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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Is Backpage.com a Brothel?; Economy and the Presidential Race
Aired May 4, 2012 - 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: And good evening, everyone. It's 10:00 here on the East Coast.
And we begin tonight "Keeping Them Honest" in a corner of the Internet that's accused of being a marketplace for pimps to peddle prostitution and exploit young women.
That's the allegation being leveled against Backpage.com's adult services classified ads. Fifty-one attorneys general in the United States want it shut down. So do 19 U.S. senators, 600 religious leaders, nearly a quarter million people who have already signed a petition.
They want it shut down for running ads like these, from the escort section of Backpage's New York site. One reads, "You will feel right at home at our place. Stress relief by beautiful Asian girls." Stress relief.
Or this, "Seductive, ready to rock your world. Call me," the ad says, "to enjoy all you can handle." The advertiser claims to be 19 years old. Now those are two of literally thousands of ads that you might find on Backpage right now. That company, Back Page defends the adult section saying that if pimps are going to advertise it's better to do it someplace where authorities can track activity and help women in trouble.
But "Keeping Them Honest," are they? We spoke to Backpage and some of the mothers of teen victims. Now, we have changed their names to protect their children.
Deborah Feyerick tonight reports.
DEBORAH FEYERICK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): How would you feel, for example, I mean, as a mother if you saw an ad like this, or an ad like this? Or I mean, this -- this girl, she says she's 19. If you saw your daughter in this, like this, what --
LIZ MCDOUGALL, VILLAGE VOICE MEDIA, LLC: I would be horrified and I'm horrified for those mothers, and my heart goes out to those mothers. And to their daughters who are victims of exploitation.
FEYERICK (on camera): Am I wrong? Isn't prostitution simply illegal?
MCDOUGALL: Prostitution is illegal. And we don't permit illegal activity on the Web site.
FEYERICK: What are they selling?
MCDOUGALL: But we have -- there are legal adult entertainment services.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You are playing a role in this problem.
FEYERICK: Attorney Liz McDougall is doing at Backpage.com which she tried and arguably failed to do as a lawyer for the Web site Craigslist. com, specifically try to convince people what's advertised in the adult section is legal, not only the services for sale, but the ages of girls selling it. It's not an easy job when prosecutors are demanding it be shut down.
JOHN CHOI, RAMSEY COUNTY, MINNESOTA, ATTORNEY: When we get a case involving the trafficking of prostitution, usually the story is going to start on Backpage.com.
DAWN, MOTHER: The daughter I know is a kid that likes to color.
FEYERICK (voice-over): For Dawn, that's exactly where the story took her 15-year-old girl. A child who apparently ran away with a man who seduced her online. Within days that man had posted pictures of the child on Backpage.com, selling the girl into prostitution. Allegations detailed in a criminal complaint.
DAWN: He officially took her and beat her into submission to raping her, and then held her into prostitution. It totally, totally crushed me to know that somebody actually did this to her.
FEYERICK: The accused pimp in that case has pleaded not guilty pending trial. It's one of more than 50 cases in 22 states, of people charged with advertising under aged girls for sex on Backpage.com. The classified ad Web site, similar to Craig's list, lets people post all kinds of ads in different states. When you look at the escort section, there's little doubt what's for sale.
(on camera): Some would say all you're doing is legitimizing prostitution. That you're in the prostitution business.
MCDOUGALL: We're not in the prostitution business when we're doing everything possible to impede prostitution, to impede the exploitation of women, children, boys, men, laborers, sex trafficking. We're -- the Internet is, unfortunately, the vehicle for this. We are trying to be the sheriff.
FEYERICK (voice-over): Backpage is the leading Web site for adult service ads in the U.S. McDougall argues it's better to have these ads on a Web site that works with law enforcement to stop child exploitation than it is to drive it underground or offshore where U.S. laws don't apply.
"Keeping Them Honest," we asked Backpage if it considers itself part of the problem. MCDOUGALL: If we had a silver bullet to eradicate it, we would. But in the meantime what we can do is to be the best allies possible with law enforcement.
FEYERICK (on camera): But isn't the silver bullet shutting it down?
MCDOUGALL: No. I wish that it were. You -- as you can see, when Craigslist shut down, people had said that was the silver bullet and that made no difference.
FEYERICK (voice-over): No difference because people simply moved their erotic ads over to Backpage.com. And that's meant huge dollars, almost $27 million last year, according to aim, an Internet research group.
You benefited, you picked up the slack, you filled the void, you made --
MCDOUGALL: You're right. A tremendous number of the ads came to us.
FEYERICK: Adult service ad sales were $3 million in March, up more than 30 percent from a year ago. Backpage says they monitor ad content, targeting some 25,000 terms and code words used by traffickers. It then checks ads manually before posting. Yet ads like this are not hard to find.
(on camera): I'm having a hard time with this, too. Make me beg, smack me, spit on me, degrade me, choke me --
FEYERICK (voice-over): The policy prohibits ads selling sex for money. Yet ask this mom we'll call Violet.
What was your initial reaction when you clicked on escorts?
VIOLET, MOTHER: I was actually disgusted. All I saw was naked behinds. Naked breasts.
FEYERICK: Violet's 14-year-old daughter ran away. And police say she was later prostituted by a man she met at a bus stop who advertised her on Backpage. co Backpage.com.
VIOLET: The worst part was the torture I had to hear about. You know the torture she endured from different people along her way.
FEYERICK (on camera): Her daughter was missing for more than three years. It just seems morally wrong to have this as a business model, no?
MCDOUGALL: To me it would be morally wrong to have the opportunity to rescue women, children, boys, out of exploitation, and to walk away from that opportunity. (END VIDEOTAPE)
COOPER: Well, that was Deb Feyerick reporting.
"New York times" columnist Nicholas Kristof has been on the front lines in the fight against human trafficking and California's attorney general, Kamala Harris, signed that petition calling on Backpage to shut down the ads. I spoke to them earlier this week.
COOPER: You've been tireless on shining a light on sex trafficking, and especially of children. It is one thing for it to be overseas somewhere, you know, brothels in Cambodia that you follow. But it's another thing for it to be in the United States and to have large corporations profiting off it.
NICHOLAS KRISTOF, COLUMNIST, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Yes. I mean, I think that I was also struck by the fact that it's not just foreign women being smuggled into the U.S. The great majority of it seems to be local, domestic girls who are being trafficked in every city around the country, and on a Web site that is run by a substantial company that also owns "Village Voice." And that was, until recently, owned by some major financiers on wall street.
COOPER: And then they make a lot of money off this thing. Assuming --
KRISTOF: We think that they make around $23 million a year on those online revenues. I must say that the company itself has been losing money like a lot of newspapers on the rest of the business.
COOPER: Right. But for the company, it's a profit center that funds other things that they're losing money on.
KRISTOF: Really the prostitution ad is what is keeping the rest of the company going to some degree.
COOPER: Attorney Kamala Harris, late last year I interviewed a guy named Ed McNally. He was then Backpage.com law enforcement adviser. I just want to play a clip of what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: You also said your company is committed on the Web site to quote "preventing those who are intent on misusing the site for illegal purposes." Isn't prostitution an illegal purpose?
ED MCNALLY, BACKPAGE.COM: Well, first of all, what we are really focused on more than anything is the protection of the people in our society who are most vulnerable. And most of our filters, most of our mitigation efforts, most of our law enforcement efforts are really focused on preventing human trafficking and especially the most vulnerable, which is children.
(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: Do you buy that? I mean, they're painting themselves here as kind of heroes, that they're the ones looking out for the best interests of children, of the most vulnerable in society, and they claim they have all these mitigation efforts and lots of letters from local law enforcement who said they're doing a great job.
KAMALA HARRIS, CALIFORNIA ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, they're also in possession of a letter from all of the attorneys general of the United States expressing deep concern about what they have done in terms of facilitating human trafficking, exploitation of children.
COOPER: How is what they're doing legal? I mean, if prostitution is illegal, how is what they're doing legal?
HARRIS: I have heard them make a first amendment argument. But here's the reality of it. This is not just an international issue. This is something that very much is an issue of the kid in Kansas who's the runaway, who's trafficked to Las Vegas and then brought in to be prostituted on Hollywood boulevard. It's a very real issue.
Backpage.com has been proven to be the marketplace with which these illegal transactions occur. And they need to be responsible. They need to be responsible corporate citizens. We have a history of this issue with Craigslist, and they did the right thing and I think Backpage needs to do it, too.
COOPER: But, Nick, as you know, Backpage says that they're actually, you know, being responsible. They have mitigation efforts. They have review efforts. And that they're being responsible on this.
KRISTOF: It's true that Backpage does respond very quickly to subpoenas, for example, and they do cooperate with law enforcement.
COOPER: But they also, you know, supporters of this will say, well, look, you eliminate it from Backpage, you eliminate it from Craigslist, it's going to go elsewhere. It is going to go to some other site that doesn't have, you know -- that doesn't respond to subpoenas, that isn't as public as Backpage.com.
KRISTOF: Some of it will go elsewhere. I mean, if you arrest ten bank robbers there may well be five more to take your place. But they won't be fully replaced. And Backpage right now, as far as we can tell, controls 80 percent of the prostitution ad market. That's a huge amount. They attract mainstream customers. Some of the other Web sites are really more pornographic. If Backpage gets out of the escort ad business that will make a real dent in this trade.
COOPER: Attorney general Harris, as you said earlier you, along with others attorneys general have written letters demanding Backpage shut down the adult services section. Is there anything legally can you do to actually force them to close?
HARRIS: We can issue subpoenas. We certainly are, and in fact, have requested a great deal of information from them about what they are seeing in terms of the complaints they have received. What knowledge they have about underage individuals being trafficked on their site.
But it doesn't mean that because we are constantly in the pursuit of justice and we are constantly challenged with -- with criminal justice issues that we don't begin and we don't deal with any of them. The reality is Backpage has proven to be a thriving marketplace. In the issue of human trafficking is a $32 billion industry in this country -- in the world. And let's be very clear about the underlying issue here. It's not necessarily a vice issue.
It's the issue that -- that there are individuals, and companies, and they can be cartels or they can be Backpage, who are making a huge amount of money off the trafficking of human beings. Many of them who are underage girls. And that should be an issue of concern and therefore priority for all of us.
COOPER: Craigslist bowed ultimately to public pressure. Has Backpage so far, Nick, has not done that. You say targeting advertisers in the "Village Voice" would be most effective.
KRISTOF: Yes. I think that public pressure is helpful on Backpage and there is, indeed, a petition on change. org to put pressure on them. But ultimately I think what matters to them is money. And I think if they see that they're going to lose more money in advertising in "Village Voice" and the other regional newspapers they control, then, it's not worth it to them. And then they will exit the -- this prostitution ad market.
COOPER: "The Village Voice," Nick, as you know, is questioning your reporting, particularly one article about a former prostitute name Alissa, who says she was sold on Backpage.com at a time when it didn't exist in cities that she was in. How do you respond?
KRISTOF: That's completely false. I applied to them, they said that she had turned 16, in I think 2003. She turned 16 on December 30, 2003. And indeed throughout 2004, she was 16 years old. And was being marketed on Backpage, in one city after another, and I could show them that Backpage was operating, and of course, throughout that time.
And, I mean, there's no shortage of girls, underage girls, 12-, 13-, 14-year-old girls who are being marketed on Backpage as we speak. I really encourage your viewers should go to Backpage in your city and look at it. And I think they'll be horrified by what they see.
COOPER: Nick Kristof. Appreciate it. Attorney General Harris, thank you.
COOPER: Do you believe that Backpage.com when they say they're not running a site for legal prostitution and if they are do you believe shutting them down will make a difference?
Let me know. We're on Facebook, Google+ or talk to me on Twitter right now @AndersonCooper. Up next. Not so hot new numbers on the economy, not hot at all. We'll talk about how they could affect the presidential race and who has got the answers for ending the slump.
David Gergen is with us. So is Nobel laureate Paul Krugman, who says we have the knowledge and the tools to fix the economy, not the political will to use them -- details ahead.
COOPER: "Raw Politics": new jobless numbers and how they might affect who will be president this time next year. The economy gained 115,000 jobs last month, far fewer than expected. However, today's report also revised the March and February job gains upward and the nation's unemployment rate ticked down a 10th of a point to 8.1 percent, though that is not necessarily good news.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our businesses have now created more than 4.2 million new jobs over the last 26 months. More than one million jobs in the last six months alone.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
OBAMA: So that's the good news. But, there are still a lot of folks out of work which means that we've got to do more.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: A lot more, says challenger Mitt Romney.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We seem to be slowing down, not speeding up. This is not progress. This is very, very disappointing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Governor Romney also points out that the jobless rate fell because a lot of Americans simply stopped looking for work. He's right about that. Though he doesn't mention that that's been a national trend for more than a decade.
The fact still is this is a weak recovery. There's no doubt about it. The question is will it be enough to let President Obama keep his job? Recent CNN/ORC polling shows that 24 percent of Americans now think the economy is starting to recover. Forty two percent say it's stabilized but fully one-third believe it is still in a downturn.
"New York Times" columnist and Nobel laureate Paul Krugman, his new book titled "end this depression now" argues that we are living through a disaster. This did not have to happen.
He is with us tonight along with senior political analyst David Gergen.
Paul, if today's jobs numbers are any indication of what's to come it does not seem to be good news for President Obama at this point.
PAUL KRUGMAN, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": Well, I guess not. I mean, it's a -- we were hoping -- he was hoping certainly for an economy that would be clearly making progress. What you've got instead is an economy that's moving sideways. It's not getting worse. The job market is more or less stable.
COOPER: And why do you think that is? KRUGMAN: Biggest thing is that our policies are wrong. Not so much the thing that are under the president's control but the thing that are going on because he hasn't been able to provide enough aid.
Private sector employment is back above the level when he took office. So we've had a recovery of the private sector. But, keep on laying off people at the state and local level because there's budget shortages and because the aid that was provided to state and local governments during the first year and a half of this administration has been fading out.
And so, what we have is a recovery that is being dragged down by fiscal policies, by inadequate government spending, basically. And that's -- that's the reason we don't have a full recovery at this point.
COOPER: David, do you agree with that? And, I mean, the president and his team, are clearly trying to put a positive spin on this. But, it's certainly an uphill battle.
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: This jobs report is unadulterated bad news for American workers, Anderson. "The New York Times" reported today that if you go back from the beginning of the recession until today, the economy is back to where it was before, but we have five million fewer jobs than we had when the recession started.
But you look at that, the unemployment numbers down slightly. But that's because so many people are leaving the work force. The male participation right now in this economy is down to the lowest level since 1948. That's over 60 years since we've had an economy where so few men of working age were actually in the work force.
The real issue to me now is, given these -- the fact that we're drifting, we have no policy and everybody's sort of waiting until after the elections to deal with anything, wonder if there's not a moral imperative for the politicians in Washington to begin reaching agreement now --
COOPER: But, David, some sort of compromise, and Paul, I mean, compromise has become a dirty word.
KRUGMAN: We have the problem. And this is Obama's problem. It's the country's problem. Which is that the other party is firmly committed to a view of economics, to a view of what we should do that is exactly wrong. I mean, we basically had, to a large extent; we've had policies that the Republicans wanted, not the policies that the president wanted.
It's made the economy worse. Now, if we couldn't reach a grand bargain on the budget deficit, it's even worse to imagine that we could reach a grand bargain on job creation because the other side of the political divide is completely committed to a fantasy view about how the economy works.
COOPER: David, do you think that's something the American public would abide?
GERGEN: Well, with all due respect, President Obama had a democratic Congress when he arrived in Washington. He passed a stimulus bill which is a bill he and Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats agreed on. And they promised that unemployment would not go above eight percent.
KRUGMAN: They didn't, actually. That's not true. That is not true. They issued a forecast.
COOPER: Let David finish. Don't talk over each other. David you finish then, Paul.
GERGEN: Look, I agree that the Republicans have been very difficult to work with, in the last two years. I think Paul is right about that point. But to say that everything we're now facing is a result of Republican intransigence and to ignore the fact that the president had a democratic majority, he did get the stimulus bill he wanted, he got a lot of things he wanted, he's going around touting that for a long time, I think it's just -- you know, I think it's all very one-sided. But the larger point is not how we got here. The larger point is how we get out of here.
COOPER: Just want to play what Mitt Romney said today and have you respond.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROMNEY: Just this morning there was some news that came across the wire that said that the unemployment rate has dropped to 8. 1 percent. And normally that would be cause for celebration. But, in fact, anything over eight percent, anything near eight percent, anything over four percent is not cause for celebration.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Paul, David is saying you can't blame the Republicans for everything here.
KRUGMAN: Look, here's Romney complaining that this is Obama's fault. What exactly is he proposing? I mean, take a look at the Bush administration. Which you know, Romney is very clearly just saying let's return to those policies.
Take the first seven years of the Bush administration. So leave out the catastrophe at the end. You still have job creation of about 70,000 jobs a month. So he's saying let's get rid of this policy which is not producing as many jobs as we like and let's go back to the policies that did even worse under the previous president.
COOPER: But, Paul, what you're arguing for is blame the Republicans, that the president should try to make that argument, you look at the latest polling numbers, CNN/ORC poll shows the public basically split on whether the president or Mitt Romney is more likely to get the economy moving. So the public is split on this.
Is that really an argument that President Obama can win? Doesn't some sort of compromise have to be fashioned out to David's point?
KRUGMAN: I think the compromise is more of a fantasy than making the case. I mean, this is what political campaigning is for. I think if my big criticism of President Obama has been that rather than make difficult arguments, he's basically seeded the position to the other side. So, I think there's a certain amount of stand up for what you believe in. Maybe it won't work. But maybe it will.
GERGEN: I hope there might be agreement on this point. The Congress, and the president, the president signed off on this, agreed that there would be serious big spending cuts on the social side, and the defense, starting January 1, unless there's a compromise handed out.
Now, I think Paul Krugman and I would agree on this. It would be a mistake to have those big serious cuts, go into effect in this economy.
COOPER: Paul, would those cuts be devastating?
KRUGMAN: I mean. This is not what I would do ideally. But the trouble is you have got basically a blackmail situation coming up. You've got a situation where the Republican party is saying, give us what we want, or nice economy, shame if something was going to happen to it and at some point the president has to take a stand.
COOPER: Paul Krugman, I appreciate you being here. David Gergen, as well, thanks.
Well, the escort who unwittingly blew the whistle on the U.S. Secret Service agent prostitution scandal is speaking out, telling her story to a Colombian radio station and filling in the blanks about what really went on in Cartagena that night -- details ahead.
COOPER: The woman at the center of the U.S. Secret Service prostitution scandal is spilling the details of the night she met the agent who took her back to the hotel room in Cartagena, Colombia, where she says they had sex. Now, in an in-depth interview with Colombia's W Radio, the escort, Dania Suarez, described meeting the agents at a bar where she says alcohol was flowing like water. That's not a big surprise.
Here's what she said happened when she left the bar with two of the agents and another woman.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DANIA SUAREZ, ESCORT (through translator): My friends nor I, you know, we didn't know they were agents, you know, Obama's agents, or, you know. And then we left, and we went to this place to buy condoms, and then we went to the hotel.
Who went? Well, my friend -- well, she's not really a friend, she is acquaintance, and the agent who was with me and the other one. And the four of us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, those agents were part of an advance security team, as you know, that arrived in Colombia just days ahead of President Obama's visit last month. They were supposed to be securing his safety.
Joining me now is Rafael Romo, CNN's senior Latin American affairs editor.
So, this was a long interview, lasted for more than an hour. What other details did she give about that night?
RAFAEL ROMO, CNN SENIOR LATIN AMERICAN AFFAIRS EDITOR: Well, she says that a friend of hers and she went to this particular bar in Cartagena and the agents were already there.
And the scene she describes, Anderson, is just amazing. She talks about wild partying, about vodka flowing like water, about the fact that the agent that she eventually left for the hotel with was lifting up his shirt to show off his six-pack, and it's just a number of things that happened that night.
Then they go to the hotel, they had already agreed on a price of $800. She speaks just a couple of words, but just enough to understand what he was after and her understanding is that they had agreed to a price of $800.
The following morning, when he got up, he was a totally different man, she says. He was not loving anymore, and she told her using an expletive to get away from -- from him, and that he was not going to pay her anything, Anderson.
COOPER: I also want to play just a little bit more of this interview.
She talks about how the agent fell asleep back in the hotel room. Let's listen. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SUAREZ (through translator): At that moment, if I had been a member of one of those terrorist gangs, it's obvious that I would have been able to get everything. Just like the newspapers say, I put them in checkmate. They're a bunch of fools. They're responsible for Obama's security and they still let this happen.
I told them, I'm going to call the police so that they would pay me my money. They didn't care. They didn't see the magnitude of the problem, even when being responsible for Obama's security. I could have done a thousand other things.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: So she ends up in the hallway, basically, thrown out of this guy's room, and not going away, involving hotel security, and then other agents agree to kind of pay her off. Right?
ROMO: That's right. Ultimately she ended up getting $250. But, the bottom line here, Anderson, is that she spent five hours with this agent, they were both presumably intoxicated, based on what she said. He fell asleep in his room, and potentially she would have been able to get secret documents from that agent.
Now we don't know if that agent had any compromising documents. But the point that she was trying to make is that, had I been a member of a terrorist organization, I would have been able to do many, many things.
COOPER: Yes, again, we don't know what was in the room, if anything. She's kind of there, going off on a tangent; whether or not she's accurate there, we don't know. I just find it fascinating that just how it all unfolded, where they ended up paying her off after kind of many hours of arguing in a -- in the corridor of this hotel.
Rafael Romo, appreciate the reporting. Thanks.
Following other stories tonight, Susan Hendricks has a 360 bulletin.
SUSAN HENDRICKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, the U.S. And China appear to be working on a resolution about the status of activist Chen Guangcheng. China says Chen can apply for a visa to travel to the United States to study, which the United States calls a sign of progress. New York University says it has invited Chen to become a visiting scholar.
Syrian security forces opened fire at opponents of the al-Assad regime today. Opposition groups said at least 37 people were killed in cities across Syria. Meanwhile the United Nations said that by today nearly 50 military observers would be on the ground there in Syria.
Junior Seau's family has granted permission for researchers to study his brain for evidence of injury. The former NFL linebacker committed suicide on Wednesday at his California home. A family friend said Seau suffered many concussions over the years playing professional football.
A founding member of this, the influential band the Beastie Boys, sadly, has died. Adam "MCA" Yauch lost a three-year battle with cancer. He was just 47 years old. The Beastie Boys first found fame back in 1986 with their album, "License to Ill." They'll certainly bring you back. Such a huge loss.
Anderson, back to you.
COOPER: Susan, thanks very much.
Breaking news tonight, in the case of the white police officer who shot and killed Kenneth Chamberlain Sr., a retired African- American Marine inside his own home. Federal prosecutors are now opening an investigation after a grand jury decided not to indict the officer.
A Taser camera, which you're seeing, captured moments leading up to the fatal confrontation. We'll show you how it all played out.
COOPER: So what would compel someone to call 9-1-1 and admit they smoked pot? It's a question for the ages and for tonight's "RidicuList," coming up when we continue.
COOPER: Breaking news tonight, federal prosecutors say they're going to launch a criminal investigation of the white police officer who shot and killed this man, Kenneth Chamberlain Sr., an African- American retired Marine inside his own home last November.
The federal investigation comes on the heels of a grand jury's decision not to indict the officer. The grand jury's ruling yesterday left many people shaking their heads and many others, including Chamberlain's family, demanding answers.
What they want to know is why police officers in White Plains, New York, who were dispatched in the early hours of a November morning to help Mr. Chamberlain ended up killing him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Just after 5:00 am, Vietnam vet Kenneth Chamberlain, a 68-year-old African-American man with a severe heart condition, sets off his medical alert device.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Chamberlain, this is your help center for Life Aid. Do you need an ambulance, sir?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): The operator attempts to talk to him on a two-way speaker in his home.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Chamberlain, I'm not getting a response. I'm going to notify someone to come by and help you now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Emergency personnel are dispatched to his apartment to check on him. By 5:30 White Plains police officers are the first to arrive. Chamberlain is now alert, and sounds agitated.
RICHARD CHAMBERLAIN SR., RETIRED MARINE: I have the White Plains police department banging on my door and I did not call them, and I am not sick.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Everything's all right, sir?
CHAMBERLAIN: No, it's not all right. I need help. The White Plains police department are banging on my (inaudible).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Over the next 40 minutes, officers repeatedly try to get him to open the door.
CHAMBERLAIN: I'm OK.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I need to see that you're OK and then we'll go.
CHAMBERLAIN: No, you leave.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can't leave.
CHAMBERLAIN: You leave.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You called us. I can't leave.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Others arrive, including medical personnel, and Chamberlain's niece, who also lives in the building.
TONYA GREENHILL, CHAMBERLAIN'S NIECE: I don't even think they cared about me, because they didn't even acknowledge me.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): At 6:13 police turn on a Taser, which records this video.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Chamberlain?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We can't leave without checking you out. Put the knife down. Put the knife down.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Police say he had a butcher's knife in his hand, that he stuck through a crack in the door.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Put the knife down and step away from the door. Now I'm not asking you, I'm telling you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): Another officer is now standing outside a window in Chamberlain's first floor apartment. The district attorney has confirmed that in a section of the tape not given to CNN, an officer calls Mr. Chamberlain the "N" word.
Meanwhile, police inside the building are using bolt cutters to get into Chamberlain's apartment. They believe he's used a chair to block the door.
At 6:41, more than an hour after they arrive police, finally get Chamberlain's door open.
They say he's waving a butcher's knife above his head and they tase him.
Seconds later, they tase him again.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Go (inaudible).
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice-over): At this point, police turn off the Taser camera. This is the last image we have of Kenneth Chamberlain alive. Police say he continued to come at them with a knife, so they shot him with several bean bags from a shotgun.
Police say when that didn't stop him, one officer fired his pistol twice. One bullet hit Chamberlain in the lung, killing him.
At 7:09 am, just about two hours after a medical alert dispatcher calls to see if the former Marine is OK, Kenneth Chamberlain is pronounced dead.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Joining me now is criminal defense attorney Mark Geragos; also Marcia Clark, former Los Angeles deputy district attorney and the author of "Guilt by Degrees;" also former police officer Lou Palumbo joins us as well.
So Mark, are you surprised that the grand jury chose not to indict the officer who shot Kenneth Chamberlain?
MARK GERAGOS, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: It's fairly outrageous that they did not. But I'm not surprised. The only time a grand jury will not indict is in -- it's always an outlier -- is when it's a police officer, or one of the reasons why they didn't take George Zimmerman's case in front of a grand jury down in Florida, you might have seen a grand jury reject that indictment.
It's in those very rare instances where somebody -- you've got a -- somebody who's got a kind of a favorable image in front of a grand jury, because, remember, the grand jury is usually composed of very pro-prosecution, pro-law enforcement, older, retired type people. That's who can afford to sit on them.
COOPER: Marcia, for accuracy, there's a lot of details we don't have that no doubt the grand jury did have. But Kenneth Chamberlain's niece was outside the door, asking to speak to her uncle and calm him down, and the police did not let her. Do you find that odd?
MARCIA CLARK, CRIMINAL PROSECUTOR AND AUTHOR: Yes, that's the thing that struck me, Anderson. And I wondered why not. Here's a woman who can potentially defuse the situation for you, get him to at least open the door, show he's OK. I understand the police need to see that this man is not being held hostage, that somebody isn't standing there holding a gun to his head. I understand that.
But you have someone right there who could potentially defuse the whole thing and get him to open the door, show himself and let it all go away. And it's surprising to me they didn't try to do that, that they didn't at least talk to her about it. But from what I've read and understood she was ignored at the scene. And I don't understand that at all.
COOPER: Lou, it's very easy to second-guess and say in hindsight police should have done this or that. Clearly being a police officer is a very difficult job. But on the tape someone can be heard using the "N" word. We're not sure who said it. But that in no way could have made a situation, you know, better or calmer if one of the police officers used that word.
LOU PALUMBO, RETIRED POLICE INVESTIGATOR: No, I agree 100 percent. If anything, there probably would have exacerbated the situation, especially in light of the fact that this individual was already agitated and wasn't quite receptive to the police officers to begin with.
They need to look into that and that's exactly why the federal government is looking at this case right now. It's predicated on this use of the "N" word.
COOPER: Mark, if the police had left, though, and not gone into the apartment, not actually gotten physical confirmation of how he was doing, couldn't they have then been liable? Say he had had a heart attack, his family then could have said, well, look, the police were outside the door and they didn't even care enough about him, they left without checking on him?
GERAGOS: Well, who's the lawyer who's going to take that case and sue the police when you've got the videotape of him shoving a knife outside the door? Look, this is -- I mean, I don't have any idea -- based upon what -- and I say this with some caution -- based upon what's been reported, why this unfolded the way it did.
Once you see the guy's in there, once you see that he's not in a dire medical emergency, actually, once you're in there -- in the last scene you see that he's by himself and he doesn't have a hostage, stand back, you've got the niece there, as Marcia said, and it -- basically it's like a hostage situation without a hostage.
What have you got to lose? Why are you in there with bean bags? Why are you in there firing your guns? Why are officers putting themselves into what could potentially is a lethal situation and turns out to be a lethal situation? This is just inexplicable to me, and I predict that the feds are going to not just investigate but the feds will end up filing charges in this case.
COOPER: Marcia, do they have the right to break down your door to get in to your apartment?
CLARK: Well, see that's the thing I was referring to earlier, Anderson. And it is true that when the police get this kind of notice, and they find out that, you know, you've been notified that there's an emergency of some kind, they have to confirm.
They can't just take his word for it that he's saying go away and he really means it, because how do they know someone isn't standing behind the door next to this man with a gun pointed to his head, and forcing him to tell the police to go away. They don't know. They need to see him. I do understand that need.
What I don't understand, as Mark is referring to, and I agree, is the escalation. Why, at every bend and turn did it escalate the way it did? Why didn't you talk to the niece? Why not get the niece to talk this man down?
Why, once you have the door open -- you've broken it down -- get the niece to come in and talk to you when you see that there's no one there to threaten her, that there's no danger. This man stood there, he was holding a knife, but there was no other person there with a firearm. So I don't know why it kept on.
COOPER: Mark, go on.
GERAGOS: What's fascinating about this is contrast this with the whole discussion that you had on your air over the "Stand Your Ground." Here's somebody who's in his house, I mean he's literally in his home, they're busting down the door to get into his home, he can't use a knife because he doesn't want the police coming into his home? That's the last refuge of the Fourth Amendment.
COOPER: Well, Lou, what do you make of this?
PALUMBO: Well, let me just say this, first, you know, I was a police officer and I was in situations like this. And I can tell by the tone and the exchange between the officer and Mr. Chamberlain, the officer was well-intended. I believe he was sincerely concerned for his well-being.
If anybody followed the story, they'll understand that, at the time this took place, Mr. Chamberlain was intoxicated. I think the officers were between a rock and a hard place on this one.
You know, one of the things I was curious about is, when the situation like this evolved, did they call for a supervisor, someone with higher authority that could look at the situation and go, you know what, maybe we can stand down, maybe we couldn't?
As far as the utilization of the niece in this case, a lot of times, as a police officer, your responsibility is to protect not only the individual inside who you're trying to get to, but the niece. This individual sounded somewhat, I would say, agitated, to be conservative. You know, I think mistakes may have been made. I don't think the motivation was wrong. The issue of once they got in the house, here's the question, how did it deteriorate so quickly, so rapidly, resulting in the death of this individual?
COOPER: And there's gaps on the tape, so we really don't know the answer to that. At this point again, the federal government is going to be investigating. We'll continue on it. Mark Geragos, Marcia Clark, Lou Palumbo, thanks.
Five exotic animals are back in the Ohio farms. Now remember the farm, for the first time -- they're back for the first time since the farmer released dozens of the dangerous animals from their cages and then killed himself. A lot of those animals were killed by authorities.
The latest in an update on why the animals are back, and their conditions, Jason Carroll, next.
COOPER: Well, five exotic animals have been returned to a farm in Ohio. Now in October, you remember Terry Thompson opened cages to set loose dozens of animals from his private farm and then he committed suicide. Jason Carroll updates us.
JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: After six months in quarantine and then an hour and a half ride from their temporary home at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, five animals, two leopards, two monkeys, and a bear, made it back to a farm in Zanesville, Ohio, where their owner, Marian Thompson, welcomed them home.
She gave a special greeting to one of the leopards. But this homecoming is not welcome by all here in this rural community.
SAM KOPCHAK, NEIGHBOR: Well, I felt she deserved to have the animals back, they're her animals, but hopefully she would take them somewhere and maybe put them, you know, some other kind of facility or whatever and not bring them here.
CARROLL (voice-over): Sam Kopchak lives next door and remembers what happened on the Thompson farm last October 18th. That's when Terry Thompson set 50 of his exotic animals free, then committed suicide. The sheriff's department flooded with 9-1-1 calls.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, there's a lion on Mount Perry Road in Gratiot. There's a big horse farm on the right.
CARROLL (voice-over): Sheriff's deputies were forced to put down 48 animals, including lions, bears and exotic tigers. Now, many in this rural community are questioning why the remaining five animals should be returned to Thompson's widow. The answer? Ohio is one of eight states with the least restrictive laws on owning exotic pets.
SHERIFF MATT LUTZ, MUSKINGUM COUNTY, OHIO: I'm sure that nobody in this county really wants them back here after what happened back in October. But, as you said, our hands are tied. We cannot infringe on somebody's civil rights because the laws are just not in place for me to trounce on somebody's property.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: These are two females.
CARROLL (voice-over): Two Columbus Zoo officials who cared for the animals signed affidavits, saying the animals had been grossly neglected by Terry Thompson, and they say, the law doesn't prevent it from happening again under his widow's care.
CARROLL: Who will be monitoring those animals to make sure that they are properly cared for six months out, a year out, et cetera?
TOM STALF, COLUMBUS ZOO AND AQUARIUM: The answer would be just local law enforcement if the animals escape. If there's a complaint, the local animal shelter would do an investigation. And if there's an illness, or a possible illness, then it would be health inspectors.
CARROLL: But that's all reacting to something. I guess my question would be proactively, is there anything in place in terms of monitoring and checking on the status of these animals once they go back?
CARROLL (voice-over): If there is a complaint, the local Humane Society is charged with investigating. Officer David Durst says he has confidence in Marian Thompson's abilities.
DAVID DURST, MUSKINGUM COUNTY, OHIO, HUMANE SOCIETY: She knows that everybody is going to be watching her. All eyes are going to be on her. So I think for sure she's going to make sure they're taken care of now, Just if anything to prove people wrong and to prove that point.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Jason Carroll joins me now from Zanesville, Ohio. So what does Marian have to say about all this, Jason?
CARROLL: Well, Anderson, we reached out to Marian Thompson. She didn't return our calls. Her attorney didn't return our calls. She did, however, reach out to the Department of Agriculture, Anderson, and she told representatives there that the cages are well cared for -- and you can take a look behind me.
Perhaps you can see off there in the distance on the Thompson farm, one of the bears in the cages. She says that the cages are now secure, they are clean and she also says that, Anderson, she is ready to care for these animals.
COOPER: What about strengthening the laws in Ohio?
CARROLL: Well, that's a good question. At this point, Anderson, right now, there is legislation that has passed through the Senate, it has yet to pass through the House. This new legislation would, in fact, make the laws here tougher in the state of Ohio.
But as it stands right now, people like Marian Thompson, or anyone else for that matter, can buy an exotic animal. They can house an exotic animal and there's no one to check in on those animals unless, of course, there's been some sort of a complaint.
COOPER: It's interesting, because there was all that talk about strengthening these laws in the aftermath and it's interesting to know it hasn't actually passed at this point. Jason, appreciate the update. Thanks.
Up next, "The RidicuList."
COOPER: Time now for The RidicuList and tonight we're adding a veritable cornucopia of pot-centric 9-1-1 calls, now the most recent being just this week. Police were called to a house just off the University of Maryland campus, three masked men allegedly broke into the house, where police say five college students live.
Now, one of the students called 9-1-1 and in the course of telling the dispatcher what happened, he said that the masked men asked him for drugs and money, and then this --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So he asked you for money and drugs and did he get it?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He took my weed and took my rent money.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: He took my weed. I always wonder what compels people to volunteer that kind of information? Are pot enthusiasts just incredibly honest? Maybe there's some mechanism in the body wherein when bong resin meets Dorito dust they're somehow distilled into a natural version of sodium pentothal. I don't know. Why else, for instance, would this guy in Connecticut call 9-1-1?
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have a legal question.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, it's not -- is this an emergency?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know what that means. I was just growing some marijuana. I was just wondering what the -- how much, you know, trouble you can get into for one plant.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're growing marijuana and you want to know how much -- depends on how big the plant is.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's only a seedling.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, it's possession.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Yes, so the police were there in a flash, and they arrested that guy, no joint investigation or anything, just drove on over, picked the guy up. The officer said it was definitely a first.
But it's not the best. We've saved the best for last. This is our favorite. We played it before. The police officer who himself calls 9-1-1, after he and his wife decided to unwind one evening by mixing up a batch of pot brownies. Here are the best parts. Bon appetit.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think I'm having an overdose and so is my wife.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK, you and your wife?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Overdose of what?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Marijuana. I think we're dying.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How much did you guys have?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't know. We made brownies, and I think we're dead. I really do. Time is going by really, really, really, really slow.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you guys do this on a regular basis?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, this is the first time that we've ever done it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And you'd never done marijuana before?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I have.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And you've never had this reaction to it before?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, never. What's the score on the Red Wings game?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What's the score on the Red Wings game?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I've got no clue. I don't watch the Red Wings.
(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: So you got to give it to the 9-1-1 operators. They have to keep calm during life-and-death situations, help people in their darkest hours, and they also have to answer calls from people baked out of their minds on pot brownies, wanting to know hockey scores. It's a tall order and sometimes a high one.
That's it for us. Thanks for watching. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now. Have a great weekend.