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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT

Afghanistan Shooter; Kony 2012 Producer; DNC Slams Romney; North Korea's Promise

Aired March 16, 2012 - 19:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


ERIN BURNETT, HOST: Well, we have breaking news tonight. We have learned the name of the American soldier accused of murdering 16 people in Afghanistan. Details are coming in tonight and we have the very latest that we've been able to figure out for you. An attack ad also coming out today accusing Mitt Romney of waging a war on women -- really -- and a verdict in the Rutgers sex cam suicide trial, a shocking verdict some say.

Let's go OUTFRONT.

Good evening everyone. I'm Erin Burnett and OUTFRONT tonight we have breaking news. CNN confirms the identity of the man accused of murdering 16 Afghan civilians in a house to house shooting spree last weekend. He is 38-year-old Staff Sergeant Robert Bales, an 11-year veteran. Let's get straight to Chris Lawrence at the Pentagon who has been getting new details on the suspected shooter, who of course have turned himself in at the base last weekend and Chris, what can you tell us about Staff Sergeant Bales tonight?

CHRIS LAWRENCE, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin, I can tell you he's originally from the Midwest and he was living in Ohio up until about 2001. After 9/11, that's when he joined the Army. He's been based out at Joint Base Lewis McChord for the majority if not all of his military career. He did about three combat tours in Iraq.

This was his first combat tour in Afghanistan and as his lawyer has pointed out to CNN earlier today, apparently, he did not ever think he would get a fourth deployment. A fourth deployment caught him by surprise. You get a combat veteran, we know he's been decorated for his service having served three tours in Iraq already, but apparently from his lawyer we're learning that he did not expect to be deployed for this fourth deployment to Afghanistan -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right, Chris Lawrence, thank you very much with the latest of what we know about Staff Sergeant Bales tonight. It is important to note that his name was not officially released by the military. Of course, it has been the subject of intense speculation in recent days. Sources tell us that the military was extremely tight lipped on his identity because they wanted to protect him and he does have a wife and two young children that were also of concern.

At this hour Staff Sergeant Robert Bales is on his way back to American soil and here's what's going to happen. He's going to go straight to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. He will be locked in the military prison. That's the main prison there. He has not officially been charged. Not yet. Now this came on a day of high tension between the U.S. and Afghanistan. President Hamid Karzai said he was at the quote "end of the rope" and slammed the American military's investigation into Staff Sergeant Bales.

He says family members of the victims tell him they're convinced there was more than one shooter. The U.S. military has repeatedly said there is no evidence to indicate any such thing. There is no word yet on when there will be a trial. It likely will be held in the military tribunal, but we're going to talk more about what that might mean for punishment. His lawyer today said the case is more political than legal and hinted that his defense will focus on his client's post-traumatic stress disorder. And he also defended his client's character.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN HENRY BROWNE, SUSPECTED SHOOTER'S ATTORNEY: He has two young children. He's a devoted father. He's a career military individual. He has never said anything racist or hostile towards Muslims or Afghanis, so this whole thing is obviously a great surprise to his family.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Steven Raiser is a former JAG officer, which is a judge advocate general in the military, now a criminal defense attorney. Sebastian Junger, as you all know, has been to Afghanistan countless times. He's a reporter and is the author of the book "War". All right, good to have both of you with us and I appreciate your taking the time. Let me start with you Steven on this issue of where this is going to be tried.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK.

BURNETT: OK, military tribunal and is that what you expect and what would that mean?

STEVEN RAISER, FORMER JAG OFFICER: It's going to be a court martial and that's because the United States military has jurisdiction over him and that's because of the SOFA agreement. In country, it is the military that will try him as opposed to the estate jurisdiction there.

That is why they're transporting him back. There were some security concerns there. Now, so far, they've determined that they have probable cause, enough to hold him, which can mean now that the speedy trial -- the speedy clock will begin to tick 120 days, so from that point, what they're going to have to do is then go to the Article 32 proceeding, which is akin to the civil grand jury proceeding.

BURNETT: OK.

RAISER: OK. In that case, if they do find that there is enough evidence to hold him and continue to charge him, then he will then go to the trial phase and in that sense it's very much like a civil trial. The rules of evidence are the federal rules of evidence. The only difference is the fact that in the grand jury proceeding and here the Article 32 it's more adversarially (ph). You have the opportunity to cross-examine your witnesses.

BURNETT: All right, I'm going to ask you about the punishment in a moment, but Sebastian, let me ask you, obviously PTSD is going to be a big part of this defense. What's your take on whether that makes sense, is fair, is something that could be used as a defense.

SEBASTIAN JUNGER, AUTHOR, "WAR": I mean, obviously, I'm not a legal expert, but an enormous number of soldiers, combat soldiers have PTSD. I mean I was with a platoon off and on for a year. A lot of combat and every single one of them had PTSD.

BURNETT: Right.

JUNGER: I think the question is why does an individual choose to become a mass murderer and is the same question when that happens in the United States. Why does a teenager decide to kill his classmates? You have to be careful talking about underlying causes because eventually, they're choosing their own actions.

BURNETT: Well it's interesting you know (INAUDIBLE) verity this, but on the Army Web site today, we found a story back from 2009, the battle of Zarka (ph) in Iraq. And it was just a play-by-play of that battle and Staff Sergeant Bales was there and he's quoted, I mean so it's not as if he -- you know he was the guy that had put forward. He's quoted as saying once we started clearing the town, we actually started carrying people back out. We'd go in, find people we could help. If there were a lot of dead people, we couldn't put throw them on a litter, bring them out to the casualty collection point. This wasn't a guy that seemed to have any problems. I mean he was quoted in their own stories.

JUNGER: Soldiers can be pretty pragmatic about the realities of war and clearly, he was a highly functional person. I heard he was a sniper. Those people are very, very highly trained. But you know the question is how do you identify these people before they commit a crime. And I think it's very hard like a principal can't -- principal of a school can't necessarily identify a future killer in the school. Likewise the military has a very, very hard time doing that. It is complicated.

BURNETT: Yes, he was -- I think it was 800 meters he was certified as a sniper to shoot. Steven, what is your sense of punishment here? I mean I know that Leon Panetta, the defense secretary, had indicated that the death penalty could be on the table.

RAISER: Right.

BURNETT: What is your sense of what would happen and is there any difference between doing it in the civilian system and doing it in the military tribunal in terms of the punishment?

RAISER: No. I mean clearly this is going to be a capital case. I mean there's 16 people dead here. There has to be the death penalty will be on the table. That's where the PTSD argument is going to come in. That's going to be the defense. Either it can be a defense against the charge itself to show that he had limited capacity --

BURNETT: Right.

RAISER: But they can also use it as a mitigating factor at the time of sentencing because in the military courts, you need a two- thirds verdict from the panel as opposed to unanimous.

BURNETT: Right.

RAISER: If they don't get a unanimous verdict, then the death penalty will not be considered by the panel.

BURNETT: OK --

RAISER: But it absolutely will be a death penalty case because of how serious and also the political ramifications that are coming out of this.

BURNETT: Right.

RAISER: If we don't treat it like the most heinous crime that it is, there's going to be a lot of backlash --

BURNETT: Well certainly Afghanistan and Sebastian, final question to you, Taliban vowed to take revenge, Hamid Karzai saying end of the rope, but strangely not a lot of public uproar in Afghanistan over this, certainly not as much as the Korans.

JUNGER: You know, I mean it's going to sound strange to say it, but it's a country that's been at war for 30 years and the poor people of Afghanistan have seen an awful lot of death. The thing that almost never happens is desecrating the Koran and so in a strange way in that society that's more shocking.

BURNETT: All right, well thanks very much to both of you. We appreciate it and as we get more on Staff Sergeant Robert Bales, we'll bring that to you tonight.

Next, we have breaking news on one of the men behind the most viral video in history. The man behind Kony 2012 was arrested, and he is accused of bizarre naked acts. There's really no other way to say this people. We have exclusive details and some exclusive video to show you.

And North Korea announces plans to fire a rocket into orbit. How worried should the United States be? And Osama bin Laden, he had secret plans to kill President Obama and we have the details tonight.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: We have breaking news tonight on one of the filmmakers behind Kony 2012. That's the viral video about Ugandan warlord Joseph Kony. Well the man behind it has been picked up by police and taken to the hospital today. An official familiar with the case confirms that Jason Russell -- who you see there -- just on CNN last week -- was found in his underwear running through the streets of San Diego yesterday screaming and acting irrationally and it appears it went downhill from there. (INAUDIBLE) has been working on this story, is a very strange twist to all of this.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's strange and it gets even more disturbing. The Web site TMZ out of Los Angeles came up with some video of a man that they claim was in fact Mr. Russell who was on the streets there in San Diego. This was yesterday morning, Thursday morning. You can see him there. It looks -- he appears to be fully naked and pounding on the payment.

Police will say that at 11:28 Thursday morning, they had several 911-calls, individuals saying that there was a man in his underwear running through the streets, screaming, interrupting traffic. When police showed up, they said that there was one caller who did say that the man was naked and masturbating. Police say when they showed up, they didn't see any of that and that the man was taken to a local medical facility, that he was not arrested, though, just taken to a medical facility.

A statement from Ben Keesey (ph) of Invisible Children who worked with Russell on that film says that "he was suffering from exhaustion, dehydration and malnutrition that he is now receiving medical care and is focused on getting better. The past two weeks have taken a severe emotional toll on all of us, Jason especially, and that toll manifested itself in an unfortunate incident yesterday." And as you know that video went viral like no others.

BURNETT: Yes.

MARQUEZ: It brought a lot of focus on Invisible Children, a lot of it negative because of their finances and whether or not they oversimplified the situation in Uganda.

BURNETT: Right, there was a lot of criticism. Interesting (INAUDIBLE) I don't know if you know anything, but they've mentioned malnutrition -- I mean malnutrition. We have no idea why --

MARQUEZ: It is absolutely unclear.

BURNETT: Yes.

MARQUEZ: I mean he's described as a Christian and a family man. He clearly has a family because his son is in that video. This is a guy who by all other measures seems to be a perfectly normal guy who traveled overseas, was not afraid to take risks, who did a lot of things in his life.

BURNETT: Yes.

MARQUEZ: It is not very clear why he would react in this way.

BURNETT: All right, so he (INAUDIBLE) not placed under arrest, but in a hospital tonight --

MARQUEZ: He is getting taken care of.

BURNETT: All right, Miguel Marquez thank you very much, just a very strange turn in that tale of Kony 2012 tonight.

Well apparently there is a war of women. That is what Democrats say Republicans are waging through legislation and debates over contraception and abortion rights. Take a look at this DNC ad which is now running in Illinois, which of course holds its key primary Tuesday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE, POLITICAL AD: Mitt Romney is coming to Illinois and looking for support from women. But here's what women need to know about Mitt Romney. Romney says he wants to get rid of Planned Parenthood, ending federal support for critical health care services like cancer screenings for thousands of women here in Illinois.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE, POLITICAL AD: Planned Parenthood, going to get rid of that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Well the Romney camp says the governor does not want to get rid of the organization, only that he wants to end government funding for it. But the big question remains, how effective is the argument that Republicans are anti-women? John Avlon joins us, Leslie Sanchez, Republican strategist, and Jamal Simmons, Democratic strategist.

OK, good to have all of you with us. Leslie, let me start with you. I mean you are the Republican woman in this conversation, so yes, I am going to -- I am going to discriminate by going to you first, but do you think that this ad will make people think twice about voting for Mitt Romney that this point that Republicans are waging a war on women will be effective?

LESLIE SANCHEZ, REPUBLICAN STRATEGIST: Not at all. I mean I want to give a tiny bit of kudos to the Obama PR team for trying to think that this you know shift the conversation away from where the real attacks are and that is on Republican women, Independent women, suburban women, Walmart moms who are very much in that contraception debate that we've been having over the last couple of -- last month any way.

This is really a political tactic. The central issue is that the Obama team is losing support among a lot of those Independent voters. They know they need women to be successful. Republicans have just now been competitive in 2010 and it's really going back even onto that contraception issue. It's not the issue -- what we're finding in focus groups it's like pulling a thread that's unraveling the seam. It's not just the issue of the contraceptive and religious freedom. It's that these are not decisions being made by market forces or ethical reasons. They're made for political reasons and that's the big suspicion that women have.

BURNETT: And John Avlon, I mean it is interesting this is all coming up now. You've got a contraception law possibly in Arizona, sonogram potential issues in Virginia and Pennsylvania. It is happening in a lot of places right now. I find it hard to believe it's accidental.

JOHN AVLON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: No, but it's uncoordinated. What you're seeing is the Republican Party --

BURNETT: Yes.

AVLON: -- in different state legislatures they're putting forward these bills, whether it's mandatory or forced ultrasounds, contraception bills, attempts to restrict access to abortion. All these things are happening with conservatives and state legislatures and that's creating a narrative that the Democrats are trying to rip (ph) off of saying look the Republicans ran under a lot of libertarian rhetoric last time, talking about small government, but you turn around and they're advancing a social conservative agenda. The question is one of overreach. When you use the phrase war against women, we all know what this is. That's fear mongering and it's no better or based on fact than alleged war on religion that Republicans talked about Obama perpetrating.

BURNETT: Right.

AVLON: The point is though when you start drawing the lines, connecting the dots between these state legislatures, Republicans have a problem, a real problem, not just based on perception, but policy.

BURNETT: And Jamal, I would imagine the Democrats are going to seize that perception and try to make it a lot stronger, right? I mean why wouldn't they?

JAMAL SIMMONS, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Oh absolutely. This is a real -- you know the issues of women in this campaign are going to be front and center. There are major issues. Elections are decided based upon where women vote. I had a Republican strategist friend say to me the other day men decide the Republican nominee and women decide the general election president. And that seems to be sort of true and I think what's really interesting is when you take a look at this, campaigns are not places for nuance, so you end up making statements that might get -- that might be a little bit overblown and we see in that video, Mitt Romney, if you look at the extended video of his interview he says that he wants to cut Planned Parenthood funding, but if you look at the extended video of the Democratic ad, they talk about Mitt Romney's position on health care reform and a bunch of other things that do also impact women, so again this isn't really a good place for nuance in the middle of a campaign, but it is something that's going to be important.

BURNETT: In general I just think we all need a whole lot more nuance; I'm just going to say that right now.

(LAUGHTER)

BURNETT: We need it in campaigns. We need it in cable, 140 characters don't allow for it but that is a separate rant that I will go on at another time. But Leslie, I just want to ask you about something else that's happened because again Leslie, I feel like I'm being discriminatory. Now first it was that you were a woman, now Sanchez, but I want to talk about Puerto Rico and I want to talk about English as an official language. Romney and Santorum seem to be on the same side of this that it's a prerequisite to have English as your formal language to become a state. Is that something that you think is right that will work for them or not?

SANCHEZ: It doesn't work in Puerto Rico.

BURNETT: Yes.

SANCHEZ: I mean the whole argument is really nonsensical.

BURNETT: Yes.

SANCHEZ: Puerto Rico is commonwealth. It has two official languages. For 89 years it had Spanish and in 1991 it embraced English and that was really not the place to make that statement. There was a cry among some Republicans that we had to have English as the official language. There's a lot of different reasons why that particular issue is important in a primary, but the bigger issue is I think it was a misstep on Santorum's part. It's not really an issue. Everybody embraces English as the language of opportunity and it's certainly the language of the United States.

(CROSSTALK)

SIMMONS: Erin, when it comes --

BURNETT: Yes.

SIMMONS: Erin, when it comes to this issue, Santorum's wrong with the policy, but I'm going to give him a free piece of political advice. Sometimes when you get yourself in a hole, the best thing to do is just to roll with it and I think if I were him I would make the argument that you know what, I went to Puerto Rico and I said what I believed. And it wasn't popular, but I said what I believed, unlike Mitt Romney who doesn't seem to ever be able to say what he believes. He says what he believes is politically popular and that may help him in other places. It won't help him in Puerto Rico --

BURNETT: Interesting. Right.

SIMMONS: But it may help him in some other places.

BURNETT: All right, well speaking of Puerto Rico, Rick Santorum -- I just wanted to show something, you know -- this is -- that's Rick Santorum. He found a little bit of time -- he found a little bit of time to hang out by the pool and I don't begrudge him that. You've got to take some time off the trail, right John Avlon?

AVLON: Yes.

BURNETT: And he took this with a phone (ph). He said look, I guess I need to lose 15 or 20 pounds. He doesn't look that bad.

AVLON: You know I give him points for acknowledging there's room for improvement.

BURNETT: As someone who when I lie by the pool when I go to Puerto Rico, you know when I've been up here for awhile, you know, I look that white.

(LAUGHTER)

SANCHEZ: Enjoy the beaches of Puerto Rico.

BURNETT: Yes.

SANCHEZ: I mean that's the point. It's a very innocent thing.

SIMMONS: Good for him.

BURNETT: Yes, OK, we're all in agreement on that. All right one thing before we go, Illinois. John, must win?

AVLON: Look Romney, this really has become his latest firewall state. He's got to show he can do well here. It's a state where he should do well. Polls show him up a little bit. The polls have been underestimating Santorum's strength and it's a Midwestern state as well, so a big battleground coming up on Tuesday.

BURNETT: All right, well we will see what happens. Thanks very much to all of you. Appreciate it.

Well the North Korean government today announced something that could be very important for the U.S. They plan to blast a satellite into orbit they say in the coming weeks in honor of the late President Kim Il-Sung's 100th birthday. Now the international community is condemning the announcement from the untested new leader of the country Kim Jong-Un, who is only in his late 20's and suddenly in charge of one of the largest militaries in the world and of course, a nuclear power. The U.S. said the deal -- the launch of this satellite would be a deal breaker for the food aid agreement the country struck just weeks ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

VICTORIA NULAND, STATE DEPT. SPOKESWOMAN: So, frankly, if they were to go forward with this launch, it's very hard to imagine how we would be able to move forward with a regime whose word we have no confidence in and who has egregiously violated its international commitments.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: North Korea has promised to dial back its nuclear weapons program in exchange for food aid, but even at that time, a lot of people didn't take that seriously. North Korea's done that before promised to stop in exchange for food aid and continued anyway. Gordon Chang knows North Korea's politics and military well. He's the author of "Nuclear Showdown: North Korea Takes on the World" -- Gordon, good to see you, as always. What do you make of this? And there are some people are saying that when North Korea says it's a satellite, it's really more of a military test.

GORDON CHANG, AUTHOR, "NUCLEAR SHOWDOWN": Well a launcher for a satellite and a launcher for a warhead are the same. So clearly, North Korea has shown that it does not really want to talk to the international community with good faith and that's really a problem. We should have known that last month when we came to this deal. But now, we do and I think that means we need new tactics.

BURNETT: And it -- well I mean you know it's interesting. A lot of people had said that Kim Jong-Un, the young and untested leader, you were saying he might do something like this, a little bit more dramatic to show he was powerful. Others had hoped it was a real opportunity for diplomacy. This is the first time they've done anything like this I believe since 2009. So does that settle the verdict for what direction he's going to go?

CHANG: Well you know I think that -- you know you look at 2006, they tested a long range missile, three years later in 2009, you add three years to that and you get 2012.

BURNETT: Yes.

CHANG: So they need to actually launch to test all of the improvements on their missiles.

BURNETT: Well the way you put that it sort of sounds like whatever they promised to stop, they didn't. They're still on their same regular schedule.

CHANG: Yes, absolutely and basically North Korea wants a long range missile. It's had this joint missile program with Iran for more than a decade. So, it's not just North Korea that we need to be worried about today. We've got to be worried about the Iranians because a North Korean test is an Iranian test.

BURNETT: And is it -- is the coordination really that close? Because I mean obviously the whole part of the Iranian conversation is well you know if they make a decision to formally go ahead with the program, they then have to develop all the missile heads. It sounds like you're saying well if North Korea is doing it that would make their lead time, to get a weapon if they choose to do so much shorter.

CHANG: Yes, you know people say that Iran's longest range missile is about 1,500 miles, which means it can sort of put a dent in a field in southern Europe, but, you know the North Koreans have missiles that are much longer than that. The Iranians have something called a Shahab 6 (ph) according to the intelligence community. And if it does indeed have that missile, it can just about hit Alaska. So this is something that is really important for us.

BURNETT: All right, it certainly -- it certainly is. Well thank you very much Gordon. We appreciate it, a man who's been studying the nuclear program in North Korea for a very long time.

Well there's a verdict in the Rutgers sex cam suicide trial and it was a real shocker. Paul Callan had said that Dharun Ravi, the man convicted, needed to do one thing. He didn't do it. And comedian Russell Brand turns himself into police today following an altercation and he could be facing felony charges. There are a number of things to talk about (INAUDIBLE).

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: We start the second half of our show with stories we care about, where we focus on our reporting, do the work and find the "OutFront 5".

First we have breaking news. CNN has confirmed the identity of the man accused of murdering 16 Afghan civilians in a house-to-house shooting spree last weekend. He is 38-year-old Staff Sergeant Robert Bales who joined the military shortly after the 9/11 terror attacks. Our Chris Lawrence reports that Bales worked frequently with the tribal elders in Afghanistan. At this hour, Bales is on his way from Kuwait to a U.S. military prison in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. He has not yet been officially charged.

Number two, a new round of sanctions designed to cripple Iran's economy in its possible pursuit of nuclear weapons are set to take effect tomorrow. The Society for Worldwide Inner Bank Financial Telecommunications -- it sounds complicated. The acronym is SWIFT. It's really important for moving money around and funding economies. It's going to expel as many as 30 Iranian based banks. The move is designed to cut Iran's ability off to deal with companies overseas.

Sources tell OUTFRONT Iran will still find a way to get paid especially for its oil trade. They say one option you could set up a new communications system for transactions. You could use smaller banks not under sanction. I've also heard though about literally suitcases filled with cash, with rubles, Chinese (INAUDIBLE), there are various ways including barter for them to get what they need.

Number three, a Los Angeles County doctor pleaded not guilty today, 22 charges including murder. Lisa Tseng is still being held on $3 million bail, which the judge refused to lower. Prosecutors accuse Tseng of contributing to the prescription drug overdose deaths of three of her patients. A DEA investigation found Tseng wrote more than 27,000 prescriptions over three years.

Number four, CPI, which measures inflation that affects all of us at the grocery store, rose 0.4 percent in February. That's a lot for one month. Just one month.

Did your income go up that much in one month? The rising gas prices, a big part of the problem. One economist says 80 percent of the rise is due to high gas prices.

If you take out food and energy, the index rose a cent of a percent. That's what economists and the Fed say is the right number, but that really is kind of bogus. This is not how we all experience inflation.

Well, it has been 225 days since the U.S. lost its top create rating. What are we doing to get it back? High gas prices not helping how everyone feels. Consumer sentiment fell to its lowest level of the year today.

Well, guilty on all counts, that was the verdict today in the webcam spying trial against former Rutgers student Dharun Ravi. After four weeks of testimony and two and a half days of deliberations, the jury convicted Ravi of invasion of privacy, bias intimidation and hindering arrest.

Ravi didn't show any emotion as the verdict was read, nor did his parents who are sitting actually just a few feet behind him. But you're looking now at his reaction literally as that verdict was read. Afterwards, Tyler Clementi's family said it was painful to sit through the trial. His father made a point of speaking out against bullying and even offer a few words of advice.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE CLEMENTI, TYLER CLEMENTI'S FATHER: Doing something wrong. Tell them. That's not right. Stop it. You can make the world a better place. The change you want to see in the world begins with you.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Ravi faces up to 10 years in prison and possibly deportation back to his native country of India.

Paul Callan is a former prosecutor and criminal defense attorney.

Our regular viewers know you've been following this case all the way along. You had said that Dharun Ravi needed to take the stand. That ordinarily, you would never say that as a defense attorney. But you were saying, in this case, he should.

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL CONTRIBUTOR: I almost never put defendants on the stand in criminal cases, but in this case, I would have put him on the stand because the one thing he had to do was tell a story to the jury that would resonate with them, that would make them think, hey, this is a stupid college kid who made a big mistake, he's sorry for it. Maybe if he were to break down in front of the jury, he had a chance then of jury nullification and throwing the verdict aside.

But he didn't do it. And I think that was his one shot at acquittal in this case.

BURNETT: And he was offered a plea deal before the trial, no jail time. Didn't accept it because obviously they thought they could do, they would better and get a complete acquittal. I mean, now, they must be really regretting that --

CALLAN: Well, it's, of course, it's always easy to look back and now that you made a mistake. They rejected it I think for a couple of reasons. First, they wanted 600 hours of community service. Now, of course, that's going to be a lot better than five years in prison, which is what he's likely to get. And they were also fearful of deportation because, you know, the feds can come after him now and try to deport him even if he took the plea.

So, these things were things defense attorneys were thinking about. They thought there was going to be an acquittal. I -- my people tell me the defense attorneys thought they were winning throughout the case and they were stunned by the verdict.

BURNETT: Which is sort of stunning to me because at least our coverage of it every night, it seemed there was some very damning events, especially reading these text messages back and forth, the interrogator video. But let me ask you, because you just mentioned he could serve five years. Obviously, the full conviction means you could serve up to 10.

CALLAN: Yes.

BURNETT: So, you think five -- why?

CALLAN: Well, I'm thinking five because he has no prior record and the judge probably would hit the middle of the sentencing range, would be five, sir or seven-year sentence. That would be where a first offender with a 10-year exposure would be sentenced in New Jersey. Very hard for the judge to go less than five years. And that's an enormous amount of time. I mean, just to put this in context, you might serve that much time in New Jersey for sexually abusing a child and he's going to serve that much time because he broadcast his roommate on his webcam with, you know, hate in his mind -- which is what the jury decided.

BURNETT: So, bottom line: does this change the concept of privacy in courts? Is this a landmark decision?

CALLAN: It's a landmark, game-changing, bell-ringing decision -- because it sends a message for the first time I think that if you abuse somebody on the Internet, cyber-bullying, broadcasting pictures like this, you're going to go to jail. And we've got a bunch of young people in this county. They live their lives on the Internet publicly.

BURNETT: That's right.

CALLAN: They humiliate each other online. And now, it's criminal and I think it's going to change the way we handle the Internet, particularly young people in America.

BURNETT: Well, certainly as sad and twisted as this whole situation with Dharun Ravi is, I have to say, get people to stop doing that hateful stuff online, it would be good.

All right. Thanks so much to our Paul Callan. Well, Osama bin Laden's secret plans to kill our president, that computer in the safe house in Abbottabad -- well, it was a treasure-trove and there are details. We have them for you, of exactly what he was planning.

And family members are listening to a 911 call tonight. They're going to come and talk about whether police are actually covering up a shooting.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: We do this at the same time every night, our "Outer Circle," where we reach out to sources around the world.

And tonight, we go to Syria where leaked e-mails from the country's leader are causing outrage in the country and around the world. The emails are from various points over the last 12 months and they show Bashar al-Assad and his wife remarkably unfazed by the violence occurring in the Syrian streets.

The president sending YouTube clips to friends and aides, his wife shopping online for jewelry and requesting Harry Potter DVDs for their kids. Others emails reveal Iran's influence over the president.

Today, U.N./Arab League envoy Kofi Annan briefed the United Nations on the deadly situation in Syria.

And Arwa Damon has been covering the story from Beirut. A little bit ago, I asked her what the former secretary general told the U.N.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ARWA DAMON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin, Kofi Annan was basically briefing the Security Council on his visit on the various proposals put forward to the Assad regime, and he was also trying to urge members of the Security Council to set their divisions aside. International community has been divided over how to handle Syria, with Russia and China vetoing all resolutions thus far.

Kofi Annan was also warning, highlighting just how sensitive of a topic, an issue Syria is, saying that any sort of misstep would have grave consequence, not just for Syria itself, but for the region. He's also expected to be dispatching a small technical team to Damascus next week. But there are few that believe that is going to bring about any sort of change -- Erin.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: All right. That was Arwa Damon in Beirut.

We're hearing me tonight about Osama bin Laden's grand plan to take America down. This was a treasure trove found in his Pakistan hideout in May. It was the computer and also some handwritten notes. Now, everyone knew that he had big plans. But now, "The Washington Post's" David Ignatius has seen some of the documents written by him, by bin Laden.

Just a little bit, he was on with Candy Crowley and he talked about what he saw.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DAVID IGNATIUS, THE WASHINGTON POST: The most striking thing was how worried he was that al Qaeda had tarnished its image so badly in the Muslim world by killing so many Muslims in the midst of its jihad against the United States that he wrote in one document, al Qaeda should change its name and rebrand itself.

I found that fascinating.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: That is fascinating.

Miguel Marquez has been looking into the documents. More details on what Osama bin Laden was planning.

What did you find?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's just -- these documents are fascinating, that he got this look at the actual documents that Osama was writing. He clearly did not like Obama and he thought very little of Joe Biden -- because one of the quotes I want to read you says -- this is from Osama bin Laden, "Obama is the head of infidelity and killing him automatically will make Vice President Joe Biden take over the presidency. Biden is totally unprepared for that post, which will lead the U.S. into a crisis. As for Petraeus, he is the man of the hour, and killing him would alter the war's path."

He really believed that if he took out those two individuals, it would somehow bring America down.

Another thing that he mentioned in these documents was Ilyas Kashmiri. This was the guy that he hoped would undertake some of these efforts to bring down planes carrying the president or General Petraeus. Kashmiri was killed by a U.S. drone attack a month after bin Laden was killed.

BURNETT: And you mentioned something there. I mean, some of these seem to be what they were planning -- it was plane attacks again.

MARQUEZ: Yes.

BURNETT: Any detail on that or just take down this plane?

MARQUEZ: Yes, he did want his -- he acted as though he were a manager of the small or medium sized firm basically.

BURNETT: Yes.

MARQUEZ: Telling his people he wanted to step up efforts to recruit U.S. people -- people in the U.S., or people who could easily travel to the U.S. He wanted to have emirs and deputy emirs and other emirs serve for two-year terms, have them write reports that they would then report back to the head office so they could figure out what was going on down below.

He also, as David Ignatius mentioned, wanted to do a name change because he thought --

BURNETT: Branding.

MARQUEZ: A branding change because he thought al Qaeda had become a useless brand basically and he came up with 10 alternatives. Number one was -- I'll translate to English, monotheism and jihad group. He didn't want people to be able to break it down to single- word names.

BURNETT: Monotheism and jihad groups.

Just hard to make jokes about it but you would need it. It's not a good name.

MARQUEZ: Yes. If it weren't real, you wouldn't believe it.

BURNETT: That's right. OK, well, thank you very much, Miguel Marquez. He has been going through all of those documents and combing through them. Pretty stunning and amazing, got the view it gives into that man's mind.

Let's check in with Anderson Cooper right now.

Anderson, what's coming up?

ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, "A.C. 360": Hey, Erin, ahead on the program, we're doing more of the Rutgers webcam spying trial. It's being called an unprecedented ruling. We'll speak exclusively to two of the jurors who convicted Dharun Ravi of bias intimidation.

We've also got very personal story out of Indiana, a couple married for 41 years watched this tornado descended on their home in Henryville just days ago. They were capturing it all on video when they realized their own lives were in grave danger. Sadly, one of them did not make it. We'll tell you their story tonight.

Also, a story that's caused both outrange and pain for one family. A young soldier's photo used ads on a couple of dating Web site. The problem was, he was killed in Iraq more than four years ago. His family says the sites took his photo without their permission.

Those stories and tonight's "Ridiculist," Erin, at the top of the hour.

BURNETT: All right. Anderson, looking forward to seeing that.

Well, now, outrage, fear and calls for a high level investigation into the Sanford, Florida Police Department. The man who admitted to shooting an unarmed 17-year-old boy who died nearly three weeks ago continues to walk the streets. Today, the mayor of Sanford said 911 recordings from the night Trayvon Martin was killed will be made public. In fact, we can tell you right now, we know that Trayvon's family is listening to those 911 calls at this very moment.

Twenty-eight-year-old George Zimmerman was on neighborhood watch duty in a gated suburb when he crossed paths with Martin, who was there visiting family. Zimmerman said he called 911 to report a suspicious person. Dispatchers told Zimmerman not to approach Martin, but the two scuffled and Martin was shot in the chest by the neighborhood volunteer, who says it was in self-defense.

David Mattingly has been covering the story for us.

David, thank you very much.

The 911 tapes, obviously, the family is listening to them at this moment. Any sense right now of exactly what was on them and what color they may give about what really happened when those two men scuffled?

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's why we all want to listen to these tapes, to find out exactly what happened. Once the family is finished looking at them, the city is going to sign off and they're going to put them on their Web site so everybody can hear them.

The reason why this is so important is because it goes right to the heart of the matter about self-defense. Did George Zimmerman act in self-defense? And as we've known about these tapes, some people, as they were calling in, police could hear the altercation going on in the background as well as the gunshot. If we listen to these tapes and hear someone calling for help, and it's the voice of George Zimmerman, and that backs up his claim that this was self defense.

BURNETT: And, obviously, this is going to be crucial because this is an issue now that has gone into whether there is racism and certainly race involved. I know that the family has already said if their son was the shooter, the 17-year-old black boy Trayvon, that he would have been locked up immediately. A Florida paper is reporting that the shooter was actually Hispanic, though, right? So this is getting even more question marks around the situation.

MATTINGLY: That's right. Zimmerman's father, in fact, sending a letter to the "Orlando Sentinel" and they published from excerpts of that. In that letter, the father said that George Zimmerman is actually Hispanic. He comes from a multiracial family and that he is not racist.

In fact, there was a quote from that letter that read, "He would be the last to discriminate for any reason whatsoever. The media portrayal of George as a racist could not be further from the truth." And the father went on to tell "The Orlando Sentinel" that George has received some death threats and that's why he's no longer at his home in the neighborhood.

Police however tell us they have his phone number. They know where he is and they know they'll be able to reach him anytime that they need him. BURNETT: The gated community has been described as a white community and as part of the assertion, I suppose, that this could have been a racially-driven. Is it fair to describe it as that? That this was predominantly white?

MATTINGLY: It could be considered predominantly white. But it is racially mixed, and as you saw that Zimmerman himself classifies himself as Hispanic. So, the family has been raising these issues about race and they say that the point that profiling came into this was when Zimmerman pointed out this lone black male walking at night and chose to call in a suspicious person, then chose to get out of his car to continue to follow surveillance on him.

BURNETT: All right. David, thank you very much.

Well, Russell Brand has turned himself into police today because he was charged after an altercation with a photographer and we have all the -- strange details.

And Vladimir Putin continues to face protests in Russia. But his biggest political opponent could be an all girl punk band.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: So the new iPad is finally here, and as expected, it's a hot item. Thousands lined up at stores around the world to get their hands on it. The new iPad -- faster, has a sharper screen, better camera. It was a huge day for Apple and its many, many, many, many, many, many, many, many, fans.

And yet, that's not the only reason the company made the news today, which brings us to today's number: 5,000. That's the dollar amount comedian Russell Brand was forced to pay in bond today to get out of jail.

Brand is the star of films like "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" and "Get Him to the Greek." He was booked on a charge of, quote, "simple criminal damage" today because he broke a photographer's iPhone.

On Monday, a photographer was taking Brand's photo. Brand reportedly got P.O.'d, grabbed the phone and threw it through a window. Oh, it happened to belong to a law firm. Oops!

Brand offered to pay for the window but the D.A. still filed felony charges. Why a felony? Because the incident occurred in New Orleans, and in New Orleans, damages that exceed $50 bring a felony charge.

TMZ reports that this iPhone was the top of the line iPhone. I mean, after all, it was a Paparazzi photog's phone and it costs 500 bucks. So, if Apple only didn't charge so much for great products, Russell Brand would have gotten away scot-free and this segment would have been all about Apple.

Well, Vladimir Putin's strong man image is beginning to show cracks. Is the Russian president really just a -- pussycat? (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: All right. I got some bad news. Russian President Vladimir Putin may not be as tough as we all thought.

In 2008, during a trip to the Far East, Putin was seen expertly shooting a tiger with a tranquilizer gun and briefly attaching a GPS tracking collar to it. They released these photos. Putin then proudly posted the photos he claimed were of the cat back in the wild, on his Web site.

It was a great story in it and it really helps solidify his reputation as a manly adventurer. Unfortunately, it is probably not true. According to a tiger expert who has analyzed the photos, the markings are different enough that he's confident the captured and released tiger are not the same tiger. He concludes that the tiger Putin, quote, "shot and tagged" was actually a tamed cat from the zoo.

Putin, say it ain't so. Come on. I mean, that's like a lot of subterfuge, too, you know, like switching off the tigers and all that.

Well, if the tiger story isn't true, how many of Putin's other amazing exploits are made up? I'm starting to question whether he's actually a judo master, even though we know that could be true. A champion swimmer, a rugged commando, or even he speaks force.

It was already revealed that those ancient jugs he found off the coast of Greece were planted for him ahead of time. And now this -- could this be why Putin seems to be slipping in the polls in Russia? And protesters like this all-female bunk band called Pussy Riot felt comfortable performing their song "Putin Wet His Pants" in the middle of Red Square this week.

Over the past year, we've seen a lot of strongman leaders fall and fall hard, because you just can't keep up an overblown image like that forever. You know, a lot of these guys, they -- Mubarak, remember with the dyed hair, and Gadhafi with the plastic surgery and dyed hair, stay young forever, create this image and it isn't real? Putin took it to a whole new level.

But thanks to social media, and yes, those fancy iPhones, someone's always going bust you when you switch off the tigers. And, Putin, the thing is, is you look pretty good without a shirt. So, here's betting you can pull off most of those exploits without actually having to fake anything and switch your tigers.

All right. Quick update on brackets, because I know basketball on everyone's mind. It keeps trending every night. Right now, in the OUTFRONT poll, Stephanie Mikolitch (ph) is number one.

Will Surratt is trying to drop a 30,000 pound massive ordnance penetrator on my bracket. He's number two. But guess who ties him -- I do, at least for now.

And I believe Christopher Maloney (ph), the man who loves Putin so much, is currently ranked last. Maloney, time to rise again. All right. Thanks so much to all for you for watching. As always, have a wonderful weekend. Looking forward to seeing you back here on Monday. Hope your brackets fare well over the weekend.

In the meantime, "ANDERSON COOPER 360" starts right now.