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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
Shooting in France Puts American Police on High Alert; Should Minors Who Commit Murder Be Sentenced to Life Without Parole?; Sergeant Bales Behind Bars
Aired March 19, 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: Today's shooting in France puts police in New York and in other cities across the country on high alert. We'll tell you why.
And then does Barack Obama have a donor problem?
And a big announcement from Apple today. Will it put some money in your pocket? Let's go OUT FRONT.
Good evening, everyone. I'm Erin Burnett.
OUT FRONT tonight, a developing story. There was a hate crime in France that is now spurring fears of copy cat attacks in the United States. At this hour, increased security at American Jewish institutions from San Francisco to Washington, D.C. and New York, following a deadly shooting today outside a Jewish school in southern France.
French president Nicolas Sarkozy said the shooting was an obvious anti-Semitic attack. The New York police department says that special attention is now being paid to synagogues.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RAY KELLY, NEW YORK POLICE COMMISSIONER: We have a significant Jewish population in this city, and we have to take that into account. We know that we're at the top of the terrorist target list, so we are concerned about the so-called copy cat syndrome.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Mary Snow is following this story from outside central synagogue here in New York City.
And Mary, what sort of extra security is there?
MARY SNOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin, you've seen a visible police presence outside of this synagogue and several others that we pass in the city today. The police commissioner is saying basically he's stepped up uniformed police outside more than 50 locations throughout the city. And you heard him say, you know, there isn't any specific threat or intelligence they have of a specific threat but they felt it was prudent to step up these safeguards. BURNETT: And I know you talk to a lot of Jewish institutions across the city and a lot of them were told to increase security. How concerned are they?
SNOW: You know, they are very concerned. We spoke to several synagogues and some say they are stepping up their own private security in conjunction with that police presence. A sheaving university for one sent out notifications to its 7,000 students and staff members telling them to be on alert.
And, you know, as one synagogue said, when an incident like this happens, everything goes under review. When we talked to one teacher he at the pre-K at central synagogue and she said she felt very protected, but overall we heard much concern among several synagogues throughout the city.
BURNETT: All right. Mary Snow, thank you very much.
And France southwestern Toulouse region is on the highest terrorist alert level possible in France tonight.
Here's what happened. And it's truly shocking to even comprehend it. A gunman on a motorcycle opened fire earlier today in front of a Jewish school killing a rabbi, his two young sons and another school girl.
Diana Magnay is in Toulouse tonight and right before the show, I spoke with her and asked her about the gunman and his connection to some other anti-Semitic shootings.
DIANA MAGNAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We do know from the ballistic tests that were done on the cartridges that were found that the gun that he used, he used two in today's killing, the same gun was used to shoot a soldier ten days ago and two other soldiers last Thursday.
So, there is an obvious connection. And just to show you how sort of specifically he target that last killing. There was an elderly person at this ATM where the soldiers were getting their cash out. He pushed that person aside and went directly for the two soldiers who were of ethnic origin. So, it's very clear that this has a racist motivation. That he really is going for ethnic minorities, Erin.
BURNETT: And obviously President Sarkozy said it was obviously anti-Semitic in nature. How is security right now in France? And is there fear, especially now that you're in Toulouse where this has happened now more than once?
MAGNAY: Yes, there is definitely. I mean, the streets are pretty quiet. It is, of course, a Monday but the streets are quiet except for around the school where obviously there are a lot of police.
I've just been talking to someone at the Jewish community at the school who's been there most of the day supporting the families who have lost their children. He was devastated, you know. He said this is monstrous, how can someone gun down children in front of their classmates.
President Sarkozy has lifted the security level. It was pretty high anyway because this is a region where there are a lot of paratroopers based in southwestern France. But it's been raised to the scarlet level which is the top security level. And since those shootings of the three soldiers in fact, soldiers have been warned not to leave their barracks wearing uniforms while this gunman, this serial killer is still on the loose, Erin.
BURNETT: It's pretty amazing what has happened.
And here in the United States, this is incredible. The number of anti-Semitic incidents is on the rise. There had been a recent downward trend, but in 2010, which was the most recent data we were able to get today, there were 1,239 anti-Semitic incidents. That's defined as assaults, threats or vandalism against a person of Jewish faith because of his or her religion.
Now, this is according to statistics from the anti-defamation week. A poll from the same group last year found that 15 percent of Americans, nearly 35 million adults, hold deeply anti-Semitic views which is an increase of about three percent from the year before.
So, how big of an issue is this? How concerned should we be about anti-Semitic acts of violence like the ones we saw today?
Is former deputy director of counterterrorist, over the CIA Chad Sweet, former department of homeland security chief of staff.
Good to see both of you.
Phil Mudd, let me start with you. How concerned are you about the rise of anti-Semitic incidents in this country?
PHIL MUDD, FORMER CIA DEPUTY DIRECTOR OF COUNTERTERRORISM: I think we should be concerned for a few reasons. First of all, if you look at the divisiveness in Europe, this isn't just an isolated incident against a Jewish target or military target, you're talking about social debates about immigration here. Immigration in France, that's part of the presidential debate. So this is a deeper issue than just one lone gunman shooting a few people.
The second thing we have to remember, and I have to go back to sitting at the threat table at the FBI is what the chief of NYPD talked about and that is copy caters. We saw this in the anthrax case ten years ago. Copy caters for years resending fake anthrax letters because they got the inspiration from those attempts back in 2001. So, I think there's both the underlying social issues here about foreign populations, about anti-Semitism and there's also the prospect of copy caters.
BURNETT: Chad, what could be behind the rise of anti-Semitism that we're seeing in the U.S.?
CHAD SWEET, FORMER HOMELAND SECURITY DEPARTMENT CHIEF OD STAFF: Well, I think in the U.S., as Phil just noted, a number of motivations. Some of them clearly focused on policies. Some of them focused on Israel. Some of them focused on just flat racism.
But, I think in this case when you look at the French incident, let's bear in mind that the first three victims were all paramilitary soldiers in the French military and not Jewish. And so, what's important to remember is there is definitely -- the rabbi that was targeted along with the three children is anti-Semitic in that it is connected more with Israel and military targets.
What we are seeing around the globe right now, as Phil knows, we've seen a rash of attacks against Israeli diplomats, largely in the context of the tensions with Iran right now.
BURNETT: One thing, Phil, I'm curious about, what sort of patterns you see especially from the front gunman. I mean, we don't know anything about, who, this individual is. But obviously in that part of France and France in general there has been a lot of tension due to rising Muslim immigration into France.
And again, we have no idea whether the gunman is Muslim and if this might be linked to Muslim/Jewish issues or not. But that is certainly is an issue in France.
MUDD: I think there's a couple of things you have to think about. One of which we see in the United State and that is opposition to French engagement or American engagement overseas. We saw this a couple of years ago in Texas when we had an army officer shoot up a military base because he was opposed to U.S. deployment overseas. Some of this, as Chad suggest, might be directed against the French military deployments overseas. So, not all this is isolated in Europe. Some of this has to be seen in the context of global opposition to engagement in places like Iraq and Afghanistan.
BURNETT: Chad, final question to you. Since we have seen an instance crease in these incidents, is this more than a lone wolf sort of a situation? I mean, you mentioned involvement, whether it's Hezbollah or somebody else. Is it possible there is something coordinated or would that be absolute impossible to tell?
SWEET: I think at this stage it requires further investigation. But there's clearly a signature here. If you look at the death of the first paramilitary French officer, he was not wearing a uniform. He was -- there were no military indications on his motorcycle which is a signature that there was pre-attack surveillance. And the other two were wearing uniforms.
So, I think, you put that in the context as Phil said of the attacks on Israeli diplomats in India, in Georgia and an attempt in Thailand and what you have is a global picture that is exactly what Phil said, which is anti-Semitic targeting of Israeli Jews and American Jews in retaliation for things like the recent Afghan massacre, which was regrettable, just a few days ago. BURNETT: Phil, Chad, thank you very much. Appreciate your perspective tonight.
We have dramatic new video of Jason Russell's meltdown. He, of course, was the guy who created the "Kony 2012" video which went viral. What's next for him?
Then President Obama, does he have a money problem or actually did he just get mania from heaven?
And just how corrupt is the state of New Jersey?
BURNETT: Police say the filmmaker behind the viral video about Joseph Kony will not face charges after he went on a naked ran in the middle of San Diego last week. Today, new video has surfaced on TMZ showing Jason Russell's wild and erratic behavior that day.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What? (Bleep) (Bleep).
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: I mean it obviously is someone who was disturbed and upset, which is what his family said as we show you this video here. Police found him like this after several people had called 911 and reported this bizarre behavior going on. He then was submitted to a hospital for psychiatric evaluation.
Miguel Marquez has been working the story for us and is outside the headquarters of the charity that Jason Russell founded in San Diego. Good evening, Miguel.
MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: How are you there, Erin? You know, this video is difficult to watch. It's hard not to watch as well at the same time. People there on the ground say Jason Russell was combative on the scene. There was a woman apparently who tried to calm him. That he got almost into a fight with and had to be restrained for a while. He was then taken by police, never charged, but taken by police to a medical facility to get help.
His wife released a statement over the weekend saying that he's never done drugs, never done alcohol, he doesn't have a problem with those and that's not what the cause of this.
BURNETT: All right, thank you very much, Miguel.
Breaking news from Capitol Hill regarding the budget battle. Republican congressman Paul Ryan will unveil his budget tomorrow and the "Wall Street Journal" is reporting some details we wanted to share with you.
The Headline, Ryan proposes cutting taxes to two individual tax brackets, 10 and 25 percent. The current tax code, of course, has six brackets with the top marginal rate at 35. Now, it is impossible to do any breakdown on the revenue that would be acquired because we don't know the income levels and we don't have a whole lot of other details besides the two brackets. Congressman Ryan though, will be our guest tomorrow night on OUT FRONT. So, we are very much looking forward to getting some answers to all of those questions.
Mitt Romney heads into tomorrow's Illinois primary with 20 more delegates, thanks to a win at Puerto Rico. The 20 delegates gets him closer to the magic number of 1,144 need to clinch the nomination. He's currently at 519. Rival Rick Santorum obviously is doing everything he can to stop Romney from getting there. The former Pennsylvania senator asked on CBS about chances the race will end up at a brokered convention and here's what he said about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: I think obviously they're increasing with congressman Gingrich staying in the race and Congressman Paul staying in the race. We see in these caucuses that each of them and even some of the primaries, they pull delegates. Our delegate calculation has Governor Romney far below 50 percent. And we think that there's a lot of primaries coming up, including Pennsylvania, my home state, where we can make some very big delegates. Texas is going to be another great state for us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: For every candidate, there's a lot of self interest to spin. But, does he have a point?
John Avlon, Ramesh Ponnuru of national review and Bill Burton, head of super PAC supporting President Obama joins us tonight. Good to see all of you.
Let me start with you though, John. According to delegate map, Mitt Romney has to win what, 49 percent of all the remaining delegates. He got 100 percent in Puerto Rico.
JOHN AVLON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes.
BURNETT: So can he do this 49?
AVLON: Look. The point is, is that he's got to thread a pretty tight needle here. He doesn't have a lot of room for error. He can get the requisite number, 1,144. But he's got to stay roughly around the proportion he has been. And so, the point is that this is far from over. Even the Romney camp, despite all their spin, will acknowledge that this isn't going to be over until at least May, maybe even Utah in June. The Republican Party needs to deal with the fact because of proportional delegates and super PACs, this is a long road ahead. No matter how much they want to say this is over, it is not going to be. The map doesn't work that way.
BURNETT: Bill Burton, you never thought this would go this long. I remember asking you four months ago and you like look, I think it's reasonable to think that Mitt Romney will be the nominee and here we are.
BILL BURTON, CO-FOUNDER, PRIORITIES USA ACTION: Right. And I remember back in 2008 we thought the doom's day scenario was April 22nd when Pennsylvania rise. And then obviously, it went much further than that. I know that in the Romney camp right now, they're thinking we are far past the doom's day scenario.
But the problem here is that even though like 90 percent of Americans think that Mitt Romney will be the nominee, Republicans aren't coalescing behind him. And it's not because of Mitt Romney. It just not have a compelling economic message that is much of getting people on board.
BURNETT: Ramesh, I saw a really funny comic that had, you know, it had brackets and it had not Mitt, not Mitt, not Mitt, not Mitt, not Mitt, at the end it was Mitt and I just -- it really made me laugh. But that gets to the point about a brokered convention. Would that be good or bad?
RAMESH PONNURU, SENIOR EDITOR, NATIONAL REVIEW: Well, I think look. You know, there's a reason these parties run these conventions as essentially infomercials for themselves and they all get a bounce out of it. I think it would be really odd for -- to have a situation where the Democrats have decided to do this one-week infomercial for themselves and the Republicans instead decide to have a one-week-long sort of festival of intra party hatred. I don't see how that can help the Republicans going into November.
BURNETT: Well, at this point, like you said, we're long beyond that argument of what doesn't kill you makes you stronger now.
John Avlon, what happens in Illinois? Today the latest poll actually, 44 percent for Romney and 30 percent for Santorum which could be setting us up for the usual round of headlines the day after primary which is Mitt Romney doesn't come in his high as he needed to, therefore Mitt Romney did not succeed.
AVLON: Yes. I mean in the expectation game this poll probably doesn't help Romney. We've seen Santorum actually outperform the polls in these states.
AVLON: The point is this should be a strong state for Romney. Illinois should be a strong state, but there's really a division of state between the downstate conservative rural voters and the suburban voters who are more likely to be Romney folks. So, this is a big state, it's Romney's latest firewall.
And I think if Santorum pulled off an upset, it would be a big headline. But right now they're looking downstate. Romney is hoping for a strong win tomorrow and this is going to play out for weeks and months.
BURNETT: Ramesh, Ramesh, I just -- was it a hand with GQ or Esquire that just came out with this breaking news? Someone will tell me in my ear because I want to confuse them. But anyway -- GQ. The secret service names are out. Are you ready? Apparently Mitt Romney is Javelin and Rick Santorum is Petrus.
BURNETT: I don't know, Petrus.
PONNURU: It's an expensive wine, right?
BURTON: That's the plural of Petra in Jordan? I don't know.
BURNETT: I don't know.
AVLON: That's not exactly -- that's not really renegade, right?
BURNETT: Javelin is not bad.
AVLON: Javelin is good.
BURNETT: Javelin is like you go one way and you come another.
PONNURU: I'm thinking send me a rewrite.
BURNETT: You know and again, I can't independently confirm these but I thought it was interesting reporting.
Bill, let me ask you, Obama, the President Obama has said that his campaign has raised $45 million in February. I believe it's 29 million in January. Is that in your view in line with expectations? Because people have talked about, is he able to the enthusiasm up. He had struggled a little bit. Is this now a great number or not?
BURTON: Well I think -- no, I don't think it's a great number. I think it's a really good number and I think it started - it's showing that Democrats and people who care about the president getting re-elected are starting to get engaged.
But what you're missing from this side of the aisle is the fact Democrats aren't quite as afraid as maybe they ought to be looking at "the New York Times" polls about the president's political situation. So I think that they're a little slower to engage than they were previously.
A lot of comparisons made to 2008, how the president did then. But keep in mind that in February 2008 he was engaged in a tremendously competitive, vigorous Democratic primary against Senator Clinton. And I think that's a big reason that he raised so much.
AVLON: But you're seeing two broad trends that are fascinating and troubling which is, you know, President Obama is not getting those big dollar donors who rallied around him last time. The big money guys are looking elsewhere and they really rallied around Romney's camp. Romney's problem is precisely opposite. He can't seem to get those small dollar donations. In his last file at the end of January, 90 percent of his donations came from big dollar donations, only 10 percent small dollars.
BURNETT: Though every donor is one vote unless we're back in the time of Cicero and Julius Caesar.
Bill Burton, before we go. I'm going to talk about this later on the show about the RNC ad today on war on women. But obviously, your super PAC has this donation from Bill Maher. I know it's a big donation according to our math, 15 percent of all the money so far, second biggest donor.
I know you're not allowed to coordinate with the president, right because you are the super PAC. He came out and made that comment about Sandra Fluke, when talked about fashion. I don't want them attacked or called horrible names. That's why I called Sandra Fluke.
Do you feel he would be upset with the kind of words and tone that Bill Maher has used? That that put pressure on you with this donation?
BURTON: Well, I'm not going to stand here and defend vulgarity no matter who's using it. I'm also not going to. But I'm also not going accept the Republicans' selective outrage over when they get mad over who uses what terms. And to listen to Rush Limbaugh or to listen to Ted Nugent, someone who has made a career out of this and the same massage nasty very racist things. I think that Republicans are very happy to ignore that and just try to use this as an issue to distract from what are actually really important issues that we're trying to discuss in this election.
BURNETT: You don't think that -- that's absolutely right. They didn't come out nearly as hard as they should have on the Rush Limbaugh thing. They avoided it, dodged it, right?
BURTON: They barely came out at all.
BURNETT: Right. Now, on the Maher we're hearing excuses, about he's an entertainer. He supposed to be funny, so it's OK. I mean, I guess - is there a level of tone?
BURTON: Like I said, I'm not going to defend vulgarity.
AVLON: But, you condemn it?
BURTON: Yes, I'm against that kind of language in any sense. This is something we've talked about at length and many cable shows. But at the end of the day, there are huge differences between where President Obama is and where Mitt Romney is on issues that are important to women. On Lillie led better, the president was there on what kind of Supreme Court justice they would appoint. President Obama would be muck for someone like Sonia Sotomayor in (INAUDIBLE). Mitt Romney would put a anti-Scalia on the court. So, I think there's a huge differences. That's what's the real issue is. Not what, you know, entertainer's said over the course of years of their careers.
BURNETT: All right. Well, I'll hit pause on that. I don't know that I fully agree but not with a whole lot of what's out there but we'll talk about that later on in the show.
Thank you very much Bill, Ramesh, John. Appreciate it.
And now, should minors who commit murder be sentenced to life without parole? This is a crucial question that Supreme Court is going to be deciding tomorrow because they're considering two cases in which 14-year-old boys were convicted and sentenced to life behind bars. The Supreme Court has ruled minors convicted of murder cannot receive the death penalty and there are more than 2500 people serving life without parole for crimes they committed as juveniles. Thirty eight states currently allow life without parole for minors who commit murder, but is it constitutional?
It's a crucial question. Jeffrey Toobin is our chief legal analyst and he is OUT FRONT tonight. Good to see you, sir.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Hello.
BURNETT: We're switching in and out here like crazy on our set. So what is really at stake here. This is a pretty fascinating debate.
TOOBIN: And you know, this is one of the most mysterious words in the constitution, cruel and unusual punishment. What does that mean? The justices struggle with it all the time. And here, you have a situation where they - they are moving on this issue. Because as you said, they said you can't execute juvenile offenders. You can't sentence people to life sentence juvenile in prison if it's not a murder. Tomorrow the question is what if it is a murder, can you sentence a 13 or 14-year-old to spend the next 70 years, life without parole in prison. Hard question.
BURNETT: It's a hard question and I know that it was Justice Kennedy who had said, well, you don't want to sentence them to death because maybe their minds, their brains, their morals are not fully developed.
BURNETT: And if you're going to say you can't sentence to death for those reasons, then is it consistent to say you also can't do life?
TOOBIN: Quite possibly. I mean, we are the only country that sentences teenagers to life without parole. We're the only country to do that. Justice Kennedy, one of the reasons he said we can't execute juvenile offenders was that the only countries who do that were countries that we are appalled by, like Congo and Iran. We don't want to be in that company.
We are alone on life without parole for teenagers. And you know, you look at the facts of this case, one of these cases, the 14-year- old, he didn't even fire the gun. He was just an accomplice. Do we put him in prison for the rest of his life? But people died in these crimes so, you know, these are very serious things.
BURNETT: Right, One of them, Davis, he was 14, armed robbery, he didn't pull the trigger. But the other one, Evan Miller, also 14, beat a neighbor and then burned the house down to cover the crime. I mean, this one is, beat him to --
TOOBIN: Beat him to death with a baseball bat. I mean it's horrifying.
TOOBIN: But the question is -- I mean as Kennedy has said in these opinions, you know, people who are teenagers, their brains are not fully developed. They will change, they will grow. Is this something that we can judge them for, for the rest of their lives?
Obviously no one is proposing getting rid - you know, saying let's just release these people if you improve your behavior. We're talking about how many years, but maybe not life. That's what it's going to be tomorrow.
BURNETT: All right. Well, I can't wait to talk to you about this tomorrow. It's just amazing.
All right. Thanks to Jeff Toobin. And please let us know on twitter what you think about that issue.
The soldier accused of murdering 16 people in Afghanistan met with his lawyer today. We'll talk to one of the people who knows him and try to find out what went so wrong.
And some good news for Apple shareholders today. But guess what, you might be one and not even know about it.
BURNETT: We start the second half of our show with stories we care about. We focus on our own reporting, do the work and find the OUT FRONT five.
At first, increased security tonight at American Jewish institutions from San Francisco to Washington and New York. Following a deadly shooting today outside a Jewish school in southern France, where French president Nicolas Sarkozy said the shooting was an obvious anti-Semitic attack.
Phil Mudd, former deputy director of the counterterrorism for the CIA tells OUT FRONT, the U.S. should be concerned about the rise of anti-Semitism in the United States and the prospect of copy cater attack.
Number two: we're just learning that a luxury cruise ship collided with a container ship on Friday while off the coast of Vietnam.
Now, OUTFRONT spoke with Andrew Lock, a passenger on the Silver Shadow. He told us that dense fog blanketed Halong Bay, which is a very popular destination. He was in the observation lounge when all of a sudden he saw the other ship and within seconds the two collided. In a statement, the cruise company called the collision a minor incident. Andrew Lock said he disagrees.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDREW LOCK, PASSENGER: The ship wasn't given any opportunity to slow down before we hit the other container ship. So, we slammed into it with full force. And the pictures speak for themselves. The photos that myself and other passengers took speak for themselves, that it was not a minor incident.
The wreckage on the other ship was substantial. And the damage to our ship, including a hole in the front of the hull, among other dents, shows that it wasn't minor from the passengers' point of view.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Lock said no one on the cruise was hurt, but he did see people lying on the deck of the container ship.
Number three, Apple says it sold 3 million of those new iPads, that's its name, since the tablet went on sale Friday. And Apple shares today closed above $600 for the first time ever. The company announced a $2.65 dividend and a $10 billion share repurchase program. That's up to $40 billion.
Apple is one of the most widely held stocks in the United States and it is owned by all of the major mutual funds companies and some of the major pension funds, like TIAA-CREF. What this means is that if you own any kind of a fund that's part of your 401(k) or have a pension fund, or an IRA, you almost certainly benefited from Apple's announcement today. About $45 billion that this will cost is really not a lot of money for Apple considering, it still has $60 billion, $70 billion stashed overseas.
They only use their U.S. cash because they're keeping the rest outside the United States. They say that they do not want to pay the higher U.S. tax on it.
Number four, the New York Mets agreed to pay $162 million to the victims of Bernard Madoff. Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz, the owners of the baseball team, had been accused of profiting from Madoff's Ponzi scheme and ignoring warning signs. So far, the trustee for Madoff victims has recovered about $9 billion of the $17 billion of Madoff losses. The settlement today avoids a court case which would have actually begun today.
Well, it's been 228 days since the U.S. lost its top credit rating. What are we doing to get it back? Today, a former vice chairman of the Federal Reserve warned in a "Wall Street Journal" op- ed that the U.S. is headed towards a fiscal cliff in 2013 if Congress doesn't fix the budget problems before the end of the year.
Well, the American soldier accused of murdering 16 Afghan civilians last week met with his defense attorney for the first time today. He remains behind bars in a military prison in Kansas. Now, his lawyer later described the meeting to the "Wall Street Journal" and I just want to quote this, "As probably the most emotional day I have ever had as a human being."
He said he expects formal charges to be filed by the end of the week. Tonight, new details are emerging about the background and troubled life of Staff Sergeant Robert Bales. Many people who knew him described a popular football player called Bobby who was hard working and compassionate.
Just moments ago, his wife actually released a statement about the shootings for the first time, which says in part, 'We extend our condolences to all of the people of the Panjawai District. Our hearts go out to all of them. Our family has little information beyond what we read and see in the media. What has been reported is completely out of character of the man I know and admire."
In just a moment, we're going to speak to another one of Sergeant Bales admirers, his former football coach. But, first, Dan Simon is looking into what may have been the sergeant's darker side.
And, Dan, what are we learning about him today and tonight?
DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's a complex portrait. Let me tell you what we found out this afternoon.
We found that in the year 2000, before Bales joined the military, he was accused of defrauding an Ohio couple out of a lot of money, $637,000. That couple told an Ohio television station that they wanted Bales to sell some stock for them and they were going to use the money to pay for some medical bills. Instead, they accused Bales of pocketing the proceeds. Eventually, Bales was ordered to repay the family $637,000 plus interest. It amounted to $1.5 million, a lot of money, but Bales skipped out on the payments.
Let me tell you what else we learned. In the year 2002, Bales was accused of assaulting an ex-girlfriend but there were no charges filed because Bales underwent anger management counseling.
Then in the year 2008, this was really bizarre, Bales got in his car and was involved in a hit and run. He hit a tree and some ammunition spilled out of his car. He was bloody and then ran into the woods. Again, there were no charges.
But the bottom line here, Erin, is we're getting mixed signals from a bunch of different people. This is a family that seemed to be in dire financial straits. They had a home that recently went into foreclosure and they were upset that Bales didn't get a promotion in the military which would have meant more money and so, a lot going on here. We're just trying to find out as much as we can, of course.
BURNETT: All right. Well, Dan, thank you very much. We appreciate it.
Now, of course, many people who know Sergeant Bales say they just can't reconcile the kinds of details that they hear, these troubling details of not just what happened in Afghanistan but some of what Dan was just saying with the man they remember.
Joe Miller was one of Sergeant Bales' football coaches in high school. And he joins us now.
And good to see you, sir. Tell us about the man or at that time, I guess, it would have been the boy that you remember.
JOE MILLER, SGT. BALES' FORMER COACH: Well, he was truly an excellent kid. He wasn't the best student in his school, he wasn't the best athlete in the school, but he came to school every day, working at his subjects matter and doing the best that he could possibly do.
BURNETT: And you talk about -- or mention that you were obviously his football coach but you also think that you may have been a part of why he went in the military. How did he make that decision?
MILLER: Well, I don't know that that's the truth, but he did know that I had been in the military between my freshman and sophomore year in college. And he knew that I enjoyed it. I thought it was a happy time for me and he often asked about it. And I looked upon him as someone who possibly could have the same success that I had in the military.
BURNETT: And it seems from some of the stories I've seen about him back in Iraq that he certainly did at least for a while. Another one of the players you coached who actually went on to the NFL today put a statement out about Sergeant Bales today saying, quote, "In the days, we played football together, he personified sportsmanship and the highest agree of unselfish team values. My relationship with Bob continued long after the playing field and I viewed him as a person with enormous integrity, courage and loyalty.
What do you think, sir, may have gone wrong? Did you ever have an indication that there was another side to him?
MILLER: No, I really didn't. I thought he was a very steady person. I just felt that he was probably one of the best all-around students in our school. We had a lot of kids who had problems, that's for sure.
But he wasn't one of them. He was consistent at all times, in everything he did, coming to school all the time. Never causing any trouble. And just giving his best on the football field at all times.
And he wasn't a big man. He was only like 5'7" and I think he weighed 190 or so pounds. But he gave every ounce of it to being a successful football player.
BURNETT: All right. Well, Joe, thank you very much. We appreciate your taking the time to tell that different side of the story as we all try to put together a picture of who this man was.
Well, tonight, almost 100 students have gathered outside a Florida courthouse. They're demanding justice for a black teenager shot by a white security guard. We continue to cover the case of Trayvon.
And a list of the most corrupt states in the country is released. Who is the most corrupt? And who is the least? We'll tell you.
BURNETT: We do this at the same time every night, our "Outer Circle" where we reach out to our sources around the world.
And tonight, we go to Iraq where mystery really surrounds the alleged nine-month abduction of American Randy Michael Hultz. Now, there are questions about what his name really is, what exactly he was doing in Iraq. No one apparently knew he was missing. And a Shiite militia who released Hultz on Saturday said he was a U.S. soldier. The U.S. embassy in Baghdad says he's a private citizen.
And truly, what is strange is that nobody, and that's really is bizarre. Nobody knew that he was missing, even his own family.
Jill Dougherty is on top of this story and I asked her what she knows about Hultz right now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Erin, this is a very strange story but here's what we know. The State Department says this man's name is Randy Michael Hultz, that he's a private citizen. He was not working for the U.S. government and he was not a U.S. contractor.
Now, two years ago, he gave an interview and he said that he was a businessman, that he was running an investment firm that was investing in Iraq. Just recently, he shows up and says that he had been kidnapped nine months ago and was being released on humanitarian grounds. But the strange thing about this is nobody seems to know that he was missing.
So we talked with the former assistant director of the FBI, Tom Fuentes, who said a lot of this simply doesn't add up, and the question could he have been an intelligence operative? Fuentes doesn't think so. In fact he said it's more weird than operational -- Erin.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: All right. Thanks very much to Jill.
And now let's check in with Anderson with a look at what's ahead on "A.C. 360."
ANDERSON COOPER, HOST, "A.C. 360": Hey, Erin. We've got a good program tonight.
We're keeping them honest on the program. Seventeen-year-old Trayvon Martin shot dead by neighborhood watch captain, George Zimmerman, who has not been charged with a crime. You're going to hear Zimmerman on the 911 tapes, multiple tapes, multiple calls were made. The tapes seem to dispute his claim the shooting was in self defense.
We'll also speak with Trayvon's father who wants justice and says in fact it is his son's voice you can hear on one of those 911 calls crying out for help. That's not clear. The witnesses don't say that, but the father tonight says that is his son's voice. You'll hear from him, you'll hear the tapes.
Also ahead, identity theft on a multibillion dollar scale. You could be one of these people. Unsuspecting victims losing their tax refunds, couldn't be easier for the crooks. The IRS puts the money on debit cards for them.
Those stories, also Rick Santorum's delegate math doesn't make sense. We're keeping them honest in tonight's "Ridiculist," all at the top of the hour, Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Anderson, thank you very much.
Well, nearly 100 students and friends of Trayvon Martin gathered outside a Florida courthouse today, demanding justice for the black teenager. He was shot and killed last month by a half-Hispanic security guard.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CROWD: We are working hard. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Who's the crying?
CROWD: Trayvon's crying.
Who's that crying?
CROWD: Trayvon's crying.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Students are calling for the arrest of 28-year-old George Zimmerman, who says he shot 17-year-old Martin in self defense while patrolling his gated community in Sanford on February 26th.
We told you a little about this story on Friday. The gated community mixed race, although our understanding is it was mostly white, but it was mixed race. The record shows Zimmerman was a frequent 911 caller, calling in 46 times going back to 2001.
The calls he made the night of the shooting give a small glimpse into his encounter with Martin.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
GEORGE ZIMMERMAN: This guy looks like he's up to no good or he's on drugs or something. Something's wrong with him. Yes, he's coming to check me out. He's got something in his hands. I don't know what his deal is.
These (EXPLETIVE DELETED), they always get away.
DISPATCHER: Are you following him?
DISPATCHER: OK. We don't need you to do that.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
BURNETT: All right. Moments later, a witness says she heard cries for help followed by a gunshot. Here's the 911 tape.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
DISPATCHER: So you think he's yelling help?
DISPATCHER: All right. What is your --
CALLER: There's gunshots.
DISPATCHER: You just heard gunshots?
DISPATCHER: How many?
CALLER: Just one.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
BURNETT: And within minutes, here's a 911 tape. It was all over.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
CALLER: Oh, oh my God, somebody would be shot!
DISPATCHER: It's probably going to be best if you stay inside your home for the time being, OK?
CALLER: I know, I can't believe somebody's killed. He was saying help, why didn't somebody come out and help him?
(END AUDIO CLIP)
BURNETT: The shooting has ignited a storm of controversy.
Paul Callan is a former New York City prosecutor, criminal defense attorney and joins us now. What's your reaction legally when you hear these tapes? We were going to be talking to Trayvon's family the other day. They were at that moment actually listening to those tapes for the first time. What's your feeling?
PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, it's a very disturbing case. You know, the 17-year-old was unarmed. He was in a place where he had the right to be, he was visiting friends, and he's shot by somebody carrying a gun. It's very disturbing.
But they have this law in Florida, they call it the stand your ground law. Colorado calls it the make my day law. They have a similar one. And when it was first enacted in the 1800s, you know what they called it? The true man law, which means like a true man, you can stand your ground if somebody approaches you and tries to assault you.
And that's what George Zimmerman said happened here. As a matter of fact, he said he was jumped from behind by Mr. Martin and that's why he responded the way he did.
BURNETT: Is that why Zimmerman has not been arrested or charged or taken into custody? Or is that something you still can't understand?
CALLAN: No, that's the soul reason that he hasn't been taken into custody. I think in a lot of other states, I think in New Jersey, New York, states that don't have this law, without this law he would be taken into custody, because in most states, going back to the time of Henry VIII, the doctrine was you have to retreat if somebody comes after you.
And you can only use deadly force if you have no option available, because it was the king's job to prosecute criminals. Henry VIII enunciated that doctrine, suggested for a long time. But Florida changed it and said, stand your ground. You don't have to wait for the police.
BURNETT: The Justice Department, though, could get involved over how the state is handling it, correct? I mean, I know they did in the Rodney King case. So will they, can they? What will they do?
CALLAN: In theory, they could supersede state authorities, take the case over, if they found civil rights violations. They did that in Rodney King. They did it in the Limerick Nelson case here in New York, but they usually wait. You watch, the feds will let this play out in state court first and then they'll look at it.
By the way, not a clear cut civil rights case here. Zimmerman supposedly is half Hispanic, half Caucasian. Did he do this out of racial animus or because he wanted to shoot somebody? You know, it's got to be a civil rights violation for the Feds to get involved.
BURNETT: All right. Paul Callan, thank you very much.
CALLAN: OK. BURNETT: The nation is obviously watching this one now.
CALLAN: How corrupt is your state? Where does New Jersey rank? Tony Soprano? We have the answer next.
And a new ad from the Republicans was released today and -- well, it annoyed me a little bit.
BURNETT: New Jersey, the least corrupt state in the country.
Seriously. This is not a joke. It is the truth. According to an 18-month investigation by the nonprofit group Center for Public Integrity, Global Integrity, and Public Radio International. They gathered information from all 50 states and looked at everything from political financing to ethics enforcement. New Jersey came out on top in four of the 14 categories. And then at the top 10 in seven others.
That's right. New Jersey. The Soprano State was voted the least corrupt. Now, New Jersey received its highest marks for accountability in the executive branch and civil service regulations. It's not all good news for the Garden State. New Jersey only got a B- plus. That's right. No state in the United States got an A in the corruption survey which is really terrible.
And New Jersey, you know, and the other states that did well, only five got a B, which brings us to tonight's number, 45. That's a number of states out of 50 that got a grade of C or lower in the national corruption survey. Nineteen states got a C, 18 got a D, eight got an F, including Georgia, which came in dead last.
Curious how corrupt your own state is? Well, the rankings are available on our blog at CNN.com/outfront.
It's pretty disturbing, though, 45 out of 50. I mean, come on. U.S.? Afghanistan? Got to set an example.
All right. The GOP releases a new ad called the "War on Women". And I was in it. We're going to talk about it.
BURNETT: So, this weekend, the RNC rolled out a new ad online called "War on Women". The 95-second spot features a number of members of the media, including Chris Matthews, myself and George Stephanopoulos, talking about recent degrading words used to describe women.
Well, to be honest, at first, I was kind of amused I was included. But then I was annoyed because I certainly don't agree the Democrats are in a war on women. Two influential and big money donors, there's no need to name them again, have recently used vile words to describe women.
One of them made the bad decision to elaborate in a disgusting manner. The fact is, is neither party came out hard enough when the offender was one of its own. And now, to say an entire party, either party, is at war with women?
This is all politics. Frankly, we've seen many references to a war on women recently from Dems and GOP sympathizers.
But both sides need to be honest at the words used like the S- word and the C-word aren't acceptable. Not by someone who is a pundit, not by someone who is an entertainer, not by a broadcaster, not by a coworker, not by anyone. There isn't any defending it. This isn't political. It should be personal for everyone.
If you're a woman, you get it because you deal with sexism in both its mundane and offensive forms all the time. If you're a man, you have women in your life whom you respect and you don't want to hear those words used to describe them.
The problem is politicians now are happy to point the finger at the other side while implicitly or frankly in some cases explicitly finding a way for their guy to be let off the hook.
My father ran for Congress during a special election in 1969. The slogan he used was: let's end politics as usual. I still have those fliers. And unfortunately, that still holds true today. Let's end this talk about a war on women and name-calling and instead have substantive conversations about the real issues, like women's pay and reproductive rights.
"ANDERSON COOPER 360" starts right now.