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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT

House Passes Budget; Indictments in Amish Beard-Cutting Investigation; Interview with Senator Kent Conrad; Mass Murder Defense Strategy

Aired March 29, 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: A sweeping budget passed the House today. Why it means absolutely nothing.

And a bizarre story continues to get stranger, four indictments in the Amish beard-cutting investigation.

And breaking news in the Trayvon Martin case, a witness claims to have seen the actual shooting. Let's go OUTFRONT.

Well, good evening, everyone. I'm Erin Burnett and OUTFRONT tonight superfail take two. The House of Representatives passes Paul Ryan's 2013 budget plan.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. JOHN BOEHNER (R-OH), HOUSE SPEAKER: I applaud my colleagues for the tough decisions they have made to try to do the right thing for the country.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: The problem is we already know how this story will end. Zero Democrats voted for Ryan's budget which means it's dead on arrival in the Senate. Democrats say Ryan's budget ends Medicare as we know it. As for the president's budget on the other side, well that's a no-go too. According to Republicans it's a campaign document that raises taxes and doesn't rein in spending.

Here's the bottom line. America hasn't had a budget in 1,065 days. Both sides say this is a tragedy but instead of compromising or embracing the bipartisan revenue raising and benefit cutting blueprint of the Senate's "Gang of Six" or the Simpson Bowles Commission, both sides have chosen to put their own budgets out knowing full well they won't pass. The blame, they say, goes to the other side of the aisle.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. PAUL RYAN (R), WISCONSIN: We don't think that the president's led on this issue by virtue of the fact that he's given us four budgets with $4 trillion deficits and literally no proposal to prevent a debt crisis, to get this debt under control.

REP. BETTY MCCOLLUM (D), MINNESOTA: This Tea Party Republican budget that passed today is going to prevent students from going to college, that's clear, force seniors to decide between food and medicine and it's going to increase unemployment in the construction sector. That all happened today.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: I had a small glimmer of hope today when I heard that Nancy Pelosi had changed her mind about Simpson Bowles. Back when the commission's proposal came out November of 2010 she called it quote "simply unacceptable" in a press release. Today she said she's on board with it. And I thought she was going to flip-flop the way politicians sometimes should.

You admit you were wrong or you changed your mind and you step up, you embrace that and you say it's best for the country. But no, the way she did it, she pretended she always liked Simpson Bowles.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), HOUSE MINORITY LEADER: As to what was in Simpson Bowles, then, you know as I said, I felt fully ready to vote for that myself.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: There's a reason for all the stuttering and stammering there. By the way, she still voted against the bill based on Simpson Bowles yesterday.

Sand box politics continue and one man who knows the sandbox all too well and -- so well in fact he's leaving Washington at the end of his term because of it is the Senate Budget Committee Chairman Kent Conrad of North Dakota. I spoke to him earlier and I asked him if Paul Ryan's budget was dead on arrival in the Senate.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SEN. KENT CONRAD (D-ND), BUDGET COMMITTEE CHMN.: The budget that has passed the House is not a governing document; it's a political document and an ideological document. You know, it's a very curious thing because what it says is even though we have massive deficits and debt the first thing we're going to do is cut taxes further on the wealthiest among us. Not only extend permanently all the tax cuts from the Bush administration, but add $200 billion more in tax cuts directed at the very wealthiest among us. That's really not a path to a balanced plan.

BURNETT: It's interesting you say it's an ideological and political document. Here's what he had to say about you and Senate Democrats overall. He took to Twitter, Paul Ryan, and he said, quote, "On the 1,065th day that @SenateDems failed to pass a budget, the House again met its legal and moral obligations. What is your response to this, as a Senate Democrat who is responsible for putting out the Democrat's budget?

CONRAD: He must not read the legislation he votes on because last year we passed not a budget resolution, but a budget law called the Budget Control Act. The Budget Control Act included the budget for the current year and next year.

BURNETT: But most Americans will say, look, we're supposed to have this done in the spring. We're supposed to have compromise. We're supposed to have a real budget and not have to rely on gimmicks or control acts or things like that, right? I mean it's frustration --

CONRAD: Whoa, whoa, whoa, wait a minute, wait a minute. The Control Act is not a gimmick. The Control Act is the law of the land. It cut $900 billion of spending over the next 10 years.

BURNETT: It seems, though, that part of the problem here is, and I know you're saying that's law and that passed, but we're not getting a real budget because the two sides can't agree, which brings me to you and the "Gang of Six". You are a leader there. You were the person who put forth Simpson Bowles. You had $4.6 trillion of cuts in the "Gang of Six". Is there any way to push that again?

CONRAD: The question is the longer term. And that's why I think Bowles Simpson has some value and what the work of the group of six has such value because it would save over $4 trillion on our deficit and debt over the next 10 years. And it's a longer term plan. That's what we really need. And right now the two sides are so far apart that there seems to be an unwillingness to come to the center.

BURNETT: Is there a chance that we can get some sort of a grand bargain, though? I mean I know you try hard and now we end up with all these continuing budgets, but is there a chance we could get something real, something long term, something that tackles all these things --

(CROSSTALK)

BURNETT: -- or is that in your view -- I mean you're leaving your job, right, because you said, at least my understanding is, the best way to serve your country and reduce the national debt, well, you're leaving the Senate. So it seems like you're saying the best way to do that is not to be in the Senate, not to be the chair of the committee charged with setting up a budget.

CONRAD: Look, I can't make my colleagues drink. I can bring the horse to the water. I can't make them drink. And I'll have served 26 years, less than five percent of senators in history have served that long. I've done my level best to convince my colleagues. We have laid out a plan. I'm hopeful that before this year is over, I know it's not going to happen before the election, but I am hopeful before this year is over that when Congress is staring in the face the expiration of all the tax cuts and staring in the face the sequester that will cut over a trillion dollars out of defense and non-defense --

BURNETT: Right.

CONRAD: -- that people will say now is the time, now is the time to have a long-term plan that really gets the country back on track.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BURNETT: OK. If this all sounds like deja vu to you, you're not alone. Remember last summer when there was a grand bargain debt deal in the works between the president and House Speaker John Boehner? They were going to do something big for the country? We all know what happened. It went down in fiery, fiery, fiery flames and "The New York Times" magazine's chief political writer Matt Bai came out with a whopper of an article this week. Really, really, you've got to read it, detailing all the secret negotiations, all the e-mails, all the subterfuge and the hope.

Lessons we learned from that superfail could help us on the road ahead. And Matt Bai comes OUTFRONT tonight. John Avlon, you all know he's as fired up about the power failure in Washington as we are, is also here. Let me start with you, John. There's something to me that is just unbelievable about the fact that the guy in charge of putting a budget out in the Senate, Senate Budget Committee says he wants his legacy to be dealing with this fiscal crisis and the way to do it is to leave the Senate and leave that job.

JOHN AVLON, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: That's right. That's how frustrated, that's how much of an impasse they're at. The responsible actors are leaving because we see over and over again this inability to compromise. Everyone says there's 80 percent agreement and yet we get zero progress. Today Bowles Simpson got put back forward to a bill late last night. Only 38 members of the House voted for it.

BURNETT: And you have Nancy Pelosi, unbelievable --

AVLON: Yes --

(CROSSTALK)

AVLON: I mean this is profiles and cowardice day after day. They proved they deserve to have the lowest approval ratings in congressional history because they talk about the deficit, they demagogue about the deficit and then they refuse to deal with it. They'd rather do (INAUDIBLE) votes and it's just disgusting.

BURNETT: Matt, you did -- it's just an incredible piece of journalism. Like I said everyone has got to read it. It is long and it is worth it. You wrote in your article quote, "if we understand what really went on last July, we'll have a better sense of how difficult it will be for the two parties to stave off the coming political calamity and why too the situation may not be quite as hopeless as it seems." Let's start with that, not quite as hopeless as it seems. Give us some hope.

MATT BAI, CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, NYT MAGAZINE: I'm an optimist, Erin. Thank you for the kind words about the piece, I appreciate it. You know, if you read the piece, I mean what you have to come away with and what I came away with is that you know we have two principals here who were very, very committed to getting something done if they could find agreement. The president obviously had reason to do this and the speaker, I think, you know I really feel certain was willing to risk his speakership and in fact, you know, he has said for all these months that once the president asks for more revenue, he had no choice but to walk away.

We now know that isn't true. What I found out is actually that the speaker was interested in actually trying to find a way to meet the president at that higher revenue figure. He contemplated a counter offer and it was Eric Cantor, the number two in the caucus, speaking presumably for the House leadership who said look you know we can't get this done. We can't get it through the caucus. So you do have two guys who you know may well be in office still at the end of the year who have a real commitment to get this done. They came about -- I would say about 80 percent of the way toward getting an agreement. There are some significant obstacles that remain, but it's not out of the question that they can -- that they can restart that talk at some point.

BURNETT: It was interesting reading your article, Matt, (INAUDIBLE) how it went up in flames, at one point John Boehner was taking way too long to return the president's phone calls, but they seem to have gotten over it. I only say that John Avlon because of something that happened this week with the whole Medvedev situation. When President Obama spoke on the open mic it was John Boehner who said leave him alone, he's overseas.

AVLON: Yes.

BURNETT: And stood up for him and I'm wondering if there's something we can read into that into their ability or willingness at least to work together as those two individuals.

AVLON: John Boehner is old school in the best sense. I mean he's back in that tradition when people made deals in Congress. And I think the last thing on Earth he'd want is an open mic any time he was negotiating anything.

BURNETT: Right.

AVLON: But sometimes that's how you carve out progress. The problem is if you listen to Kent Conrad carefully and you hear what Matt just said, members of Congress are essentially kicking the can until after the election. They are saying maybe something will get done in the lame duck when our back is to the wall and people realize that everything is about to expire.

The only thing they're responding to is the prospect of political pain. They're not being driven by what's best for the country or even what they know is in the best interest of the country. It's all partisan politics and the inmates are running the asylum.

BURNETT: And Matt you know Kent Conrad tries to leave it open of look maybe at the end of this year with the Bush tax cuts going away that 1.2 trillion in sequestration we could do a grand bargain, but I want to be optimistic too. But given what they did with the payroll tax extension at the end of last year, do you think it's reasonable that we could hope for a grand bargain? BAI: Well, I think it's reasonable. I don't know that it's incredibly likely. But you know there's a potential to have the president re-elected looking at maybe an 18-month window to solidify his legacy before the midterms and then another presidential campaign.

BURNETT: Right.

BAI: The speaker with perhaps a slightly altered caucus and you know what, you know we should not make the mistake of thinking -- and I don't want to sound like a hopeless pragmatist here -- but we should not make the mistake of thinking that this has to be the only way to get out of this is a big transformative deal that radically alters the fiscal picture of the country. If you look actually at what the president and the speaker had agreed upon, despite their disagreements, in those talks last summer, what you find is that there is a real basis for incremental change, for a series of areas they can agree on that would actually take a first significant step toward putting the country on a different fiscal trajectory and on a trajectory that fostered in equality to a lesser degree and begin to heal that breach. And I think that that's probably more likely and more doable than talking about something like Simpson-Bowles which would be presumably much more radical.

BURNETT: Well let's leave it as a glass -- I mean that was even a quarter full and that still left me feeling better. Thanks to Matt. Thanks also to John.

OUTFRONT next, the latest in the case of the soldier accused of murdering 17 Afghan civilians. How his attorney plans to spare Bales the death penalty. We have that information for you.

And we have new information about the pilot who was restrained during that JetBlue flight this week and how pilots are dealing with depression. A lot of them have it.

Plus Tony Robbins (ph) -- talking about a way to get out of depression and stop feeling upset about the debt, he's OUTFRONT.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: Sergeant Robert Bales stands accused of killing 17 Afghan civilians, but how strong is the case against him? Here's what we know tonight. The U.S. military has not been back to the crime scene. They have not gathered DNA evidence. But there is blood evidence on Bales' clothing according to U.S. personnel.

And evidence has been collected by Afghan investigators. U.S. officials also say that Sergeant Bales left the base and returned to tell fellow soldiers he had killed Afghan men before he went out to kill a second time. Bales' attorney, John Henry Browne, told me yesterday he had not confirmed those allegations, but if true, that they would hurt his case.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN HENRY BROWNE, ATTORNEY FOR STAFF SGT. ROBERT BALES: As far as this comment about --

BURNETT: That he told people on the base. He told people on the base I shot --

BROWNE: That he shot bad guys or something?

BURNETT: Or he shot -- I shot Afghan men of military age.

BROWNE: If the military prosecutors have said that, then it would be something I'd be very concerned about, but I have not heard that from anything other than unattributed sources.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: It seemed clear to me that Browne is not counting on that remaining the case. He's moving ahead with the defense that he hopes explains why his client allegedly killed the civilians. Browne told me PTSD is definitely an issue, but he's also looking at certain medications. He expects to have Sergeant Bales' medical records in hand in a few weeks. Now, specifically we talked about the anti- malaria drug Lariam (ph).

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BROWNE: I've never had a case involving it but I've been reading about it a lot and it certainly could be a factor if he was taking it. Keep in mind, this is a man who everybody, even his commanders, say nothing but good things about him. You know and all the people that worked with him say nothing but good things about him in a good way. I mean that he was a good father. He was a good husband. He was a good soldier. So that's pretty interesting.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: But is Lariam (ph) a valid defense for someone accused of murdering 17 people? Dr. Elspeth Ritchie is a forensic psychologist who investigated the effects of Lariam (ph) on American soldiers in 2002 during a case where four servicemen inexplicably murdered their wives. Dr. Ritchie is OUTFRONT tonight.

I really appreciate your taking the time, Doctor. I wanted to talk to you about -- in particular about the case of William Wright (ph). I was reading about this, this week Special Forces soldier in Afghanistan, of course Sergeant Bales was obviously in Special Ops in Afghanistan. Wright killed his wife, buried her in the woods. He ended up killing himself. Do you see some similarities in these cases?

COL. ELSPETH CAMERON RITCHIE, MD, MPH U.S. ARMY (RET.): I do. And, first of all, you should know that -- first of all, you should know that Lariam or Mefloquine (ph) has had a long history of being associated with neuro-psychiatric side effects. However, it's really only the last 10 years since the Ft. Bragg cases that we've realized how significant those side effects are, and the military has actually made a number of attempts to stop or reduce the use of Lariam in Afghanistan. But, yes, I was a member of the team that looked at the Ft. Bragg murder-suicides, and there are some disturbing similarities.

BURNETT: I mean it seemed also that, you know, we just heard John Henry Browne talking about Sergeant Bales saying that in the military at least, everyone had only good things to say about him as a husband, as a father, as a colleague, which sounds a lot like what you heard about William Wright (ph) who then proceeded to do something truly horrific.

RITCHIE: That's absolutely true. Sergeant First Class Wright (ph) was described in very, very positive terms. And one of the things that didn't really make sense was the brutality of the crime and that he would do it. Having said that, when we looked at all the cases these were cases of marital infidelity. There was a lot of stress on the soldiers. They were going back and forth to Afghanistan.

But after the crime, and this I have secondhand, not firsthand, but Wright's (ph) lawyer described him as being out of it, as not really seeming to know what was going on and to seem confused. He apparently said he thought there was a mouse in the dog bowl. He was pretty incoherent. Now, this is secondhand, but again there's enough disturbing similarities that made me wonder and I first posted this in a blog over a week ago. Could the explanation be that Sergeant Bales was on Lariam or Mefloquine (ph)? Now, I don't know that he was, but I think it's something we really have to consider.

BURNETT: Now the medical records, are you surprised why the DOD hasn't released them? I would think that would be pretty easy for them to do and what else should we be looking at there? I'm particularly interested in steroids.

RITCHIE: Yes, well first of all, Mefloquine (ph) is measurable in the blood and it's measurable for a long time. It also can be found in the feces so there should have been a blood or other screen for Mefloquine (ph). Sometimes the medical records reveal things but sometimes they don't, especially if somebody is stationed in a remote outpost and might have gotten the medications locally without being in the electronic medical records.

BURNETT: Or something like steroids which they're not supposed to be taking.

RITCHIE: Or something like steroids. But I'll tell you this to me is more than steroids. Steroids can cause problems, no question. You've heard of roid rage. But to have somebody go out and unprovoked gun down men, women, and children and then walk back to the base it just doesn't make sense. Usually if there's a steroid rage, somebody is angry at their wife or their brother and that's where the rage is. But this seems consistent with delusions, with hallucinations, with psychotic thinking.

BURNETT: Right.

RITCHIE: Now, I wasn't there so it's speculation --

BURNETT: OK. RITCHIE: -- but I wouldn't be at all surprised if Lariam was not the source of some of this.

BURNETT: All right, well Dr. Ritchie, thank you very much. We appreciate it.

Well new details tonight about the JetBlue pilot whose midair meltdown caused the emergency landing. We are just learning that Captain Clayton Osbon's father was killed in a 1995 private plane crash in Florida. And we're going to have more on that after this break and talk about what role depression possibly could have played. That's coming up next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: All right, so you probably know Mega Millions mania has totally gripped this country. The total prize is now $540 million. That's more than half a billion. The multi-state game is officially the richest lottery in the world's history. And the odds of one ticket matching all five numbers and the mega ball are about one in 175 million but that hasn't stopped people from playing. This morning our staff pooled our dollars together and we bought a ticket. And there are long lines at stores across the country.

Tickets are available in 42 states plus the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands, which brings us to tonight's number, .0035 percent. That's the percent of the U.S. national debt that $540 million represents. Now, for fun if you want to call it that, we took the top lottery jackpots ever, 14 of them all over $300 million apiece, add them together, you get $4.6 billion, which would be one hell of a jackpot. But guess what, it represents .03 percent of this country's total debt. And like the lottery that number keeps going up too. Well don't worry. We've got (INAUDIBLE) to fix all this sadness about the debt so far later on in this show.

And next we have breaking news in the Trayvon Martin case. We've got a witness who claims to have seen the shooting and new indictments in the Amish beard-cutting case. It's a bizarre case and it has gotten even stranger today.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: So we start the second half of our show with stories we care about, where we focus on our reporting, do the work and find the OUTFRONT five.

And, first, this happened late today. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said he'll be much more ready, his words, to run for president four years from now. In an interview with Oprah Winfrey, Christie said he didn't run this year because, quote, "There's nothing more unattractive than getting there an feeling like you're not ready."

Christie had been urged to run by many Republicans but decided against it late last year. He has endorsed Mitt Romney and, unlike many, he did so very early. Number two: CNN has learned the leaders of five African nations were denied access to Mali today. A plane carrying the leaders made a midair U-turn after learning demonstrators took over the airport in Bamako, literally flooding the runway where the plane was supposed to land.

The residents had hoped to meet with the military leaders behind last week's coup and work towards restoring constitutional rule.

OUTFRONT spoke to a man living in the Malian capital and he told us he has heard random gunfire but otherwise he said that, quote, "Right now, things are calm, but everyone is waiting and watching to see what happens. "

Number three: Best Buy announced it's cutting $800 million to restructure. The chain, of course, sells all kinds of electronics and reported a $1.7 billion loss in the fourth quarter. It's going to close 50 stores, 40 workers will we laid off. Best Buy's CEO says this is part of the company's plan to, quote, "increase points of presence while decreasing square footage".

That's only in the U.S. Best Buy plans to open 50 new stores in China next year. That's exactly the same number they're closing here.

Number four: initial jobless claims fell to a four-year low, falling by 5,000 to 359,000 last week. Both the four-week moving average and continuing claims moved lower. Economists tell OUTFRONT the job market continues to improve at a modest pace. They think that we could see 200,000 jobs created for the month of March.

Well, it has been 238 days since this country lost its top credit rating. What are we doing to get it back?

Well, the economy is growing. Economists believe growth is slowing down. GDP grew at a 3 percent annual rate in the final three months of last year.

Economists told OUTFRONT they think growth will slow to 2 percent in the first quarter of this year. That is bad news but economic growth can solve a lot. A third to 40 percent of our deficit could go away if we just had a stronger economy.

Well, breaking news, we are hearing from the first time from an eyewitness to the shooting that killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.

Our David Mattingly is following this story and he's in Sanford, Florida.

David, good to see you. Appreciate it.

I know that you had a chance to talk to some witnesses today, one of whom briefly also spoke to Anderson Cooper and I wanted to play a little snippet of that right now. Here he is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) WITNESSS TO SHOOTING (via telephone): As I said, it was dark, but after the shots, obviously someone -- a man got up. It was kind of like that period of him I can't say I watched him get up but maybe within only a couple of seconds or so, then he was walking towards where I was watching. I could see him a little bit clearer and see that it was an Hispanic man and he was, you know, he didn't appear hurt or anything else, he just kind of seemed very gets (INAUDIBLE) very worried or whatever, walked like on the sidewalk at that point with his hand up to his forehead. And then another man came out with a flashlight.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: David, I know you had a chance to talk to that eyewitness as well as others. And as you're pulling the story together and the threads, what version of events that happened that night are you coming to the conclusion happened?

DAVID MATTINGLY, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, there are so many people who heard the gunshot and then heard people arguing outside and heard a fight. But these are comments from a true eyewitness, someone who describes the scene of two men wrestling in the dark, so dark that this witness could not identify either of the combatants, could not see who was on top, could not see any blows being thrown or who was taking advantage of whom in that situation.

But this person was watching those two men wrestling in the dark when the gunshot went off and that witness said that prior to this, there was definitely a voice heard calling for help. Then immediately before the gunshot, this witness heard someone making a noise that's described as distorted and agonized right before the gunshot went off.

But what's most interesting in my conversation earlier with this eyewitness was what police were saying to this eyewitness the night that this happened. And this witness tells me that they were very upset, having watched -- after learning that someone had died here, they were very upset. One of the police officers tried to comfort this witness by saying, "If it makes you feel any better, the person that was yelling for help is alive." Obviously, George Zimmerman here.

So, it sounds like the police were accepting the story that George Zimmerman was the one yelling for help prior to shooting his weapon that night.

Also, there was another comment made about George Zimmerman from a police officer to this witness. Quote, "You should see him. He was really scratched and beaten up." Again, confirming what was in the police report that George Zimmerman was injured in the nose and on the back of his head during this fight.

So again, those two comments I find here, Erin, very interesting.

BURNETT: And, David, it's interesting because we've all been through this police report. One of the things they said there in the police report about Zimmerman was the policeman wrote, quote, "I could observe that his back appeared to be wet and was covered in grass, as if he had been laying on his back on the ground. Zimmerman was also bleeding from the nose and back of his head."

Again, I guess I just keep wondering, are people corroborating this version? It sounds like a lot of what you're saying people saw was different than what the police then reported.

MATTINGLY: Well, a lot of questions have come up when that surveillance video has come out that we see George Zimmerman being brought into the police station in handcuffs. The video is not of the best quality, it's a bit grainy, it's a bit dark, but we do not see any visible injuries on George Zimmerman as he's coming into the police station.

But we are also -- we also know that in the report, that he did sustain an injury to his -- that he was bleeding from his nose and the back of his head we were told by police and by his friends that he was attended to medically on the scene and he was cleaned up on the scene before being taken to the police station.

One thing that's missing here is some context about what kind of injuries, how extensive they actually were. They could have been very minor, they could have not been seen on that video, they could have disappeared when they were cleaned up, we just don't know.

We tried to reach out to the fire department who was there on the scene, the paramedics that were on the scene, but that's medical information. That's part of the investigation. They can't release it for both reasons, that there are privacy issues here and it's part of an active investigation.

BURNETT: All right. David Mattingly, thank you very much -- reporting from the scene there.

And now, OUTFRONT's investigation into vigilante justice around the country. Last night we told you about volunteers in Flint, Michigan, which is one of the most dangerous cities in America. They use social media to warn their neighbors about violence in the area.

Well, tonight, we found a group that goes a bit further. Regular citizens, armed, ready to fight and patrolling the streets.

Miguel Marquez reports from Flint.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): By day, streets in large parts of Flint are rough. By night, those same streets, downright scary.

With police in short supply, citizens here are providing their own security, organizing 24/7 community watches, patrolling neighborhoods, calling in suspicious activity to 911.

No one we talked to wanted to be identified.

ORGANIZER, SAVE OUR STREETS: I've been shot at. They have tried to stab me. But I'm not going to stop.

MARQUEZ: He's been part of a community watch here called SOS, Save Our Streets, for ten years. The tools, basic -- cell phone, portable scanner, a powerful flashlight.

(on camera): And can you show us your weapon?

ORGANIZER: Yes. What I carry is a .40 caliber Sig Sauer with Crimson Trace laser grips.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): Guns are serious business here. It's legal to carry one openly and many, like this man, have permits to carry concealed weapons. He says he's not looking for a confrontation, but --

ORGANIZER: If it came to the point of myself losing my life and my daughter not having a dad, or my grandchildren not having a grandfather, or my wife not having a husband, I'm going home.

MARQUEZ: You're going home alive.

ORGANIZER: I'm sorry, I'm going home alive. I'm not going home in a box.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): The number of guns on Flint's streets, both legal and illegal, a huge concern for the police chief here.

(on camera): How many guns do you think are on the streets of this town?

ALVERN LOCK, FLINT POLICE CHIEF: I don't have any idea. But it's a lot of them.

MARQUEZ: Thousands?

LOCK: Yes.

MARQUEZ: Tens of thousands?

LOCK: I don't know about tens of thousands. But thousands I would say.

MARQUEZ: But some of them high-powered as well?

LOCK: Yes.

MARQUEZ: In the hands of bad people?

LOCK: Yes.

MARQUEZ: Automatic weapons?

LOCK: Some.

MARQUEZ: This is Pierson Road in North Flint, one of the toughest areas of the city. Gunfire, even automatic gunfire can be heard here. Most of the people we spoke to in these neighborhood watch programs stay in their own areas. But this neighborhood is so tough, some of those groups have branched out here.

(voice-over): Chief Lock drawing on Florida's Trayvon Martin's situation fears well-meaning citizens here may end up getting hurt or worse.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Leave the area and go somewhere safe and wait for the police.

MARQUEZ (on camera): I take it you think people who carry guns and hope to help out law enforcement are a recipe for disaster?

LOCK: I think they can be a recipe for disaster because you look at the thing that happened down in Florida. That was a recipe for disaster, and it happened.

You know, will it happen here? I don't know.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): Neighborhood watchers say they're not trying to make policing here more difficult, but they want their city back.

ORGANIZER: You can't give up on a city. I mean, someone has got to care.

MARQUEZ: He says he'll stop when the streets here are safe again.

Miguel Marquez, CNN, Flint, Michigan.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BURNETT: And we have new developments in the very strange Amish beard-cutting case. Four women charged today.

And Tony Robbins comes OUTFRONT. He's got some uplifting, feel- good news for you and some advice for Mitt Romney.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: So there are new details tonight about the JetBlue pilot whose midair meltdown caused that emergency landing. We are learning that Captain Clayton Osbon's father was killed in a private plane crash in 1995 in Florida. That flight originated in Wisconsin. It lost power in both engines and crashed in Daytona Beach.

Meanwhile, government investigators today obtained the JetBlue cockpit voice recorder. We know from the federal complaint that Osbon was ranting incoherently and said the plane would not be going to Las Vegas.

Osbon's actions are raising major questions about mental health screenings for pilots. We've been talking about that for the past few days.

And CNN's aviation reporter Lizzie O'Leary has been digging deep into this issue.

And, Lizzie, I wanted to ask you first about what we're finding out from the cockpit voice recorders. My understanding is we only got two hours handed over to investigators today. So, how much more do we need, and what will they be able to find out from that?

LIZZIE O'LEARY, CNN AVIATION AND REGULATION CORRESPONDENT: Well, they'll be able to look at those last two hours, Erin. And right now, the NTSB, the National Transportation Safety Board, has them. They're downloading the data. They'll give that to the FBI who's leading that investigation.

So they may not get the full picture of what happened, say, shortly after takeoff, but they'll sort of be able to back time from the emergency landing about two hours back into it. So they should be able to hear some of the things that we heard in the affidavit in that criminal complaint, talking about we're not going to Vegas, talking about sin, essentially that sermon that the first officer categorized Captain Osbon as making in the cockpit.

BURNETT: And I know that -- we talked about a commercial airline pilot, former, from American Airlines, last night who said that on these mental health screenings, it really relies on pilots being honest and a lot of them aren't because they feel that they would be discriminated against when they're asked about mental health and depression.

I know you talked to a pilot today who admitted to being depressed and I wanted to play a quick clip of that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COLLIN HUGHES, PROZACPILOT.COM: Pilots are people, too. We're human like everyone else. You take somebody who's flying a 747 with hundreds of people on board -- huge responsibility. The general public looks at that person like, oh, he needs to be a Superman. He can't have this flaw, he can't have that flaw, or she can't do this or she can't do that, because my life is in his or her hands. But pilots are people, too.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BURNETT: Lizzie, it sounds like they feel great pressure to not be honest about some of the mental health issues.

O'LEARY: Well, and when you look at the numbers, the FAA gets some numbers, pilots self report, the ones taking medication. It's about 0.16 percent. We know when you contrast that to the rate of depression in the general public, that's about 10 percent. So, there's a big gap there.

We've asked the FAA if they think that's a true number and they say they're studying the data.

BURNETT: All right, Lizzie. Well, thank you very much. And now to a rather bizarre story. A federal grand jury indicting four Amish women over a rash of beard and hair cutting incidents targeting Amish men and women in Ohio. Now, the women are all married to nephews of Samuel Mullet, Sr. Prosecutors say he is the ring leader of at least five religiously motivated assaults.

Now, at this point, a total of 16 people, including Mullet, face charges, including lying to federal agents, disposing of evidence like shears, a bag of hair and a camera.

Don Kraybil studied Amish culture for 30 years. Federal prosecutors also picked him to be an expert in this case.

And I appreciate you taking the time to be with us. It's a very hard case to understand for people who aren't in the Amish community.

So, could you just explain why -- how significant the beard is in that community?

DONALD B. KRAYBIL, PROF. OF SOCIOLOGY, ELIZABETHTOWN COLLEGE: Well, the beard is very important because it's a symbol -- a public symbol of Amish identity. All Amish men wear beard. It's also an important symbol of religious identity. The Amish cite numerous Bible verses as their reason for wearing the beard.

And for the elders, the leaders, to have a full-length beard is a symbol of their wisdom and stature and a symbol of their authority.

BURNETT: So now, we're finding Amish women and their husbands, all nephews of this man, cutting other Amish men's beards. I mean, it's truly bizarre. It sounds like a hate crime. I'm wondering how unusual and bizarre this is.

KRAYBIL: Well, this is off the charts. It's outrageous. It's in direct violation with several basic Amish teachings.

Amish women are involved because typically Amish spouses work together and collaborate on things. And so, apparently they got involved as well.

BURNETT: Now, the sheriff of Bergholz, Ohio, where all of this happened has said that Samuel Mullet Sr. is a cult leader, not just the leader of this group, a cult leader. How representative is their sect in the Amish community of Amish life? I mean, is it fair to call it a cult?

KRAYBIL: It's -- I think what Mullet is, is in fact a cult leader. It fits the psychological definition of a cult. But the Amish in general can never be classified as a cult.

A cult means that you have a single leader with total control, authoritarian control, and people comply with the person because they're afraid. And they will get punished, they will get physically hurt if they don't imply.

So Mullet is obsessed with power, he thinks he's invincible, and unfortunately, he's been using the good name of the Amish and Amish religion as a way to shield and protect himself from the law, for his illegal behavior.

BURNETT: Well, Don, thank you very much for coming and explaining that.

Next is the "IDEA" segment. Tony Robbins with an idea that we hope will lead feeling a whole lot better than you did when the show starts.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BURNETT: So, today, we learned the U.S. economy seems to be coming out of its slump, but way, way too slowly. Is it headed for a better place?

Tonight's "IDEA" guest, Tony Robbins, author, entrepreneur, and star of the new TV show "Breakthrough" is a personal adviser to some of the world's top leaders. And tonight, he shares his idea for tackling America's crisis of confidence. And he's got some advice for Mitt Romney, too.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TONY ROBBINS, AUTHOR AND ENTREPRENEUR: I think we're in a season that you can look at over an 80-year history period, and it's a season of winter. And I think we're in the middle of winter, we're not done with it. And I think that if you look at where we are, with the level of depth that we have, with the problems that have not been resolved, to think that suddenly we're just going to turn things around and we're suddenly going to become more productive and all these jobs are going to come back I think is a delusion.

Listen, I'm a very positive individual, but I also believe in intelligence. And to look around and say those low-skill, low- knowledge jobs with low evaluation skills and low decision-making are going to come back. Some will, but most aren't. We have to re-tool.

You put somebody for 99 weeks and you provide this terrible basic income for them and they lose their confidence and certainty, and you don't re-tool them and you think it's going to change? We have to re- tool or we're not going to see a long-term change, I don't think.

BURNETT: How do you psychologically get around that, if you're one of those people? And there are. Our unemployment level when you count people who don't have the job they want or are working part-time or aren't getting skills is 16 percent or 17 percent.

ROBBINS: Yes.

BURNETT: So, what do you say to them that they can do? There's technically go out and get this new school, but then there's --

ROBBINS: The psychological side.

BURNETT: Yes. ROBBINS: It's not somebody you can say to somebody. You've got to give them experience. You know, one of the reasons I credited the show "Breakthrough" is because I wanted people to see that no matter how stuck you've been, we've all had moments in time where it just changed, where what was impossible became possible, not just in the positive thinking sense, but when you really took action and you change your life. And I thought the best way to help somebody like that would be to have contrast.

So, you know, I put the show together, we got these people who go off on their wedding day. The wedding is in Mexico. They jump in the swimming pool as a celebration when they're fully clothed. That's the tradition there. Woman jumps in, all their wedding dress picture, everybody laughs, the guy jumps in and it's all blood. He becomes a quadriplegic.

Now, I go to meet him and he's sitting in a chair, forget trying to find a job, sitting in the chair, looking at TV set, being filled with drugs. His wife is now his caretaker. She can't leave the house, he can't leave the house.

And what do you tell them? How do you pump them up? I don't do that.

What I say is, beliefs are substitute, a poor substitute for experience. I've got to give him some experiences that can show him he can have an extraordinary quality of life. There are people who are quadriplegics that have incredible lives and people who are able- bodied who have terrible lives.

So, I take him and I get to know he had a house and I get him to feed you. The trip is a journey for him. Two days later, I have him sky-diving. Ten days later, I separated from his support of his life and get him to learn how to play murder ball, which is rugby. It looks like Mad Max for a bunch of guys who are quadriplegics.

I get him do things he wasn't doing beforehand. I get him to build a truck and drive the things with his elbows 110 miles an hour in the desert with me in the right seat.

When you give people experiences of what was impossible, you can shift them, or if they see a role model. Not everybody's going to give you that experience.

But that's what can shift people. They need to see what's possible and we have to show them, there's something inside of you that's stronger than anything we're facing, that you're more than this moment and here's what we do to actually start to change your moment.

BURNETT: So, how do we take all the negativity out there? Negativity in the news, negativity in Washington, negativity in leader, negativity with the debt.

Let's take one of them, Trayvon Martin.

ROBBINS: Yes. BURNETT: This is a situation that has galvanized people and motivated people. It's a real opportunity to make a real difference in this country.

ROBBINS: I think so, too.

BURNETT: And then -- but there's also a lot of negativity. A lot of, let's put a bounty on that guy's head and let's be mad at these people and people start blaming and being angry.

How do we not let this devolve into an issue that just divides the races?

ROBBINS: Well, we can't control that. But leadership can steer people in a direction where we get more of the facts. And we say, look, if this is an injustice, which it appears to be on the surface, at least enough that this man hasn't been charged, we haven't gathered the evidence, we haven't done something actively this far, then that anger that that family feels and so many people feel, both white, black and every other color you imagine, I think it's a beautiful thing as long as people get channeled. So, at least something has got to change here.

I really believe we get what we tolerate. We get what we tolerate in ourselves, we get what we tolerate in our government, we get what we tolerate in our laws. And people some times need to come to a breaking point. And that's the only good that I can see that can come out of this. It's easy for us to say, we didn't lose our son.

But the good that maybe can give them some solace if they see because this happened, this won't happen again. The never-again mentality. Then there's something that can be made progress.

BURNETT: So in this election --

ROBBINS: Yes.

BURNETT: You've advised a whole lot of very famous public figures over the years, from Princess Diana to George bush. I mean, everybody.

OK, so, which of the candidates could benefit the most from a little bit of your help? A little bit of your passion, energy, enthusiasm? I mean, I can think of some of them that might need a little help.

ROBBINS: Well, I actually, my chief of staff was Mitt Romney's chief of staff, ironically at one time.

BURNETT: It's funny you said Mitt Romney. I wasn't thinking of that.

(CROSSTALK)

ROBBINS: He's actually, regardless of politics, I'm more of an independent person. I voted for Barack Obama last time, I'm an independent individual. But if you're saying, who could use the help, truthfully, if you saw this guy off camera when he's not so busy trying to be perfect and making mistake, he's a very passionate man.

BURNETT: Yes.

ROBBINS: There's a part of him that's already that doesn't give a damn what anybody else thinks when he knows it's right. I get that part to be more in charge. That part would speak more. That means he's going to miss his prompters and so forth. He'll still make mistakes.

But I think people will appreciate mistakes because they feel raw and real as opposed to feeling like this guy lives in different world.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BURNETT: Thanks to Tony Robbins.

"ANDERSON COOPER 360" starts now.