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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Conflicting Stories in Martin Case; President Obama Caught on Open Microphone
Aired March 27, 2012 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Erin, thanks.
Good evening, everyone. We begin tonight with the latest in the Trayvon Martin case including reports the lead investigator wanting to file manslaughter charges against the shooter George Zimmerman. Also "Keeping Them Honest" there's an increasingly bitter divide over the facts of this case. Two competing views of what happened that Sunday evening with each side accusing the other of cherry picking the evidence.
It starts with these younger picture of a younger Trayvon Martin. The first pictures the public saw of him released by his family's attorney and this picture of George Zimmerman in 2005 mug shot from his assault arrest.
Now Zimmerman supports say they -- these pictures unfairly make Trayvon Martin look angelic and George Zimmerman appear menacing. Newer photos of both have since come to light. An older, larger Trayvon Martin and a better dressed George Zimmerman with some Martin supporters say are being used to suggest that Trayvon Martin was the aggressor.
Now also in dispute the relevancy of George Zimmerman's arrest record. His supporters say it has no bearing on the case. But in previous weeks it was often cited by the Martin family. Now details about Trayvon Martin's life are emerging as well, problems at school primarily. And his family is saying they have no bearing on what happened the night their son was killed.
The "Miami Herald" reporting today the teen had been suspended three times from school including once for writing graffiti on a door. The "Herald" says school police found jewelry and a screwdriver in Trayvon Martin's bag at the time. The officer called it a burglary tool. Martin said the jewelry belonged to someone else. The paper reported the Miami-Dade police investigated, uncovered no evidence the jewelry was stolen. There were no charges. And he wasn't arrested.
Well, today at a House Democratic forum on the case attended by Trayvon Martin's parents, family attorney Daryl Parks said that Trayvon's past has no bearing on his encounter the night of February 26th.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DARYL PARKS, ATTORNEY FOR TRAYVON MARTIN'S FAMILY: Whether or not Trayvon was a perfect student is irrelevant to whether Zimmerman's conduct that night was justified. Trayvon was a kid. He was another unarmed black boy whose life was lost because of unfounded stereotypes suspicions and fears.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: We're also now learning that there are competing narratives from others including the Sanford Police. There's a leaked account of George Zimmerman's statement to police suggesting that Trayvon Martin confronted him, punched him in the face and slammed his head into the -- to the ground. At least two eyewitnesses apparently confirming that account of Trayvon Martin as the aggressor. And one eyewitness saying it was George Zimmerman actually who cried out for help.
But another person who heard the scuffle but only saw the aftermath seems to contradict it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARY CATCHER, WITNESSED SHOOTING AFTERMATH: Zimmerman was standing over the body with -- basically straddling the body with his hands on Trayvon's back. And it didn't seem to me that he was trying to help him in any way. It didn't seem to me -- I didn't hear any struggle prior to the gun shot. And I feel like it was Trayvon Martin that was crying out because the minute that the gun shot went off, the whining stopped.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: She didn't actually see any confrontation or see who it was who yelled out. There's also Martin's girlfriend who's accounted her phone call provided by the Martin family attorney suggests that he was being followed by George Zimmerman.
Again, aggressor or victim? Two competing accounts. Two views of the same incident. And it doesn't stop there.
The Sanford Police Department's chief, Bill Lee, who's temporarily stepped aside, says he stands behind their investigation which resulted in no charges against George Zimmerman. Yet at the same time both ABC News and a local affiliate WFTV report that Sanford didn't buy Zimmerman's account and wanted to press manslaughter charges against him.
In addition ABC also citing multiple sources reports the lead homicide investigator, Chris Sarino, filed an affidavit pushing for charges the night of the killing. He was overruled according to ABC sources by the state's attorney's office.
Also today the Martin family released this new photo of their late son taken this year of him and his dad Tracy Martin. Now I spoke to Trayvon's mother, Sybrina Fulton, and one of their attorneys Ben Crump and Tracy Martin a short time ago.
Sybrina, ABC News is reporting, based on multiple sources, that the night your son was killed, the lead investigator recommended that George Zimmerman be charged with manslaughter. Why do you think he was never charged?
SYBRINA FULTON, TRAYVON MARTIN'S MOTHER: I don't think he was charged because they were trying to protect him. They didn't understand how serious this was. They didn't understand the value of my son's life.
COOPER: Tracy, when you heard that the lead investigator wanted charges to be brought that night, what did you think? What does that make you feel?
TRACY MARTIN, TRAYVON MARTIN'S FATHER: It certainly confirmed all of my thoughts that this investigation had been botched from the beginning. And that people other than me knew that it was supposed to be an arrest made.
COOPER: Ben, why do you -- why do you think charges weren't brought that night if the lead investigator thought they should be?
BENJAMIN CRUMP, ATTORNEY FOR TRAYVON MARTIN'S PARENTS: You know, Anderson, I think for whatever reason, Zimmerman profiled him and then even worse I think the police profiled Trayvon Martin. And so it really comes down to this here, Anderson. And you have to ask yourself why are they doing this and what do they say?
Not only did the lead investigator say he recommended manslaughter, he did not buy Zimmerman's story. It didn't add up to him. And all the world knows it just don't add up when you listen to the tape.
COOPER: Zimmerman's account now, which was leaked from police reports, claims that Zimmerman was heading back to his vehicle to await police, was attacked, Sybrina, by your son. Zimmerman claims your son punched him, banged his head against the sidewalk, tried to take his son. Do you believe any of that?
FULTON: I believe there was an altercation. I believe my son was defending himself.
COOPER: Tracy, when you hear that George Zimmerman says he was walking back to his vehicle, does that -- and that it was your son who attacked him, does that ring at all possible to you? Ring true?
MARTIN: It really don't, Anderson. And that's the police accounts. But what the police told me was certainly totally different than that. So I'm sure that Trayvon didn't attack Zimmerman.
COOPER: Ben, information about that night is not only -- the information about that night is not the only information that's now leaked out to the public. Trayvon's school records have also been leaked. Why do you think these leaks are now appearing? Is this an attempt to basically impugn his reputation?
CRUMP: Anderson, I think you're absolutely hit it on the nail. What relevance does that have to anything that happened on February 26th? You know you have the whole hooded thing and as you told us, you wear a hoodie. You never been stopped for being suspicious. Now, anybody who's ever been suspended, I guess if you hear the Sanford Police say that's a death sentence.
And that's not relevant. It has no bearing. The only relevance is Zimmerman disobeyed the police and got out of his car and had this violent altercation with Trayvon. And Trayvon is dead and can't tell us his version of it. Zimmerman's version just doesn't add up when you look at where Trayvon was killed at. His car was no where near where his body was found.
COOPER: Tracy, you said George Zimmerman's account differs from what the police told you that night. What did police tell you when they talked to you?
MARTIN: I was told that Trayvon approached Zimmerman. Asked Zimmerman, did he have a problem. Zimmerman told him no and Trayvon supposedly said well, now you do, homey. And Zimmerman was supposedly was reaching into his pocket for his cell phone. At that point Trayvon punched him. And the scuffle ensued, which again, knowing Trayvon -- Trayvon would -- those are not the words of Trayvon. Trayvon is not confrontational. He would only be trying to get home.
CRUMP: And Anderson, I have to say this. The 911 tapes say it all. Those 911 tapes say it all, Anderson. We heard what the people said there. We know he was on the phone with his girlfriend from 7:12 to 7:16. Where's this stuff that Zimmerman says? Where does that come into play? Where they have this exchange of words and stuff? If you listen to that tape for about 40 seconds, Trayvon is crying for help. There is no self-defense here. And as self-defense everybody would tell you stops, it does not last 40 seconds for him crying for help.
COOPER: You know, some of these questions I hate to ask you, Sybrina. I hate to put you in this position. But I know you've been asked them and you've talked about this a lot. When you and I talked before you said without a doubt that is Trayvon's voice on the 911 call crying out for help. There's now an eyewitness who says that -- who's been interviewed who says that he saw George Zimmerman crying out for help.
FULTON: People can say anything they want to. I just personally don't believe it. I know that it was my son that was crying out for help. So right now we hearing a lot of speculations. And people just want to say whatever they want.
COOPER: Sybrina, in the weeks after the shooting a lot of people were looking at George Zimmerman's run -- prior run-in with police from several years ago. Now that information is being leaked out about your son, about his school records, about things he may have said or done in the past, do you think that's fair or do you think that's inappropriate?
FULTON: I think it's inappropriate. Number one, because he was a minor. Number two, because he was a victim. And I don't think that has any relevance to the case. My son was not doing anything that particular day. Whatever he had dealings with school, it was not criminal. It was not violent. He's never been arrested.
COOPER: Ben Crump, Sybrina Fulton, Tracy Martin, I appreciate your time tonight. Thank you. And I'm so sorry for your loss.
FULTON: Thank you.
MARTIN: Thank you.
CRUMP: Thank you.
COOPER: Let's talk about legally what bearing, if any, Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman's past could or should have in the case.
Joining us now attorneys Areva Martin, who's no relation to the Martin family, and Mark Geragos.
Areva, you're outraged by the leak of Trayvon Martin's school records, why?
AREVA MARTIN, DISABILITY RIGHTS ATTORNEY AND CHILDREN'S ADVOCATE: You know, Anderson, when I first heard of it it was last night. It just made my blood boil. Because we're talking about a minor. We're talking about records that are protected by both federal and state law. To get someone's school records, typically there has to be written consent from the parents if we're dealing with a minor. Now some would argue that your rights to privacy might die when the person dies.
But in this case in particular, the sensitive information and -- you know, there's precedence in other cases where information that is sensitive as this, as personal as this, there's an effort to protect that information and not disclose it. We don't know when these records were sought by the police. But we do know that they've been leaked in order to -- we can't imagine that anything was intended by those records except to malign this young man's character and to now paint a picture that he's not the good kid that we've been hearing about for the last 30 days or so.
And that really troubles me. Kids have a right to privacy. Their records are protected by law. And I think in this case in particular, the police department should have acted with more integrity.
COOPER: Mark, what do you take about the leaks coming out of the police department and also now learning about school records?
MARK GERAGOS, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, I couldn't agree more. First of all, none of these records would ever come in to any case. They're just completely irrelevant. It's nothing more than a smear campaign. I hesitate to lay the blame at the police department. I don't know if somebody got bought off over at the school and released them.
But boy, if you track this down to the police department, I can't imagine anything worse than in the middle of this firestorm that they're releasing records that they know for a fact beyond any fact, any lawyer's going to tell you this is never coming in. It's nothing more than to try to demonize or dirty up the victim in this case.
COOPER: Well, Mark, would George Zimmerman's past run-in with police in which he was arrested, would that be something that could come into to the trial?
GERAGOS: Actually, interestingly enough, it conceivably could. The prosecution, if they decided to go forward, they may be able to use depending on what the records were, depending on what they -- how they frame it to the judge as to how they want to use it or for what purpose. It might come in.
As an aside, I will tell you, you know, everybody's first reaction to this case is, why didn't they arrest? Why didn't they arrest? I think the state's attorney actually -- and I rarely agree with any prosecutor, but I think the state's attorney when you hear a lot of the evidence that is coming out now and the differing witnesses' accounts, I think that they probably had some pause here. And they want to investigate it.
They want to make sure that before they file charges, they didn't want to jump the gun because one of the problems you've got is if you file charges immediately and you don't have enough evidence, then maybe they have to get dismissed until you do a further investigation. So some of the stuff that's come out has given a different, I think, perspective to all of this. I think they should be applauded for doing a thorough investigation first.
COOPER: Areva, to those --
A. MARTIN: I think I have an issue with that, though, Mark.
COOPER: OK. Go ahead.
A. MARTIN: You know, I just want to say I agree with you that a thorough investigation is appropriate in every case. And we want all of the facts to be gathered. But what we're not hearing about is that investigation. We're not hearing an investigation was underway by this police department. You know, since the time of the young man's death.
What we are hearing is that Trayvon --
GERAGOS: Well, you know, this is --
A. MARTIN: -- was tested for drugs and that Trayvon's records were requested. We're not hearing about an investigation to get to the truth. And that's what's puzzling --
A. MARTIN: Puzzling here. And this is troubling.
GERAGOS: Right. And don't misunderstand me. I don't disagree with you about the police investigation. But my understanding of how they operate down there is that the police will take a file over to the state's attorney and then the state's attorney can do their own investigation. So I think that the police, you know, they're the ones -- hopefully not but it appears that they're the ones who are leaking this information --
COOPER: Mark, how common is it --
GERAGOS: -- to try and dirty up Trayvon.
COOPER: How common is it for police to leak out -- to leak out information because they've been criticized now for weeks.
GERAGOS: Yes. And I think that that is a fairly common practice. I see it happen all the time in my practice when we're representing the victims in a shooting. That the next thing you hear about is all kinds of irrelevant stuff to try to demonize the victim to basically say he had it coming. That's what's so offensive about this.
COOPER: So let me ask Areva, though, is there a double standard? I mean if it's not OK to look at Trayvon Martin's record, if you think that's -- wouldn't end up in court, why is it OK to look at George Zimmerman's past arrest?
A. MARTIN: Totally different, Anderson. Trayvon is the victim here. Trayvon didn't commit any crimes. And when you look at the records, this young man was suspended from school. Zimmerman didn't know anything about that. So there can't even be a claim that this information may have caused him to believe that Trayvon was dangerous or give his cause to act in the way that he acted.
These are totally unrelated matters happening at school as the mom has already told us in numerous interviews, Trayvon has no criminal record. He's never been arrested. There's nothing in his school records to suggest that this information is even relevant.
And I wonder, Anderson, if Trayvon was an honor student, if he was a straight-A student, if he was on his way to Harvard, would we see these records being released by the police department? I don't think so.
COOPER: Interesting. We're going to leave it there.
Areva Martin, Mark Geragos, always good to have you on. Thank you.
As always more on this at CNN.com. Let us know what you think, we're on Facebook, Google Plus, we're talking about this on Twitter right now. I've been tweeting about it. A lot of folks responding. It's @Andersoncooper, is the address. Let me know what you think. Should this -- should this matter? Should any of their backgrounds matter?
Other news tonight, the terrifying moments caught on tape as an airline captain wanders apparently ranting through the cabin. Then a confrontation, emergency landing, passengers wrestling the captain to the ground. The pilot. That's not even half the story. We have the terrifying details. How a clever copilot may have averted disaster. Next.
COOPER: "Raw Politics" now and open mics. President Obama's remarks to Russia's president the other day about arms negotiations setting off a campaign trail firestorm. Here's that moment again in case you missed it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is my last election. And after my election I have more flexibility.
PRES. DMITRY MEDVEDEV, RUSSIA: I understand. I transmit this information to Vladimir, and I stand with you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Republicans quickly pounced on a president they painted as ready to give away the store if reelected and for underestimating, they say, the Russian threat.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: This is without question our number one geopolitical foe. They fight every cause for the world's worst actors. The idea that he has more flexibility in mind for Russia is very, very troubling indeed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, that remark and others drew some return fire and campaign advice from Russia's president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MEDVEDEV (Through Translator): I would advise two things to all U.S. presidential candidates including the person you just mentioned. My first advice is to listen to reason when they formulate their positions. Reason never harmed a presidential candidate. My other advice is to check their clocks from time to time. It is 2012, not the mid-1970s.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, remains to be seen whether President Obama welcomes the assist. But he did seem OK with joking about the incident today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Well, first of all, are the mics on? Look. What I said yesterday, Ben, is I think something that I think everybody in this room understands. (END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Joining us now former George W. Bush press secretary, Ari Fleischer, and Stephanie Cutter, Obama 2012 deputy campaign manager.
Stephanie, a lot of Republican critics are going to say, look, the president will be a virtually different person if he's re-elected. That this flexibility he referred to means is he's going to make a beeline for the hard left or change his policies. What's your response?
STEPHANIE CUTTER, DEPUTY CAMPAIGN MANAGER, OBAMA 2012: I think that that is -- just doesn't hold true. Look at his record. It's one of the toughest foreign policy records of any administration. You know, we've got Gadhafi. We've put end to the war in Iraq. We're drawing down on Afghanistan. We have the toughest ever sanctions in place against Iran. And for the first time ever Russia is joining us in those sanctions.
COOPER: So what did the president mean?
CUTTER: So I think that the record just doesn't bear true. And the president -- well, the president explained it. You aired a little bit of the tape. That, you know, we are in the last eight months of an election year. It's very unlikely that Republican Congress is even going to give us funding for a missile defense system. And it doesn't mean we're not committed to implementing it. In fact we're already implementing it for more than a year now.
So, you know, the facts speak for themselves. There's no -- you know, secret messaging here. It's all out in the open. The president spoke to it today.
COOPER: Ari, House Speaker John Boehner said that he didn't think the president should be criticized when he's overseas on a foreign policy trip like this. A, do you agree with that? And B, what did you think of what President Obama said?
ARI FLEISCHER, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, he just got from Marine One so he's home. So let me get into that.
You know, I -- Anderson, I think this is one of the worst displays I've ever seen of a president on foreign soil or domestic. What he's essentially saying is, give me space because I have to act one way before the election. And then after the election I have the flexibility to actually do what I really want to do. In the case of missile defense, what the president is saying to the Russians, there's no negotiation. We're the only ones who have it.
Yet the president is saying after the election I'm going to yield to you on missile defense. If that's what the president thinks, why can't he say it now? Why does he have to lean in and whisper it so no one is going to hear what he's saying? COOPER: Stephanie?
CUTTER: Well, that's just not true.
So the president spoke just this week in South Korea to the entire world about missile defense. We've taken the steps necessary to implement missile defense.
So, Ari, you think this is all a rouse? You know it doesn't work that way.
FLEISCHER: Well, actually, it's a pattern with President Obama. All you have to do is look at his race against Hillary Clinton interestingly. If you remember right before the Ohio primary, President Clinton then Senator Clinton advocated pulling out of NAFTA if we don't renegotiate NAFTA. And later we found out that just three weeks before he said that he sends his top economic aide Austan Goolsbee to meet with the Canadians and Austan said to them basically give the president space.
What Austan reportedly said was, this is political maneuvering. It's not President Obama, Senator Obama's policy. It's a pattern with President Obama. What I would love to hear from -- from Stephanie, can she assure us that the president has made no other statements like that to, say, Arab leaders or Palestinian leaders, give me space and after the election I'll have more flexibility to deal with Israel? Can you assure us he's not done that?
CUTTER: Well, if we're going to have a -- bring up an attack which is slightly ridiculous that is four years old about NAFTA treaty and Austan Goolsbee going to Canada, why don't you look at the trade agreements that we have gotten through that are balanced to protect American workers and protect our environment and have a greater impact.
Just the Korea trade agreement that we got, have a greater impact on American jobs up the last nine treaties combined. So I think that the facts speak for themselves rather than this political innuendo and talking points that are being thrown at us. The facts speak for themselves. This is a sitting president with a strong foreign policy record. With a proven foreign policy record. Al Qaeda decimated. Iraq, ended a war. A war that even President Obama back in 2002 said that we shouldn't have fought.
We're drawing down Afghanistan. We got bin Laden. And we're potentially running against -- let's not forget the important piece of this conversation. We are likely running against someone who says that Russia is our greatest geopolitical foe. But in his famous foreign white paper didn't even bring up Russia --
CUTTER: -- until page 31 of a 42-page document.
FLEISCHER: You --
CUTTER: And then with only platitude. So this is kind of a ridiculous debate that we're having.
FLEISCHER: You notice that Stephanie didn't answer either question. She didn't address the fundamental process fact here. Not President Obama's conduct with foreign policy and vital treaties. But that he says one thing before a crucial election. And then acts totally differently after the election has passed. In other words, what's most important to President Obama is maneuvering. Political maneuvering to get through.
But I guess he views that as flexibility day which the rest of us call Election Day. Once flexibility day is over for President Obama, then he's going to be free to take other positions. And that's what's troublesome about what he said on this issue, Anderson. It's a window into how he operates. I think it's a window into what he might do as far as taxes. After the elections, he's going to be free to raise taxes on people. Free to have more debt piled on the country.
FLEISCHER: I think he's going to change his position on gay marriage as well. They'll probably come out for it after the election. These are the troublesome things about a candidate who says one thing before the election and then so boldly and publicly says give me space. After the election I'll have more flexibility to be who I really am and do what I really want.
COOPER: Stephanie, just briefly I'll give you the final thought.
CUTTER: Well, my final thought is that this is a -- you know, a conversation that's based on political talking points, not based on facts. And the president has the strongest foreign policy record of a sitting president in generations. And those are the facts that remain true. And if there's one thing that voters don't doubt in this election is the ability of this president to keep this country safe and make the right foreign policy decisions based on sound judgment.
He's not going back and forth unlike some potential opponents of ours. He's not checking with his lawyers before he holds Iran accountable. And there's -- this is no window into his thinking. His thinking is out there for everybody to see. He has a proven record for 3 1/2 years.
FLEISCHER: That's what you hear his whispers, it sure is.
COOPER: We got to leave it there. Stephanie Cutter, I appreciate you being on.
CUTTER: Well, as you --
COOPER: Sorry, go ahead.
CUTTER: OK. Thank you, Anderson.
FLEISCHER: Thank you, Anderson.
COOPER: All right.
CUTTER: No, I was just going to talk about some of President Bush's whispers but that's OK.
COOPER: OK. Stephanie Cutter, Ari Fleischer, I appreciate you both.
The Syrian government is making yet another promise. The regime has now agreed to a United Nations peace plan. But what we're seeing and hearing from eyewitnesses in Syria tell another story. Syrian activists say this is just the latest lie from Assad. That's next.
COOPER: Another "Keeping Them Honest" report tonight. The Syrian regime telling western leaders what they want to hear while it continues to kill its people including children.
Syria today accepting United Nation's peace plan that includes a government cease-fire. U.N. Arab League envoy Kofi Anan called it an important first step. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was less generous.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON, SECRETARY OF STATE: Given Assad's history of overpromising and under delivering that commitment must not be match by immediate actions. We will judge Assad's sincerity and seriousness by what he does, not what he says.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Keeping them honest, words are cheap and we have heard so many lies from Assad's regime in the last year. November, the Arab League said the Syrian government agreed to stop killing its people and to withdraw its troops from cities.
That very same week videos like this revealed that promise was a lie. Video reportedly shows government forces firing on protesters. Again, we can't independently verify the video or the others we're about to show you because Syria severely restricts reporter's access.
In February, three months after its promise to the Arab League president, Bashar Al-Assad's forces, well, they did this. Assad's forces shown here on a rooftop launching a big assault in the Baba Amir neighborhood of Homs. Much of it was reduced to rubble.
Witnesses including western reporters described it as a massacre slaughter house. Again, we can't vouch for the veracity of this video. Today, President Al-Assad toured Baba Amir for the first time since the siege.
Syrian state television broadcast this footage of him. While he was posing for the cameras, opposition groups said at least 57 people were killed across Syria today, some of them in that city.
This video shows injured kids at a field hospital in a neighborhood of Homs. Hospital, of course, was not part of Assad's tour today. In another neighborhood in Homs, shelling left this house in flames.
Again, we can't vouch for the video or this next one shot in yesterday we're told in Homs. Question is, does this look like a commitment to peace? Does this next video sound like peace is coming any time soon?
All of this is happening in Homs. The Syrian regime is once again making a promise for peace. Promising peace while bodies like this one sit in the streets waiting to be recovered.
Earlier, I talked to Syrian activist, calling himself, Zaidoun.
COOPER: President Assad as you know visited Homs today for the first time since the city was bombarded by his forces. The Syrian news agency says that he inspected destruction caused by armed terrorist groups and that he was greeted by people saying we are with you until death. When you hear those reports, what do you say?
ZAIDOUN, SYRIAN ACTIVIST (via telephone): Yes. This was heroic. Wonderful. Declaring victory over his own people. This was -- I should envy myself. I envy my own people for this.
Our government has reached to a point where declaring a victory, shelling and bombarding. Civilians have become a victory. This was wonderful. I don't know what did he find Baba Amir?
That sure there is no single person right now in Baba Amir. I mean, this is really fantastic. Why shouldn't he be so happy? Our president has declared victory over his own people. Wonderful.
COOPER: The Syrian government also says they've accepted the U.N.'s six-point peace plan today. Assad has agreed to other reforms in the past, other peace plans in the past. He's failed to implement them. Do you think this is going to be any different?
ZAIDOUN: Along with other activists, I could meet Mr. Kofi Annan last time he visited Syria and I think there is another next week with visiting other cities. We explain the situation. We said that international communities are silent at us just looking at us being killed.
But we are just trying our best to see what is next. Now, what I can say. The government said yes it is accepting the six-point plan. But believe me, if the government says good morning I believe it is evening.
This is exactly what I told Mr. Annan. If the government says it is evening, I believe it is morning. They lie even of their names. They say they accept. I have my doubts. I should keep my hopes. This is true, but this is really hard to believe.
COOPER: We've seen the bombing, the terror in Homs, in Baba Amir. We've seen attacks in Idlib and elsewhere. And we've heard the death toll now for about year, for more than a year. Has the regime won? I mean, has the regime effectively crushed the opposition?
ZAIDOUN: No way. There is no way they win. There is here 23 million Syrian people who will win. There is no way we surrender. There is no way we give up. Kill as many as you want. We are here. We will stay forever.
COOPER: Zaidoun, thank you very much for talking to us.
ZAIDOUN: You're welcome. Thank you very much.
COOPER: Talking to us at great risk I should point out. Is it discipline or violence? Former employees and students of a boarding school say the kids there were being abused. Gary Tuchman went to see and find out for himself in part one of latest installment of our series, "Ungodly Discipline" investigation.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Some of the kids who are now adults tell us that you used to choke them.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's totally false.
TUCHMAN: What is that you did to them?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Used pressure points to restrain them.
TUCHMAN: What does that mean?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have places on your body where nerve endings are close --
TUCHMAN: Show me where on my body.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right there.
TUCHMAN: Show me on my body.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right there.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Welcome back. A new report in our "Ungodly Discipline" series tonight. For more than a year, we've been investigating accusations of child abuse under the guise of religious discipline.
We've looked at a man who's written a popular book, stolen the virtues of striking children with rods and belts and twitches. We've also look at some small religious schools where students say they were disciplined in the name of God and virtue is taught through violence.
Well, tonight a new report. Another school, this time in Western Montana. Gary Tuchman investigates.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): Here in this part of big sky country, disturbing allegations are just over the horizon in the town of St. Ignatius, Montana where the religious boarding school, Pinehaven Christian Children's Ranch is located. It has been run for four decades by this 82-year-old preacher.
(on camera): Is it troubled kids or kids with troubled parents? Who's coming here?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All of the above and more.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): And Bob Larsson is blunt. Any kid who comes here is expected to behave and praise the Lord.
(on camera): What do you try to teach these children, first of all, about Christianity?
BOB LARSSON, OWNER, PINEHAVEN CHRISTIAN CHILDREN'S RANCH: Well, that God loves them and God is the answer of everything. He's the ruler of the universe. He made the man. He made the world. He made the rules.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): But some say there's more to Pinehaven than just Christian teachings. They say there's violence. Denise and Dave Bingham were houseparents of Pinehaven for five years until 2010. In charge of taking care of children who lived in one of the cabin style homes on the ranch.
DENISE BINGHAM, FORMER PINEHAVEN HOUSEPARENT: Children are hurt at Pinehaven. When kids won't obey, physical pain is used to get them to comply. Whether it's pressure points, sometimes they were drag down the hill.
Sometimes they were choked, but it was used to get them to comply. I think God weeps when he thinks about the wrong that's been done. Of course, he does.
TUCHMAN: The owner of Pinehaven says these allegations are not true.
LARSSON: I'm not saying they lied. I think this is their perception of what happened as they look back on it. And I can't answer their perception.
TUCHMAN: James Mason was a child at Pinehaven entering at age 13 staying for six years.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: First time I was choked was in April of 1995. It was in my bedroom.
TUCHMAN: Mason was then 14 years old when he says he was physically disciplined by one of the houseparents after being accused of misbehaving.
JAMES MASON, FORMER PINEHAVEN STUDENT: And at that point, he lifted me up by my neck against the door and held me up until I pretty much went limp. And I was subdued and I was contained. And I was no longer a threat as much as a 14-year-old can be to a former army full grown man.
TUCHMAN: Melissa Stasiuk was also a child at Pinehaven and dealt with the very same houseparent.
MELISSA STASIUK, FORMER PINEHAVEN STUDENT: He picked me up by the -- under my neck. Just like at my trachea and he's about 6'2" and I'm about 5'0. I'm maybe 4'10. He picked me up by my throat and slammed me down on the kitchen table.
TUCHMAN: The houseparent they are talking about is named Ned Kent who still works at Pinehaven.
(on camera): Some of the kids who are now adults tell us you used to choke them.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's totally false.
TUCHMAN: What is it you did to them?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Used pressure points to retrain them.
TUCHMAN: What does that mean?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have places on your body where nerve endings are really close --
TUCHMAN: Show me.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Like right there.
TUCHMAN: Show me.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right there.
TUCHMAN: Two hands or one.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Usually just one.
TUCHMAN: You'd put your hands on pressure points, what was the purpose?
NED KENT, PINEHAVEN HOUSEPARENT: To stop them from flailing or to stop them from hitting somebody or to stop them from whatever behavior they happen to be doing at the time.
TUCHMAN: Could that not be interpreted as choking if an adult puts pressure points on child, much smaller.
KENT: I supposed it could be.
TUCHMAN: Do you still do that?
KENT: No. I've been told we cannot do that. So we don't do that anymore.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): Bob Larsson says he was the one told that Kent no more pressure points. That they could be misconstrued, but former student Lauren McClary said she experienced other types of violence too with different houseparents.
LAUREN MCCLARY, FORMER PINEHAVEN STUDENT: He grabbed me by the ponytail and is he dragged me up the stairs.
TUCHMAN: Bob Larsson disputes that. He introduced us to some former students who say the accusations of abuse are not true.
TROY BAKER, FORMER PINEHAVEN STUDENT: No, there was tough love, but there was nothing cruel or unusual. I mean, tough love means separating people from drugs and alcohol and bad influences that brought them to Pinehaven in the first place.
CURTIS SWANSON, FORMER PINEHAVEN STUDENT: If I would have gone there, I would have had a criminal record and had stuff I shouldn't have. It kept me on track and gave me a better place to be in ethics and stuff like that. So I'm really thankful for Pinehaven.
TUCHMAN: But the accusations of abuse are detailed and numerous. To Bob Larsson, there's a reason.
(on camera): Why do you think so many people are saying such bad things?
LARSSON: Ultimately, we only have one enemy who wants to defeat the good that's in the world and that's Satan. And I really believe that he is a real personality and he works to try to stop the works of God and caused the evil that keeps going on that will happen. I think that he influences people. People sometimes believe his lies.
TUCHMAN: So you think that people are saying bad things because they're influenced by Satan?
LARSSON: Underneath it all, that is what's happening. Yes.
COOPER: I'm -- it's an interesting defense. How many alleged victims did you talk to?
TUCHMAN: We talked to 12 people, former teachers and former students who alleged abuse. We also talked with many more people on the telephone and via e-mail.
COOPER: And did the students pay to go to this school? TUCHMAN: Bob Larsson tells us there's no tuition. That it's just donations, but the students we talked to said their parents shelled out thousands of dollars a year for them to stay there. They also tell some interesting.
They say they had to do most of the construction work. The students built the houses on the ranch and they believe that this ranch could not survive without the student labor.
Bob Larsson denies that, but he does admit the students built the houses and they do the construction work. He says it's a good life lesson for the students.
COOPER: And part two of your story tonight, what does it include in that?
TUCHMAN: Right, part two, I will show you a clip that it may surprise you much to know that Pinehaven is unaccredited, unlicensed, uncertified by the state of Montana. The only people who watch over Pinehaven is Pinehaven.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TUCHMAN (voice-over): If teachers and counselors at Pinehaven were certified and licensed by the state of Montana, could they have helped to prevent or deal with certain horrifying situations? For example, former student James Mason says he was sodomized by another student.
MASON: I was raped. I never told anybody that. He threatened me with pliers to my throat and testicles if I would ever tell anybody.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TUCHMAN: The stories are sad, Anderson and there's a lot of point, counterpoint, but it doesn't bode well for Pinehaven. That this guy Ned Kent had acknowledged to me publicly for the first time that he did indeed applied so-called pressure points.
COOPER: Do we know when they were told they could not do that any longer?
TUCHMAN: Not exactly sure of the timetable. There are some who fear rise up students that they were told the day we arrived. Bob Larsson says it was a long time ago, but he can't remember exactly when he told that Kent not to do those pressure points.
COOPER: Stunning stuff. Gary, thanks.
Incredibly frightening moments on board a flight from New York to Las Vegas to tell you about. Passengers wrestled the plane's pilot to the floor after he apparently started talking erratically talking about bringing the plane down. Hear what happened next.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) COOPER: Let's check in with Isha for an update in the "360 News and Business Bulletin" -- Isha.
ISHA SESAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, a chaotic scene today aboard a JetBlue flight from New York to Las Vegas. The flight was diverted to Texas because the captain was acting erratically.
Passengers say he was talking about taking the plane down. The co-pilot locked the captain out of the cockpit and flight attendants and passengers wrestled him to the ground. JetBlue described it as a medical situation involving the captain. He was removed from the plane and taken to treatment.
Lawyers of former IMF chief, Dominique Strauss-Kahn said today that there's no significant evidence that he knew that the young women at parties he attended were being paid for sex. Strauss-Kahn is under investigation in France accused of participating in a prostitution ring.
And the third largest mega millions jackpot in history is up for grabs tonight. That's an estimated $363 million. Anderson, I should tell you, the odds of winning are about 176 million to one.
COOPER: I put down $5 for you.
SESAY: You did?
COOPER: I did. We had a little office pool. You weren't around so I put down $5 for you.
SESAY: See, I knew I could count on you.
COOPER: I want a cut of yours though. I want half of your cut.
SESAY: You'll have to find me first.
COOPER: All right, let's check in with Piers Morgan, look what's coming up in his show -- Piers.
PIERS MORGAN, HOST, CNN'S "PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT": Thanks, Anderson. Tonight, I'm talking exclusively to the two hero passengers who subdued an out of control pilot on that JetBlue flight to Vegas.
Also new developments in the Trayvon Martin case and my exclusive interview with Hank Haney. The man who may know Tiger Woods better than anybody else. He's his former coach. What he thinks of Tiger and his game now.
And also what he thinks of all the fury over his -- well, let's face it kiss and tell book. That and more coming up at 9:00 -- Anderson.
COOPER: Can't wait to hear what happened on that flight. It's so bizarre, that story. I look forward to that. Piers, thanks.
MORGAN: I've never seen anything like it. I've had funny experiences in Vegas, but pilot running out and going loopy? I mean --
COOPER: That's what I want to hear, your experiences in Vegas.
MORGAN: What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas. We both know that.
COOPER: See you then.
Coming up, police pull over the bat mobile. You think I'm kidding? "The Ridiculist" is next.
COOPER: Time now for "The Ridiculist." Tonight, Gotham City is on the verge of chaos because Batman got pulled over by the police. That's right. In Silver Spring, Maryland, Batman himself was stopped by officers driving southbound, Route 29 in his Lamborghini/Bat Mobile.
It wasn't even a dark night. It looks like it's the middle of the day frankly. So was Batman perhaps speeding to foil a diabolical plot by the penguin or maybe rushing to rescue to Robin from a warehouse that was moments away from exploding? Nope.
The caped crusader was pulled over because of improper tags, holy minor traffic infraction, Batman. Apparently, in the state of Maryland the Batman symbol alone is not a sufficient license plate, duly noted.
The Montgomery County police say they told Batman to get the right tags and released him without charges leaving him to return to the bat cave. And the police went off to pull over Spiderman for not wearing a seat belt.
It turned out the Batman in a Lamborghini guy is actually a real life superhero. Police say he dressed up to visit sick kids in the hospital. So hopefully Batman will get proper tags.
But if this happens again, a little tip for the Montgomery County police, anyone who watch that 1960s TV series knows the best way to get Batman to do anything is bring on the laughing gas.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's the funniest trick anyone's pulled on us.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's even funnier than the Joker. I can't stop laughing. Take this. It's a sad pill to neutralize the laughing gas. It'll clear our minds.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Acting. Luckily it seemed like a very cordial traffic stop because the last thing the police want is to get him (inaudible) with Batman. First the music starts up, next thing you know you're on a boat. All those graphics start flying around.
Pow. It's like madmen music. So let this be a warning to superheroes everywhere. While you're busy thwarting villains and protecting the public, and don't get me wrong, everyone appreciates that, just don't forget the little stuff like putting tags on your car.
That's it for us. We'll see you again one hour from now. Another edition of 360 and the latest in the Trayvon Martin shooting. "PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT" starts now.