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Veterans Dying While Waiting; 200 Schoolgirls Kidnapped in Nigeria; Mystery of Flight 370

Aired May 5, 2014 - 20:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening. Tonight the lost girls of Nigeria. In a chilling video a terrorist leader says he has plans for more than 200 girls kidnapped from their school at gunpoint. He plans to sell them. What we know tonight about this terrorist group, and why parents are too scared to even release their pictures of their missing daughters.

Also tonight, a high-flying circus act goes horribly wrong, sending performers to the hospital after crashing to the ground in front of crowds. What investigators know so far.

We begin, however, tonight with breaking news. Two major veterans groups calling for the head of Veteran Affairs Department to resign over allegations that V.A. hospitals are making our vets wait months to get care or keeping secret waiting lists and that veterans are dying while they wait for care.

Those details revealed for the first in a series of reports on this program. Late this afternoon the national commander of the American Legion called for the resignation of Eric Shinseki, the secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs. It is a rare move. In fact, it's been more than 30 years since the American Legion has called for the resignation of any public official. And another group, Concerned Veterans for America, says it fully supports the American Legion's demand for accountability.

The accountability in question is over allegations that at a V.A. hospital in Phoenix, up to 40 veterans died waiting to see a doctor, according to several sources. Adding insult to injury or in some cases actually adding insult to death, the hospital also allegedly kept a secret list of wait times. A list that they tried to keep hidden from the public and V.A. headquarters in Washington.

Now our reporting on this story has garnered quite a bit of attention from President Obama who ordered an investigation and said the White House takes the allegations very seriously from Congress where three members, Arizona's delegation want the V.A. director in Phoenix fired and now from veterans groups who want action.

Senior investigative correspondent Drew Griffin has been "Keeping Them Honest" from the beginning of this investigation. Today he's in Washington where he has been trying yet again to any -- to get any kind of comment from Shinseki. There are other new developments tonight as well. Word that the issue of these alleged secret waiting list might be even bigger than we thought.

Drew joins me now live outside V.A. headquarters.

So, Drew, what is the latest on this?

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, a huge backlog of veterans waiting for care have simply been cleared from the books, as you will, in just the last year and the question really today is how. It begs the question of whether or not these records for patient care were simply purged from the system. The V.A. has reported that 1.5 million orders for patient care or services from vets, they call them consults, have disappeared in the last year. Cleared as they would.

Today we asked the government watchdog at the government's own accountability office if anything the V.A. is telling us can be proven or can be proven to be true, and the answer is no.


DEBRA DRAPER, GOVERNMENT ACCOUNTABILITY OFFICE, DIRECTOR OF HEALTH CARE: Which is a little disconcerting that 1.5 million records were -- you know, were closed. We can't determine whether they did a review, a clinical review, and appropriately closed out the consult.

GRIFFIN: If you don't know how these wait times and consults were cleaned up, does anybody at V.A. headquarters know?

DRAPER: Well, you'd have to -- you know, they did not require these local facilities to keep records of how they were -- how they closed out the consults. So it would be really, as I mentioned, that you'd have to really go back to each individual patient record to see how the consult --

GRIFFIN: So the V.A. itself, I would assume, does not know.

DRAPER: Not -- no.



COOPER: Amazing. They didn't require any local facility to keep records on how they got rid of this backlog locally. How can anyone, including the V.A., confidently then say that these veterans are getting their doctor's appointments or the medical care they need?

GRIFFIN: You know, they can't. The only thing we know is the patients who have died are no longer on the list. That's the best they can tell us. And Deborah Draper says the data collection, the record keeping and most specifically she said, the oversight here at the Veterans Affairs office is so bad that nobody knows what happened to those patient records, whether or not they were cleared for a good reasons, bad reasons or simply just purged from the books. So right now they have no clue.

COOPER: The American Legion, as we reported, called for Aaron Shinseki to resign. He's the Cabinet secretary. Have you heard from the White House at all?

GRIFFIN: We did reach out. We got a statement back saying that the president, the White House is waiting for the inspector general's report. That we are also anticipating, at least in the Phoenix case, but we wanted to ask some broader questions. The president did, though, apparently say this.

"The president remains confident in Secretary Shinseki's ability to lead the department and to take appropriate action based on the I.G.'s findings."

And as you know tonight, Anderson, the American Legion thinks the appropriate action right now is to get rid of the Veterans Affairs secretary.

COOPER: And Drew, I take it by the fact that you are standing in front of the V.A. outside the building, not inside, that our continuing requests to try to interview the secretary has gone unanswered or avoided or just blown off.

GRIFFIN: Yes. We are asking every day as we continue to pursue the story. Asking where is the secretary. We're not even sure where that is. No response at all on our requests other than to say that Aaron Shinseki is doing a great job here at the V.A. according to the V.A. But no response at all in our interview request -- Anderson.

COOPER: And I should point out, this isn't just, you know, reporters writing about not getting an interview. There are folks on Capitol Hill who say the V.A. is not responsive at all in terms of getting them information in a timely way. I talked to a congressman just the other say who said exactly that and they're trying to keep records of basically how often they get blown off as well. We'll keep at it.

Drew Griffin, appreciate it.

Now to a story that's causing outrage all over the world. Maybe not enough outrage quite frankly, and perhaps it didn't come quickly enough. But the lives of hundreds of young girls hanging in the balance. Girls who dared to do nothing more than to try to get an education in a place where that's no easy task.

Girls kidnapped from a school on April 14th, taken at gunpoint, forced into trucks by an Islamist terrorist group called Boko Haram. A video released today by a man who says he's the leader of that group says the girls should get married instead of going to school. And he says what he plans to do with them.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I abducted your girls. I will sell them in the market. By Allah. There is a market for selling humans. Allah says I should sell. He commands me to sell. I will sell women. I sell women.


COOPER: The State Department says the video does appear to be legitimate. For the parents of these girls, it's obviously their worst fears come true. Parents have already avoided talking to the media out of fear that their daughters could be singled out.

Vlad Duthiers reports from Nigeria tonight.


VLADIMIR DUTHIERS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Hundreds of young girls fast asleep in their beds are awakened by the sound of gunfire. Armed attackers have stormed their boarding school and set fire to dozens of buildings. Nearly 300 of them are dragged from their dorm, loaded onto trucks, and carried away deep into the forest.

Amina Shawok is one of the lucky ones. She made a run for it and escaped.

"We thought they were soldiers, and they asked us to board a vehicle," she says. "Which was headed towards Damboa, and my friends and I jumped from the vehicle and ran back home."

Authorities say this was another brazen attack by the jihadist terrorist group Boko Haram, whose name means "Western education is forbidden." The group's aim, to establish Islamic law.

Amnesty International says in just the first three months of this year more than 1500 people have died as a result of the insurgency in northeastern Nigeria. 1500. They've attacked churches, mosques and markets. Entire villages have been raced to the ground, residents killed in fire bomb attacks, shot or hacked to death.

This time their targets were young girls.

(On camera): It's not the first time they've kidnapped young girls. In November dozens were rescued during a raid by Nigerian Security Services. Some were pregnant, some had babies and others were forced into marrying their kidnapers.

(Voice-over): And Boko Haram's campaign of terror is expanding. The same day the girls from Chibok were kidnapped, the militants carried out an attack on a crowded bus station in Nigeria's capital Abuja, killing 71 people and wounding more than 130.

(On camera): What I see all around me here in addition to the shards of glass and the hunks of metal torn from the sides of these buses by the force of this glass are personal belongings and they're mixed with human blood and tissue.

(Voice-over): Attacks like this have become part of the reality of everyday life here. But this latest kidnapping has gripped the heart of the nation and exposed the inability of Nigeria's government to protect its citizens. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm a young mother. So I can't imagine any mother going through this. It's disheartening. It's shocking. It would make any official statement. All we keep hearing are lies. Everybody is saying one thing or the other. But they are not true. We need to hear the truth.

DUTHIERS: Close to three weeks later, no one can say exactly how many girls are actually missing. Authorities put the number at more than 220. But have said that could grow. Officials have not released their names or photos, and the military has refused to share information about their search and rescue effort, which they say is ongoing.

But fear for the girl's safety and anger at the government response is growing. Protesting rallies have been staged in several cities. Meanwhile, in Chibok, mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers wait helplessly, not knowing where these girls are. And if they'll ever come home.


COOPER: Vlad Duthiers joins us now from Nigeria, as well as CNN national security analyst Peter Bergen.

So, Vlad, what more do we know about where these girls are? Because the U.S. State Department is saying that many of them may have already been taken out of Nigeria.

DUTHIERS: Anderson, we've been reporting this story from day one, and the parents that we've spoken to on the ground has always told us this was their biggest fear. Not only were these girls be taken away into these very dense remote forest, bordering Nigeria and Cameroon, known as the Sambisa Forest, to Boko Haram's stronghold. But as time went on that these girls might actually be ferried out of Nigeria into neighboring Cameroon, Niger or Chad.

In fact, residents on the ground have told us that they've seen convoys filled with young girls and what they say are militants on a road leading out of Nigeria and into Cameroon. So with the comments by the State Department today and this despicable video by this supposed leader of Boko Haram, Abubakar Shekau saying that what he's planning to do with these girls is to sell them, it looks like their worst fears may have been realized -- Anderson.

COOPER: Peter, this is interesting. This reminds me a little bit about what we saw in Iraq with al Qaeda linked terror groups, that when they got in control of some territory they basically alienated people very rapidly. I mean, this is the kind of thing that turns people -- hopefully would turn people against a group like this.

PETER BERGEN, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yes, you'd hope so. And certainly, you know, this group originated as a group called the Nigerian Taliban and their aim is to impose Taliban-style rule in the population just as al Qaeda did in Iraq. That turned out to be, you know, a problem for al Qaeda in Iraq. The population rose up and then in combination with U.S. military attacked al Qaeda in Iraq. But that isn't happening right now in Nigeria. We did see something similar, Anderson, in Mali in 2012, where an al Qaeda linked group imposed Taliban-style rule on the population and the French army intervened and were greeted as an Army of Liberation.

I don't see that happening in Nigeria. You know, I don't see the Nigerian government really requesting any kind of serious assistance at this moment.

COOPER: Vlad, I mean, we heard from one of the reports saying that they haven't heard anything from the government. The government hadn't come forward. I think now the president in Nigeria has made a comment. But has it really been all this time that there was really no comment from the government there?

DUTHIERS: In fact, Anderson, we've reached out every day to the military, to the president's office for some kind of statement. There have been some statements occasionally from time to time over the course of the last three weeks. But in fact the military told us that they were going to defer to the local state government. And when we spoke to parents on the ground, they told us that although the military was saying to the media and to the press that they were launching an extensive search and rescue operation in this forest area, the parents on the ground told us that they didn't see any sign of that.

In fact, what they were doing, Anderson, was risking their own lives with sticks and stones, machetes. Trying themselves to go into the forest, risking their lives to try to bring their daughters out because they say that the military and the police weren't doing that -- Anderson.

And from what we can tell, there hasn't been any kind of operational detail that's been released either by the president's office or by the Defense Ministry -- Anderson.

COOPER: And Vlad, this area where this has happened, this is not an area that reporters can freely go to, right? I mean, this is -- is it true that there's a state of emergency in this area, sort of kind of tightly controlled?

DUTHIERS: That's right. There are three states up in the northeast that have been put under a state emergency since May of 2013. You need military escorts to go into the area. But of course if you go with military escort, you're a target of opportunity for Boko Haram. That's what they've been doing over the course of the last three or four years is attacking military convoys, attacking military bases.

At its essence, Anderson, this story, people say we don't have the images. We can't see what is happening on the ground. But this story is about mothers and fathers who in one of the poorest regions of Nigeria, the least educated regions of Nigeria sent their children to school to get an education, woke up one morning and found out that they had been taken in the middle of the night by armed attackers to God knows where. And ultimately the pain and the agony and the suffering of these people are going through, in addition to knowing that their military is not able to protect them or to rescue their daughters is something that most people can't imagine -- Anderson.

COOPER: And Peter, in terms of options, I mean, I've been in jungles in Cameroon. It was very dense. I've been in the forest there. You know, you can -- you can disappear pretty easily there. It's very hard to travel through those regions. What are the options here? I mean, this group is not really formally connected to al Qaeda. What are the options that the U.S. and Nigeria have?

BERGEN: Well, you know, one option is U.S. Special Forces have detachments in certain African countries. Think about the Lost Army Resistance in Uganda where the U.S. is playing a role in trying to hunt down the leader of that group. So far unsuccessfully. So, you know, you can imagine that the Nigerian government might request additional, you know, help from U.S. Special Forces which operate in these countries and can provide some help in trying to locate this. But I defer to Vlad if that's politically feasible.

COOPER: Vlad, what about that? Is that feasible?



COOPER: Because I've seen the government now kind of -- I've seen the government kind of now blaming the parents, saying, well, the parents haven't given us all the information about their kids.

DUTHIERS: Yes, that's sort of a head scratcher, Anderson. You know, the president yesterday saying that the rescue efforts were being hampered by the fact that the parents had not provided pictures or names of the children missing. Parents that we have spoken to have said that they've been threatened by the militants that if they do release their names and pictures to the public, to the press, those children could be targeted, those children could be killed.

We can certainly understand if there's one child that goes missing, gets kidnapped, you certainly need a description, you need a name to try and track down the child. But, you know, 200 plus. 200 and, you know, up to 300 girls gone missing in the middle of the night. You're not going to necessarily need a picture to go and find a large group of girls in the forest. Most people believe that the military as well as the residents know exactly where these girls are, which is at Sambisa Forest, this dense forest area in neighboring Cameroon -- Anderson.

COOPER: It's an unbelievable story. Vlad, you've been on it from the beginning. I appreciate it. Vlad Duthiers, Peter Bergen as well.

Quick reminder. Make sure, you can set your DVR so you never miss 360. You can watch it whenever you like.

Up next tonight a new phase in the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines plane. Why everything investigators thought they knew up to this point could be wrong. It's unbelievable at this point that we realize how little is actually known for sure.

Later outrage after a Texas judge sentences a man who admitted raping a 14-year-old girl to just 45 days in jail and community service at a rape crisis center. Should somebody accused of this actually be working at a rape crisis center? You can decide for yourself coming up.


COOPER: Welcome back. Nearly two months into the investigation to what happened to Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 and the 239 people on board, it seems that a frustrating chorus in this mystery repeats yet again. That everything that investigators thought they knew could be wrong.

After eight weeks of searching thousands of hours in the air, millions of square miles of ocean, it looks like they are back at square one. There's been no wreckage found in the water obviously. No sighting from the air, no debris anywhere, nothing. So now it's back to the drawing board.

In a news conference, the man leading the search efforts said we're at a stage where it's sensible to go back and look at all the data to make sure it's been analyzed correctly. On Wednesday Australian, Malaysian and Chinese officials are going to meet to do just that and to talk about the next stage of the search. One that will be broader and more difficult according to China's transport minister. Not to mention that the pings that were detected that focused the search, they may not even be from a plane's black box after all.

Joining me now live, CNN safety analyst David Soucie, author of "Why Planes Crash: An Accident Investigator Fights for Safe Skies." Also former Transportation Department inspector general, Mary Schiavo, who currently represents transportation accident victims and their families.

Mary, you know, when people hear, wait a minute, the pings may not even be from a plane's black box? I think -- I mean, when I heard that today, it just seems so contradictory to everything investigators and officials have been saying that this is not from any natural source. This is, you know, similar to a -- the pings we're getting from a black box.

Do you think these pings are from a plane's black box, and if not, what are they from?

MARY SCHIAVO, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Well, I don't know what they would be from if they're not from the box. But the problem was the frequency. It was the megahertz frequency all along and the pinger is supposed at 37.5. And so people guessed that maybe -- and these were at 33.5. And so people guessed that perhaps it had to do with the degradation and the battery giving out.

But there are studies and including one from Technical University of Lisbon completed after Air France 447 that shows the variation is only two megahertz. So that would mean you could have 36.5 to 38.5 around the 37.5 megahertz, but you wouldn't be likely to come up with a 33.5. And as the battery dies, the signal gets weaker but the megahertz may not change. And so that was what -- what people don't know the answer to and they really could set about finding that out. This accident could lead to answering that question.

COOPER: But -- I mean, if it's not a natural source, like whales or something, and it's not from pingers from a black box, what would be making any kind of a pinging sound in the ocean?

SCHIAVO: Well, they've postulated everything from equipment on the boat. Somebody said wristwatches. Somebody said marine life. It's not marine life. This mega -- this frequency was picked exactly not to be like marine life. Other vessels in the area. Other signals. They've postulated a lot of things. It makes the most sense that it is the pinger, but what they need to do is test it out.

There's no chance of hearing the ping from the airline now. So put some pingers underwater there and see what happens in 30 days.


SCHIAVO: They're saying this is a yearlong search. Test it out. Find out if it goes to 33.5.

COOPER: Dave, you say you think the pings that searchers detected were from that plane. Why are you so sure? Especially given that the frequency wasn't what it should be?

DAVID SOUCIE, CNN SAFETY ANALYST: Well, you know, today some of these researchers, the sonic experts had come back to me and said, you know, we just don't believe that it is pings. And I was in shock because at that point you're thinking, well, why didn't you say something before? We've been searching in the wrong area this entire time. And so when I went back and looked at -- I reviewed my data again with some other specialists and found out that there two accidents actually in which the pingers did put off different frequencies.

One was a Boeing -- BoCal helicopter that crashed and that they found is that the fracture -- the fracture around the top of the crystal inside the unit itself had cracked. So when that breaks across up in that unit, it changes the frequency. It changed this one to 100 megahertz instead of 37.5.

There was another case in which it went to 40 megahertz. I haven't found one that went lower. But yet I do think there is one and I'd like to do some experimenting and come back, as Mary said. We need to do some tests and find out exactly if this can be replicated. And I think it can.

COOPER: Dave, do you trust the data, I mean, that's been used to kind of establish the search areas as of now?

SOUCIE: You know, I hadn't. I was a little bit skeptical about the Inmarsat data. I believe in the technology, but how it was applied and the assumptions that were made didn't make a lot of sense to me until the preliminary report came out and it talked about a 40-degree as it moved which is the -- the degree the angle to the satellite from where the airplane was transmitting.

Now that we have that information, it makes a great deal of sense to me that it's easy at that point -- not easy, but it's mathematically capable of figuring out that arc. And now the arc makes all the sense in the world to me. And now you put the Inmarsat data back and back track that to back to where it was seen last, it all fell together for me. I really believe it now. And I'm confident the aircraft is right there where those pings are. They just have to keep looking.

COOPER: All right. Well, David Soucie, I appreciate it. Mary Schiavo as well.

As always, you can find out more on this story at

Up next, the Texas judge who went easy on an admitted rapist after factoring the victim's -- that's right, the victim's reported sexual history. Was this judge basically blaming the victim? The law says she can't do that. But she did.

Also ahead, one year ago they stunned the world. Three Cleveland women who have been missing for more than a decade breaking free from their captor. Who can forget this story?

Tonight one of them is speaking about the moment that changed her life forever.


MICHELLE KNIGHT, KIDNAPPING SURVIVOR: I really didn't think nothing of it until, you know, we got into the house fully. That's when it dawned on me that this was a mistake to get in his car.



COOPER: Well, in "Crime and Punishment" tonight, a Texas judge is under fire after issuing a sentence that sparked outrage and disbelief. In Texas, and many other states, a sexual history of an alleged rape victim, rape survivor cannot be used as evidence. Despite that law, this judge actually admitted in a newspaper interview that the victim's alleged sexual history was a factor in her ruling. She told the paper the girl who was 14 years old at the time wasn't the victim she claimed to be, despite the fact that the rapist has admitted he was guilty. Wait until you learn how much time he got and where he was ordered to do community service. Here's Randi Kaye.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In a handwritten confession, then 18-year-old Ser Young admitted to raping a 14-year- old girl. The two were students at Booker T. Washington High School in Texas. The confession from 2011 reads in part, "I took her pants off and mine as well. She kept saying no and stop, but I didn't stop." The girl came forward telling authorities Young raped her.

(on camera): Young, an admitted rapist, could have been sentenced to 20 years in prison. Instead just recently State District Judge Janine Howard ordered him to serve just 45 days in jail, five years probation along with 250 hours of community service. And where is young set to serve that community service? Out of all places, a rape crisis center. Young will have to register as a sex offender.

But the judge ruled he will not be held to the typical probation restrictions sex offenders face. No sex offender treatment, no staying away from children, and no refraining from watching pornography. Young's attorney also agrees with the sentence.

SCOTTIE ALLEN, YOUNG'S DEFENSE LAWYER: We don't think that he qualifies as your typical sex offender. This is not somebody who has preyed on some young kids or unsuspecting people.

KAYE (voice-over): Exactly why the judge chose the sentence is what's enraged so many. In an interview with the "Dallas Morning News," Judge Howard, citing the girl's medical records, said the victim had three sexual partners and had given birth to a baby. Under the Texas rape shield law, a victim's sexual history isn't even admissible in court. Still the judge concluded she wasn't the victim she claimed to be. The victim, now 17, says she's disgusted by the judge's actions.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I was shocked that a judge, someone that I trusted with this case would go behind my back and make these allegations that she knows nothing about.

KAYE: The girl's mother says she's livid over the judge's comments, and there was no baby. Facing heavy backlash, Judge Howard has now recused herself from the case, while prosecutors fight the terms of Young's probation. Still the judge told the "Dallas Morning News she stands by her decision. Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.


COOPER: I'm joined now by the Bobbie Villareal, director of the Dallas Rape Crisis Center where this person was told to do some work and CNN legal analyst, Sunny Hostin. You told the court you did not this young man, this convicted rapist doing service at the crisis center. Does the judge understand what your crisis center does?

BOBBIE VILLAREAL, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, DALLAS RAPE CRISIS CENTER: I don't believe she understands what we do. If she would have called us prior to issuing the conditions of probation, we would have told her and explained what we do at the center and how that's not possible.

COOPER: Tell people what you do and why it's so inappropriate to have a convicted rapist at your center.

VILLAREAL: Well, rerun a crisis hot line 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for women and men who are in crisis. So we are providing direct victim services. We also operate a hospital advocacy program where we go and accompany survivors of sexual assault through their forensic exam. We provide it to the police departments, to the court and throughout the criminal justice program. We offer counseling at our center all the time. If our doors are open we are providing survivor centered services.

COOPER: So the idea of having a convicted rapist hanging around your offices, doing whatever clerical work seems insane to have survivors of rape coming there and seeing this person.

VILLAREAL: Absolutely. And I believe Judge Howard also said she thought they would cook or do yard work. She doesn't know what our center offers, and I wish she would have contacted the center so we could have told her what we do. I'm embarrassed a member of the judiciary doesn't know what the only crime center in our jurisdiction does so she doesn't know what she was talking about.

COOPER: Sunny, do you think it's an appropriate sentence?

HOSTIN: I actually do think it's appropriate sentence. I spent the days looking at the conditions of probation. Let's be clear, I'm coming at this as the perspective of someone who spent a large amount of time prosecuting child sex crimes. I know how these things work. Five years of probation, 45 days in jail, yes, that doesn't seem to be enough, but he does also have to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life. That's an onerous thing. It's extremely difficult to comply with.

COOPER: But he doesn't have to --

HOSTIN: Just a minute, Anderson.

COOPER: But he doesn't have to take any classes or anything like that.

HOSTIN: Well, we don't know that yet. My understanding is while she asked he not do some things like undergo an offender evaluation and refrain from important, there are other things. This is someone that accepted responsibility on the day of the rape. Then pled guilty, accepted responsibility immediately, and also in terms of the community service, and I understand her feeling.

But when you look at mothers against drunk drivers and dui defendants that spend a lot of time with people affected by their crimes, affected by drunk drivers, we know the stats are those types of programs are extremely, extremely effective.

While this program may not be appropriate, having a rapist, an admitted rapist perhaps going and meeting with survivors who are agreeable to meeting with him or speaking at high schools explaining --

COOPER: Let me just jump in here. I got it. There's a big difference between, you know, somebody being confronted by a survivor of rape who has committed a rape, by a survivor of rape, who has come through the other side and wants to give that person and somebody who has just been raped coming to your rape crisis center in the midst of the drama and running into a convicted rapist there. VILLAREAL: Well, it's against our policies, first of all. We are not now, or in the future changing our focus. Our focus is on the survivor, is on the victim. That's what we're here for. We are not here to rehabilitate a defendant. I think if the judge knew that, she may not have given him those conditions of his probation. And we keep turning the lens on the defendant and saying it wasn't fair to him.

I think there is a place that's appropriate for him. And by the judge lifting all the sex offender conditions, we're not giving him a chance to be rehabilitated. Those are tried and true methods of rehabilitation, and by lifting the conditions of probation, she's not honoring the system.

HOSTIN: We don't know she lifted them.

VILLAREAL: She did lift them all. She lifted every single one, and then she recused herself, and now the district attorney's office is petitioning the new judge to put him back on those terms and conditions of probation.

HOSTIN: That's not my understanding.

COOPER: We're going to continue to follow this. I appreciate you both being on. We'll see what the new judge does. We asked the judge to come on the program. E we did not hear back. Obviously our invitation stands. We would love to talk with her. Bobbie Villareal, thank you so much for what you do and for being here and Sunny as well.

Just ahead, Cleveland kidnapping survivor, Michelle Knight is going public with her story. I sat down with her several days ago. Her strength is extraordinary. She describes what the men who kidnapped her, raped her, beat her for more than ten years. She describes how she managed to survive that, how she managed to hang onto hope.


ANDERSON COOPER: Tomorrow will mark one year since three Cleveland women who had been missing for more than a decade escaped from a house on the city's west side. Michelle Knight, Amanda Berry, and Gina DeJesus were alive despite all they had been through. Their kidnapper raped and tortured them repeatedly. He was indicted under 977 counts; under a plea deal, he was sentenced to live plus 1,000 years. A month later he was found hanged in his cell, his death ruled a suicide.

Today, Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus released statements thanking everyone who has supported them over this past year. Michelle Knight has written a book about her experience, "Finding Me: A Decade of Darkness, A Light Reclaimed" is out this week. Tonight, my recent interview (AUDIO GAPE).


COOPER: Why did you want to write a book? Why did you want to have your story out there? MICHELLE KNIGHT, KIDNAPPING VICTIM & AUTHOR: To help other women, children, men, know that they can survive any type of problem in their life.

COOPER: That's your message? That you can survive anything?


COOPER: Because that's the feeling I got reading your book. I don't know how you survived.

KNIGHT: Tremendous strength.

COOPER: Did you always know that you could survive? I mean, obviously there were moments you thought you weren't going to. But --

KNIGHT: There were moments. But overall, I always thought I could make it through because I made it through so much in my life. So much pain, so much torture. So I was, like, already prepared for it.

COOPER: Prepared for it, she says, because growing up in Cleveland, all Michelle Knight knew was pain. Starting at a young age, she says she suffered from physical, emotional and sexual abuse. At 17 years old, she found herself pregnant.

You write in the book that giving birth was the greatest experience, the happiest moment of your life.

KNIGHT: Yes, it was the happiest moment of my life because I had somebody that finally loved me back as much as I loved that baby.

COOPER: But when her son, Joey, was two years old, her mother's boyfriend abused him, and the state took Joey away from 21-year-old Michelle. She hoped to get her child back. And on a sunny day, August 23, 2002, Michelle had an appointment with social services to do just that. She says her ride backed out, and she started to walk and asked people for directions.

KNIGHT: And then the dude walks in. He overheard me and the lady talking, so he was like, I know where the place is at.

COOPER: You call him the dude. Why the dude?

KNIGHT: Because he don't deserve a name.

COOPER: That dude was Ariel Castro, the father of one of Michelle's friends. He offered her a ride, but first said he had to pick something up at his home on Seymour Avenue.

And then what did he tell you to get you inside the house?

KNIGHT: In the car, he said that he had puppies. So when we got, like, a quarter down the road, he's like, that's my van right there. And it says "puppies for free." So we get in the backyard. And I really didn't think nothing of it until, you know, we got into the house fully. That's when it dawned on me that this was a mistake to get in his car.

COOPER: You knew by then that this is wrong.

KNIGHT: Yes. And then I end up being trapped in a small room, small pink room. That's where he proceed to tie me up like a fish and put me on the wall.

COOPER: You said tie you up like a fish. What do you mean?

KNIGHT: My legs and hands were bound like this. And I was that far from the floor.

COOPER: Gagged, bound, and hanging from a pole, he left her in that dark room for at least a day.

KNIGHT: I was numb, cold, and I felt needles poking me all over the place.

COOPER: That's what it felt like?

KNIGHT: It felt like a thousand knives.

COOPER: Did he give you food?


COOPER: What about going to the bathroom or --

KNIGHT: No. If I did, it was not in a bathroom.

COOPER: Did you think you were going to die, or did you think you might be able to get out?

KNIGHT: Thinking I was going to die is more likely along the lines of what I was thinking. I didn't think I was going to get out alive.

COOPER: When he finally did come back and take her down off the pole, she says it was only to rape her repeatedly.

Did you ever think about screaming or yelling?

KNIGHT: I screamed, but nobody would hear it. There was a day I screamed until I had no voice. Still nobody heard it. And when he hears you scream, he just shoves a sock or a cloth down your throat until you choke on it.

COOPER: Did you think this would at some point end? That it wouldn't with go on? That he would let you go. Did he promise to let you go?

KNIGHT: No. He told me he would never let me go.

COOPER: He said that from the beginning.

KNIGHT: Yes. He said you don't have a family that cares about you. If I kill you right now, nobody would even care. COOPER: For the first several months, she was kept in what she refers to as the dungeon, the basement of the house on Seymour Avenue. Sitting on the ground, she was chained to a pole, gagged with a sock and a motorcycle helmet placed over her head. All the while, the abuse continued.

I talked to other people who have been taken. They all say that very quickly you start to kind of adapt to the new reality. That you start to -- you know, people who haven't been through the situation think, oh, I would try to escape. I would do this. I would do that. But in reality, very quickly your mind starts to adapt to your new environment.


COOPER: Can you explain that?

KNIGHT: What happens is hard at first. You don't want to adapt to it. You don't want to comply. You don't want to do anything at first. But then you find yourself saying, why not? I'm here. Just let him get it over with.

COOPER: It feels like you have no power over it.

KNIGHT: Yes, that you're powerless.

COOPER: What would you think about each day, I mean, just to get through?

KNIGHT: I would basically think about my son. And how I would like to see his loving smile again.

COOPER: Eventually, he moved her upstairs where she was kept naked and often chained to a wall in a boarded-up bedroom. She only had about a foot-and-a-half of chain, just enough to stand up and use a bucket for a toilet. Her only connection with the outside world, an old radio. Sometimes a small TV. It was nearly eight months into her hell when she saw on that TV that a girl named Amanda Berry had gone missing.

UNIDENTFIED FEMALE: If anybody knows anything about my daughter, I wish somebody would come forward.

COOPER: And when you heard that, what did you think?

KNIGHT: The first thought in my head is he did it.

COOPER: You knew right away?



COOPER: And he did take Amanda Berry, of course, and almost a year later, Gina DeJesus. We'll have that part of the story tomorrow, part two of my interview with Michelle Knight, on 360. We'll be right back. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: New details tonight about that shocking circus accident in Rhode Island. A Ringing Brothers performance that nearly turned tragic, some of you may find these images disturbing. Our Gary Tuchman reports.


GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When the curtain dropped, revealed eight members of the hair hang act. This was not supposed to happen. Audience members of the Wringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus of Providence, Rhode Island were horrified as eight women fell to the ground right before their eyes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: As first I thought it was the act. We see them doing acrobat with their hair. And all the sudden it was like eight girls, and all the sudden it was just, boom, it just falls.

TUCHMAN: A performer on the ground and two others were hurt. Parents tried to shield their children's eyes.

SEAN BERGERON, EYEWITNESS (via telephone): At one point there was just complete silence. You could physically hear the girls down there crying and screaming. And that's when it finally hit my

TUCHMAN: The injured were put on stretchers at the scene and taken immediately to Rhode Island hospital. Many suffered broken bones.

SCOTT DERRY, PROVIDENCE, RHODE ISLAND FIRE DEPARTMENT: They weren't saying too much. . Basically just crying and kind of shock. They probably didn't know what happened to them either.

TUCHMAN: Rhode Island officials are blaming the accident on a clamp, something called a d-ring that apparently broke. It was attached to a cable, and when it gave way, the whole apparatus came apart. On the circus' web site the act is billed as one of a kind. It's the brain child of a husband and wife team, Ondry and Tori Midaros. He paid attention to every detail, even welding the three rigs that the girls hang from to keep his troop safe.

STEPHEN PAYNE, RINGLING BROTHERS CIRCUS: All of them received medical attention in Providence, Rhode Island, promptly after the incident and have been resting comfortably.

TUCHMAN: An aerialist who does the trick says there's a reason it's death defying.

ELAINE ALCORN, FORMER AERIALIST: The concept is one of your strands of hair will break easily but when combined together it's a strong rope. And it's spread out over your head, so it can withstand the weight. Obviously, it wasn't anything to do with that part of the act, the entire rigging came down.

TUCHMAN: As for the audience, a nightmare in front of their eyes. So too for the first responders. SGT; SEAN CARROLL, PROVIDENCE, RI POLICE DEPARTMENT: We're looking down at a bunch of girls. One is the same age as my daughter who is a dancer. When one of the girls looked up at me and very calmly but sadly said, I can't feel my legs.

TUCHMAN: No idea yet how long the official investigation will take. Gary Tuchman, CNN, Atlanta.


COOPER: Certainly wish them well. We'll be right back.


COOPER: Running out of time tonight. Our segment about the rape sentence in Texas run along with all those (ph) important conversation to have. We'll see you again at 11 p.m. Eastern with another edition of 360. CNN Tonight starts now.