many cases. I remember reading about a case in California of a teacher who told a kid who had attempted suicide that, you know, "You couldn't even do that right," and making fun of him, essentially. And that guy got to keep his job.
DEASY: We have thousands of phenomenal teachers. But in the cases of, like, this, I agree with you. That law has got to be changed.
COOPER: Several of this person's former students reported him in the early 1990s for inappropriate conduct in the classroom. One said he tried to grope her while two others say he appeared to be fondling himself during class. One of them says she was told by a guidance counselor at the time that, quote, "It's not very good to make stories up. She said it was our imagination. It was never talked about again."
Were those earlier allegations not taken seriously by your district?
DEASY: Apparently so. I mean, we haven't -- I have not spoken to that person. Clearly, you know, as only recently as a year on this job. We are looking into every administrator over in that school over that period of time, everybody who was in charge of that school, anybody who gave advice to that school and the administration of that to try to understand exactly what could possibly have happened.
COOPER: Police have now just arrested another teacher in the same school as this teacher who was taking these photographs.
DEASY: That's correct. We were there this morning. We were the individuals who the information came forward to us yesterday. We turned it over to the police, and he was arrested today. And I trust he'll be successfully prosecuted.
COOPER: He's accused, I believe, of attempting to molest or molesting two girls around -- I think around 7 years old. Is that in any way connected to this other guy who was taking the pictures?
DEASY: It was -- it was a separate set of students, and it was a separate type of incident. Whether they're connected or not, I do not know.
COOPER: I guess at this point, how do you reassure parents that their kids are safe?
DEASY: By doing the very things that we do. When we find -- if this administration, finds an individual who crosses the line, who at all breaks that sacred trust of having a student in their care, we're going to remove them and fire them.
COOPER: Listen, Superintendent Deasy, I appreciate you being on. We'll obviously continue to follow this. Thank you.
DEASY: Thank you, sir.
COOPER: Let's get a different perspective on this incredibly troubling case. Reba Martin is a children's advocate and disability rights attorney. She joins me from Los Angeles.
Does it sound to you like this 1994 allegations against this teacher, Berndt, were handled properly?
REBA MARTIN, CHILDREN'S ADVOCATE: Not at all, Anderson. I'm really concerned about the fact that the allegations that were made by the students earlier in the 1990-1991 school year were not apparently a part of the 1994 investigation.
So you have students complaining about this teacher as early as 1990-91, saying that he's fondling himself; he's involved in inappropriate activity before these students. But yet no one takes him seriously, and that's not a part, as far as we know today, of that investigation.
COOPER: The district attorney's office says there's not -- there wasn't enough evidence back then to justify charges being brought, and if you didn't -- you can't bring charges, you can't fire the guy. You can't get rid of him.
MARTIN: Yes. I got a real problem with that, Anderson. You know, the school district is not held to a criminal standard, so the school district doesn't have to have criminal charges before it can say, you know, "We have some concerns about you being in the classroom. We don't think that you're fit, that you're going to be appropriate."
And ultimately, the school district has a responsibility to keep children safe. I mean, just hands down, unequivocally. That is their responsibility. And this is a case where the system has just failed these kids.
COOPER: Isn't that one of the things -- we just talked to the superintendent who said, "Oh, yes, I would like to be able to fire teachers more easily, but it's not even up to the superintendent." They have to go through this review panel of fellow teachers. And just -- you know, school districts spend millions of dollars every year just trying to get rid of a few bad teachers, and often they're unable to do that.
MARTIN: Well, Anderson, you know, there's something wrong with a system that says, you know, "We can't do anything except warehouse teachers." You know, we take them out of the classroom and we put them in a district office. And we go through months and months, you know, of hearings and investigations before we can do anything.
And here are the kids, the most vulnerable people in our society. You know, parents entrust their kids to the school. Professionals who are supposedly vetted and supposed to be there to protect and to teach. And it's not acceptable to say, you know, "My hands are tied." I think it's just not acceptable.
COOPER: It's also incredible to me that this teacher will continue to get his pension, then. And you know, the superintendent says his hands are tied. There's really nothing he can do from -- keeping it from cashing in. Health benefits the rest of his life and his pension, $4,000 a month.
MARTIN: You talk about creative lawyering. I'd like to see some really incredibly creative lawyer make the argument that this guy should not receive those benefits because he should have been taking compensation for engaging in moral turpitude. He was being paid to teach, an now we know he wasn't teaching. He was doing everything except what he was being taught (ph) to.
There is a provision that says if you somehow gain those benefits fraudulently, you're not entitled to them. So I think we should keep our eye on this, because there may be some creative lawyering that makes it possible for this guy not to receive those benefits.
COOPER: Is the school, the school district, could they be liable from the parents of some of these kids, I mean, that this teacher was able to stay in the classroom and abuse kids for years?
MARTIN: Absolutely, Anderson. I think we're going to see some lawsuits. I think we're going to see parents filing lawsuits saying that there was negligent supervision. That this guy had a history, that there wasn't proper investigation of some complaints made by the students of the 1990-1991 school year. And that the school district knew, reasonably was put on notice, that this guy -- his conduct was reprehensible and he was a dangerous to these kids. And I think we're going to see lots of civil lawsuits being filed.
COOPER: It's really -- I mean, it's such an unthinkable case, but clearly, it's not unthinkable. The fact that they have now arrested a second person in the same school, whether or not it's directly related, is -- is just stunning. Again.
MARTIN: Wake-up call, Anderson, a true wake-up call for school districts all over this country to, you know, take note of this. These kids need the adults. They need protection. We've got to do better. We have to do better.
COOPER: Yes. Reba -- Reba Martin, I appreciate you being on.
MARTIN: Thank you. Always my pleasure, Anderson.
COOPER: Yes. Wake-up call indeed.
Let's get to some of the other stories we're following. Susan Hendricks is back with a "360 Bulletin."
SUSAN HENDRICKS, CNN ANCHOR: Anderson, we start in Egypt. The health ministry says two people were killed and more than 1,400 injured in clashes between police and protesters. You see it here. Reports about lax security at a deadly soccer game riot have led to renewed protests on the streets there. The United Nations has declared an end to famine conditions in Somalia, citing long-awaited rains as well as humanitarian aid over the last six months. Still, more than 2 million people need emergency humanitarian assistance, down from 4 million.
To Colorado. Blizzard conditions have shut down 70 miles of interstate and canceled hundreds of flights at Denver International Airport. Parts of the area could get up to two feet of snow before it tapers off about tomorrow morning.
Check this out. Daredevil Bello Nock soared over a circus tent in Sarasota, Florida -- there he is -- performing on a trapeze attached to a helicopter. Why not? The circus says there is no safety net and the only thing holding him up is his own strength and when you look close, maybe his hair after seeing that.
COOPER: All right. Have a good weekend.
And coming up, not familiar with one measly little piece of baseball jargon, and all hell breaks loose around here. "The RidicuList" is next.
COOPER: Time now for "The RidicuList." Tonight, we're adding my knowledge or sports, or lack thereof.
I took a lot of heat from our executive producer today on last night's show. I was having a conversation with Fran Townsend. She used a baseball analogy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FRAN TOWNSEND, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: The issue TO that may, in fact, be that it's a brush-back pitch. It's a signal to the Israelis about just how strongly we don't want them to do this and pull us in with them.
COOPER: A brush-back pitch?
COOPER: So what, that's leaking something...
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Yes, it's not leaking something.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TOWNSEND: We're saying we're committing this publicly and we're making it much more difficult for them to do something... COOPER: How have I never heard that phrase before? I like it. It's interesting.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: It's a big deal. I didn't know what a brush-back pitch was. I was a political science major. I thought it was some fancy political CIA insider term she was using.
How was I supposed to know Fran Townsend was getting all sporty on me. It's not like I'm the star pitcher on the CNN baseball team. I can't be the only person in America who's never heard of a brush- back pitch.
I'm still not sure on what a brush-back pitch is, but it's not like we're going to send some of our best producers out to the baseball field in Central Park to demonstrate or something. Oh, we did?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Brush-back pitch. The idea to throw toward the batter's head without hitting the batter's head. The purpose, intimidation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: To be honest, I wasn't paying attention until they started playing music. It's the only thing that got me interested in that entire montage.
I've also been informed that the brush-back pitch is also called chin music, which is just weird.
OK. So now I know what a brush-back pitch is. I will never make that mistake again. In my defense, though, it was a baseball analogy. Basketball is more my area of expertise.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Honestly, I know nothing about basketball. All I know about is politics.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: OK, really pathetic. Ooh. That was not even close.
Five million dollars for an authentic bracket from the first NCAA tournament. Is that a lot for an authentic bracket. I don't know what an authentic bracket is.
I'm sorry, OK. I don't know who the hoop is. I don't know who the ball is, or -- but I'll let it go because I don't know anything about sports.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: That's one of my favorite interviews. I was talking to Sarah Palin's spokesman at the time.
Anyway, I'm happy to report that I have learned a few things about sports since that last clip. And by that, I mean I've watched "Hard Knocks" on HBO, which is really good, and I just saw "Moneyball," which I also thought was really good.
As a journalist, though, and as someone who's tired of getting made fun of for not being up on my sports jargon, I'm committing myself to educating myself one day. As a matter of fact, why should I wait? I'm going to do it this Sunday, at about 6:30 or 7 in the evening in Sunday.
I'm going to go park myself at the New York Public Library for about four hours and read everything I can find about sports. Nothing else going on, is there?
That's it for us. Thanks for watching. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts now.