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John Edwards Trial Continues; George Zimmerman Raising Hundreds of Thousands Online

Aired April 26, 2012 - 22:00   ET


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

And we begin tonight with breaking news, a 360 exclusive. George Zimmerman's defense attorney has revealed to us that his client, charged with second-degree murder in the death of Trayvon Martin, has raised more than $200,000 online.

Now, this is a major revelation, because Mark O'Mara, Zimmerman's lawyer, previously told the court that his client was unable to pay his legal expenses. You will remember at Zimmerman's bond hearing the prosecution asked for bail to be set at $1 million. Instead, the judge set it at $150,000.

To make bail, Zimmerman needed to come up with just 10 percent of that, $15,000.

Just three days ago, I asked Mr. O'Mara about the money Zimmerman was raising online. Listen to what he said then.


COOPER: Do you know how much money has been raised by that Web site he set up?

MARK O'MARA, ATTORNEY FOR GEORGE ZIMMERMAN: I got a note from somebody who seems to have control over one that says there was $700 or $800 in it. I have heard from another that's a couple of thousand dollars in one. I don't know who's monitoring them or who's handling them or if anyone is taking any money out. I don't think so, but just haven't taken that on yet with everything else that's going on.


COOPER: Well, today, Mark O'Mara reached out to us saying he now has a much different understanding of his client's finances. I spoke to him earlier tonight.


COOPER: Mark, we spoke earlier this week and you told me that you had conflicting information on how much money had been raised through George Zimmerman's Web site, the account that he set up. You said you had been told anywhere from $700 to $800 to a couple of thousand dollars.

You now say it's much more than that. How much money specifically to your knowledge has been raised by George Zimmerman and his supporters?

O'MARA: Well, my understanding was there were two accounts, one with about $700 and one with about $2,000 by some friends of his. In talking to George after I was trying to shut down his full Internet presence, because of some impersonators and other problems with Twitter an Facebook, he asked me what to do with his PayPal accounts.

And I asked him what he was talking about. And he said those are the accounts that had the money from the Web site he had and that there was about $200,000, $204,000 that had come in to date.

COOPER: Well, $200,000 to $204,000, that's obviously a very significant amount of money. When did you learn that?

O'MARA: Yes. Yesterday.


O'MARA: Yes, it was sort of surprising to me. I think you and I had talked on Monday about it and I had said about the two that I did know about. When he advised me yesterday after we were closing out all of his Internet presence and the PayPal accounts is when we found out about it.

COOPER: Would this have affected his bond hearing? Because you told the judge basically he was indigent. He got $150,000 bond and he only had to pay about 10 percent of it. Would that have made a difference had the judge known that he had $200,000 in PayPal accounts?

O'MARA: It might have.

I'm certainly going to disclose it to the court tomorrow. Coincidentally, we have a hearing. Certainly, we had acknowledged that he did not have funds available to him. And these were. I'm not certain that he thought in some sense that they were available to him because even after the bond was granted, it was the family who was trying to come up with enough money for the bond.

And I guess if they thought that they had full, easy access to it, they simply could have used that. But now that I'm aware of it, we're certainly going to deal with it in a much more transparent way, probably bring in someone like an accountant to assist me with administering it and just deal with it very openly.

COOPER: Do you worry some people will believe you misled the court or the court itself might believe that you tried to mislead him? And there are some people who are going to see this and wonder how a defense attorney could not know that his client's financial situation, that he had $200,000 in a PayPal account?

O'MARA: Sure. I will deal with that fallout if it's there. I don't think Judge Lester will believe that I misled him. I told him what I knew at the time, which was exactly what I was aware of. As soon as I became aware of more money, we dealt with it affirmatively, put it into an account where it is protected that it is now secure.

I'm not touching it, nobody is touching it until we figure out how to handle it. And then we disclosed it and actually to everyone we could, including honestly this program since it was on this program that we had talked about there only being the two Web sites and PayPal accounts that I was aware of.

COOPER: Are you upset that George Zimmerman didn't disclose this to you earlier? Do you feel like he was trying to keep it from you? Or what?

O'MARA: I truly don't think so because it was almost offhand that we discussed when he said what to do with all the money in the PayPal accounts after we closed out his presence.

And I asked him what he talked about. He told me the amount. I said, well, that's a significant amount of money, we need to secure that because we need to make sure that we administer it properly. And it came right to me. He literally FedExed me the checks.

COOPER: You have -- his Web site is now shut down. Will he be soliciting more money from supporters in other ways to your knowledge?

O'MARA: We certainly intend to open a legal defense fund under my purview done the right way, because I have had dozens -- hundreds, actually, of people wanting to donate.

I don't believe that I can request donations at this point. There's a certain process you have to put in place. But I have already had, I think, 30, 40, 50 people just send money and checks to us. We have, of course, logged all of those and have all the money now in that same trust account.

COOPER: How much do you think his defense is going to cost?

O'MARA: Well, if we took track of everything, $500,000 to $1 million potentially. And while that sounds like a lot of money, on my family law cases, where I charge an hourly rate, it's $400 per hour. So think about 1,000 hours is $400,000.

I have probably put in 100, 120 hours to date. I haven't kept good track, to be honest with you. But figure eight or 10 hours a day nonstop, including weekends, since I have been involved. So you can really go through a lot of money on a case like this with the intensity of it.

COOPER: Mark O'Mara, I appreciate you being with us. Thank you, Mark.

O'MARA: Sure.


COOPER: Both sides will be back in court tomorrow morning for a hearing that was scheduled before this new development.

Joining me is now is criminal defense attorney Mark Geragos and also CNN legal analyst and former federal prosecutor Sunny Hostin.

Mark, is this a big deal? I mean, he got out on a pretty low bond, $150,000, only had to pay 10 percent of it. The judge was told he was indigent and it turns out he's got $200,000.

MARK GERAGOS, ATTORNEY: Yes. I applaud Mark for coming to you and admitting it or front-loading it, so to speak, before the hearing. However, and I don't know this judge -- I know a lot of judges. If they discovered this on CNN as opposed to a filing in their courtroom would have my head on a platter the next day.

Is it a big deal? Yes. I think Mark candidly admitted if some judge is being told I'm indigent and he's got all the family members saying we don't have much money and he's setting a bond at $150,000 over the prosecution's objections and the prosecutor is asking for a million bucks and it turns out this guy has got $200,000 in an account, you know, I know a lot of judges who would remand the guy back into custody immediately.

And I will tell you why. Because one of the things is, they want to make sure somebody is not going to flee and that the bond secures. If you have got more money stashed in an account that basically you didn't earn, somebody just gave it to you and you could just pay the bond and be gone, that gives a lot of judges concern.

COOPER: It's also interesting to me, Sunny, that he didn't apparently tell his own attorney about this money and his family is testifying and his attorney is testifying that he's basically indigent.


And for once I think Mark and I agree on this. This is a big deal. That's the headline here. Bottom line is George Zimmerman knew. We know that. He allowed his family to testify on his behalf without disclosing to them, or perhaps they knew, didn't know. I mean, they could have perjured themselves.

The bottom line is this whole issue needs to be revisited. This is the same family now that has been tasked with making sure George Zimmerman abides by the conditions of his bond. So this is the family that is supposed to make sure that he meets his curfew. Same family that that is supposed to make sure that there's no firearm in the home.

COOPER: Do you think this could be why Zimmerman's father maybe didn't show up? Do you think there's a reason? Do you think other people knew about this?

HOSTIN: I think it's very suspicious at the very least that Robert Zimmerman, his brother, who we have seen on all of the shows, wasn't available even by phone, because when Shellie Zimmerman was asked by the prosecutor whether or not she knew about how much money was in the Web site, she said she didn't know, but her brother-in-law knew, but he was conveniently unavailable.

That smacks to me of something that is just in my view disingenuous.

COOPER: Mark, if you're the attorney in this case and your client has kept this from you, what does that make you feel about your client?

GERAGOS: Well, it wouldn't be the first time a client has lied to me about how much assets they have in terms of paying a fee.

And in this case I think Mark had indicated that at least initially he was going to do this pro bono. The problem with this is that you're going to have a prosecutor just like what Sunny did going to just spear you and gore you in the courtroom tomorrow.

HOSTIN: That's right.

GERAGOS: And it's not going to be a pretty sight. And that is exactly what you hate if you're the defense lawyer.

You have convinced this judge to let this guy out. You're trying to be on the side of the angels. The next thing you know, it turns out there's 200 grand there. And I still think that this judge is not going to be happy. It may just be my experience. Maybe us people on the left coast have a different judiciary. But most judges I know if they turn on CNN and find this out as opposed to having it in a filing in their courtroom, they are not going to be happy campers.

COOPER: Mark, you say if fund-raising for a legal defense is done right, George Zimmerman could make millions of dollars. A lot of people will hear that and be upset by that.

How does that work? How is that possible?

GERAGOS: I will tell you that in the right hands, this fund- raising appeal, it would not surprise me in the least if he would raise $2 million to $5 million.

There is a contingent or a constituency out there that would think nothing of writing checks anywhere from $25,000 to $50,000 for the defense. And part of the reason for that is that there are constituencies that want to use George Zimmerman and this whole issue by proxy and there's no better way to do it than to have something like this, which is a hot button issue, which leads the nightly news for weeks at a time and potentially when you go to trial, if you go to trial past an immunity hearing.

So in the right hands, and what I mean is somebody who's sophisticated with an Internet presence a or direct mail presence, it would not surprise me in the least that you could raise seven figures.

COOPER: Tomorrow at this hearing besides this money issue, there's also the issue of a criminal complaint, which the judge has ordered to be unsealed.


COOPER: What does that mean? What's the significance of that?

HOSTIN: It's significant in that we're going to learn more about the case, no question about it. We're not going to learn the witness names or their information but we will probably learn what they said. We're going to learn a lot more about the investigation, so I think that is fairly significant.

COOPER: We will leave it there. Sunny Hostin, Mark Geragos, appreciate it. Thanks. We will see what happens in the courtroom tomorrow.

We're on Facebook, Google+. Let us know what you think about this. You can follow me on Twitter @AndersonCooper. I have already been tweeting about this tonight and getting a lot of responses.

Other news tonight, President Obama's biggest fan says Mitt Romney doesn't have what it takes to lead America in the world. The funny thing is that four years ago, the same guy, Biden, Vice President Biden, said the same thing about candidate Obama. We will tell you why the flip-flop and more. We will be right back.


COOPER: "Keeping Them Honest" tonight, allegations that when it comes to foreign policy and national security, Mitt Romney is not ready to be president, allegations that are coming from a man who once said President Obama was not ready for the same reasons.

There's more to the story than that, of course, but I want to start out with the allegation itself. Vice President Joe Biden made it today during a foreign policy speech at New York University. He accused Governor Romney of having "a profound misunderstanding of the responsibilities of a president and the commander in chief."


JOSEPH BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In my view, the last thing we need is a president who believes that he can subcontract our foreign policy to experts at the State Department or for that matter any other department or agency.


COOPER: Well, here's what he is referring to. Governor Romney downplaying his lack of foreign policy experience during his last presidential campaign.


MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: If the answer for leading the country is someone that has a lot of foreign policy experience, we could just go down to the State Department and pick up any one of the tens of thousands of people who have spent all their life in foreign policy. That's not what the nation needs in a president.


COOPER: That's what the vice president was talking about today, suggesting Governor Romney isn't ready to be commander in chief.

"Keeping Them Honest" though, during that same campaign when Senators Biden and Senators Obama were primary opponents, Mr. Biden had a similar take on Mr. Obama. He cited different reasons but had the same bottom line. Listen.


QUESTION: You were asked is he ready. You said, "I think he can be ready, but right now I don't believe he is. The presidency is not something that lends itself to on-the-job training."

BIDEN: I think that I stand by the statement.


COOPER: It's not just Vice President Biden who questioned then Senator Obama's foreign policy chops. Other members of his current Cabinet did as well.

Hillary Clinton, remember, her campaign ran that famous 3:00 a.m. phone call ad against President Obama suggesting he wasn't ready for the job. Obama supporters mocked Senator Clinton saying experience as first lady doesn't prepare you for the White House. President Obama of course later made her secretary of state.

With us now is Republican strategist and former White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer and Democratic Hilary Rosen.

Ari, does the vice president have a point? Is foreign policy experience important for a candidate or isn't it? Because very few presidents with some notable exceptions had a lot of foreign policy experience when they took office.

ARI FLEISCHER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Sure, very few. And, in fact, it would rule out every governor who has ever become president of the United States if that was the only criteria the voters use.

It's a factor. You have to have a credibility threshold. The American people want to know that if something happens you have the type of maturity and judgment to handle it. But in this election cycle and that's what it comes down to, is foreign policy that cutting and prevalent an issue? It's not. It was in 2004. It was not in 2008 and it certainly doesn't seem the way the world is behaving right now to be that much of an issue in 2012.

COOPER: Hilary, do you agree with that? There are some Democrats who think this is an issue that the White House can certainly run with and make some points with? In a landscape where the economy seems to be front and certain, is foreign policy an issue people will cast votes on? HILARY ROSEN, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think it raises itself in two different ways in this election.

First of all, I think we all agree that the domestic economy is the most important issue in this election. But foreign policy comes in, in a couple of ways. First of all, we have spent as a country $800 billion in the Iraq war. That is money that so many ways could have been spent here at home on other priorities.

Those sorts of decisions, whether you have a president who understands the tradeoffs that they're making when they lead us into a war we shouldn't be fighting or when they don't, that's the kind of president we have in Barack Obama. He has those sorts of judgments. People look at that, they respect that, they want to know that he's got priorities, for instance, going after Osama bin Laden, that he's a wise leader when it comes to picking and choosing where we need to be involved in the world.

We're no longer in this old-fashioned place where Mitt Romney and his advisers want to have us be, where our only allies are in Western Europe and we're facing the Soviet threat or Czechoslovakia, which doesn't even exist any longer. What we have is sort of country by country strategies and each one of them requires some strong leadership. And I think that's the issue that President Obama is going to be able to run on.

But I do agree that short of a crisis between now and November, it's not going to be on the front burner.

COOPER: Right. The economy.

Ari, Republicans, though, it's interesting, because they have often felt they have had an advantage with voters when it comes to foreign policy and national security. Do you think that is still true in this election, whether or not it's the issue people will vote on, or do you think the balance of power has shifted a bit?

FLEISCHER: I think it's shifted a bit. I think ever since the collapse of the Soviet Union, you have not had the same dividing bright lines on foreign policy and defense issues that you did in the old days, so it's become less of an issue in that.

But, again, it's that threshold issue. In the case of President Obama, of course, the vice president, then Senator Biden, as you pointed out, Anderson, did attack Barack Obama in the 2008 campaign. My issue with President Obama is I think he's been pretty good on the anti-terrorism front and mostly because he flip-flopped.

All the things he criticized President Bush for, warrantless wiretaps, indefinite detention, military commissions, he's kept up. He increased the drone strikes in Pakistan, to his credit. And he flip-flopped, of course, to Hillary Clinton's position on Iran. He said that he would unconditionally negotiate with Ahmadinejad, and then he hasn't so as president, which is the smart flip-flop to make.

The thing that does trouble me is what he said to President Medvedev of Russia when he indicated that after the election he'd have more flexibility. That troubles me a lot. What does flexibility mean? If he is going to abandon missile defense, he should have that out now, explain it to the country, not wait until after the election, when he has flexibility if he's reelected.

COOPER: Hilary, obviously, you don't see the same flip-flops?

ROSEN: Not so much. I think what we have is a president who is strategically making decisions country by country.

We have a nuclear treaty with Russia. It's an important treaty, and it will serve us well in years to come. President Obama achieved that and previous presidents had not been able to. So I do think that people look at this president the way Joe Biden described him today. Joe Biden, the former chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, a renowned foreign policy expert for many, many years, he says this is a president we trust, this is a president who sees the complexity and makes the right judgments.

COOPER: Ari, just quickly, Michael Hirsh, a columnist at "The National Journal," wrote today that Joe Biden ranks as what he says "one of the most powerful and influential vice presidents in American history."

I'm just curious your perspective. You served alongside obviously a very powerful vice president, Cheney. Whatever you think of the administration's policy, is Biden as powerful as Cheney was, more powerful, in that category?

FLEISCHER: It's hard to know because the vice president's true strength, any vice president's strength is what they whisper privately when they're with the president.

I think President Obama gives Vice President Biden a lot of time to be alone and talk with him. At least that's what I hear. So it really depends on whether he is able to influence the president. That's how vice presidents are powerful. You don't know. I don't think this administration talks about it. He's not as visible in that sense, so it's hard to know what his real role is behind the scenes.

COOPER: Ari, appreciate it. Ari Fleischer, Hilary Rosen, thanks very much.

Day four of John Edwards' trial, it is just fascinating. As the defense tries to hammer away at the prosecution's key witness against John Edwards, a trove of documents is released. Details ahead.


COOPER: "Crime and Punishment" now.

For a second straight day, John Edwards' defense team tried to chip away at the credibility of Andrew Young. Hammer away is more like it. Edwards' former top aide and now the prosecution's star witness, they accuse Young of shaking down one of Edwards' wealthy donors behind his boss' back intended to cover the expenses of Edwards' mistress, Rielle Hunter.

The judge released a trove of trial exhibits today, including this photograph of a house in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, where Hunter stayed while in hiding. It's owned by a former NBA player. Later, Hunter was given her own house in the same neighborhood. Among the phone records, transcripts of calls and voice-mails released, a message Hunter left for Young in February 2008 after watching news reports about then candidate Obama's visit to Edwards' house seeking his endorsement.

In her voice-mail describing these images, Hunter said -- quote -- "Johnny and Elizabeth couldn't be further apart from each other. (Laughter.) I mean, on either side like of the driveway. So, so, yes, interesting."

And 10 days later Hunter gave birth in Edwards' baby.

Joe Johns was in the courtroom again today, joins me now.

Joe, the phone records, the transcripts, the calls, the voice- mail, were there really any smoking guns in there?

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR CORRESPONDENT: No, Anderson, I don't think you can call it a smoking gun, but I do think it tends to show that this was a kind of situation essentially where they were trying to keep this business about Rielle Hunter very quiet and going through extraordinary means.

And part of that was because Elizabeth Edwards was sort of on to the trail of Rielle Hunter. She would take the telephone of John Edwards and give him hers and then check the bills to see who he was calling. They worked very hard to, you know, basically keep the information away from Elizabeth Edwards.

The defense says that just shows John Edwards wasn't concerned about campaign finance money. He was concerned about staying out of the doghouse with his wife.

COOPER: The defense really tried to make it seem like Andrew Young was shaking down Bunny Mellon, this wealthy donor, for the money that he claimed was going to Rielle Hunter. Did they have any success in doing that?

JOHNS: Yes, I think so. And that's not just me talking. I talked to a law professor who was inside the room and he said not a smoking gun on those points, but certainly a lot of nicks and cuts.

I mean, the whole point, of course, is to tear down the man's credibility and say he was actually the guy benefiting instead of John Edwards. And they went a long way in that direction, suggesting that of this hundreds of thousands of dollars that kept coming in from Bunny Mellon, again and again, the witness on the stand today actually is the guy who was benefiting.

COOPER: You talk about Edwards being very kind of stoic in this trial looking like a trial lawyer at the bench, which is what he is, but what about the judge and jury, what were their reactions like today?

JOHNS: It's interesting. I talked to people who said they were bored because it was very tedious cross-examination. It went on and on, to the point where the judge actually warned Abbe Lowell, the defense attorney, that he needed to move on or he was going to get hit with basically a ruling from the court that a lot of evidence he was bringing in was confusing and sort of delaying the trial.

Still, when you talk to people who are inside, they said, look, this is a hostile witness, Andrew Young is. It's a guy who actually went to a very good law school himself. He's on the stand. He's taking his time and they're going back and forth with Abbe Lowell as Abbe Lowell tries to drag information out of him.

So, you know, the suggestion is Abbe Lowell should get some time to do that because he's such a tough witness.

COOPER: Joe, appreciate it. Thanks.

We're watching other stories tonight.

Isha is here with a 360 bulletin -- Isha.

ISHA SESAY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, opponents of the al-Assad regime want the U.N. Security Council to take action. They report more than 70 Syrian civilians killed in a rocket attack in the city of Hama. The force of the blast caused buildings to collapse trapping people under rubble.

Osama bin Laden's three widows and two daughters are being deported from Pakistan tonight. Officials say they're headed to Saudi Arabia. They had been under house arrest for being in the country illegally. Bin Laden was killed by a U.S. raid on his Pakistani hideout last year.

Well, a federal judge ruled today that video and photographs of that raid will not be released to the public. Citing national security concerns, the judge ruled against the freedom of information request filed by Judicial Watch, a conservative legal group that had sought the materials.

Testifying in London today, media baron Rupert Murdoch admitted to a cover-up at his now closed "News of the World" newspaper. He did not take responsibility for the eavesdropping scandal but blames the hacking of phones on individuals who worked at the paper.

And Prince William looks perfectly at ease holding an infant. He attended a charity event for British servicemen and their families and was asked if he would like to hold that little one there, 3-week-old son of a serviceman. He happily obliged -- Anderson.

COOPER: Isha, thanks.

Up next, we'll talk to the father of an autistic child who said staff members at his son's school were bullying the boy. His own teachers. He sent him to school one day, wired for sound. We're going to hear some of the alleged abuse caught on tape, next.


COOPER: "Keeping Them Honest" tonight, we've done a lot of reporting on school bullying over the years. Kids tormenting other kids. But tonight you're going to hear from a father who says that school staffers were the bullies, and his 10-year-old son was the victim, his 10-year-old autistic son.

Now, some of the alleged bullying and seemingly inappropriate behavior was caught on tape. The dad, Stuart Chaifetz, will be with us shortly.

But first, what allegedly happened at Horace Mann Elementary School in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, what the school system has done about it and why Mr. Chaifetz says it hasn't done enough. You can decide for yourself if they have.

It began last year, he says, when the school began sending his son, Akian, home with notes detailing violent outbursts by the boy, including hitting his teacher and a teacher's aide. Chaifetz said it didn't sound like the son that he knew.

He said he met with staffers in October, that a behavior expert was called in and sat in on several classes but never saw any outbursts. He says the teacher and social worker almost seemed to be mocking his concern.

So he did something unusual. He wired Akian for sound, sent him to school on February 17, obtained six and a half hours of what he calls life-changing audio. He says the tape proves that Akian wasn't hitting the teacher because something was wrong with him, but that he was lashing out at the people who were mistreating and mocking him.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You go to see any books in the library or did you just look at sculptures?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, Akian, you are a bastard.


COOPER: In that clip, Akian is being asked about going to the library the day before. In this one, he's asking whether he'll get to see his father that weekend. His parents have shared custody.


A. CHAIFETZ: May I see Dad after Mom?


(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: In this next clip, two women are sharing a drinking story with each other in front of the class.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm doing the happy dance. I'm so very happy. You know why? (UNINTELLIGIBLE) I had a bottle of wine with my girlfriend last night. I forgot to eat dinner. You know what I was doing this morning?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, my god, so bad. The wine won.


COOPER: The wine won. Shortly after that, there's this encounter.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, boy. Knock it off.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Go ahead and scream because guess what? You're going to get nothing. Until your mouth is shut.


COOPER: Four samples from a six and a half hour recording.

Now, Stuart Chaifetz took the entire thing to the Cherry Hill School District. He says administrators fired one of the two aides who allegedly took part in what you heard. They transferred the other, along with teacher Kelly Altenburg, elsewhere into the school system.

So our calls and e-mails to the fired aid, they've gone unanswered, same for the school principal.

The school district referred us to a statement. But it's a little confusing because there are, in fact, two statements from the superintendent. Here's both of them.

One of them was dated the 24th. It reads in part, quote, "I want to assure our parents that the individuals who are heard on the recording raising their voices and inappropriately addressing children no longer work in the district and have not since shortly after we received the copy of the recording."

Now because teacher Kelly Altenburg was simply transferred elsewhere in the school system, in the district, the implication from that statement is that she's somehow been exonerated, that she wasn't on the tape inappropriately addressing children. But today another statement went up, and it says, quote, "While we cannot legally comment specifically on personnel matters, the district does not consider the matter closed at this time, as the investigation remains ongoing."

So let's talk about this more. Joining me now is Stuart, Akian's father.

Mr. Chaifetz, I appreciate you being with us. First of all, how is your son doing?

STUART CHAIFETZ, FATHER: Well, he's much better now that he's not with that teacher anymore. I mean, he immediately changed back to the child I knew, and he hasn't hit; he hasn't lashed out at anyone since that time.

COOPER: You gave your son's school these audio tapes two months ago. Why go public with them now?

S. CHAIFETZ: Well, I gave them the audio because I wanted immediate action taken. And to the school's credit, they did fire one of the aides.

But when I found out that they had only moved the teacher to a different district, I was pretty upset about that.

Then two weeks ago I wrote them an e-mail begging them to fire her and making my case why. And it was really my last opportunity to speak to them to see what would happen, to really do something.

And the answer I got back was it's a personnel matter, and that's it. I waited two weeks to see if anything was -- happened. And when I realized that this whole thing was just being shoved under the rug and that it was just being covered up, I said as a father I have a duty to my son that his abuse is not covered up and that -- and that this doesn't happen again. At that time I made a decision to go public with what happened.

COOPER: So to your knowledge this teacher is still teaching, just in a different school?

S. CHAIFETZ: Yes. I mean I -- you know, we have parent -- we had parents tell us that. And then when the district released the statement you read about that all the people were no longer in the district on that audio, I put up a second video where I called the high school. And I played the voice mail of that teacher to show that she had moved from the elementary school to the high school and, therefore, was still working in the district.

So it's a lot of confusing and mixed messages coming from the district. I don't know why. I didn't pick a fight with them. I was looking for an apology and for, hopefully, changes to the legislation that would make it so that, if a teacher violates a child verbally or physically, they are immediately removed. You don't get a second chance. You don't get to work in another class. You're gone if you violate your oath. COOPER: I want to play -- this tape is extraordinary. I want to play our viewers one more piece of audio of an adult in your son's classroom that made him cry. Let's listen.


A. CHAIFETZ: May I see...




COOPER: I mean, if this was captured just in one day, who knows what was going on, you know, in other days?

You say you could only identify two of the adults on the tape, your son's teacher and one of the aides, but you couldn't identify the person on this section of the tape. What did the school say about this person?

S. CHAIFETZ: They have never responded to me about that. You know, and just so people understand why that was so cruel, because you could hear them all making fun of him, laughing at him. That was something he felt very personal about.

And then he went on a half hour, you know, throwing over chairs and crying, because they really hurt him badly. That is the worst three seconds of my life, listening to that.

It's something that still haunts me, and I can't even listen to it and hear my son begin to cry like that and just know that there was a culture of cruelty. And they did it because my son is verbally impaired, he couldn't ever tell me that. So they felt they could do whatever they wanted to him, and no one would ever find out. Thankfully, they were wrong. But they just mocked him and didn't care.

COOPER: It's extraordinary. We just received a statement from the lawyer for Kelly Altenburg, the teacher that you say you can clearly hear on these tapes being abusive.

It reads in part, quote, "Kelly Altenburg is a special education teacher who, over the past 23 years, has dedicated herself to teaching and consulting in the field of special education. Mrs. Altenburg does not condone any such remarks, and this language was not used at her direction, in her presence or with her knowledge. Mr. Chaifetz's comments to the contrary are totally inaccurate."

How do you respond?

S. CHAIFETZ: Listen to the audio. That audio speaks for itself. You hear her multiple times during that.

You know, if that's her defense, then bring it on, because I will sit with anyone. And I'll play the entire six and a half hours. And when she's there -- because that was her laughing. She wants to claim that's not her laugh, she wants to claim she wasn't the one there when the aide was talking about being under the influence of alcohol, you know, that's laughable.

You know, I wish she had some integrity and just apologized. But if she wants to go on the attack, that's fine. Because you know what? I'm not a 10-year-old boy who can't defend himself. And I think there's about three million people who have seen these videos and who have come to my son's defense that will -- will read that statement with as much disdain as I just heard it.

COOPER: I mean, it is, again, this is just recorded on one day. The idea that this one -- this day was a one off seems just to -- you know, to strain any sense of credibility or -- I mean, it doesn't make any sense that this just happened on this one day.

I want to bring in Areva Martin, a disability rights attorney, children's advocate.

Stuart said that he's heard from many parents with autism and special needs who said their kids have suffered abuse at the hands of teachers. How big of a problem do you think this really is?

AREVA MARTIN, DISABILITY RIGHTS ATTORNEY: You know, Anderson, this whole issue of abuse is really, really big, particularly with kids with autism and other special needs. More than two-thirds of kids who were recently polled say that they've suffered some kind of bullying, kids with autism. So we see it happening child to child, and it also happens with parents.

I think you know that I represent a group of children in Las Vegas who suffered similar emotional and verbal abuse by teachers. And in that case, the teacher was actually criminally prosecuted, convicted of child abuse, and was sentenced to 60 days in jail.

So this whole issue of how teachers and how adults are dealing with autism is something that really needs to be examined by school districts.

And I think this is an incredible, teachable moment. It's a moment for school districts around this country to examine, you know, the training, the supervision and what's happening in classrooms when you have children who have limited language, children who have no ability to express themselves. The training and the way that those kids are treated has to be examined by school districts.

COOPER: And obviously, there's a lot of great teachers out there, and it's important to say that.

MARTIN: Absolutely.

COOPER: But Areva, this certainly strikes at the credibility -- I mean, certainly for any parent who has a special needs child, they're going to wonder, you know, well, is what the special needs teachers telling me is going on with my child, is it really happening? This strikes at the credibility of the entire system, rightly or wrongly.

MARTIN: You raise an incredible point, Anderson. And the issue of trust. This is really about trust. There's a legal term called in loco parentis, and basically, it means that certain individuals take on the legal responsibility that parents have.

And when parents drop their kids off at the school, at the door of the school, that's what happens. Those teachers, they become like the parents. They stand in the place of parents.

So the trust, the warmth, the empathy that you expect parents to have with students or their children is what you expect teachers to have with students. And when that trust is broken like in this case, when you hear that tape, you know, parents are going to rightfully be concerned about, you know, leaving their children in the hands of teachers who are acting so inappropriately, as we heard on those tapes.

COOPER: And Mr. Chaifetz, as a parent to not -- you know, to have a child who can't tell you what is happening to him in school or to her in school, that's got to -- I mean, that's got to be such a terrible feeling. What is your advice to other parents out there who worry about their special needs child going to school?

S. CHAIFETZ: You know, I've been -- so many parents just like that have reached out to me, asking how they can do what I did. You know, and because there is such concern.

Because you know, we can't be in these classes. We can't be there all the time. We don't know. So I did what I did because I needed to be there to hear when they didn't think any person would be listening. So I mean, if it's legal in your state and you have a big concern, you're seeing what happened, like with my son, drop an audio recorder in their pocket and find out what's really going on, because you know your child more than anyone.

If you think there's something seriously wrong and your child can't tell you, don't take the chance. I'm only sorry I waited six months to do it. I wish I had done it before and saved my son the horror that he went through.

COOPER: Stuart Chaifetz, I appreciate you being on.

And Areva Martin, thank you so much.

The Secret Service prostitution scandal keeps getting bigger. Allegations from Colombia, they've already cost nine Secret Service members their jobs. You know what already.

Now there's a new report of a similar incident in El Salvador last year. The latest on that.


COOPER: Back with Isha and a "360 News & Business Bulletin" -- Isha. SESAY: Anderson, new reports suggest the Secret Service prostitution scandal in Colombia may not have been an isolated incident. Seattle station KIRO has a report based on an unnamed U.S. government contractor who says he went to a strip club in El Salvador with about a dozen Secret Service agents, who drank heavily. Here's what the contractor reportedly told KIRO's investigative reporter.


CHRIS HALSNE, REPORTER, KIRO: He witnessed some of the Secret Service agents going into the VIP area to get sexual favors for cash. And ultimately, he said, they were working really hard to try to get the strippers back to their hotel rooms, and that, in at least two circumstances he witnessed, that despite him telling them that it was a terrible idea, that that occurred.


SESAY: Well, that alleged incident happened in March of last year before President Obama arrived in San Salvador.

New information about the huge pile-up that killed 11 people on Interstate 75 in Florida back in January. An investigation revealed a highway patrolman who ordered that the highway be reopened, despite fog and smoke from a nearby brush fire, didn't have any formal training on opening or closing roads.

Stocks ended higher on Wall Street today. The Dow rose 114 points, the S&P gained 9 and the NASDAQ was up 21 points.

And Anderson, this is for you. A puppy has been rescued after getting caught in a cactus. The Arizona Humane Society says a good Samaritan heard the puppy crying and took out a whole bunch of cactus spines that were caught in the poor thing. The puppy is doing much better now and has been adopted.

COOPER: Aw. A very cute little puppy.

SESAY: See? You see, the royals and the babies, they fail to move you, but I knew the puppy and...

COOPER: I'm a sucker for a puppy any time. That's true.

SESAY: You are, you know. At least I didn't lose $10 betting on you. I had a bet going with Jenny that that would move you.

COOPER: Oh, really? How could I not be moved by that?

SESAY: This is what we do.

COOPER: You bet on this sort of thing? All right. No wagering. Isha, thanks.

Time for "The Shot" tonight. It's a video of Jo-Jo and Buddy. They are parents. They're also love birds, in a matter of speaking. Take a look. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIRD 1: Give me a kiss. Give me a kiss.

BIRD 2: What are you doing?

BIRD 1: Give me a kiss.


COOPER: I don't know what the meaning of this is. That's all there is. Animal frenzy here tonight. All right. Isha, thanks.

Yes. Coming up, a new station tries to do its nightly weather report. The set is overrun with bears, oh, my. The "RidicuList" is next.


COOPER: Time now for "The RidicuList." And tonight we're adding the weather bears. They're kind of like weathermen, only they're bears. We didn't even know weather bears existed, frankly, until the WNEP News team in Columbia County, Pennsylvania, tried to throw to meteorologist Kurt Aaron for a weather report outside the studio during the live 11 p.m. news. Take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kurt Aaron is out in the backyard to give us our forecast. We're told Kurt's not in the backyard, because there's bears outside?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is live video from the backyard right there.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's two bears.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Look at that. And so this is why Kurt Aaron is not out there right now. I don't blame him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, I blame him. He has a job to do.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, please. They were standing right there.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They walked right up on me.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Black bears, right there, yeah.

(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: So Kurt Aaron ended up doing his weather report from inside, but naturally he was a little preoccupied.


KURT AARON, METEOROLOGIST, WNEP: That's quite a bit of snow. Do we have the bear back? Let's just take another look there. That was a big bear. And he didn't look very happy. There's one of the cubs right there. These bears just came up from the back of the hill.

Oh, somebody set off an alarm.


COOPER: This has been quite a month for bears on live news. Just a few weeks ago KTLA was on bear watch and caught a bear on the loose, giving a walking texter the surprise of his life.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He came down that driveway, down Bainfield (ph), and now he's on Briggs. And now it looks like he's turning into another driveway here. We're going to kind of maneuver around and see if we can get another shot of him. But yes, he definitely -- uh-oh, we've got someone, a resident there.


COOPER: It seems April 2012 will go down as the most beartastic month in journalistic history, the likes of which have not been seen since the movie "Anchorman."


WILL FERRELL, ACTOR: Let's go to Brian Fontana, live on the scene with a Channel 4 news exclusive -- Brian.

PAUL RUDD, ACTOR: And watch. The mood is tense. I have been on some serious, serious reports, but nothing quite like this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're live, Mr. Tamlin.

STEVE CARELL, ACTOR: This is Brick Tamlin reporting. It's sunny out, and the bears are fluffy. Just how fluffy remains to be seen.


COOPER: I've done a lot of reporting and have never come face to face with a bear, but I have almost been accosted by a possibly intoxicated giant chicken.


COOPER: We are live throughout these next two hours. Then Larry King takes it live. Then we take it live for another hour. We have much more coverage of Hurricane Ike still coming up. There's a lot of people, if you can believe it or not, in Houston. A couple bars are still open.


COOPER: Yes. Believe it or not, a couple of bars were open. You saw the result.

Live reporting. Nobody said it was easy. You have to be ready for anything. Bears in your live shot, costumed characters who come out of nowhere, and then there are the kids.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Now, as for the wedding, a lot of its details have been kept under wraps. We do know the bride, Kim, will be wearing Vera Wang. She's going to be marrying her NBA beau, NBA player Kris Humphries. Kim also spoke out yesterday to Ryan Seacrest. He, of course, produces the reality show on E!, "Keeping Up with the Kardashians," and while she didn't reveal a lot of juicy details, she did say that her dress is going to blow everyone away.


COOPER: I actually think that was Ryan Seacrest in the back in the hat. No, it wasn't. We adore the kid.

In our dream actually -- in our dream newscast, he'd be a CNN contributor mixing up Mary Matalin in politics, going head to head with Jeff Toobin on complex legal issues, but not doing any weather reporting, though. We're going to leave that to the experts.

That's it for us. Thanks for watching. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts now.