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Federal Investigation in Georgia Teen's Death; Defending Obamacare; Secretary Sebelius in the Hot Seat; Stealing the Show; Elderly Patients Abandoned?; Monster Wave Controversy

Aired October 30, 2013 - 20:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: He died or was killed. A few minutes ago, the breaking news. We learned the Federal Justice Department will announce whether Kendrick Johnson's death warrants a full flown civil rights investigation.

Details now from Victor Blackwell who joins us from Valdosta -- Victor.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, in just a few hours, 1:00 p.m. tomorrow, U.S. Attorney Michael Moore will announce whether or not Kendrick Johnson, his death will get this federal investigation.

Now Michael Moore, whom I've had contact with over the four months that he's had this information, he said that he's led a very meticulous search and the family desperately wants this investigation.


BLACKWELL (voice-over): Months of protests, sit-ins and marches have shaken the small south Georgia city of Valdosta. Demonstrators say they want answers in the death of 17-year-old Kendrick Johnson. Soon a U.S. attorney will announce whether or not he wants answers, too.

In January, Kendrick was found dead at school. Investigators with the Lowndes County Sheriff's Office say Kendrick squeezed his 19-inch shoulders into the 14.5 inch center of this rolled gym mat and say he got stuck upside down while reaching for this shoe. After an autopsy, a medical examiner with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation agreed. The official cause of Kendrick's death, accidental positional asphyxia. Kendrick was suffocated but his own body weight.

LT. STRYDE JONES, LOWNDES COUNTY, GEORGIA SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT: We examined all the alternatives that were presented to us and the only one that fit the physical evidence and the forensic evidence and the testimonial evidence we've received was this was an accident.

KENNETH JOHNSON, KENDRICK JOHNSON'S FATHER: An accident we just didn't believe.

BLACKWELL: Kendrick's parents Kenneth and Jackelyn Johnson believe the story about the shoe is a cover-up.

K. JOHNSON: When I went to view his body that Sunday, you can see something had -- you can tell he was beaten.

BLACKWELL: The Johnson's want the U.S. Department of Justice to launch a federal investigation.

K. JOHNSON: If they don't come in, they're only sending a message to the world, you can kill as long as you can get away with it.

BLACKWELL: In June, the Johnson's exhumed Kendrick's body and hired Dr. Bill Anderson to conduct an independent autopsy. Anderson said he found evidence of bleeding under the skin near Johnson's right jaw.

DR. BILL ANDERSON, PATHOLOGIST: We were able to diagnose the fact that there was indeed blunt force trauma to that area.

BLACKWELL (on camera): So he took blows to the neck.

ANDERSON: He took at least one blow to the neck.

BLACKWELL: Just to be clear you've used the word several times but in your view this is a homicide?


BLACKWELL (voice-over): Also, Dr. Anderson says Kendrick's organs were missing. Instead, he was stuffed with newspaper. The Georgia Secretary of State's Office has launched an investigation into that.

Questions about the sheriff's office investigation have made the Johnsons more suspicious including why these shoes found yards from Kendrick's body were not collected as evidence and how did someone's blood end up on this wall in the gym?

CNN laid out these facts for former special FBI agent Harold Copas.

I don't believe this was an accident. I think this young man met with foul play.

BLACKWELL: In September a DOJ spokesperson said we do not see sufficient indication of a civil rights violation to authorize a civil rights investigation, however, behind this door U.S. Attorney Michael Moore has continued to review the case and will soon announce his decision whether or not there will be a federal criminal investigation.

In a statement to CNN in early October Moore said, "This is about getting to the facts and the truth and we want the Johnson family and the community of Valdosta to have confidence in the process." After nine months, the Johnsons say they will not stop until they get an answer, no matter what the U.S. attorney decides.

(On camera): How long are you willing to fight?

K. JOHNSON: Until I die. If I take me until I die, I will fight until I die.

(END VIDEOTAPE) COOPER: The ruling, the court says that all the surveillance video and all the other materials should be released. Have you seen the video? Do we know what it shows?

BLACKWELL: We've seen just a few clips, literally four clips and about 20 seconds each and 20 seconds is generous. But we know that thousands of hours of surveillance, Anderson, are coming. Forty cameras about in that area of the gym, up to 48 hours for each cameras. So our math, 1900 plus hours.

Now we do have a clip of what's happening inside the gym at the moment that Kendrick Johnson walks in. Remember, the school's attorney said that there -- were other minors in the gym. Those minors, we blurred them to protect their identity, but they are playing basketball near the camera.

We see Kendrick run at the bottom of the screen to the far side of the court. Now we know that that's where the mats are and we know this is just a few minutes before according to police. That's when he went inside the mats. So we're waiting for the rest of this, what we're told is massive file that could come in the next few days -- Anderson.

COOPER: And in -- I mean, in that video the gym all looks very open. The mats, are they visible to the people in the gym? I mean, we see Kendrick -- running on the lower right hand side of the screen and other folks playing basketball. Are there the mats in another room or are they out in the open? Do we know?

BLACKWELL: No, they are in the gym. We've seen still photographs and a map of the gym. They are in -- if you look at the screen, they would be in the top right corner just outside of the screen. That's the corner in which Kendrick Johnson was found.

Now there is no specific time stamp on this so we don't know how long it was between this game of basketball with the people who were there, the other students and when he went in to those mats. But we're hoping to get all the different angels and put that together in the next few days.

COOPER: All right. And there are hundreds of pages of unredacted reports. Were investigators focusing on anyone specific? Do we know?

BLACKWELL: Well, we do know that they were focusing on a few students at Lowndes High School. We know that they pulled their attendance records, they pulled their class schedules but just a few students and they didn't do it for all of the other people, of course, at the school or even in all of his classes. And there was one student who was not a student at this high school but another local high school who they interviewed and had to fill out a survey and asked about his involvement with Kendrick Johnson in the few days leading up to his death.

COOPER: All right. Victor Blackwell, appreciate the update. Thanks.

BLACKWELL: Kendrick Johnson's parents had enlisted the help of Florida Civil Rights attorney Benjamin Crump who gained national attention during the Trayvon Martin affair. He joins us tonight along with his co-counsel Chevene King.

Chevene, you've been fighting for a long time to get these tapes released. How significant is this release for you?

CHEVENE KING, KENDRICK JOHNSON'S FAMILY ATTORNEY: Well, I think that it's a major development. I mean, if you consider the fact that when this case first broke, the sheriff's explanation or theory as to what occurred was something that was difficult for people to believe, and now that we have the benefit of looking at video, which will clearly either prove that what the sheriff had suggested is something that people could believe or whether it was something that if people dismissed it, that they are confident in why they should have dismissed it.

COOPER: You know, Ben, I know you haven't gone through what is nearly 2,000 hours of video. You've indicated that authorities have told you or have said that on the tapes you will not see Kendrick Johnson actually entering the mat. Does that -- does that hurt your case?

BENJAMIN CRUMP, KENDRICK JOHNSON FAMILY ATTORNEY: No, actually to the contrary, Anderson, I think that helps our case. Remember the biggest thing here is the manner and cause of death and somehow the sheriff concluded that 17-year-old exceptional athlete climbed into a wrestling mat, got stuck and stopped breathing.

Well, where does he get this theory from and if it's not seen on that videotape, I think the more logical conclusion is somebody rolled him in that wrestling mat after he was murdered and I think that is more significant. You will not see him climbing into that wrestling mat and that helps our case.

COOPER: And Ben, the unredacted case file was released today. Is there anything significant so far in what you've seen?

CRUMP: Well, we are still going through it. We literally just got 400 pages of unredacted information. As Attorney King and I have said that we want the right to try to solve this murder mystery for Mr. And Mrs. Johnson as to what happened to their child. So the fact that we have the names and identity that can help us in our investigation.

COOPER: You're hoping to get an official change in the cause of death from accidental, correct?

CRUMP: Yes, and, Anderson, the video today won't be a homerun hit. We won't see him climbing into a wrestling mat or anything like that but what it will show is people who are in and out of that gymnasium, people who came that night into that gymnasium to help us get questions answered.

COOPER: Have you gotten any more explanation for why police didn't test -- I mean, they found blood splatters on the wall, multiple blood splatters. It seems they never tested that. Do -- has anyone explained to you why that wasn't tested?

CRUMP: No, we have chalked it up to poor investigative work technique and, you know, there are a number of inconsistencies, a number of matters that were overlooked that either reflect just poor workmanship on part of the investigators or maybe a lack of concern for what they were supposed to be investigating.

COOPER: The idea that they stuffed or somebody, unclear exactly who from what I understand, stuffed newspaper inside his body instead of his organs, I mean, has -- Ben, have you gotten any explanation for how that happened?

CRUMP: No, Attorney King and the family and I, we've been digging trying to get those answers but it just is a big part of the mystery and it just keeps getting deeper and deeper when you think somebody cut back his fingernails, somebody misplaced his clothes that would have DNA and blood evidence on it, and then somebody lost his vital organs that would have given us very objective evidence as part of this murder mystery as to what happened to Kendrick Johnson.

COOPER: Ben Crump, I appreciate you being on. Ben King as well, thank you.

CRUMP: Thank you.


COOPER: You can follow me on Twitter. Let me know what you think about the case, @Andersoncooper. Tweet using hash tag ac360.

Coming up next, tonight President Obama goes on the road to promote health care reform and the explained all the -- well, glitches, it doesn't really begin to describe it on the Web site. See how he threads that needle.

And also an up close look at today's accountability moment for the woman in charge of implementing the law. A moment that -- well, it went on for hours.

Later, you want to stick around for this. The story of a little boy and his pal who happens to be the Pope. An amazing story ahead.


COOPER: Welcome back. The fight over Obamacare. The administration playing defense and offense on the Affordable Care Act at home and on the road before a friendly crowd and one very rough crowd.

Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius drew the hometown hostility on Capitol Hill, as you'll see in a moment. President Obama had better luck in Massachusetts where Bay Staters have enjoyed a system just like Obamacare for the last seven years.

Speaking this afternoon in Boston he underscored similarities, touted the benefits of both laws, addressed criticism that he oversold some aspects in the Affordable Care Act, acknowledge that the Web site, well, is a mess.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Look, there is no denying it. Right now the Web site is too slow. Too many people have gotten stuck and I'm not happy about it. And neither are a lot of Americans who need healthcare and they are trying to figure out how they can sign up as quickly as possible. So there is no excuse for it. And I take full responsibility for making sure it gets fixed ASAP. We are working overtime to improve it every day.


COOPER: Well, that was only part of what he said.

Senior White House correspondent Jim Acosta joins us with details.

So, Jim, the White House originally built the speech as a Romneycare comparison. Clearly, though, as a chance for the president to try to do some damage control.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That the right, Anderson. You did hear the president talk a about that a little bit today. He said, you know, under Romneycare in that first month of the rollout of that health care plan in Massachusetts, only 100 people signed up and he was trying to make the case that this is sort of similar to what's happening with the Obama healthcare law.

But really, Anderson, as you said, this was all about damage control. You heard the president say earlier today that he takes responsibility. He's going to make sure that it gets fixed. You heard Kathleen Sebelius say basically the same thing up on Capitol Hill.

I talked to a senior White House official who said all of this was by design. They feel like if they really come out and say we're taking responsibility for this, pay that pound of flesh, that they feel like they can turn the corner and move on.

COOPER: There are also people who take issue with this comparison to Romneycare and that initial month. They said the numbers depends on how you kind of slice the numbers. But --

ACOSTA: That's true.

COOPER: The president also addressed if you like it, you can keep it promise, that he made repeatedly. What did he say about it?

ACOSTA: That's right. A senior White House official here told me that this was basically the president's first swing at this controversy because a lot of people have said hey, wait a minute, this was a misleading statement.

The president again went back to the White House talking points here that basically it's the insurance companies who were doing this, not Obamacare, which really doesn't stack up with reality but here's what the president had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) OBAMA: If you had one of these substandard plans before the Affordable Care Act became law and you really like that plan, you're able to keep it. That's what I said when I was running for office. That was part of the promise we made. But ever since the law was passed, if insurers decided to downgrade or cancel these substandard plans, but we said under the law is you've got to replace them with quality comprehensive coverage. Because that, too, was a central premise of the Affordable Care Act from the very beginning.


ACOSTA: And the senior White House official that I talked to, Anderson, basically acknowledged that they have a pretty tough cleanup job here in cleaning up that original promise that if you like your plan you can keep it. But they feel like by saying that people who are losing their coverage because of these new requirements in Obamacare, that they can go into new Obamacare approved plans that does make up for some of it although a lot of people are going to be put through some pretty big disruptions out there.

COOPER: Right. For some people it may cost more --

ACOSTA: That's right.

COOPER: -- if they don't qualify for the subsidies. All right. Jim Acosta, appreciate it. Thanks, Jim.

The president spoke before a friendly audience, obviously. His Health and Human Services secretary as we mentioned, she spent her day fielding extremely tough questions from House lawmakers who've been waiting a long time to grill her for problems with the healthcare Web site and parse the law itself.

Now before bringing in chief congressional correspondent Dana Bash, I want to play some of the key moments from Secretary Sebelius' testimony so you can get a sense at how it all unfolded.


KATHLEEN SEBELIUS, HHS SECRETARY: I am as frustrated as anyone with the flawed launch of So let me say directly to these Americans, you deserve better. I apologize. The site has had serious problems --

REP. MARSHA BLACKBURN (R), TENNESSEE: Who is in charge, Madame Secretary?

SEBELIUS: Hold me accountable for the debacle.


SEBELIUS: I'm responsible.

REP. GREGG HARPER (R), MISSISSIPPI: The president is ultimately responsible for the rollout. Ultimately you work --

SEBELIUS: No, sir. No, sir.


SEBELIUS: We are responsible for the rollout.

HARPER: All right. So you're saying that the president is not responsible for HHS?

SEBELIUS: Sir, I didn't say that.

HARPER: OK. It is the president's ultimate responsibility, correct?

SEBELIUS: You clearly -- whatever. Yes.

REP. JOE BARTON (R), TEXAS: So tell them we're not in Kansas anymore.

REP. FRANK PALLONE (D), NEW JERSEY: I know we're not in Kansas but I do believe increasingly we're in Oz because of what I see here so.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you're wrong --

SEBELIUS: If you have affordable coverage --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- will you go into the exchanges?

SEBELIUS: I -- if I'm wrong --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you can, will you? That's a yes or no. If you can, will you?

SEBELIUS: I will take a look at it. I don't have any idea --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's not an answer. That's not a yes or no.

REP. ELIOT ENGEL (D), NEW YORK: My Republicans colleagues' actions here remind me of a story I read when I was a little boy and that's the story of "Chicken Little" who ran around yelling the sky is falling, the sky is falling, but unlike "Chicken Little" my Republican colleagues are actually rooting for the sky to fall.

SEBELIUS: Sir, I was informed that we were ready to launch on October 1st. The contractors who we had as our private partners told us and told this committee that they had never suggested a delay and that is accurate. Our CMS team felt we were ready to go. I told the president that we were ready to go. Clearly, I was wrong. The Web site has never crashed. It is functional but at a very slow speed and very low reliability.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's been down the whole time you've been testifying. The system is down at this moment.


COOPER: Well, if you live in any of the 36 states that don't have their own exchange and the Web site remains impossible tonight to use the federal site to shop for coverage. Earlier today Vice President Biden pretty much threw up his hands when asked about it.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Have you tried to get online yourself?

JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT: No, the president tried to get online and my daughter tried to get online. I did not because it was clear that I wasn't getting online.


COOPER: And Dana Bash joins us now from Capitol Hill. So a lot of tough questions for the HHS secretary today. What was the response to her testimony?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, like everything that we've seen so far with Obamacare since this -- now law was debated as a bill here for years, it was highly partisan. Probably shouldn't surprise you there. But what was really interesting was how Kathleen Sebelius went in much like the president and was determined to fall on her sword, and say that she was sorry, say that it's her fault. And say that it was clear that despite being told that this Web site was ready to go live, it wasn't.

But what was also interesting is that despite all those apologies just with regard to the Web site she said that she was flatly denying any sense of wanting to -- to expand the enrollment deadline which is now March 31st to give people more time because they can't get on the Web site. She said no, that's enough time, we're not going to expand that. And also she flatly said no to any questions about delaying the penalty that people would have to pay if they can't get their insurance.

Of course, everybody under this new law is mandated to have health care insurance. You know, so she's saying no way to all of that even as she is admitting that the Web site, still as we speak, has serious problems.

COOPER: And a lot will depend on when they get it fixed.

BASH: Yes.

COOPER: You know, and I mean, who knows when that will be. They say, I guess, the end of November. But again who knows.

Beyond the Web site problems she was grilled about people being dropped from their individual plans after the president repeatedly said over and over if you like it, you can keep it. What did she say about that?

BASH: Well, what is really important to note on this sort of line of questioning particularly from Republicans is that, from the House speaker on down they are telling the rank-and-file privately that they think that the Web site is going to be fixed at some point and that Republicans should really focus on the -- what they think are the more systemic problems with the law itself.

And -- so you saw Republican after Republican coming out with horror stories from their constituents talking about how they are getting dropped from their own plan. Let me just show you one example of that.


BLACKBURN: What do you say to Mark and Lucinda in my district who had a plan, they liked it, it was affordable, but it is being terminated and now they do not have health insurance?

SEBELIUS: Insurance companies cancel individual policies year in and year out. They are one-year contract with individuals. They are not lifetime plans, they're not an employer plan.


BLACKBURN: Let me -- let me -- let me move on. It's what they wanted and I will remind you, some people like to drive a Ford, not a Ferrari and some people like to drink out of a red solo cup, not a crystal stem. You're taking away their choice.


BASH: And, Anderson, I got to tell you, it really seemed like the secretary struggled to explain why there is so much confusion, why people are getting letters saying that they no longer can have the healthcare that they currently have. And it took a lot of prodding from Democrats who were kind of leading the witness, if you will, to try to get her to clarify and the gist is that people are getting dropped because the plans that they have don't live up to the new guidelines and benefits that are now required under this new law.

And Democrats are trying to sort of draw out of her the idea that ultimately people will be happier with their plans but the problem is right now the transition is very, very difficult and people are worried.

COOPER: You know, it reminds me, some of the Democrats' questioned her when she was on Jon Stewart's show, he essentially -- I mean, she did terribly on that show. He kind of gave her every opportunity to dig herself out and she seemed unable to.

Are there still a lot of calls for her to be fired?

BASH: Yes, there are definitely calls for her to be fired. None new since this hearing today but you saw and you played in the extended clips that you just showed, some Republicans saying, well, why aren't you out there getting Obamacare exchanges just like everybody else because this is -- you should do this as the leader and her answer was, well, you know, I can't do it and she seemed to suggest it's because she's a recipient of federal healthcare plan right now.

But later, her aides clarified that it's not so much that. That's not why she's not getting Obamacare herself or going to an exchange. It's because she's 65 and she's a Medicare recipient and that is the reason why she can't do it because you can't get Medicare.

COOPER: Right.

BASH: And also Obamacare at the same time. So that could speak to some of the continued confusion --


COOPER: Right. I mean, she seems --

BASH: The secretary of HHS doesn't --


Right. Exactly. Is confused.

COOPER: Right. All right. Fascinating. Dana, appreciate it. Thanks very much.

The view now from the left and the right. With us "CROSSFIRE's" Newt Gingrich and Van Jones.

So, Speaker Gingrich, in a tweet today you said and I quote, "Sebelius' dishonesty and testimony this morning exceeds anything President Nixon was accused of. The Obama team cannot tell the truth and survive."

Are you really saying that -- are you comparing what she said to what Richard Nixon did, lying and covering up conspiracy?

NEWT GINGRICH, HOST, CNN'S CROSSFIRE: I certainly think in terms of being dishonest, just take the last four days -- three of the White House. You've had White House tweet by Valerie Jarrett saying that Obamacare doesn't cost anybody their insurance. That's just plain not true. You've had reports now on CNN that the White House is pressuring insurance companies not to speak out which if true would be a legal abuse of power.

You had the secretary today go in and say, there was no -- the Web site never crashed. In fact, CNN to its credit at one point had a split screen and showed the Web site down at the very moment she was testifying that it wasn't down. You go through item by item by item. The president finally today after two or 3,000 times saying no one will lose their insurance, finally today began to slightly modify when he was in Boston, something which he has repeated knowing it's not true.

I mean, I do not believe that President Obama is such a shallow person that he did not know that the very structure of his bill guaranteed that millions of Americans would lose their insurance.

COOPER: Van, what about that? I mean, if the president knew, why was he -- constantly saying, you know, if you like your insurance, if you like your doctor it won't change. Under the rules of the Affordable Care Act, it will change because it doesn't meet the Affordable Care Act's rules? VAN JONES, HOST, CNN'S CROSSFIRE: Well, first of all, you know, before we can even talk about what the president said or president didn't say, we want the president to be responsible but I also think (INAUDIBLE) have to be responsible, and to drag out the corpse of Richard Nixon and to start pointing to high crimes and misdemeanors from a president that, you know, left office in shame, that compared to a glitchy Web site and some overstatements on the part of the president, there is no comparison between those things.

And part of what's going on now is that the atmosphere of partisanship in this town has gotten so extreme and so severe that we can't tell a difference between high crimes and misdemeanors and exaggerations on a glitchy Web site.


COOPER: But wait a minute.

JONES: I think the president overstated --

COOPER: But it goes beyond -- it goes beyond just glitches. I mean --

JONES: Sure.

COOPER: With the Web site and --

JONES: But there is no burglars and stuff.

COOPER: What you're calling as overstatement --

JONES: There's no burglars.

COOPER: OK. I'm not -- I'm not --

JONES: There is no -- OK. There is no enemies list.

COOPER: I'm moving on from the Nixon thing. But I don't think --

JONES: Thank you.

COOPER: I don't think ,you know, that that's really firm ground but on -- you're calling what the president said time and time and time again while running for office an overstatement. I mean, if was Republicans saying that, and wouldn't now you say it was a lie?

JONES: Well, I tell you what I will say. I do think that the president was overly broad in his assurances to the American people, and I think that that was a mistake and I think that he will pay a price for that in some quarters in terms of his credibility and his standing, but what I will say is this. There was a context.

You had over alarmist rhetoric from one side saying that Stalin was on the march and then you have the president giving overly extremely assurances on the other side. All of this is a symptom of a deeper problem. At the end of the day you have a lot of people who were suffering under the old system, big losers. If you had preexisting conditions, you were a big loser in the old system. We now have a new system. Those people are now winners. But there are some people who now, it appears to be, they're losers and they shouldn't be political footballs for the Republicans and they shouldn't be ignored by Democrats.

We need to fix Obamacare, upgrade Obamacare, but right now everybody is just scoring political points and nothing is getting done.

GINGRICH: I think Van does as good a job as anyone can of depending the indefensible. This is a very simple question, the president of the United States on thousands of occasions said you will not lose your insurance, you will not lose your doctor, you will not lose your hospital.

Now it's either true or it's not true. And you can obfuscate and use big words but the fact is the president of the United States knowingly, I mean, if he'd gone to the country and said look, about 16 million of you are going to lose your insurance but, you know, it's for the better good of the country, he might not have gotten reelected so they chose a path that was profoundly wrong and now they're calling up --


JONES: That's not quite right. Listen. There were losers under the last system and Democrats stood up for the losers under the last system, and those people are now cannot be discriminated against because of previous conditions. They can't be discriminated against because they're women. If there are losers under this new system and there appear to be some, Democrats should be stepping forward, not crouching, not making a policy, but stepping forward with real solutions. I haven't seen that from either party. I think that's why Americans are disgusted right now.

COOPER: All right. Van Jones, appreciate it. Speaker Gingrich, good to have you on. Thank you.

GINGRICH: Good to be with you.

COOPER: Well, for more on the story you can check out right now.

Up next, an audience with the Pope. A little boy stole the show as Pope Francis delivers a speech in St. Peter's Square.


COOPER: Pope Francis delivered a message to families in St. Peter's Square over the weekend, but it was a boy from the audience who ended up stealing the show basically.

The little guy apparently wanted to be part of the action. He jumped right up next to the Pope, refused to leave his side even after an aide offered him candy. The Pope took it all in stride.

Randi Kaye reports.


RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over) : St. Peter's Square, Saturday night, the Pope is speaking about faith and family when suddenly before a crowd of thousands, he is upstaged by a little boy he'd never met. The boy climbs into the Pope's chair, while the Pope is delivering the homily.

He likes the spotlight, too. Often waving at his audience. With the Holy Father sitting down, the little boy examines him up close, even touches and kisses the cross the Pope is wearing around his neck. Instead of chasing the boy away, the Pope smiles, practically encouraging his new friend to hang around.

Make no mistake, this little boy thinks he's running the show. He tries to break up this meeting between the Pope and another man, then he attempts to drag this girl into the mix to meet the Pope. At one point, a cardinal tries to move the boy along but he stands his ground. Soon after, a security guard makes another attempt to get the boy off stage thinking candy may be enough to lure him away. The boy takes the candy but no deal.

He hugs the pontiff's legs. The Pope stays on message, patting the child on the head. Instead of losing interest, though, the boy seems to grow more and more enamored with the Pope.

(On camera): Turns out this boy and the Holy Father have something in common. They are both South American. The little boy is an orphan from Colombia who was adopted by an Italian couple about a year ago. On this night the children from the adoption agency are seated closer to the stage separated from their families. Not that mom and dad would have been able to wrangle their son away from his new buddy.

(Voice-over): An unforgettable moment. Part of history now. When it was over the Vatican shared this photo on Instagram. The caption is clear, "a special guest with Pope Francis."

Randi Kaye, CNN New York.


COOPER: Amazing.

A lot more happening tonight. Isha is here with the "360 Bulletin" -- Isha.

ISHA SESAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, the Justice Department is joining the lawsuit against the company that conducted the background check on Edward Snowden, the NSA leaker. A former employee is suing USIS, accusing the contractor of billing the government for background checks that it knew were incomplete.

Kenyan officials say five more people are in custody in connection with the deadly terrorist attack on the West Gate Mall in Nairobi last month. Eleven other people are already being held. At least 67 were killed after gunmen stormed the shopping center.

Oscar Pistorius, the South African Olympic runner, is facing new charges in the death of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. Along with murder, two gun charges are being added. Pistorius admits to shooting Steenkamp but claims it was an accident.

And, Anderson, take a look at what happened in Milwaukee as a police cruiser is chasing a speeding car. You see there, it swerves off a highway ramp and smashes into a barrier and goes airborne. The driver and the officer were injured. They will be OK, though. The driver is charged with DUI. Very frightening.

COOPER: That's incredible video. Yes. Amazing.

Isha, thanks very much.

A horrifying story in California. Fourteen elderly patients abandoned when their nursing home shut down. Instead of being moved to a new facility, they were just left behind where nearly all of the staff just walked out.

Also a big name in surfing is speaking out tonight saying that Carlos Burle did not break a record two days ago with the giant wave off Portugal, but not because the wave wasn't big enough. I'll talk to Laird Hamilton ahead.


COOPER: Well, welcome back. Tonight the owners of a California nursing home could be facing criminal charges over what happened when the state took steps to shut down their facility. What happened, it's really mind boggling.

For days the lives of 14 frail elderly patients, some of them bedridden, were left in the hands of just three employees, one of them who was cook. They were overwhelmed and by their own admission under qualified to be giving that kind of care, including dispensing medications. There are also the heroes in this story.

Stephanie Elam has been investigating.


STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It was nothing less than chaos. Medics racing to rescue more than a dozen elderly residents after they were abandoned by the majority of the caregivers at Valley Springs Manor Home.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How could somebody do that? We're talking to human beings here. How do you just abandon them? It's a bad situation.

ELAM: A bad situation is exactly what the state of California says was happening here for years, according to this complaint from the Department of Social Services, which was in the process of shutting the place down.

Last Thursday, the state suspended Valley Spring's license citing a long list of violations including insufficient employee training, failure to provide necessary medications to patients, not properly treating or reporting patient injuries and poor maintenance and cleanliness. Once the government stepped in the owners were not allowed near the facility.

End of story, right? Wrong. Some patients were still there.

(On camera): By the close of business on Friday anyone with any authority was gone. Nowhere to be found. The residents were left in the hands of two caregivers and a cook who says they didn't have the proper training to do all that they were doing for the residents but they felt compelled to stay.

(Voice-over): This man, Maurice Rowland, a cook at the home for three months, says he and the other untrained workers took over trying to do anything they could to look after the residents who needed round-the- clock care.

(On camera): Did you feel overwhelmed with what you had to do for these residents?

MAURICE ROWLAND, COOK, VALLEY SPRING: I was already overwhelmed on day two.

ELAM (voice-over): Overwhelmed he says because the patients needed help with everything from using the bathroom to preparing their meals, and even taking medication, which no one was authorized to provide.

ROWLAND: It definitely wasn't the people supposed to be giving meds.

ELAM (on camera): Why did you decide to stay?

ROWLAND: Because -- I mean, in my eyes I had to stay because I couldn't leave the residents there by they self. Ain't no telling what could have happened if I would have left.

ELAM (voice-over): Rowland says so many residents needed urgent care that he kept calling 911 for different patients.

J.D. NELSON, ALAMEDA COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT: We'd just get up there and find, you know, the 14 people with nobody really there to care for them, so paramedics plus ambulance company and, you know, got them all transported to the hospitals.

ELAM: What's more, the families of the people abandoned at the home didn't even know it had been shut down.

Jean Pong paid the facility $3,000 a month to care for her sister but she arrived to find she wasn't cared for at all.

JEAN PONG, SISTER OF RESIDENT: I think they should be held accountable. I mean, you just can't vacate and leave your residents without proper care. I mean, this is what you pay for. ELAM: There were no answers at the facility when we came looking for the owner Hilda Manuel. We also looked for her at her home. Nobody answered.

So why did the Department of Social Services which wanted to close the facility just leave without making sure the patients would be taken care of?

MICHAEL WESTON, DEPUTY DIRECTOR OF PUBLIC AFFAIRS: Staff at the facility had indicated that they could provide care of the residents through the weekend. That should not have occurred.

ELAM: They say there is no doubt they dropped the ball.

(On camera): The owners failed these residents. I think there's no one who's going to doubt that part. Do you believe then that the state also failed these residents?

WESTON: Like I said, we had procedures that should have been followed and they weren't and we're going to figure out why that happened and what we can do to ensure that that doesn't happen again.


COOPER: So that would be a yes to your question. So you weren't able to find the owner but just talked to their attorney. What did they say about the residents who were left behind?

ELAM: Well, Anderson, the attorney says, when I spoke to him this afternoon that authorities here jumped the gun by removing all of the residents from the house. They were working to settle some of those violation issues with the government and they're also saying that there is no way that the owner of this property was trying to abandon these residents. She just wanted to transfer them out in an orderly fashion.

COOPER: Do we know how the residents were doing? I mean, you said they've all been taken to different hospitals.

ELAM: Right. Right. Some of the residents did go to the hospital. Some of them have found new homes, new care facilities. And then we also know that as of tonight there is one resident who is missing. He was in the hospital, he's missing from there. Apparently this person has done this before, has gone missing. Authorities are searching for him and they're confident that they are going to find him -- Anderson.

COOPER: Wow. Just heartbreaking. Stephanie, appreciate it. Thanks very much.

Up next, new questions about extreme surfers Carlos Burle's monster ride. Did he pull off a record? Surfing legend Laird Hamilton says maybe not. Laird joins us next.


COOPER: Brazilian surfer Carlos Burle is still waiting to learn if he set a new world record with the giant wave he caught off the coast of Portugal. It was incredibly dangerous ride. Last night in an exclusive interview on this program he told me how dicey things got.


CARLOS BURLE, SURFER: My foot was kind of coming out of my foot straps.

COOPER: Your foot was coming out of your foot straps?

BURLE: Yes, yes.


BURLE: Yes, that --

COOPER: That's crazy.

BURLE: That was crazy.


COOPER: The size of the wave could have been as much as 100 feet. It needs to be verified. That may take months. But tonight a respected name in the surfing world, Laird Hamilton, says it doesn't matter how big the wave turns out to be. He says that Burle didn't break any record in his opinion because he didn't finish the ride. He actually got wiped off his board.

Big wave surfer Laird Hamilton joins me.

So, Laird, to those who say that Carlos may have set a world record and again, officially the size of the wave won't be determined -- if it's submitted it won't be determined for months in official competition. Even that is controversial. But you say he didn't actually complete riding the wave.

LAIRD HAMILTON, SURFER: Yes, well, first of all, I want to start off by saying that I have the utmost respect for Carlos as a surfer and he's an incredible accomplished big wave rider, but, you know, in the -- but that being said, in the school that I grew up in, unless you complete the ride it's really a nonfactor.

I mean, you know, as every big wave rider knows, it's all about finishing the ride and I think even Carlos would tell you that, you know, unless you finish the ride, you really didn't make the ride. I mean, and it's -- otherwise it's a great attempt.

COOPER: I talked to Carlos last night. I just want to play for our viewers some of what he said.


BURLE: I was so happy when I made it all the way to the bottom and I hold the first -- you know, the first white water that hit me and the second white water I couldn't hold anymore but I made it and I made it, and I was glad just to do it, you know.

(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: So -- I mean, he says when the first white water came, he was able to stand on his board. From that, it was the second white water he wasn't able to stay on. If this is submitted for an official review to see if he actually rode this and how big the wave was, is that something they also look at or do they simply look at the volume of the wave or the size of the wave from wherever the base is that they measure?

HAMILTON: It's so subjective trying to measure a big wave. There are so many factors. You know, there is a famous big wave rider named Buzzy Trent. And he said, you know, it's not the size of the dog, it's the size of the fangs that you worry about. But, you know, a lot of people have won the biggest wave of the year award and not had successful rides and didn't complete the rides in -- for, you know, for most of us from Hawaii, at least the school that I -- come from and all the guys that I respected that are as big wave riders, they all -- we all agree that, you know, unless you make the ride, you can't -- it shouldn't even be able to be submitted as -- you know, you can be the wipe out of the year or the attempt of the year but to classify it as the biggest wave ever ridden, it would be more like the biggest wave ever attempted and that would be a more honest depiction of it.

COOPER: So, I mean, he -- when Carlos says he made it, you're saying, though you respect him, you don't think he really made it.

HAMILTON: Well, he didn't make it. Because he -- he wiped out. And making it means that you kicked out. You end in a safe zone and you're able to be there picked up by the ski or paddle away freely. Not -- you know, if he would have continued to outrun the white water and the white water hit him multiple times, and he rode it all the way to shore, then, you know, that possibly could have been one of the greatest rides ever ridden. But the fact is, is that, you know, when you get run over by the wave, that is not making it in any school that I've ever been to.

COOPER: Do you think -- riding a 100-foot wave is possible at some point, successfully riding it?

HAMILTON: There are so many different kinds of waves. I mean, you know, with the ideal conditions at the right spot is a 100-foot wave possible? Absolutely possible. Has it been done already? Maybe it has been done already. You know, again, you know, it always plays back to your intentions, why are you doing this? And, you know, most of the big wave riders I know, Carlos included, we do it because we love it. We were born to do it and we've been training our whole lives to do it. This is what we do. We would do it if no one was watching.

COOPER: Laird, it's extraordinary what you do and to watch you and the others. Appreciate you being on. Thank you.

HAMILTON: I appreciate it. Thank you, Anderson.

COOPER: Up next, dramatic testimony in the trial of a doctor accused of killing his wife so he can be with his mistress.


COOPER: Hey, a quick check of more headlines with Isha -- Isha.

SESAY: Anderson, the daughter of a Utah doctor accused of murdering his wife testified that her mother confronted Martin McNeill about his affair before her death. She also described how her father admitted to overmedicating her mother the night she returned home after facelift surgery.

Investigators are looking into puzzling details surrounding a plane crash at Nashville International Airport. The single engine Cessna crashed on the runway killing the only person on board, a Canadian pilot. The wreckage wasn't discovered for almost seven hours and the president of the Pilots Flying Club says there is an unexplained two- hour gap in the fight.

And, Anderson, a bus driver who stopped a young woman from jumping off a bridge is being held as a hero. (INAUDIBLE) spotted the distraught woman while driving his route in Buffalo, New York. His co-workers call him a big man with a big heart.


SESAY: And Darnell says it was meant to be. He was supposed to be there for her at that moment.

COOPER: Wow. Amazing that he did that. Isha, thanks very much.

We ran out of time for the "RidicuList" tonight. That does it for us. Hope you join us one hour from now, 10:00 p.m. Eastern for "AC 360 LATER." Our new panel discussion show. A lot of good guests tonight.

"PIERS MORGAN LIVE" starts now. We'll see you later.

PIERS MORGAN, HOST: This is PIERS MORGAN LIVE. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world.

Tonight, taking the blame for the Obamacare Web site fiasco. First Secretary Sebelius.


KATHLEEN SEBELIUS, HHS SECRETARY: Let me say directly to these Americans, you deserve better. I apologize.


MORGAN: Then her boss.


BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There is no excuse for it, and I take full responsibility for making sure it gets fixed ASAP. (END VIDEO CLIP)

MORGAN: And Joe Biden couldn't even get on it.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Have you tried to get online yourself?

JOE BIDEN, VICE PRESIDENT: No, actually, the president tried to get online and my daughter tried to get online. I did not because it was clear that I wasn't getting online.


MORGAN: And hardly surprising given that right now breaking news. There it is, live, the Web site is down again.