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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Sheriff Joe Arpaio: Victim or Vigilante?; Congress Working on Budget Deal
Aired December 15, 2011 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone. It's 10:00 here on the East Coast.
We begin tonight "Keeping Them Honest" with a stinging official criticism of the man known as America's toughest sheriff and the methods of his department. For years, Joe Arpaio has been the law in Phoenix's Maricopa County, and he's fought hard to stay that way by taking on all opponents, big and small.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE ARPAIO, MARICOPA COUNTY, ARIZONA, SHERIFF: I know I'm doing the right thing. I'm not going to surrender by those little small groups of people that don't like what I'm doing. You think I'm going to surrender? Never happen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Tonight, Arpaio and his department are facing perhaps the biggest challenge yet.
It comes from a federal Justice Department probe more than three years in the making and is detailed in a 22-page letter to the Maricopa County attorney, detailing -- quote -- "A pervasive culture of discriminatory bias against Latinos at the MCSO," that's the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office, "that reaches the highest level of the agency. It goes on, "Sheriff Arpaio's own actions have helped nurture MCSO's culture of bias."
In addition the letter details a study commissioned by the Department of Justice that found Latino drivers -- quote -- "are four to nine times more likely to be stopped in similarly situation non- Latino drivers."
There's more in the report documenting detention officers at the sheriff's jail using offensive slurs and profanities calling them -- quote -- "wetbacks, stupid Mexicans," and slurs we can't mention on the air.
According to the assistant U.S. attorney general for the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division they're also reviewing allegations that Sheriff Arpaio's department failed to investigate hundreds of alleged sexual assaults and child molestation cases. Many of the victims apparently were Latinos.
Earlier this year, when 360's Ed Lavandera spoke with Sheriff Arpaio, the sheriff painted himself as the victim.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So have they charged you with anything? spoke to you what an abuse of power is?
ARPAIO: I don't even know what abuse of power is. I'm the guy being abused over and over. Even you are abusing me over, and over again, abusing this sheriff. I violate the law, I do this, I do that. I'm the guy being abused, but you know what? That's part of the job. You take it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: There's Sheriff Arpaio this summer. Late today he and other officials answered the federal allegations. He said he wasn't going to be made a whipping boy by the Justice Department. Another official claimed the Department of Justice's letter lacks specifics saying -- quote -- "We're wrestling with clouds." And when asked, Sheriff Arpaio says he has compassion for Latinos but said that enforcing the law overrides that compassion.
Joining us now is Thomas Perez, assistant attorney general for the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice.
How bad is this situation as far as you're concerned at this sheriff's office in Maricopa County?
THOMAS PEREZ, ASSISTANT U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: I think the department is broken in a number of very critical ways, the discriminatory policing that we documented and that discriminatory policing is compounded by a penchant for retaliating against people who speak out against them.
And then when you layer on top of that the challenges in the jail where people are punished because they don't speak English, and then you look finally at these other issues that have come to light more recently involving the failure to investigate sexual assaults and issues of that nature, it paints a very troubling picture of a department that is broken in a number of important ways, and a culture of disregard, frankly, for the constitution that pervades the department.
COOPER: What reaction, if any, have you gotten from the sheriff's office?
PEREZ: Well, we met with the sheriff's office this morning. They're still digesting the report and what we said and what I continue to say is, I would rather fix the problem than fix the blame. We have a lot of work to do. This is serious stuff. When you're talking about the failure to investigate sexual assaults, when you're talking about people who are incarcerated for no reason, many of them are U.S. citizens, legal immigrants.
These are serious issues, and in other cities -- and we have 20 investigations under way, Anderson, across the country, and more than ever before in our division's history. The approach in virtually all of them has been collaboration and cooperation as opposed to confrontation. That's what I want to do here.
I want to work together not simply with the sheriff's office but with the entire community to come up with a comprehensive blueprint for sustainable reform that will reduce crime, ensure respect for the constitution, and restore public confidence in the sheriff's office.
COOPER: I mean, that all sounds great, though -- I mean, but -- I mean, I have interviewed Sheriff Joe Arpaio before. He's been steadfastly unapologetic when it comes to his methods. He basically says look, I do what I have to do to keep my community safe, I have been voted back into office repeatedly. People that break the law they deserve to be punished. That seems to be his response.
PEREZ: Well, I'm hopeful that when they read this report and they see the troubling findings regarding, again, not only the acts of commission but the acts of omission, the profiling, and our expert talked about how this is the worst case of racial profiling that he has ever seen in any work he's done in the United States.
When they see the culture of tolerance for retaliatory behavior and then when you see the acts of omission, the failure to arrest and prosecute and investigate sexual assaults, this is about public safety as much as anything.
COOPER: Should the sheriff keep his job? I mean, you're saying his tactics are unconstitutional. You're saying that he is personally responsible for a culture of bias. Should he be the sheriff?
PEREZ: I think the sheriff needs to fix the problems that we've identified and that -- and we've outlined a road map and it's a road map that we have been able to follow, Anderson, with great success in other cities and I hope we can follow it here. The rule in our work in the other cities has been collaboration and cooperation, and I hope we can do that here.
COOPER: Thomas Perez, I appreciate you joining us. Thank you.
PEREZ: My pleasure.
COOPER: We should mention we obviously reached out to Sheriff Arpaio to come on the program. He declined our invitation.
And with me now is senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin, who we should mention is a former federal prosecutor.
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: And a former resident of Phoenix.
COOPER: What do you make of this report from the Justice Department?
TOOBIN: Well, I mean, this isn't a surprise to anyone who's followed Sheriff Joe for all these years. He has bragged about his tough-minded enforcement, and all those prisoners in those ridiculous striped outfits, they have to wear pink underwear, I mean, this is sort of his M.O.
He is going to completely reject this as he -- as he did briefly in his statement this afternoon, and frankly, the more important thing that's going on in Phoenix now is that there's a criminal investigation from the U.S. attorney's office there about civil rights violations that I think is the only thing he's going to pay any attention to. I mean, this sort of very nice, polite letter he's just going to throw in the trash.
COOPER: So -- the Justice Department puts out this report, does it have any ramifications? I mean, does it have any legal --
TOOBIN: Not yet. I mean, you know, he -- they had to go to court --
COOPER: They're not suing him.
TOOBIN: They're not suing him. It's a letter. They had to go to court just to get him to cooperate with this investigation and, you know, Joe Arpaio with a 22-page letter? I mean, it's nothing to him.
This is something -- you know, he has built his career by defying the feds. You know, interestingly, the Department of Homeland Security today as a result of this cut off some of the contracts between the Department of Homeland Security and the sheriff's department.
Homeland Security is run by Janet Napolitano, the former governor of Arizona. She has tangled with him in the past but he's outlasted her. He's up for re-election next year. Chances are he'll run and win again, and the only thing that's going to stop him is a criminal indictment.
COOPER: So is there any chance the Justice Department would bring some sort of charges?
TOOBIN: Well, there's been an -- there's been an investigation undergoing for several months, if not years. It's completely separate. I don't know -- you know, I don't want to pre-judge it. I don't know what's going to happen there but that's the only thing that's going to get his attention.
COOPER: But it's not like this division which wrote this letter, he rejects the letter, and they're like well, we're now going to file charges?
TOOBIN: You know, I mean, with all due respect to, you know, attorney -- Assistant Attorney General Perez, all this discussion about conciliation and cooperation.
TOOBIN: I mean, I don't know what planet those folks are living on.
(CROSSTALK) COOPER: He clearly doesn't want to say yes, he's going to blow his lid off.
TOOBIN: Well, I mean, why not say it? I mean, you know, this is a guy who has -- who has thumbed his nose at the Justice Department for years. He's sued. He's arrested other public officials in Phoenix. I mean, this is a guy who plays for keeps and a polite letter from the Justice Department is going to do exactly nothing.
COOPER: And if there was a criminal charge would -- I mean, he can only be voted out of office.
TOOBIN: Well, there's criminal charge -- if he's convicted he would certainly have to leave office. But he's up for -- he's up for re-election in 2013, I believe, and it's really up to the voters. And the thing that has turned Phoenix a little bit on him has been the failure to investigate the sexual assaults.
You mentioned it, Perez mentioned it a little bit. That's so awful and it's not, you know, his traditional tough guy act. It's such a dereliction of duty that that's the thing that might sink in with the voters more than any of the immigration stuff.
COOPER: Why would he fail to -- or refuse to investigate sexual assault?
TOOBIN: Because they're Hispanic, the victims are Hispanic.
COOPER: As simple as that.
TOOBIN: I -- that's the only explanation that seems plausible to me. This is a community that he views as targets, not as victims, and they have not -- and so he ignored it.
COOPER: As I said, we invited him on the program. He declined this time around. He's been on in the past.
Jeff Toobin, appreciate it.
Jeff, stick around.
Suspect Jerry Sandusky got a new member of his legal team. We're going to ask him about an especially strange answer he gave in connection with the case about training underage kids how to use soap in the shower. We will try to clarify what he meant by that.
Up next: hazing in Florida A&M's marching band. Yesterday, the university president suggested it was too shrouded in secrecy to uncover. Today, Florida's governor had something to say about. We spoke with him.
We will be right back.
COOPER: Tonight, Florida's governor is calling for the immediate suspension of James Ammons, the president of A&M University. Governor Rick Scott made the recommendation to the chairman of the school's trustees today. Many are asking whether Ammons or other university officials missed or even overlooked warning signs hazing, brutal beatings that have landed several students in the hospitals over the years.
Last month one member of the school's marching band was badly beaten. Less than three weeks later drum major Robert Champion was allegedly beaten to death reportedly in a hazing ritual aboard the band's bus. His killing focused attention on hazing in the marching band at A&M and other historically black colleges and universities where marching bands are often the main attraction on game day.
The bands at these historically black colleges and universities or HBCUs, as they're called, is king. Beating victim Bria Hunter sat down with a reporter from her hometown Atlanta TV station WXIA. Her mother was with her and as you'll hear didn't let Bria say much.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BRIA HUNTER, ALLEGED HAZING VICTIM: The first day like everybody will, not everybody would -- some, a good few people got hit.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You need to stop.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm not comfortable.
HUNTER: He told me that last --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You don't need to answer none of them questions.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: She needs to go back to school. I'm not going to be here.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, Florida A&M's president, though, has spoken at length telling our Jason Carroll yesterday that hazing at A&M is shrouded in -- quote -- "a veil of secrecy."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMES AMMONS, PRESIDENT, FLORIDA A&M UNIVERSITY: One of the things that we have found with hazing is that there is a -- there's a veil of secrecy.
JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes.
AMMONS: This is a culture, not just here at Florida A&M University, it's on college and university campuses across America.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: That suggestion that no one could have known flies in the face of common sense. Critics and experts say Ammons either was or should have been aware of the problem. Campus police and the band director both knew about Bria Hunter's beating almost two weeks before Robert Champion's death.
Problems with the band were apparently common knowledge, 26 band members were expelled for hazing shortly before Champion's death. What's more, from 1989 to 2001, three band members were badly beaten, two sued, one collected a settlement, and the other won a lawsuit worth $1. 8 million.
The top of all that, band hazings are also the norm at other top historically black colleges and universities.
Let's talk more about that now. We'll have more on that shortly from our guest professor Ricky Jones, author of "Black Haze." First the latest from Jason Carroll who joins us from Tallahassee -- Jason.
CARROLL: Well, Anderson, the governor tells me that he spoke to Ammons early this afternoon. He basically explained his point of view basically saying now that there are two investigations going on at the university, one of course into the hazing, a separate investigation into allegations of financial fraud, the governor felt as though it was best for someone else to be acting as president.
Listen to what he said when we caught up with him just a little while ago.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CARROLL: I just want to go over very quickly your decisions behind the recommendation to have Dr. Ammons step aside while the investigation takes place.
GOV. RICK SCOTT (R), FLORIDA: Right. All I have suggested is that he step aside during the investigation, I'm not asking for him to resign. You know FDLE has come out and said that there --
CARROLL: Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
SCOTT: Yes. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement. That there's -- they are looking at financial irregularities. I think it's in the president's best interests and the school's best interests that he step aside and say, look, I want to make sure that there's a thorough investigation where no one has ever -- never to suggest that people aren't cooperating.
CARROLL: When I spoke to the university president yesterday he felt as though that he has done everything that the law has required him to do. Do you think that is enough?
SCOTT: Well, I think -- I think you have to also just look at perceptions and you want to make sure that things are perceived that are being done the right way. This is -- this is tragic. I mean, it starts with the death of a young man, and then it goes to now -- you know, these -- the investigation expanding into financial irregularities.
I mean, I think it's in his best interests to say look, I want to make sure that this is -- there's no question but this university is doing the right thing and is cooperating.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: What's the reaction from the school and from the president?
CARROLL: Well, Anderson, this evening I spoke to one of Ammons' associates who said that he's extremely disappointed that the governor would make this recommendation. He said Ammons is crestfallen, that he wanted to stay and fight for the university.
Having said that, Ammons did release a statement basically saying, "I'm sure that this investigation will determine that, under my leadership, the administration acted appropriately. I serve as the pleasure of the FAMU Board of Trustees, and I will abide by whatever decision the board reaches."
And Anderson, I can tell you that the board will be reaching a decision on Monday.
COOPER: All right. Jason Carroll, as always, thanks very much.
Joining us now is the University of Louisville professor, Ricky Jones. He's director of the University Center on Race and Inequality. He's also the author of a book, "Black Haze: Violence, Sacrifice and Manhood in Black Greek-Letter Fraternities."
Professor, thanks for being on again with us tonight. What do you think, first of all, the governor calling for the suspension of Florida -- the Florida A&M president?
RICKY JONES, PROFESSOR OF PAN-AFRICAN STUDIES, UNIVERSITY OF LOUISVILLE: Warranted. I think it's -- I think it's seriously warranted. If we look at the Penn State situation, for instance, there's been a lot of talk about Jerry Sandusky and Joe Paterno but in academic circles there's a lot of talk about Graham Spanier.
Graham Spanier was seen as an ideal university president, but when things like this happen on your watch, and you don't take appropriate steps to speak to those things proactively, then changes have to be made, so Spanier was out, and I think the same thing is happening with Ammons. And if these moves are made more often I think -- I think presidents will be more aggressive in speaking to issues like hazing at FAMU.
COOPER: What do you think is at the core of this kind of hazing? I don't think a lot of people think about a band as being a place where there's hazing but there are subgroups within this band at Florida A&M, there's a group from Georgia which apparently Robert Champion was part of, and I -- are these different subgroups, I guess, have their own kind of codes of discipline.
What gets to the core of this in your opinion?
JONES: The drive of students to belong, and that's why arguments that are made by folk who say look, people who consent to this are the folks who really have to stop and the practice will go away. They're absolutely wrong.
You cannot put the entire onus on a group of students who usually are between the ages of 18 and 24 years old. And they are driven by the desire to belong.
So they're going to do a whole lot of things to belong. Folk who will not submit to the behavior are folks who are not going to join the band, not going to join the Greek-letter organizations, any of these. So that's what's at the core of it. The bands are incredibly popular. Student who join it, want to be accepted, they don't want to be socially ostracized but the president and his administration should know that that's a very common practice. I mean, I know and I never attended FAMU or worked there.
COOPER: We had this debate last night on the program with you and with Roland Martin, and I though it was a really debate. It got a big response on Twitter as well.
You seem to say that this is -- this isn't just kind of hazing as people think about it at fraternities across the country, that there's a level of aggression here or violence here that is different. Correct?
JONES: Well, yes. I mean, the record speaks for itself.
You look at Joel Harris at Morehouse College, Michael Davis at Southeast Missouri State University, Kristin High and Kenitha Saafir in Los Angeles, Donnie Wade down at Prairie View University. You know, these people are being beaten to death or drowned or folks are suffering brain damage, comatose, all of these things.
So if people want to disagree with me, that's fine, if they want to disagree with my argument, but they can't give me my argument and the point is this. I never said that hazing does not occur in white Greek organizations. I never said that white Greeks should not be suspended or disbanded. I'm simply saying that the manifestation of it is very different in black Greek groups.
Anderson, you have to understand this. These are groups that are very difficult to have an honest and reasonable conversation with. You'll have folk who are affiliated with FAMU and with this band who will simultaneously say, we really grieve for Robert Champion and his family and then pivot and saying well, he shouldn't have consented to this and the band can't go away. You know, when did these organizations become so sacred that we can't have conversations about banning them from our campuses because nothing else worked?
COOPER: So why is this different, though, than what happens at, you know, fraternities across the country or white fraternities? JONES: You know, there are so many theories on that and we would need a whole lot longer to discuss that, but it is clear that it is different. It's much more physical, and again, the white Greeks do haze, but not as physical as the black Greeks, and we do not have the manifestations that we see at HBCU bands, at PWI bands, predominantly white institution bands. We simply don't see that behavior.
COOPER: And the other thing I was really struck by that you said last night is, you think the only way to stop this is to eliminate the organization totally, to eliminate the band. I mean, that's not really a practical solution, though, is it?
JONES: I disagree. I don't think -- I think it is a practical solution. You know when you have talks about eliminating bands or eliminating Greeks, people talk like this hasn't happened. This has happened at universities throughout this country.
They have been private schools, the Colbys, Bowdoin College, Williams, Princeton, they have eliminated the Greek systems and I'm sure they would eliminate bands if they were behaving in the way that these the bands are behaving.
So there are school that have done this. Now, it is much more difficult at public universities and this is why I said not only do we need college and university administrators but we also need elected officials to get involved in producing new laws that are going to speak to this because of right of association laws, so I don't think that it is something that is beyond the pale.
I understand that I'm the minority in making that argument. I'm certainly not making any friends in the band or from FAMU or in black Greek organizations, and I frankly don't care, because the point is, what are we going to do to preserve the lives of our students in our universities throughout the country?
I think that's more important than the preservation of a Greek system or a band, and I really do wonder with folks who pivot and argue for these organizations and argue for these processes, what would they do and what would they say and how would they feel if they got a phone call at 3: 00 in the morning saying that their son or their daughter had been beaten to death in one of these organizations? I think the argument would be very different.
COOPER: It's fascinating. Professor Ricky Jones, I appreciate you being on again, thank you.
JONES: Thank you.
COOPER: Just ahead breaking news out of Washington, late word of a deal on keeping the government running and doing what lawmakers could have done months ago. We'll head to Capitol Hill for the very latest on that.
And still to come a really strange twist to the Penn State child sex abuse scandal. A lawyer for Jerry Sandusky who's facing more than 50 counts of sexual assault says his clients was showering with young boys because in some cases juvenile delinquents or young teens need -- quote -- "basic hygiene skills." We're going to talk to that lawyer in a bit.
Plus, bail is denied -- the Academy Award-winning actor finds out that in China. He finds out that celebrity does not open all doors. We'll be right back.
COOPER: We have some breaking news out of Washington on the budget deal.
Let's check in with Kate Bolduan, who is monitoring what is going on.
Kate, what are you hearing?
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey there, Anderson.
Well, some very significant developments here in the Capitol late this evening. First off, I will tell you that we're told by Democratic sources that a government shutdown is almost certainly been averted as the negotiators of this massive spending bill that would take the government and fund the government through the year 2012, they are signing that conference report as it's called but basically signing off on this funding bill this evening.
Of course, that would mean the next step is that both the House and Senate would need to vote on this conference report, but almost certainly on barring some unforeseen problem.
I will tell you, Anderson, it appears that this evening they have reached a point where we can say that almost certainly a government shutdown has been averted and much more, if I could go on, Anderson.
We're also told as Senate majority leader Harry Reid, he was just leaving the Capitol, and we caught up with him. He said that there are continuing negotiations on the other major issue that we've been following, and that has been a major source of this standoff on Capitol Hill, extending this payroll tax cut. While those negotiations are continuing, and I'm told by sources they're encouraged and they're making very significant progress in that regard that negotiators are also working on a fallback plan, if you will.
A two-month extension of the payroll tax cut as well as unemployment assistance for the long-term unemployed, and another important end-of-year measure in order to ensure that, come January 1, a tax increase would not set in place.
That's not a statement that negotiations aren't going well, people stress to me, only that they wanted to assure that, as negotiations continued, they had something in place if they needed a fallback, Anderson.
COOPER: Do we know what allowed the deal to happen tonight? BOLDUAN: They've been, honestly, working all throughout the day, behind closed doors. We've been seeing shuffling in and out of offices. It seems that, after -- after last night, when the top members of both the House and the Senate, they finally sat down and had a face-to-face gut check, as it was described to me.
It seems just that may have broken the logjam, that they finally started talking, and that two sides -- two sides really tried to start talking about how they could proceed, and where is the end game. And throughout the day, it seems that they were able to negotiate and deal with some of the outstanding issues, as it's been described, and they reached a point that both sides were comfortable, that the negotiators could finally sign off on it this evening.
COOPER: All right. Kate Bolduan, appreciate it on the breaking news.
Let's take a look at some of the other stories we're following tonight. Susan Hendricks has a "360 News & Business Bulletin" -- Susan.
SUSAN HENDRICKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, new reports of armed resistance in Syria.
Anti-government sources tell CNN that army defectors killed more than two dozen security forces in the south today. A member of the Free Syrian Army said its forces attacked a government military checkpoint. Now, CNN could not independently confirm this information.
"The Christian Science Monitor" reports that a U.S. stealth drone was intentionally brought down by the Iranian military. The technique, known as spoofing, exploited a vulnerability known to the U.S. military. An Iranian engineer quoted by "The Monitor" says an electronic warfare specialist cut off the drone's communications, then took control of its GPS, tricking it into landing.
The parent company of Victoria's Secret says it will investigate a report that says some of its cotton is grown using child labor. Now, the Bloomberg report files an abused 13-year-old girl at an organic fair-trade farm in Burkina Faso. Victoria's Secret reportedly bought the West African nation's entire organic crop last season. Bought that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTIAN BALE, ACTOR: Why can I not go visit this free man?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HENDRICKS: That is actor Christian Bale. He's not in a role. He's in China for the premiere of a film he shot there. Before he left, he tried to visit a blind human rights activist who was being held in his home for more than 15 months, but Chinese security stepped in, making sure that did not happen.
Bale is saying, "I just wanted to tell the man he's an inspiration." Again, it did not happen.
And a tiny, hand-written unpublished manuscript by Charlotte Bronte has sold for just over $1 million, more than the double the expected price. The miniature booklet, so small it could fit in the palm of your hand, sparked a bidding war. It is one of six young men's magazines written by Bronte when she was just 14. Scholars say the 19-page manuscript contains ideas later fleshed out in her novels. Seventeen years later, she wrote "Jane Eyre."
Anderson, back to you.
COOPER: Serious stuff ahead. A lawyer for former Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky says some adults may need to touch some young boys how to shower, how to use soap on their bodies. We'll talk to him. The attorney now says those comments were taken out of context. I'll ask him exactly what he meant, next.
COOPER: One of Jerry Sandusky's new lawyers is offering up a theory about why the former Penn State assistant coach may have been taking showers with boys.
Sandusky has admitted to showering and having, quote, "horsed around" with boys, although he's denied any sexual activity with his accusers.
In an interview with the news station WHTM, the lawyer says adults may need to teach some kids how to wash themselves.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KARL ROMINGER, SANDUSKY ATTORNEY: And teaching a person to shower at the age of 12 or 14 would sound strange to some people, but actually, people who work with troubled youth will tell you that there are a lot of juvenile delinquents and people who are dependent who have to be taught basic life skills, like how to put soap on their body.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Attorney Karl Rominger joins me now from Harrisburg.
Thanks very much for joining us. This has gotten a lot of attention, obviously. You've issued a statement earlier, saying that the media put counts and your comments about showering with young boys were, quote, "somewhat exaggerated." What do you mean? How were they exaggerated?
ROMINGER: Well, first, let me tell you, if I'd actually said that, it would have been to get on "The RidicuList." OK?
Because what I said was in a response to a hypothetical. I was asked by the reporter, "Could you think of any reason why an adult man would ever get in a shower with a boy or a youth?" And I offered that up as an answer to a hypothetical, and when they played it, they just played the clip of my answer. So it really was unfairly drawn out, I believe, and then it sort of took on a life of its own with the media.
But what's important is, that's not what I'm saying Jerry Sandusky was doing. What I was saying in the aggregate was, he didn't do anything criminal at any time with any of these children or any of these boys, and therefore, it doesn't really matter whether being in the shower was smart or not smart. It simply wasn't criminal.
COOPER: So just to be clear, and I'm glad you're on to correct, if this was taken out of context, as you're saying it was, by this local station, you are not claiming that Jerry Sandusky, that that's one of his motivations, to teach a teenage boy how to use soap?
ROMINGER: No, no. And that is not what I was saying. I was answering, literally -- and I'm learning now from the national media here, you don't answer a hypothetical question, because if they don't put the question with the answer, you just don't fairly evaluate what the answer actually was.
COOPER: But even...
ROMINGER: But my point is, no -- we're not saying -- go ahead.
COOPER: Even on a hypothetical question of "can you imagine any reason why anybody would want to shower," I don't think -- I mean, there may be some teenagers who need to learn how to use soap, but is -- they shouldn't necessarily -- they don't necessarily need to be taught by somebody who is naked in the shower with them at the time.
ROMINGER: And I can see that, but I would point out that, when the local station did go and interview an expert, they did agree with me, at least, that a youth of that age, as in this case, could possibly have hygiene problems.
But really, that's not -- that's a non-issue, because I was answering it as a hypothetical. It was one of 100 questions I was asked. And frankly, I really think that -- and I want to set the record straight. I'm not saying that's what Jerry Sandusky was doing, and I think that's the bottom line.
Like I said, I should be on your "RidicuList" if that's what I was saying.
COOPER: All right. I'm glad you clarified what you meant to say.
One of the comments that Jerry Sandusky has made, that has gotten a lot of attention, was his response to Bob Costas. And I want to play that for our viewers, who may not be familiar with it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOB COSTAS, NBC'S "CENTER ROCK": Are you a pedophile? JERRY SANDUSKY, FORMER ASSISTANT COACH, PENN STATE: No.
COSTAS: Are you sexually attracted to young boys? To underage boys?
SANDUSKY: Am I sexually attracted to underage boys?
SANDUSKY: Sexually attracted? You know, I enjoy young people. I -- I love to be around them. I -- I -- but, no, I'm not sexually attracted to young boys.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: To a lot of people, that raises a lot of questions and is not -- you know, that usually, most people, if you were asked, "Are you sexually attracted to young boys," most people would just say, categorically, no.
ROMINGER: I think he does almost say categorically no at the beginning, but he repeats the question, says no, and then expounds a little bit and reaffirms the no. I understand why some people might think that is -- the answer means something. But I've said this before and I'll say it again.
A very articulate person might have said it differently, but a very articulate person could also mislead a jury. An inarticulate person says it like they mean it, or says it in the best way they can. And as a result, he's being unfairly judged, because his speech patterns are different than what somebody might want them to be.
I assure you that if you sit down with Jerry, as I have, that he often repeats the question back to you to be precise about what he's answering, and to think it through. So I think it's really such a short snippet that's being held against him. But if you talk to him for an hour, you would think that's just how he talks.
COOPER: On Piers Morgan's program, you were on on Tuesday night, I think it was. You were asked about Sandusky's showering with young boys, which you conceded was strange behavior. You had this to say about him. Let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROMINGER: And I think if you met Jerry, again, you would see that he has a very juvenile affect. And I believe that mentally and emotionally, he's much more on par with a teenager than he is a 60- year-old.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Can you explain that? Because I mean, it sounds almost like kind of what Michael Jackson used to say about, you know, he didn't have a childhood and he feels very -- a kinship with teenagers. This is a grown man. ROMINGER: I understand that. And, listen, I don't know what the explanations could be, but that's the affect that I get. And I heard the thing about the Michael Jackson thing before I was even involved in the case, and I thought it was kind of funny, but then when I talked to him, that's just the impression I got.
But I would tell you, again, if you sat down with him, and I'm hoping some day, somebody would. The problem, as you know, every time you sit down with the media, it gets compounded down or gets pushed down into such a short blurb that it's impossible to really get the full feel for the man. He seems like a genuinely nice person.
COOPER: We'd love to have him on for a lengthy period of time, so obviously, you know, we'll put that request in with you. And, you know, interested in just walking issues and just hearing his story from him. Do you...
ROMINGER: And I understand that.
COOPER: Do you want him to talk to the media? Because some other attorneys out there, not associated with the case, have kind of raised questions about whether that's the best strategy. Whether it's good to have him out there saying things.
Some other attorneys that we've talked to who have been involved in high-profile cases like this have said, you know what? You've got to throw out the regular rule book in a case like this, because there's such vilification of your client at this point that you have to do something to at least, you know, push back a little bit.
ROMINGER: Anderson, the vilification in this case was so unique and so extreme, they actually fired Joe Paterno on the grand jury presentment alone. Joe Paterno is one of the most beloved people in the history of Pennsylvania, and he was fired on the bald allegation written by the attorney general's office, the presentment. So you can see the rush to judgment here.
And, so, when -- when Joe decided to put him on the media, I think, and Mark Geragos, I believe, had said that that was the kind of strategy you might want to use in a case like this, I think the desire was to put him out there.
Now, the question is, how much more do you do that? I think Joe and Jerry are going to decide that. I'm really more of the technician than the ultimate decider here.
COOPER: Right. I was really interested, and I've got to go quickly -- Karl, I was really interested to see that, over the course of time, what McQueary has said seems to have shifted or there's multiple versions of it now, at this point. I think a lot of people don't understand, we haven't even seen the grand jury -- the actual grand jury testimony. We've only seen a summary of it.
Are you gaining confidence as time goes on and as McQueary's story, or at least there appear to be multiple versions of it, are you gaining confidence in your client? ROMINGER: Joe Amendola waived the preliminary hearing the other day in part because McQueary's credibility has fallen so low. So, yes, I think that is a boon. And I'm interested tomorrow to see whether he takes the Fifth Amendment or not or whether he testifies under a grant of immunity. Because he's given so many different statements. If I were his attorney, I couldn't in good conscious let him take the stand.
COOPER: Karl Rominger, I appreciate you being on very much. Appreciate it.
ROMINGER: Thank you, sir.
COOPER: This is not the first unorthodox move from Sandusky's legal team. Waiving a preliminary hearing, letting the client do interviews. Let's talk about it a little bit with criminal defense attorney Mark Geragos and once again with senior legal analyst, Jeffrey Toobin.
Mark, what do you make of this lawyer's explanation, explaining his comments about adults showering with kids? Do you buy that he was just taken out of context?
MARK GERAGOS, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Well, if he's -- I haven't seen the whole clip. I just saw the answer. But if he's right and he was answering a hypothetical, he's spot-on. And I understand it. You see it. It's one of the problems, frankly, with sitting down and doing taped interviews. It's one of the things that I find to be verboten, if you will, if you're defending somebody in one of these cases.
If you're going to get on, get on live, or play from start to finish. Because otherwise, you have one of these things where they slice and dice what you're going to say, and you end up getting some story that has legs, when in fact it wasn't really what it was supposed to be in the first place.
I mean, he makes a point, a valid point, even in response to the hypothetical. Anybody who's ever worked with troubled youth knows that there are situations where these people don't have basic skills, whether it's hygiene or coping skills or anything else. Is that a true statement? Yes, that is a true statement.
If he was saying that's the defense for Jerry Sandusky, you know, obviously, that's going to be held up to ridicule. And he readily admits that. Plus, at the same time, he gives "AC 360" a plug by talks about "The RidicuList." So who's going to argue with him?
COOPER: Jeff, did -- in light of what he said, did his comments make sense to you?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I feel a little awkward saying this. Because you know, it's our business, particularly in television, to ask people to give interviews and cooperate with us, and you know, we should be grateful that he did. I don't know what they're doing. I don't know why they're giving these interviews. I don't see how this is helpful at all. I don't know why they're talking to Joe Becker of "The New York Times." I don't know why he talked to Bob Costas. I don't know why these lawyers are on television. I don't think any of this helpful.
Look, I'm not criticizing everything they do. I thought they were smart to waive the preliminary hearing. I didn't think that was going to accomplish anything for them. But these interviews where they don't have an answer about what he was doing, showering with young boys, all it does is remind people, he was showering with young boys.
COOPER: But Mark Geragos, on this program, I think made a really interesting point, which is in some cases you throw out the rulebook. That, you know, as I said to the attorney, the vilification is so great, you've got to do something to put some speed bumps up.
TOOBIN: If you have something to say in answer to the question, yes. I don't think as a categorical rule, defense attorneys should never speak to the media. But you have to have a plan or some answer that will at least sort of address the accusation.
GERAGOS: Jeff is...
GERAGOS: Yes, Jeff -- Jeff is so right about that. I mean, you know, the -- when I say you throw out the rule book, it doesn't mean you throw out your common sense.
What you do -- and I think one of the things you've got to do if you want to try to stem this tide, -- and at this point it's a tsunami -- is have a mantra. And you think it through. I mean, I can think about various cases that ended up in acquittals where our mantra was what was our closing argument, and that's what it is.
You don't sit there -- you know, if I'm going to critique anything, it's the idea of sitting there for an hour and a half with somebody. You don't do that. You're going to take a slight period of time, and you're going to come out with a mantra. And you're going to repeat that mantra. And that's going to be the same theme that's going to be your defense, so that you can somehow just hold back what is this unbelievable, in this case, rush to judgment, as he's characterized it.
And frankly, that -- the statement that he made about Joe Paterno, you could distill that down into a couple of sentences, and that could have been the statement. Hey, you know, all this was was a grand jury presentment and we've thrown away and destroyed somebody who's beloved like Joe Paterno. What the heck are we doing here? Hold off and let's wait until we get into a courtroom and we hear some evidence.
TOOBIN: And also, these high-profile cases, the defense attorneys say, oh, there's this tremendous rush to judgment. There are a lot of high-profile acquittals, whether it's O.J. Simpson, or William Kennedy Smith. I mean, people -- Michael Jackson. People beat these cases. And it's not because their lawyers go on TV. It's because they prepare for trial. And that's what I think these folks should be doing instead.
COOPER: Jeff Toobin and Mark Geragos, always good to have you on. Thank you.
Up next, the war in Iraq officially ended today. We're going to be back with a look at the ceremony and muted closing note to a conflict.
COOPER: This is normally the time in the program where we do "The RidicuList." This is not a normal night.
Today the U.S. military officially ended its mission in Iraq. After nearly nine years, more than 4,500 American fatalities and more than $800 billion spent, it's over. More than 30,000 U.S. troops were wounded, and more than 150,000 Iraqis lost their lives. So it's not surprising that the ceremony marking the end of the war was a quiet, solemn occasion.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is a profound honor to be here in Baghdad on this very historic occasion.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Over the next few days, a small group of American soldiers will begin the final march out of that country. Those last American troops will move south on desert sands, and then they will cross the border out of Iraq with their heads held high. America's war in Iraq will be over.
LEON PANETTA, SECRETARY OF DEFENSE: We will never forget the lessons of war. Men and women of the United States armed forces who served in places like Fallujah and Ramadi and Sadr City.
OBAMA: And by battling and building, block by block, in Baghdad, by bringing tribes into the fold and partnering with the Iraqi army and police, you helped turn the tide toward peace.
PANETTA: This outcome was never certain, especially during the war's darkest days. You came to this land between the rivers, again and again.
OBAMA: More than 1.5 million Americans have served in Iraq. One point five million. Over 30,000 Americans have been wounded, and those are only the wounds that show.
It was a source of great controversy here at home, with patriots on both sides of the debate. But there was one constant: Your commitment to fulfill your mission. That was constant.
PANETTA: You will leave with great pride, lasting pride, secure in knowing that your sacrifice has helped the Iraqi people begin a new chapter in history.
OBAMA: And on behalf of a grateful nation, I'm proud to finally say these two words, and I know your families agree, "Welcome home." Welcome home! Welcome home!
COOPER: So many sacrifices.
That does it for us. Thanks for watching. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" is coming up after this short break.