Return to Transcripts main page


Charity Scam?; Jerry Sandusky Trial Continues; Romney and Obama Visit Ohio

Aired June 14, 2012 - 22:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone. It's 10:00 here on the East Coast.

And we begin tonight "Keeping Them Honest" with our continuing investigation into charities that collect millions of dollars in donations from well-meaning people like you, but end up spending very little, if any, of that money actually helping anyone.

Now, so far, we've uncovered charities that claim to help disabled veterans, other charities that claim to help abandoned animals. But the money trail leads somewhere else entirely.

Tonight's story is going to likely make you especially angry because it is about a charity program that has raised millions to reunite military dogs, service dogs, with the personnel that they have served with overseas. But, as far as we can tell, they don't do that at all.

Drew Griffin is going to have that in just a moment.

But, first, there's one thing that ties together all of these cases that we found so far.

Now, last night, we told you about another charity called the Montreal SPCA, a Canadian charity that helps abandoned cats and dogs. Well, the charity needed money, so it entered into a deal with an American private fund-raising company called Quadriga Art to solicit donations on its behalf and to build up a mailing list of donors.

Well, after three years, the Montreal SPCA received about $13 million in donations. But despite all that money, they have still ended up in the hole more than $4.5 million, owing money to Quadriga Art. The bills from that fund-raising company, Quadriga Art, were so huge that nearly every penny, every dollar that came in went to pay those bills.

Now the Montreal SPCA is so in debt, Quadriga Art actually holds a lien on the group's animal shelter. And that is just the beginning of the story. The manager who put together that deal and was subsequently fired, well, he went to a new U. S. -based animal charity called SPCA International. Remember that name. Its signature program is Baghdad Pups.

And here's Drew Griffin of CNN's Special Investigations Unit with part two of his investigation. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SPECIAL INVESTIGATIONS UNIT CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The televised appeal with an unwitting former military dog handler on CNN's sister network HLN in 2011 was heartwarming.

ROBIN MEADE, HLN: We're saluting the troops today. It's actually live in the studio with retired army sergeant Jerry Barns who has Nugget with him. And then sitting right beside Nugget is Terri with the SPCA. And Ivy's down at my feet.

GRIFFIN: Terri Crisp with SPCA International was telling our viewers Ivy and Nugget were two bomb sniffing dogs that had worked for a U.S. contractor in Iraq and had been essentially abandoned by the company. She rescued them and was trying to find them homes. And HLN anchor Robin Meade understandably couldn't believe it.

MEADE: How is it that they fall through the cracks and get stranded there? That's unthinkable to me.

TERRI CRISP, SPCA INTERNATIONAL: It is unthinkable. And that's why SPCA International is making sure that these dogs don't get forgotten. And that they get brought home.

GRIFFIN: It turns out Ivy and Nugget weren't abandoned at all. It also turns out the person telling us so, Terri Crisp, has been accused in similar situations before. Begging for money to save animals that weren't being saved.

The military contractor in Iraq actually says Ivy and Nugget had been retired and the company had found them good families who were going to adopt them in Kurdistan. Good homes, the contractor told CNN. That's when Terri Crisp came along and asked if the dogs could instead be donated to SPCA International. The contractor agreed.

But Terri Crisp didn't tell the viewers that. What she did tell us is, if we just gave her money, SPCA International would be doing something few Americans could resist. Saving the pets of our Iraq and Afghan vets. And that's where Peggy Scholley comes in.

(on camera): When this showed up, what did you think?

PEGGY SCHOLLEY, WILLIAMSBURG, VIRGINIA, RESIDENT: Well, to be honest, when this showed up, I opened it up and this is what I saw. And I thought this was fantastic. I mean, I was on board because I thought saving animals and supporting the troops, you know, what two things could be better?

GRIFFIN (voice-over): What Peggy got in the mail was a plea from the SPCA International and Operation Baghdad Pups. A direct mail package from the fund-raising powerhouse, Quadriga Art. The "guilt package", as they are called in the business, included, this T-shirt, a tote bag and letters of thanks. Peggy decided to do a little research.

SCHOLLEY: Six cents out of a dollar approximately would have gone to actually saving soldier's pets.

GRIFFIN (on camera): That's what you figured out?

SCHOLLEY: Yes. Based on what they spent in 2010 on the Operation Baghdad Pups.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): In fact, according to these IRS tax filings, SPCA International has taken in more than $26 million in donations over the past three years. $23 million of that money has gone right into the coffers of the direct mail company Quadriga Art. And SPCA International is still in dead to Quadriga Art another $8. 4 million.

What's worse, the SPCA International admits it hasn't rescued any military dogs, just 26 contractor's dogs, including Ivy and Nugget. The bulk of the animals the group claims to have saved, a total of 477, have been strays befriended by the troops. $26 million to rescue less than 500 pets? How is that possible? That's what we wanted to ask the group's founder, Pierre Barnoti, who lives in Montreal.

(on camera): I'm wondering, what you can tell us about the value of the donors, where is the money going?

PIERRE BARNOTI, SPCA INTERNATIONAL FOUNDER: Well, we have different programs. And the site covers it all. Again...

GRIFFIN: I haven't seen any of that.

BARNOTI: I'm not -- I'm not trying to hype or avoid any questions. But we have a spokesman. She has answers ready for you. She has agreed to give you an interview.

GRIFFIN: Can you tell us how...

BARNOTI: Absolutely, all you have to do is go on

GRIFFIN (voice-over): We did that and asked Bob Ottenhoff, the president of the charity watchdog group, GuideStar, about the documents we found.

BOB OTTENHOFF, PRESIDENT, GUIDESTAR: What worries me about this one is that the numbers don't compute. I can't understand how to connect the dots between how much money is spent on fund-raising to how much money is spent on programming and what the sources of those revenues are.

And I also can't really measure the impact of this organization. What difference are they really making?

GRIFFIN: A spokesman for SPCA International told CNN by e-mail that yes, "Although our investment is not being returned in the timeframe we had projected, the investments will pay for themselves within just a few more years."

Peggy Scholley admits it is successful for Quadriga Art and perhaps even the SPCA International but the vets and their pets and anyone who gave money, she says were duped.

SCHOLLEY: What is frustrating is it's millions and millions of dollars that just go to a business. A for-profit business. It's not going to charity at all.


COOPER: Unbelievable. Drew Griffin joins us now.

Drew, you were not able to track down this woman, Terri Crisp, who brought those dogs into the HLN studios. Where is she?

GRIFFIN: We are told, Anderson, that she's in Thailand and unavailable. But something else we learned about Terri Crisp. She's done this before. After Hurricane Katrina, Crisp staged media campaigns, asking for donations to save pets that were stranded by the storm and she actually collected $8 million. For a charity called Noah's Wish.

Well, guess what, the state of California began investigating to see if any of those $8 million actually did save any Katrina pets. The investigation ended with a settlement agreement. Noah's Wish agreed to return half the money, $4 million, and promised that Terri Crisp would not be an officer, a director, a trustee of a charity for five years.

Based on what we told them, the state of California is now investigating whether Terri Crisp violated that agreement.

COOPER: I don't understand how these people can sleep at night. I remember this woman after Katrina. We did a profile of her on this program. She told us she was saving thousands of dogs. Is there evidence she saved any?

GRIFFIN: You know the settlement agreement really stopped that investigation in California right in its tracks, Anderson. So there wasn't a real finding of fact on if any of the animals were saved. But there's certainly no mention in the agreement pointing to any animals that were saved. And now this is the woman going around telling us we need to give her money to save these stray animals in Iraq and Afghanistan.

COOPER: And what she said on HLN was clearly not the case based on what you've uncovered.

Drew, appreciate it. We're going to continue on this.

If you at home are wondering whether you can trust your favorite charity, we don't want these reports to be an indication that all charities are bad or you shouldn't give to charity. That would -- that would be a terrible outcome. That's what makes it so bad. What these -- some of these charities are doing is because it kind of casts a pall on charities across the board.

So if you want to know if a charity is good, where their money goes, go to -- They have rated more than 5,000 of America's nonprofits. The Web address again is charitynavigator, one word, dot org.

Let us know what you think about this. We're on Facebook. Follow me on Twitter right now @AndersonCooper. I'm already tweeting about this.

Day four of the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse trial, I will tell you about some of the most disturbing testimony yet. There was talk the prosecution was going to rest today. That did not happen. It's going to continue.

And it turns out the former Penn State defensive coordinator had been on police radar, get this, since 1998 -- details on that and more.


COOPER: In "Crime & Punishment" tonight: Prosecutors in the Jerry Sandusky trial are nearly ready to rest their case. We thought it was going to happen today. That did not happen. There was more testimony, very dramatic testimony today.

The prosecution has clearly saved some of the most emotional testimony for last. Including the final three alleged victims. Now we also heard from a policeman who investigated Sandusky back in 1998 when one boy's mother called the authorities after her son came home with his hair still wet from -- apparently from a shower with Sandusky. That boy is now known as alleged victim number six.

During the most recent investigation, authorities said they found photos of Sandusky with children from his Second Mile charity, including his alleged victims, in his home and former office. Police also found lists of Second Mile members and some of those alleged victims had asterisks, check marks and dashes next to their names.

The officer told the court he felt charges should have been filed back then, 14 years ago.

National correspondent Jason Carroll is outside the courthouse.

So, we heard from these three alleged victims today, really, the most graphic testimony, some of the most serious charges come from the man identified as victim number 9.

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's correct, Anderson. He's 18 years old. He just recently graduated from high school. And he told a very disturbing story of how he says Jerry Sandusky sexually assaulted him over a period of three years in the basement of Jerry Sandusky's home, saying that he forced him to have oral sex and that he repeatedly sodomized him.

It was a very difficult testimony as he told the court, quote, "He came into the room, pulled his pants down, laid on top of me and kind of forced it in."

Now at that moment as I looked to my left, his mother was sitting just beside me. She gripped the bench. She put her head in her hands as her son went on to say, "Then he got real aggressive and just forced me into it. And I just went with it. There was no fighting against it."

And Anderson, at the conclusion of his testimony, prosecutors asked this young man to point out Jerry Sandusky in the courtroom. He couldn't even look at him. And he just said, he's the one sitting right over there.

COOPER: For the first time, Jason, we're starting to get a sense of what the defense is going to talk about next week, how they're going to steer their case. What did you learn in the court?

CARROLL: Well, I think what the defense is partly going to go for is an issue with the timeline here. Because when you listen to the testimony of those like the one who's identified as alleged victim number 9 and another one, victim number 1, they both seem to be saying that the abuse occurred about the same period of time. But each one basically saying that they were basically in the basement by themselves.

So I think what's going to happen is you're going to have a timeline issue that probably most likely be raised as the defense begins its case next week.

COOPER: You also had the opportunity to speak to alleged victim number six after he was in court. What did he say?

CARROLL: Well, Anderson, it was actually a little strange. I was standing actually not far from where I am standing right now. And just about 100 feet away from me we noticed that the one identified as victim number six was standing out here. He's wearing a baseball cap, he was wearing dark glasses but he was just sort of hanging around and not many people, obviously, seemed to notice him.

So we walked up to him. He was very shy. He didn't want to say very much but I asked him now that the testimony was over how he had felt about his experience. And he basically said he felt disassociated from the whole thing. It was one of those types of things that he was still trying to get his head around.

I also asked him why he was standing out here. He was very curious about all the media presence and all the media attention to the case. Actually saying at one point, when he was in the stand, he looked out over at the courtroom and noticed all the people who had filled the courtroom and just -- and really just could not believe it -- Anderson.

COOPER: Jason, appreciate the reporting, again.

Criminal defense attorney Mark Geragos is here with me here in New York, along with former Los Angeles deputy district attorney Marcia Clark, author of the book "Guilt by Degrees."

So, Mark, it was interesting today. We heard from a former police officer. And I want to just get the quote right. He's a former Penn State police investigator. And he apparently hid in the home of accuser number six's mom when she confronted Sandusky back in 1988 and about inappropriate behavior. And he said that Sandusky said, quote, "I wish I could ask forgiveness. I know I can't get it from you. I wish I were dead."

How big is that for the prosecution?

MARK GERAGOS, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: You know, it's -- in some ways, that's probably some of their best evidence because jurors always want to hear -- their question is what did the defendant have to say, what did the defendant have to say. It doesn't matter what the prosecution's case is. If you've got either a tape or the defendant takes the stand, that's where all the focus goes. And that's what the jurors are going to talk about.

Things like that, they're going to want an explanation for. So yes, potentially, that's a big piece.

COOPER: And Marcia, the same officer testified that when he talked to Sandusky about the incidents, Sandusky said his behavior was, quote, "maybe inappropriate," end quote, and that he'd used what Sandusky called bad judgment and that he wouldn't do it again.

That was back in 1998. Now if these charges are true, it's pretty brazen and -- I mea it's kind of unbelievable that he would continue to do that after being confronted by law enforcement.

MARCIA CLARK, FORMER PROSECUTOR: It is incredible. I mean -- but it is so typical of these kinds of offenders, Anderson. They don't really believe they're doing anything wrong. They have a complete denial system in place. And it doesn't matter what you confront them with, they are always in the right.

I have never yet handled a child molestation case in which one of them ever confessed or admitted to wrongdoing. No matter what or how compelling or how graphic the testimony. So I'm not surprised by it.

What pains me greatly is that they had the goods on him in 1998 and yet let him go out there. How many more children were molested as a result of that, is just an incredibly painful thing to think about.

COOPER: Yes. Mark, a lot of the accusers' stories kind of have a similar arc to them that it began with tickling. And then Sandusky talked about cracking their backs. The fact that there is consistency across these many accusers, what does that tell you about the strength of the prosecution's case?

GERAGOS: Well, there's two ways to look at that. One is, OK, it's great, it's consistent, this guy has got a pattern. He grooms people. That's part of the nomenclature that they use in these cases, or the defense argues, look, this is all coached, this is rehearsed, this is the same kind of script that they're all reading from. And then I think that fits into the piece that you did, which is, well, now we're going to take a look at what the facts are.

This is what they said. Now what are the facts. Who was living -- actually living there at that specific period of time. If you can show and kind of peel away from the story itself, the fact that if somebody wasn't living there then, that they had to -- had to been in some other state at that time and do some kind of damage that way, that can be pretty persuasive.

COOPER: What do you think of the prosecution's case, though? GERAGOS: Well, I'm surprised by kind of how quickly they presented it. It was tight. And I think that's more of a tribute to the judge than the prosecution in this case. But it is not as strong as I thought it should have been once I saw the grand jury presentment or whatever they call --

COOPER: Marcia, you agree with that?

CLARK: No, I really don't. I think it was a very compelling case. I think it was very -- it was tight. And the witnesses came through with exactly what they -- what happened to them. And I think this is important to emphasize. Of course the defense is going to say, as they must, all of these witnessed colluded and they got together on their story, and that's why they sound so similar.

But what they sound is consistent but they are not suspiciously identical. And that is the key.

COOPER: Right.

CLARK: And if I was the prosecutor, I would certainly argue that as well as the fact that these witnesses have been accused inferentially by the defense of coming forward because they want some kind of payoff.

GERAGOS: Right, and that's why...

CLARK: At some point they have these civil lawyers, but I have to tell you --

GERAGOS: And that's why...

CLARK: ... that you also have a...


GERAGOS: You've got to...

CLARK: You have a victim here who was being -- who saw -- who was being seen by McQueary as being sodomized in the shower. That victim never came forward. And I think that is very compelling also that this man --

COOPER: Time. We got to go, we got to go.

CLARK: If anything would have had a great lawsuit.

COOPER: Mark Geragos...

GERAGOS: All I was going to say is, I think it's premature to judge their cases until we see what the defense is.

COOPER: No way Sandusky is going to take the stand, though, in your opinion?

GERAGOS: I -- that I -- you want to know something? I would not be surprised if he does.

COOPER: Wow. Interesting.

Marcia Clark, Mark Geragos, appreciate it.

Coming up, "Raw Politics": President Obama and Mitt Romney today talking about jobs, the economy on opposite ends of the same state in Ohio. We're going to dig into the dueling speeches. I'm going to speak with the Romney communications director next.


COOPER: Well, last night, we introduced you to an American man named Jason Puracal who's locked up for 18 months so far in a Nicaraguan jail. Well, today, Nicaraguan authorities announced that Puracal would get an appeal. The very thing he's been asking for since they first threw him in jail -- the latest when we continue.


COOPER: Welcome back, "Raw Politics" now.

President Obama in New York tonight for two fund-raisers after he and Mitt Romney both campaigned in Ohio earlier today, speaking about the economy. It was essentially the battle of the messages.

In Cleveland, President Obama said the economy has been growing under his watch but acknowledges it has a long way to go.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Of course the economy isn't where it needs to be. Of course we have a lot more work to do. Everybody knows that. The debate in this election is about how we grow faster. And how we create more jobs. And how we pay down our debt. That's the question facing the American voter.


COOPER: Well, earlier, in a speech in Cincinnati, Mitt Romney tried to preempt the president's remarks.


MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: President Obama is on the other side of the state. And he's going to be delivering a speech on the economy. He's doing that because he hasn't delivered a recovery for the economy. And he's going to be a person of eloquence as he describes his plans for making the economy better. But don't forget, he's been president for 3 1/2 years. And talk is cheap. Action speaks very loud.


COOPER: Well, Romney said the president's record is long on words but short on creating jobs. We'll get John King's take on it shortly, but first, I spoke with the Romney campaign's communications director, Gail Gitcho.


COOPER: So, Gail, the big focus today was jobs. Something Governor Romney had to say about public sector jobs got a lot of attention a few days ago. I just want to remind our viewers what he had to say back then.


ROMNEY: He wants to hire more government workers. He says we need more firemen, more policemen, more teachers. Didn't he not get the message of Wisconsin? The American people did. It's time for us to cut back on government and help the American people.


COOPER: Now, you know, the Obama campaign has hit those comments hard, saying he wants to fire firemen, police and teachers. Then earlier this week Governor Romney pushed back with these comments.


ROMNEY: Of course, teachers and firemen and policemen are hired at the local level. And also by states. The federal government doesn't pay for teachers, firefighters or policemen. So, obviously, that's completely absurd.


COOPER: But the federal government, though, does provide billions of dollars every year in essential funding for schools and first responders and a big percentage of that aid goes to pay for personnel. Like more than $14 billion I think under Title I this year. Billions more programs for improving special education and a lot of that is hiring special education teachers, community policing support. So without that federal aid, many of those positions would disappear.

Would Governor Romney want to cut those federal programs?

GAIL GITCHO, ROMNEY CAMPAIGN COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: First of all, what the Obama campaign is doing is that they're trying to distract from President Obama's comments on Friday that the private sector is doing just fine. And I think that what you heard Governor Romney say is that the -- it's absurd to think that he would slash any jobs for teachers or firefighters or first responders.

But the states and the local governments, they actually are the ones that hire them. But what you have here...

COOPER: But the -- but...

GITCHO: ... is two competing visions...

COOPER: But money is provided by -- Governor Romney is saying money is not provided -- the federal government doesn't provide money for these...

GITCHO: Governor Romney...


COOPER: But they do.

GITCHO: Governor Romney is saying is that the funds are provided to the state and the local level who then they apply the moneys to where they see fit.

COOPER: But I guess -- I just don't understand why he is saying specifically the federal -- and I want to get his quote right. "The federal government doesn't pay for teachers, firefighters or policemen, when, you know, billions and billions of dollars every year is spent by the federal government on these programs.

GITCHO: But that's just -- that's just some of that money. And you remember that a lot of this came in the form of a stimulus that failed to get this economy back on the right track. Some of that money does go to those entities that you just described. But it's up to the folks at the local level to decide where that money goes and who is hired because of it.

COOPER: For the record, the Title I and the Americans with Disabilities Act, that's not stimulus-related.

But I want to ask you about something that we've asked your colleagues before. Some of your surrogates have suggested that we should focus on the governor's record at job creation in Massachusetts after his policies had time to go into effect, not the first year when they obviously hadn't yet. That you inherited, you know, a bad economy.

And that's a fair point. Is that a standard that should be applied to President Obama's record, as well?

GITCHO: Well, I think what needs -- what people need to look at is the end result here. You've got -- and we're happy to compare these records. You've got President Obama, where we have 40 straight months of unemployment above 8 percent and he promised that with the stimulus that it would be below 8 percent. Even...

KING: He didn't actually promise them that.

GITCHO: His CBO reported that. His CBO said that in a report...

COOPER: Right, but you guys keep saying he said that when he actually didn't say that.

GITCHO: Well, it's -- it's his administration. It's his report that came out because of his stimulus that he put into place.

But, look, we're happy to compare these economic records. If you take a look at what Massachusetts was when Governor Romney took office, you had unemployment at 5.6 percent. When he left office, it was at 4.7 percent.

Obama's record is just terrible. You have 40 straight months of unemployment above 8 percent when he said that it's supposed to be below 6 percent in this CBO report. So we're happy to compare those records.

If you want to just take a look at those two records, it's 8.1 percent and above or 4.7 percent. Those are the two numbers that really matter.

COOPER: Isn't the CBO, though, nonpartisan? I mean, you're saying -- your campaign, Governor Romney, says this all the time, "Obama said." Obama did not say that. If the CBO puts out a report, that's not the president's...

GITCHO: Well, it was in his CBO -- well, it's still a report that came out of his stimulus that came out of his administration, sure.

COOPER: Well, but, I mean, he doesn't control the Congressional Budget Office. He's not the one saying this stuff.

GITCHO: Right, but -- Anderson, let's just look at the facts here. This economy is on -- is not on a road to recovery, which is what he has promised. In fact, three years ago, President Obama said that, if he did not fix this economy in the next three years, that he would be looking at a one-term proposition. And today in Ohio he's asking for a do-over.

COOPER: Gail, appreciate you being on. Gail, thank you.

GITCHO: Thank you very much.

COOPER: John, you heard what the Romney campaign had to say. What's your take?

KING: Well, Anderson, on the one hand, you know, Gail Gitcho is right when she says under a Romney administration, you wouldn't have as much direct aid to the states for specific things, whether it's police chiefs, firefighters or whatever. He prefers more of a block grant approach. That Washington sends money to the states, and the governors and the mayors decide specifically how to spend it.

On the big debate about that report, would the stimulus plan keep the unemployment rate down, the president's economic advisers did in one report put a chart in that suggested a big stimulus program would keep unemployment at below 8 percent. So they did make that mistake. And they'll be held accountable for that. On the bigger question of the competing economic vision, I think you could criticize both candidates. That you could go back to their Web sites six months ago and find essentially what they said today.

And as you know, we have a very different economy today. We've had three months in a row, and perhaps in June we'll get a fourth month in a row, of tepid jobs growth. You have the European crisis. And both candidates, including Governor Romney, seem pretty stubborn. They want to stick to their plans and not say, "You know what? Times are changing. Maybe our approach does, too."

Governor Romney wants austerity. Cut spending. A lot of economists will tell you it's a dangerous time to do that.

COOPER: Yes. Both candidates, obviously, were in Ohio today. How critical is that state?

KING: It could be the decisive state. Let's take a quick look at where they were.

This is the 2008 map. President Obama carried Ohio in 2008. Guess what? The candidate that won Ohio in the last ten elections has been elected president of the United States. That's how important Ohio is.

Where was the president? He was up in the Cleveland area. You see the blue up there. Turnout up there is critical. African- American voters. Independent voters.

Governor Romney was down here. You'll notice that blue. That's Hamilton County. John McCain lost that county. Republicans have to win that county to win Ohio. That gives you a sense of what the state looks like.

How important is it? Let's go to the electoral map. It is right now one of our toss-up states. We list it this way. Advantage Obama, 247. Solid or leaning Obama states, 206. For Romney, solid or leaning. You've got to get to 270.

Watch this, Anderson. If President Obama were to take Ohio, it gets him to 265. If nothing else changed and he just won Ohio, he would need just one more of these states. If he won New Hampshire, he'd need two. That's only four Electoral College votes. So Governor Romney has to win this.

No Republican in modern times has won the White House without winning Ohio. If Romney wins it, then the map becomes a lot more favorable. If he's winning Ohio, maybe he'll have a chance at Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin. I say maybe.

But if he wins Ohio, and then he wins Florida, look at that. Then you've got essentially a tie race with a handful of key battleground states. Yes, Romney can win the White House without winning Ohio. He can. Is he likely to? Absolutely not. It is a must-win.

COOPER: They are both going to be spending an awful lot of time there. John, appreciate it.

KING: Thank you.

COOPER: A big update on a story we told you about last night. A new bid for freedom for an American, Jason Puracal. He's locked up in a Nicaraguan prison, despite a trial where there was really no evidence of his guilt. We'll tell you why he has a new reason to be optimistic tonight.


COOPER: Another "Crime & Punishment" report tonight. An interesting development in the fight to free an American named Jason Puracal. We told you about him last night.

He's the American locked up in one of Nicaragua's most dangerous prisons. He's been there for more than 18 months so far, despite really any evidence he committed any crime.

Puracal first moved to Nicaragua back in 2002 when he was in the Peace Corps, and he decided to stay. He got married, had a son, even started a successful real-estate business.

But everything changed in November 2010 when Nicaraguan police arrested Puracal for money laundering, drug trafficking, and having links to organized crime. He was convicted in a trial where prosecutors presented no evidence of his guilt, and the judge refused to allow evidence that could prove Puracal's innocent. He's now serving a 22-year sentence alongside some of Nicaragua's most violent criminals in a really overcrowded prison.

Tonight, we've just learned a Nicaraguan court has scheduled an appeal for him later this month. That's something Puracal's family had been fighting for for over a year, something the Nicaraguan government refused up till now.

We managed to reach Jason Puracal on the phone behind bars to discuss his situation before learning about the appeal. Listen.


COOPER: Jason, how are you holding up?

JASON PURACAL, NICARAGUAN PRISONER (via phone): I'm hanging in there.

COOPER: Do you have any idea why the authorities in Nicaragua think you committed these crimes? I mean, why they focused on you? Because I don't see any evidence they actually presented.

PURACAL: I don't know the reason that I'm here. That's been a mystery from the very beginning of what the motives behind the police and the prosecution have been.

COOPER: When they first came to you, I mean, when they first showed up at your house, were you surprised? Had you had any connection with police in the past?

PURACAL: I was shocked. I had donated to the police department in Talemasor (ph). I had interacted with them on a positive basis previously.

But when guys with masks and assault rifles came into my office, I thought I was being robbed. I didn't know what was going on till a plainclothes guy with a badge around his neck came in and asked for me. And then he still didn't tell me till the next few days after they arrested me why I was being arrested, or what it was all about.

COOPER: The U.N. has now issued an opinion saying you should be freed. That you're being held in violation of international law. Do you think that's going to help you at all get released sooner?

PURACAL: I would hope so. That the administration of Nicaragua would value the independent U.N. opinion about my case. However, it's been a couple weeks since that opinion was publicly released. And about a month since Nicaragua has received that privately. And yet I'm still sitting here.

COOPER: What is -- what's the prison like? We're showing videos of the prison where you are right now. What are the conditions like?

PURACAL: It's basically a hellhole. There's concrete cells with -- that are overcrowded. I've been in a cell with anywhere from 9 to 12 people in a 12 x 15 foot cell.

It's hot, dirty. Dusty. There's lots of insects including chiggers and ants and mosquitoes. There's no running water. You have to fight every day to get your two buckets of water.

There's no good food. You get rice and beans three times a day. And it has a bicarbonate added to it to make prisoners feel full. So I can't even eat the stuff. So basically right now I survive on crackers and peanuts and raisins.

COOPER: I'm sorry. You say your cell is how big and how many people are in it?

PURACAL: There's -- 12 x 15 with -- there's nine people in it.

COOPER: Where do you sleep?

PURACAL: We makeshift beds, one on top of the other. People are in hammocks. Just back on top of each other.

Other cells I've been in, everybody's just on the floor. Basically just sit in one spot all day long.

COOPER: You said you've been assaulted there. I mean, do you feel in danger every day?

PURACAL: The guards are telling me I have to go now.

COOPER: Is there anything you want people to know before you go? PURACAL: I am 100 percent innocent of the crimes I've been accused of. And I can't wait to see my family again. I thank everyone for all their support and their effort.

COOPER: Jason, I know you have to go. Stay safe.


COOPER: I want to bring in someone who knows something about Jason Puracal's situation. Eric Volz spent more than a year in the same Nicaraguan prison after he was wrongly convicted of killing a former girlfriend. He was sentenced to 30 years. A three-judge panel finally released him after that year.

Also joining us is senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.

Eric, it's good to see you again. You were in the same prison. How bad is it? And especially, what's it like to be in a prison like this when you know you're innocent?

ERIC VOLZ, WAS FALSELY IMPRISONED IN NICARAGUA: Yes, I mean, prison is, without a doubt, a journey to the farthest reaches of despair and loneliness. You know, a man really gets to know himself.

You can see from the images that where Jason is, is just horrific.

I know for myself, you know, just knowing that my friends and family were tirelessly fighting and advocating for me really was a secret source of hope. I know that's helping buoy Jason now as well.

COOPER: And we're seeing pictures of all these people milling around. What are they doing? Where do you go in that? What do you do? How do you protect yourself?

VOLZ: Well, I mean, it's a constant struggle to navigate this -- the very intricate terms of, you know, this multilayered economy. You know, as an American, you stick out.

Jason has spent a lot of time in Nicaragua and speaks very good Spanish, and I know that that's helped him greatly.

But in fact, we actually learned that Jason's conditions have been improved since the ones he described in that telephone call. We believe it's a result of a letter written to the Nicaraguan president by 33 members of the U.S. Congress. So the family's incredibly grateful for that gesture.

COOPER: Jeffrey, so Jason was basically convicted without any evidence being presented at this trial. There were ten other defendants. He says he'd never really seen them before except for one guy he read about. How does this happen? And what can be done about it?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, how it happens, you know, the Nicaraguan judicial system is not famous for its accuracy or fairness. What can be done about it, unfortunately, is not a great deal.

Our embassy, the consular officials have met with him 19 times. we can appeal to the Nicaraguan government. But he is a prisoner of the Nicaraguan government. His appeal in the Nicaraguan judicial system is really his best and, probably, only hope. Because we, as Americans, have no authority. And our relationship with Nicaragua is not particularly close or warm these days.

Eric, in your case, yours was an incredibly highly-publicized trial in Nicaragua. There was a lot of sentiment against you, which made it all the more difficult for you. That's not the case with Jason, it seems like. There's no murder victim. There's not a lot of emotion apparently surrounding this case so far.

Do you think that means he has a better chance of getting released?

VOLZ: I believe the common denominator in all of these international show trials that we see is that the prisoner gets to come home the moment that they are converted from being an asset into a liability.

And I think there are a lot of things that can be done, and a lot of things are being done. Jason is fortunate that there isn't, you know, a victim. There isn't an emotional sentiment layer to this case. And that's why we're very focused on the judicial and legal process at this time.

COOPER: And so we learned there's going to be an appeal. What is the appeals process, Eric?

VOLZ: It's very actually similar to the process here in the United States. Jason's attorney, you know, appealed the wrongful conviction, you know, and basically went point by point and argued the reasons why, you know, there wasn't legally enough evidence for Jason to be convicted.

Like you mentioned, there's going to be a hearing actually where the defendants and their attorneys will come into a room, and they'll actually probably argue it out for, you know, probably four or five days.

It's a very complex case. There's 11 defendants, you know, three different kinds of charges. So you know, we'll just have to see, you know, how this plays out. But right now it really is in the appellate court's hands.

COOPER: Well, Eric, I appreciate you being on. And Jeff Toobin as well. We'll continue to follow this, let you know what happens.

Lance Armstrong banned from competing in the Ironman triathlon. While he's under investigation for doping allegations. Armstrong's first interview since the new investigation came to light. We have detailed ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BEAK) SUSAN HENDRICKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Susan Hendricks with a "360 Bulletin."

New chaos in the streets of Cairo today, renewed demonstrations coming after Egypt's highest court declared parliament invalid. The country's interim military rulers has declared legislative authority. That led to cries of a coup from critics.

Here at home, President Obama and the first lady got a tour of the new World Trade Center skyscraper under construction in lower Manhattan. President Obama signed one of the last steel beams for the tower with a message: "We remember, we rebuild, we come back stronger."

Back in Washington, Attorney General Holder is offering to release more records on the botched Fast and Furious gun-running operation in Mexico. Holder is facing a possible contempt vote by a House committee investigating that matter.

Seven-time Tour de France champion Lance Armstrong tells the Associated Press he is exploring all options as he faces a new investigation by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. Lance Armstrong has always insisted he has never taken performance-enhancing drugs.

Also, according to various reports, a federal jury has ruled in favor of actor Kevin Costner, who is being sued by fellow actor Stephen Baldwin. Baldwin accused Costner of cheating him out of a deal to sell an oil cleanup device to BP after the 2010 Gulf oil spill.

And doctors in Los Angeles say they have successfully performed heart surgery on the 7-year-old boy who starred as a mini Darth Vader in that very popular Super Bowl commercial. Max Page is his name. The little guy was born with a heart defect. He is expected to make a full recovery.

Now back to Anderson.

COOPER: Susan, thanks.

Coming up, he says he doesn't want anyone to call him Mr. Clean. We're guessing no one ever has. We're going to introduce you to a truck driver who's accused of trashing one neighborhood, and when a female TV reporter caught up with him, he went on to trash all women. The guy is a jerk and lands on tonight's "RidicuList."


COOPER: Time now for "The RidicuList." And tonight, we're adding a guy who calls himself Mr. Cleanup.

Mr. Cleanup, whose real name is Ihor Stetkewycz, is accused of recently dumping large chunks of wood in the middle of a street in Detroit. This what the street looked like after he passed through.

A witness told our affiliate, WXYZ, that he saw the man brazenly tossing the wood. The witness claims he confronted him but he took off.

Now, reporter Tara Edwards tracked Stetkewycz down at his home. Now, what kind of person dumps wood into the middle of the road and then leaves it there? As it turns out, a dreadful, dreadful person.


TARA EDWARDS, REPORTER, WXYZ: It's a little illegal to leave the wood in the street, so what I'm asking is...

IHOR STETKEWYCZ, ACCUSED OF DUMPING WOOD: You don't have to ask me and I don't take no orders from no woman, by the way. By the way, I don't take no orders from no women.


COOPER: So the guy's clearly awful. Now, if there were a list more severe than "The RidicuList," we would put him on it. We're not making light of his appalling, offensive behavior. We just think it's important that you know that, even in 2012, there are people like this guy out there.


EDWARDS: Somebody said that they tried to yell at you to come back and you kept going and then...

STETKEWYCZ: It must have been a woman and I don't listen to women yelling. I tell them to shut up.


COOPER: A nightmare. The guy also pulled the old "the wood fell off my truck and I meant to go back and pick it up" excuse.


EDWARDS: So you were saying that you were going back to clean up...

STETKEWYCZ: Oh, yes, oh, yes, I'm Mr. Cleanup. I'm not Mr. Clean. I'm Mr. Cleanup.


COOPER: He's a card, this one. He also told the reporter the whole incident stems from him just wanting to help people remove wood from their property.


STETKEWYCZ: I lift them all by myself with nobody else's help. Old guys, disabled guys, black guys, white guys, Polish guys, Ukrainian guys and guys from Mars also.

EDWARDS: Oh, OK, from Mars? STETKEWYCZ: From Mars, yes, that's where I'm from, from Mars.


COOPER: He to help out the guys. Apparently, not so much the ladies.

Now, if you're thinking that there might be bigger problems with Mr. Cleanup than just being from Mars and those ridiculous glasses that he apparently refuses to take off, you're right. He was taken into custody today on unrelated charges of malicious destruction of property and indecent exposure. The man's neighbors, who claim he's threatened them with violence and have a protection order against him, say he pulled down his pants in front of their entire family.


STETKEWYCZ: See, my mom bought me pants that were ten sizes too big for me, so I put my belt on as far as it would go, then I went outside as a nice Warren resident...


COOPER: I mean, I can't. I really just can't.

By the way this guy, Stetkewycz, was several hours late to his hearing today. He told the judge he was chasing a stolen car down Interstate 94.

And in case you're wondering, he has been ordered to undergo a competency exam and is being held on $50,000 bond for each count against him. Clearly, the least of Mr. Cleanup's problems is being on "The RidicuList."

Hey, that's it for us. Thanks for watching. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts now.