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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES

Attorneys for George Zimmerman Quit; Santorum Quits Race

Aired April 10, 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: It's 10:00 here on the East Coast.

And we begin tonight with breaking news in the Trayvon Martin killing, a 360 exclusive interview with shooter George Zimmerman's former legal team, former. Today, when Craig Sonner and Hal Uhrig stepped up to the microphones outside the courthouse in Sanford, Florida, some expected George Zimmerman might be with them. Instead reporters and news viewers around the country got this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CRAIG SONNER, FORMER ATTORNEY FOR GEORGE ZIMMERMAN: As of now, we're withdrawing as counsel for Mr. Zimmerman. We have lost contact with him. Up to this point we have had contact everyday. He's gone on his own. I'm not sure what he's doing or who he's talking to.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Zimmerman they suggested had essentially gone rogue, had contacted the special prosecutor's office on his own and is in a fragile condition.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HAL UHRIG, FORMER ATTORNEY FOR GEORGE ZIMMERMAN: George Zimmerman in our opinion and from information made available to us is not doing well emotionally, probably suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome.

We understand from others he may have lost a lot of weight. Our concern is for him to do this when he's got a couple of professionals out there working as hard as we were for his benefit, to handle it this way suggests that he may not be in complete control of what's going on. We're concerned for his emotional and physical safety.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: That was Hal Uhrig.

Zimmerman for his part said nothing about developments either directly, through family or on his Web site, which he did update today, writing -- quote -- "I'm attempting to respond to each and every one of my supports personally. The support has been overwhelming in volume and strength."

Joining me now only 360, attorneys Hal Uhrig and Craig Sonner. Mr. Uhrig, why did you decide to speak so publicly about this today?

UHRIG: A couple of reasons.

First of all, we want to make it absolutely clear we're professionals. We have got ethical requirements. We had been asked by Mr. Zimmerman to represent him. We have been in constant communication with him even while we were in New York this past weekend. Suddenly on Sunday he went quiet and dark, if you will. We found out on Monday he had set up a Web site on his own without conferring with us.

Couldn't get ahold of him. And then yesterday with the additional developments after we talked to the prosecutor this morning, we learned that he had communicated directly with both another national news network and with the prosecutor's office, contrary to our advice, with us unable to get any kind of contact with him at the phone that he was using to talk to them.

We couldn't go out in the public and say we still represent him without getting him to come out and confirm it and talk with us.

COOPER: Mr. Sonner, when I first spoke to you a couple weeks ago, you had not had any meetings with George Zimmerman at that time. And today you revealed you still had not met face to face with George Zimmerman. Did you find that odd that this late in the game you still had not met with your client face to face?

SONNER: No, because there are many times I represent clients who are out of state and other places. In this case because of the danger that George Zimmerman was in, I understood that he had to stay hidden.

If he came to my office, there were a lot of people coming through, a lot of media and so on. The Black Panthers had a $10,000 reward on his head. It made sense that we would only communicate by telephone, e-mail, and text. And that worked quite -- that worked fine.

COOPER: So, Mr. Uhrig, were you ever officially his attorneys? Had he signed a document saying you were his attorneys? Had you met with family members? His family members?

UHRIG: We had been in communication with family members. In fact, the father went to the bank with Mr. Sonner to set up the bank account which the Web site we put up for his benefit was going to take so that we didn't touch the money. The money would go to a bank account with only his father's name on it. His father was communicative with us. He was communicative with us.

We sent him a written contract. He assured us that he had already signed it and sent it back. We haven't seen it. In light of all of those things, we felt we had no choice to publicly let everyone know stop asking us the questions. We don't know any more than you do.

COOPER: Mr. Uhrig, you said today that George Zimmerman is "probably suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder."

Is that ethical to be commenting on his alleged mental state?

UHRIG: Yes, absolutely.

It may wind up being a defense. One thing is for absolutely certain. We are concerned about George in his physical and mental state. It did not strike us as rational. Hey, look, you have every right to hire and fire whoever you want to. But to simply stop communicating with your legal team gives us some pause for concern for how he's doing and it might represent an absolutely normal explanation for what's happening as opposed to simply saying he's doing something untoward.

COOPER: So was that information, information you had been told by -- or maybe I should ask this to Mr. Sonner since you were actually with his father. Was that information you had learned from his father or from another family member, information that George Zimmerman had actually said to you or simply your impression of George Zimmerman as suffering from that mental state?

SONNER: I'm not going to make any comments as to whether -- that's just speculation of what he's going through because of everything he's endured at this point.

But the primary thing was that all of a sudden, things -- like I think as Hal said, they went dark. He wasn't contacting me anymore. He wasn't calling by phone. He wasn't sending e-mails. He wasn't sending text messages. On Saturday, I talked with him. There was some little thing we had to resolve and everything seemed fine on Saturday.

Then something happened on Sunday and then, of course, we learned that there was a Web site that was set up, which was fine that he set it up. I had lined up a Web site designer to do it and we'd set up a bank account because I didn't think he was going to be able to do it. But it was really better that he was able to do that himself. It keeps me from being involved with his money. And that's something lawyers don't want to do being involved with their -- is have their hands too much in their clients' money.

Contrary to what some of the lawyer jokes say, we want to keep -- the quickest way to get disbarred is to get your hands in your clients' money or in your clients' trust fund. So that was just fantastic with me that he was setting up his own.

But he was also making contact with -- I was getting calls from the media saying George Zimmerman has contacted us. Is this really him? I found out from the prosecutor that George Zimmerman had also contacted the prosecutor's office.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: So you feel like you had no control over your client? You had no real influence on your client?

SONNER: We had lost client control because he wasn't returning phone calls.

I mean, if it turns out that he was just going through a tough time and he wants us to come back for him, I think that things could be resolved. But at this point it doesn't seem likely as the phone calls aren't being returned. I don't know where he's going from here.

COOPER: Mr. Uhrig, a friend of George Zimmerman, Frank Taaffe, has come forward saying that he -- Taaffe told us he spoke to Zimmerman yesterday and that Zimmerman was in "clear, concise, and lucid."

Would you characterize him as clear, concise, and lucid in your conversations with him?

UHRIG: You know what? I didn't see him yesterday and I don't know Mr. Taaffe.

What I know is this. I have represented thousands of clients over the years. Some clients have become dissatisfied. They know how to use the phone and call me and tell me that. They will an e-mail me if they don't want to talk to me or send me a text message if they don't want to e-mail me.

Under the circumstances of this case, it seemed beyond unusual. We felt like we had an ethical obligation to kind of step aside. We have got nothing against George Zimmerman. We believe in his case. We believe in his innocence. We were prepared to defend him all the way. But we simply cannot defend somebody who won't communicate with us and who is off the reservation talking to people we have advised him not to talk to.

COOPER: You said today he's much farther away from Florida. Are you sure he's in the United States?

UHRIG: Since he's not within my view right now, I couldn't tell you exactly where he's at.

We had some reason to know where he was at some point in time. But I'm not going to start speculating on that. I can tell you this. I don't believe he's a flight risk. I believe as we had promised if he is ever charged, which we hope he's not, that he will turn himself in.

If he calls us and asks us to participate in that, we will talk to him about it. If not, he can have some other lawyer help him with it.

COOPER: Mr. Sonner, can you say whether or not with any certainty he's in the United States?

SONNER: No, he's in the United States. I have had phone contact and talked with him on the cell phone and so on. He did reveal what state he was in and where he was when he communicating with me.

As of Sunday and Monday and today's Tuesday, those days I don't know where he is. But I don't believe he's going to leave the country. I mean, he called the prosecutor's office this morning. So I don't think he's a flight risk. I never did think he was a flight risk.

COOPER: Craig Sonner and Hal Uhrig, I appreciate you being on the program. Thank you very much.

We're going to continue the breaking news coverage.

Let's bring in our legal counsel here, criminal defense attorneys Mark Geragos and Jose Baez, who is joining us on the phone, also legal analyst and former federal prosecutor Sunny Hostin.

Mark Geragos, as a defense attorney, what was your reaction to this very public withdrawal?

MARK GERAGOS, ATTORNEY: Oh, my God. I'm sitting here, Anderson, and this is just a train wreck of proportions I don't even know where to begin.

COOPER: Explain.

GERAGOS: Well, first of all, I don't understand people invoking their ethical obligations and then going out and blasting the client, which is what they just did.

This may be the height of chutzpah for criminal defense lawyers to say we haven't talked to our clients for two days, so therefore we're withdrawing. By the way, there's no court case filed, so there's nothing to withdraw from, number one.

Number two, who are you to be diagnosing your client's mental state when you say you haven't talked to him? This is completely inexplicable. I thought I was watching a "Saturday Night Live" skit.

COOPER: It is unusual to you, Mark, that they were never officially retained by Mr. Zimmerman? Every time I have attorneys, I have gotten a document pretty quickly to sign saying -- or even a real estate agent, a document pretty quickly to sign saying I am retaining you.

GERAGOS: Well, here in California -- you have got Jose on the line. You can ask Jose.

Here in California if it's a retention for over $1,000, the state bar rule is it must be in writing signed by the client. To be out there doing the media tour and bouncing from place to place. And I'm telling you my tongue is bleeding because I was biting my tongue as I was watching this. Because I don't like to second-guess other lawyers who are in the eye of the storm.

But this frankly is one of the most outrageous things I have ever witnessed. This is really beyond the pale for two lawyers to go out there say we haven't contacted him in two days and we felt it was our ethical responsibility to go on the air right now and start blasting him and saying it may be a potential defense that the guy's got a mental problem, when we're trying to say he was in reasonable fear for his life when he had shot somebody.

This is just the height of absurdity. I don't know even where to begin on this. It's ridiculous.

COOPER: Jose Baez, what do you make of this?

JOSE BAEZ, ATTORNEY: Well, Anderson, first, you can't have Mark on before me, because he just stole every single word I was about to say.

(LAUGHTER)

COOPER: OK.

BAEZ: I think I too thought I was watching a "Saturday Night Live" skit.

I think it's unbelievable that you would get on television and talk about your client's mental state. What you have here, as an attorney, you have an ethical obligation not only to not disclose attorney/client communications, but attorney/client confidences. Things you learn in the process of representing a client are considered confidential.

Any conversations they had or non-conversations they had with George Zimmerman are completely protected. And the holder of this privilege is George Zimmerman, not the attorneys. Unfortunately, I have seen in central Florida this type of a resignation from -- a public resignation from another attorney who I would rather not name. And I too think it's reprehensible. Unbelievable.

(CROSSTALK)

GERAGOS: Jose, what do they have in the water down there in Florida? I don't understand what they're doing.

This is just absolutely the worst thing I think I can remember seeing any lawyers do in regards to their client. I thought some of the previous interviews were train wrecks. Those were toy cars compared to what this is.

COOPER: Actually, Jose, let me just ask you about the Florida law. How quickly are you supposed to sign a document retaining counsel?

BAEZ: Now, a retainer agreement is not required, unlike in other states.

COOPER: OK.

BAEZ: It is strongly suggested, and certainly it is something that any competent lawyer would do would be immediately get a retainer agreement, especially if you're putting your face, your name in front of a television camera saying that you represent someone that you haven't even met. I think that's highly reckless, incredibly reckless. COOPER: Sunny Hostin, you're a former prosecutor. What's your take on this?

SUNNY HOSTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Anderson, for once, Mark Geragos and I agree. Right? And I agree with Jose Baez as well. I have never seen anything like this. Mark, you had me on this one.

But I think as a prosecutor you come -- you're looking at a case. And now I'm worried. I'm worried if I am inclined to bring charges, is George Zimmerman a flight risk? Can I get to him if I have to issue an arrest warrant?

GERAGOS: Exactly.

HOSTIN: Now maybe my investigation is going a little more quickly. Maybe now I'm going to bring charges a little more quickly. And so this really harms George Zimmerman in the eyes of a prosecutor looking at this case and deciding whether or not to charge.

COOPER: Mark...

GERAGOS: And who are they going to call? They're going to call these two lawyers now as witnesses as to his mental state and which as Jose aptly described is something that's completely protected by the privilege and they just go out on national TV and say this guy is unhinged and that he's potentially a flight risk?

COOPER: Mark, Jose, Sunny, hold on.

I have just been given a media alert from the office of Angela Corey, the state attorney in Florida. It says -- I'm reading it as I see it. "State attorney Angela Corey is preparing to release new information regarding the Trayvon Martin shooting death investigation. Issue notice that within the next 72 hours Ms. Corey will hold a news conference regarding the case. The media will receive e-mail notification."

It doesn't go on to say anything more.

(CROSSTALK)

HOSTIN: No surprise there.

COOPER: What does that tell you, Sunny?

HOSTIN: Again it tells me she's certainly concerned about this new development.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: You think this is in relationship to that development or do you think this is in relation to having -- whether or not there's going to be an arrest warrant?

HOSTIN: It could very well be that the investigation is completed, but it could also very well be that she's watching the media just like everyone else. That she watched that press conference and now she perhaps is concerned about George Zimmerman's safety, about George Zimmerman's mental state and about whether or not he's going to flee this country and flee the jurisdiction.

COOPER: Mark, do you think this relates to what happened today?

GERAGOS: I'm telling you, Sunny, this is one of the few times -- roll the videotape -- that I agree with you wholeheartedly.

(LAUGHTER)

GERAGOS: This is exactly -- it's like you're telegraphing to the prosecutor, I don't have control over this guy. I don't know where he is. He's a flight risk. I don't know.

You're asking, Anderson, great questions. Is he in the country? Guy says, well, yes, he's in the country, except at the same time I'm saying I don't know where he is and I can't get in contact with him.

(CROSSTALK)

GERAGOS: Yes, he's not in Florida. He's somewhere else. Of course she's issuing a statement because of this.

COOPER: And, Jose Baez, saying you spoke to the guy on the cell phone...

(CROSSTALK)

BAEZ: ... assume he's a flight risk.

COOPER: Go ahead.

BAEZ: Because you have lawyers that are doing something that is ill-advised, it still doesn't reflect on whether he's going to do something criminal and become a flight risk. So I will kind of disagree with Sunny on that one.

While it is a little -- it would probably raise an eyebrow, it still is not any specific evidence of being a flight risk. I don't think that should be held against Mr. Zimmerman.

COOPER: Mark Geragos, though, if you cannot control your client, if your client is calling the media or calling the prosecutor without meeting with you face to face, without talking to you, don't you as a lawyer kind of want to step down or step back?

GERAGOS: Yes, Anderson.

And I have done that. I have been in the exact, identical position. You resign. You don't go out and slam him. You don't go out and make some kinds of off-the-court comments about the mental state. You just quietly resign and go on your way.

It's not about you. It's not about the lawyer. Your duty as a lawyer is to zealously represent your client. If you can't do it any longer, you resign, get out of the way. It's not the lawyer's ego. It happens every single day.

(CROSSTALK)

HOSTIN: Yes.

COOPER: It's a fascinating day, a fascinating development. As we say, within 72 hours the state attorney is going to be giving a press conference, it appears, with some sort of new development in the case, new information, in her words, regarding the Trayvon Martin shooting death investigation. There had been talk all week about a possible arrest warrant within the next 48 hours or so. It seems we will know something within the next 72.

Sunny Hostin, Mark Geragos, Jose Baez, thank you. Strange day.

As always, a lot more on this at CNN.com. Let us know what you think. We're on Facebook. Follow me on Twitter @AndersonCooper and I will be tweeting tonight. What do you think? Was this irresponsible of these attorneys? Talk to me on Twitter right now.

Other big news right now , Rick Santorum's departure and what it means for Mitt Romney's chances in the fall. We will talk to Ari Fleischer and Paul Begala and Dana Bash about that joining us next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: "Raw Politics" now. Fascinating day. Welcome to the fall campaign. That's how it's looking now with Rick Santorum the only mathematically plausible challenger to Mitt Romney dropping out of the race today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RICK SANTORUM (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: We made a decision to get into this race at our kitchen table and against all the odds. And we made a decision over the weekend that while this presidential race for us is over, for me, and we will suspend our campaign effective today, we are not done fighting.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Sources say Senator Santorum called Governor Romney before making his announcement. For his part, Governor Romney praised his former competitor, calling him a worthwhile contender and now a valuable ally.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MITT ROMNEY (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He will continue to have a major role in the Republican Party. And I look forward to his work in helping assure victories for Republicans across the country in November. We got to get that job done.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Ron Paul, Newt Gingrich also had praise but promised to keep campaigning.

The really -- the math, though, the reality is pretty simple. Mitt Romney now has a clear path to the Republican nomination. There's new CNN/ORC polling that shows without Santorum in the race Romney now has a 28-point lead over Newt Gingrich. Appears to be game over for the primaries.

As we have already seen from both parties, game on for the general campaign.

CNN's Dana Bash is with us tonight and so is GOP Ari Fleischer and Democratic strategist Paul Begala, who is currently advising the leading pro-Obama super PAC.

Dana, it's been obvious for awhile Santorum wasn't going to overtake Romney on delegates. But why drop out now? Was it really about personal considerations or was there something else?

DANA BASH, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It was both. It was personal and political.

Let's start with the political. As you said it has been obvious for some time. But in the near future, what Santorum aides, several of them who I talked to today said is first of all, they realize that the next big, big state where they thought they could win, Texas, once that was not going to be winner take all, they realized it was going to be very difficult.

Secondly, they tried very hard in many ways to get Newt Gingrich who has been siphoning conservative votes away from Rick Santorum to get him out of the race. That didn't work. Then third, The Pennsylvania primary coming up. And Paul Begala knows Pennsylvania very well. It was going to be tough for Rick Santorum. Their spin is that he was going to win.

I can tell you talking to Santorum advisers privately they were not so sure because Romney was going to spend a lot of money. And then on the personal side, of course, I talked to several people very close to Santorum who said spending a weekend with his 3-year-old daughter in the hospital for the second time in a campaign it put things into perspective big time for him.

COOPER: Yes. Certainly our thoughts are with her and with the family on this.

Paul, would you liked to have seen him stay in the race? As a Democrat would you like to have seen him in the race?

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, sure. Santorum had little money. He had little very staff. He got John Brabender, his chief consultant, absolutely gifted guy, terrific guy. But short of Brabender, not much in terms of staff and consultants.

I don't think he even had a pollster or a headquarters. The headquarters was whatever car he was in. Yet he won 11 primaries. What he did was he pointed the way to President Obama to beat Mitt Romney.

COOPER: How so?

BEGALA: Don't let him outspend you 16-1 like Romney did in some places.

But push on two things, authenticity which Santorum has an abundance and I think many people think Romney lacks, and second the sort of blue-collar sensibility that even in the Republican Party Rick Santorum brought into the race. And even until Wisconsin, this last major primary, Romney seemed unable to get middle class or lower income, even Republicans, those blue-collar Republicans, Reagan Democrats, that are essential to a Republican victory.

So I think President Obama would do well to push those two issues, authenticity and the middle class.

COOPER: Ari, a couple interesting numbers in the "Washington Post"/ABC poll out today. One of them was a slim majority of Republicans didn't want Santorum to leave the race yet. What does that say about how they feel about Mitt Romney or anything?

ARI FLEISCHER, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: From the very beginning Mitt Romney has had a conservative problem. Here at the end of the Republican primary he continues to have a conservative problem, yet he won -- he won a Republican primary. And Republican primaries almost always go to the most conservative guy. But they didn't.

So I think that actually says that Mitt Romney has more of a chance than people are giving him credit for right now with independents, with moderate voters. And when it comes to the conservative base that really doesn't quite trust Mitt Romney, Anderson, Paul, Dana, we all know it. They are going to be with Mitt Romney in a powerful way this November because nothing motivates Republicans more than a desire to beat President Obama.

COOPER: Ari, Paul's talking about the importance of reaching out to blue-collar voters and thinking that President Obama has an advantage at that over Mitt Romney.

Both though are criticized as being not necessarily the most -- I mean, they're not the Bill Clinton I feel your pain kind of candidates.

FLEISCHER: I think we're heading for an election where both candidates, President Obama and Mitt Romney, have a lot of problems with a lot of sectors of the electorate. They are both weak.

Mitt Romney is emerging from this primary weaker than a lot of Republicans would have liked him to be. But so, too, is President Obama. The Obama presidency for three years has taken its toll on President Obama's rating with the American people, with independents. And as Hillary Clinton proved in her primary against Barack Obama, the president has a blue-collar problem with working-class Americans. He hasn't done anything to get over that in the course of his presidency. With unemployment so high, he's actually made it worse. You're going to have one of these races where I don't think it's going to be the most uplifting, loving, positive race that America has seen in a November election. I think you have got a surly electorate and two candidates and the public doesn't seem fond of either one.

COOPER: Paul is certainly hoping it's not a loving race, because I know you like the clash.

(CROSSTALK)

BEGALA: I do, as long as it's about ideas, it's not personal attacks.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: Has this made Romney a better campaigner?

BEGALA: No, oddly. Usually it does. It has in the past for other presidential nominees, but not for Mitt Romney.

And that is because he has wrongly been so freaked out about conservatives. Ari's right. Conservatives were always going to be with the Republican nominee. But what he's done is go so far to the extreme that he was attacking Rick Santorum from the right on contraception. Rick Santorum is to the right of the pope on contraception.

He was attacking Rick Perry from the right on immigration. Women and Latinos may be the most important constituencies in November. And he has pulled himself out of the mainstream to those two vital constituencies, making him a weaker candidate for November.

COOPER: Dana, is an endorsement by Santorum for Romney a sure thing? It's going to happen, right?

BASH: Well, I don't know if we're going to hear the e-word come out of Santorum's mouth in the next several days, but there's no question in talking to Santorum aides and knowing what happened behind the scenes today which is a phone call between Santorum and Romney that he is going to work for Mitt Romney eventually in a big way. He may actually formally endorse him. It certainly would not be a surprise.

But I just want to be a contrarian a little bit to what Ari and Paul were saying about conservatives. Of course, if somebody is going to go out and vote already and they will be a conservative, they're not going to vote for Barack Obama. The question though is whether or not conservative activists are going to turn up their machines to get out the vote for Mitt Romney. I can tell you talking to leading conservatives today, the answer to that is no. They're saying that they're going to focus more on the Senate now.

(CROSSTALK)

COOPER: We got to -- Ari, I see you're shaking your head, but we're out of time.

Dana Bash, thank you. Ari Fleischer, Paul Begala, thanks very much.

A cease-fire deadline in Syria, well, it came and it went as the Assad military continues its daily attacks. We will talk to Senator John McCain and Joe Lieberman in just a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: "Keeping Them Honest," today was supposed to be the day for the killing to stop in Syria, the day by which Syria's dictator promised to pull troops out of cities and towns and stop murdering its own people.

Well, this apparently is how the Assad regime keeps the promises it makes. Shelling today in Homs.

Syria's foreign minister said the government has pulled forces out of some provinces today. Clearly not in this section of Homs. Clearly not elsewhere in the city either. Apartment buildings today going up in flames. The bombardment not letting up.

As we're pointing out, tanks are still on city streets, still firing in residential neighborhoods. Rolling military operations in population centers is how former U.N. secretary-general, Kofi Annan, put it. He's the one who brokered that deal with Syria, the deal that Syria is now violating. He says heavy weapons haven't been pulled out so much as they've been repositioned, keeping them within killing range of their residential targets.

In fact, opposition groups say more than a hundred people have been killed today. We can't verify that. This video is from yesterday when upwards of 145 people were reportedly killed.

Eleven hundred have died since Assad agreed to stop the killing, say opposition figures. More than 9,000, perhaps as many as 11,000, since the war on Syria's population has begun.

Today at refugee camps just across the border in Turkey, anger boiled over at peacekeeping efforts. Secretary Annan, he's under the umbrella there, surrounded by camera crews and security. The chanting you hear is people throwing insults at him, calling him a liar, saying the peace effort was simply giving Assad more time, quite literally, to kill.

Senators John McCain and Joe Lieberman also toured the camps today on a separate trip than Annan's, getting a better reception than Mr. Annan. We spoke by phone.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Senator McCain, the Syrian regime agreed to withdraw its troops from major cities by today as part of Kofi Annan's peace plan. Has the U.N. been played here? I mean, clearly, they've gone beyond the deadline. SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA (via phone): I think it's very obvious they've been played, just like the Arab League proposal that Bashar Assad had agreed to before. They were played.

The fact is, Anderson, that if Bashar Assad withdraws from the city then the protestors obviously take over. And he can't do that. Resistance will take over the cities the moment tanks and artillery are withdrawn.

COOPER: Senator Lieberman, I mean, have we reached the end of the line diplomatically?

SEN. JOE LIEBERMAN (I), CONNECTICUT (via phone): Well, I think we have. I don't know how many times world leaders are going to have to be deceived, lied to by Assad before they realize that this man can't be trusted.

To me one of the most profoundly troubling parts of the trips that John McCain and I have made these last couple of days is talking to the Syrian opposition, to the Free Syrian Army, and find, notwithstanding all the sympathetic statements from world leaders, they've basically gotten zero. They're running out of ammunition. They don't have bullets, and they're being fired at every day.

So no, I think the answer is that we've got to arm the Syrian opposition. And only when Assad feels threatened by that, that kind of counterattack will he even think about leaving, hopefully, or going to real negotiations.

COOPER: To those who say, "Well, look, we don't know enough about the opposition." There's, you know, fears of al Qaeda involved. There's fears of extremists involved. What do you say?

LIEBERMAN: Look, we've met with these people. And any of our colleagues in Congress who are troubled because we don't know who they are ought to come over here and meet with them, as well. They're patriots. They're not extremists. And they all said to us if the U.S. and the moderate Arab world doesn't get involved in helping them, then there will be an opening for al Qaeda and the Islamist extremists. But we can't let that happen.

COOPER: Senator Lieberman -- go ahead.

MCCAIN: Anderson, there's so many things that we want to say. But again, and you've been showing it night after night, it's not a fair fight. It's not a fair fight. Don't we want -- don't we at some point say enough of the slaughter?

COOPER: The Syrian government is now demanding a written guarantee that the opposition is going to lay down their arms. Is that, Senator Lieberman, just another stall tactic by the Assad regime?

LIEBERMAN: Yes, I think it is another stall tactic by the Assad regime. And you know, you've got to take in the context of all the broken promises and distractions and delays of Assad. And while he does that, he continues to murder his own people.

COOPER: So Senator McCain, what are you -- what are you hoping to see in terms of military involvement, in terms of military action? Early on you called for international air strikes, some involvement from the U.S., that the U.S. is now helping with communications equipment. Other states -- Qatar, Saudi Arabia -- are -- are giving funds to the opposition forces. What are you hoping to see?

MCCAIN: First of all, the information we have is they haven't gotten anything yet.

Second of all, I'm pleased we want to give them communications -- United States wants to give them communications equipment. You know, communications equipment doesn't do very well against helicopters, tanks, and artillery.

And I understand the reluctance of the American people. But the job of leaders of the American people is to explain why we should do what we can to stop this.

And I think that a sanctuary would be very important. A no-fly zone. The prime minister of Turkey alluded to it today. I think that the world is getting sick of this slaughter. And maybe, just maybe, we're starting some movement in the right direction.

COOPER: Senator Lieberman, there are a lot of Americans who say look -- and Senator McCain alluded to it -- who say, look, another military involvement by the U.S. overseas. To them you say what?

LIEBERMAN: Well, I say two things. The first is we've got a moral responsibility here. The whole world does. You can't just stand by and watch people being slaughtered. I mean, hopefully, we've progressed some from that point of our world history.

The second is every day that we do nothing, it's not just the Syrian people that suffer. It's Assad that wins, and Iran wins. And if we can help bring down Assad, it's a tremendous strategic victory for us against Iran. But you know, I want to come back...

MCCAIN: Before you go on -- Joe, before you go on, could I just add one point to that? There would be no American boots on the ground, and this would be a multi-national effort. Go ahead, Joe. I'm sorry.

LIEBERMAN: No, no. It's OK. I just want to focus on one thing. In my opinion -- and this is exactly the answer we got from the Syrian National Council, the political leadership, and the Free Syrian Army leadership. They want weapons and munitions. They don't want us there. They just want us to give them the opportunity to defend themselves and their families.

COOPER: One thing people in Syria have said to me over and over again when I talk to them on the phone is that they are no longer afraid. We've heard that throughout many of these so-called Arab Spring uprisings...

LIEBERMAN: That's right.

COOPER: That there is no going back.

MCCAIN: These are wonderful and brave and -- people who share our values, our rights, and frankly, they do look to the United States of America. I'm glad they do. I just hope that we'll give them something that -- that will authenticate their faith and belief in us.

COOPER: Senator McCain, Senator Lieberman, thank you very much.

LIEBERMAN: Thank you, Anderson.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Back home, a nightmare scenario. Imagine being adopted and then later in life looking for your birth parents, finding out your father might be one of the most infamous murders of all time, Charles Manson. We'll meet the man who says that happened to him.

Plus, the latest on Charles Manson's, next parole hearing. We'll talk to the prosecutor who put him away.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: In "Crime & Punishment" tonight, the latest parole hearing for Charles Manson, possibly the most notorious murderer of all times. The California Department of Corrections has released the most recent photos of Manson, which were taken last June. He's 77 now. His hair is gray. His hair's longer there. The swastika tattoo still clearly visible on his forehead.

His latest hearing is set for tomorrow. He's been denied parole 11 times.

Vincent Bugliosi prosecuted Manson and his followers for the 1969 murders of actress Sharon Tate and six others. He wrote about the case in the famous book "Helter Skelter." I spoke with the author and former prosecutor about this latest parole hearing, whether there's any chance at all that Manson will ever go free.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: You say there's no way that Charles Manson will be granted parole. Why?

VINCENT BUGLIOSI, PROSECUTOR/AUTHOR (via phone): Well, these hearings are just a formality, Anderson. He's had 11 prior hearings. And he knows he's going to be automatically rejected. And the evidence of that is that he hasn't even shown up at some of these hearings.

Leslie Van Houten, one of his co-defendants, was only convicted of two murders, and the parole board has refused to release her. So why in the world would they ever dream of releasing Charles Manson, who's convicted of nine murders?

COOPER: Do you have...

BUGLIOSI: He's the one that orchestrated and masterminded all of the Manson family killings. So it's ridiculous on its face to assume that there's even a possibility that he's going to be released.

COOPER: Do you have any doubt that he's still a danger to society?

BUGLIOSI: Yes. He's still a danger, of course. Of course he is. I think he'd be emboldened if he were ever set free.

But even if he were not a danger to society, if justice means anything in America, at a very minimum, he should spend the rest of his life behind bars.

Some people forget, Anderson, that Manson was originally sentenced to death. I told the jury that if this was not a proper case for imposition of death penalty, no case ever would be. Even challenged them and said that, if you're unwilling to come back with a verdict of death in this case, that we should abolish the death penalty in California. How many people do you have to kill to get the death penalty?

And they did return verdicts of death against them, but as you probably know, Anderson, the very next year in 1972, the California and U.S. Supreme Courts both ruled that the death penalty was unconstitutional.

COOPER: Does it disappoint you as a former prosecutor that he continues to get attention?

BUGLIOSI: Well, yes. Because I'll tell you. He, I think, enjoys his notoriety.

COOPER: He enjoys it?

BUGLIOSI: Steeped in infamy as it is. You know, after my trial or after my trying him and convicting him, he told me, he says, "You know, Mr. Bugliosi, you haven't achieved anything at all. All you've done is send me back to where I came from."

We used to have sarcastic conversations back and forth. And I said, "Yes, Charlie, but as far as I know you've never been to the Green Room before." That's the apple-green room at San Quentin, the gas chamber.

He just smiled.

But the next year, listening to the radio, and I heard that the Supreme Court in the United States had set aside the death penalty. And the first thought that came into my mind was what Manson had told me. He gets out of prison in 1967, 32 years of age. Seventeen out of those 32 years had been spent in jail, reformatories and prison. So he doesn't mind prison life. He's totally institutionalized. And all we do is send him back to where he came from, and he doesn't mind it at all. I think he's enjoying himself. And, of course, it's just a tremendously gross violation of the entire notion of justice.

COOPER: Vincent Bugliosi, I appreciate your time. Thank you.

BUGLIOSI: Thank you, Anderson.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Well, up close tonight. 43 years after the Manson murders, a lot of people still have a dark fascination with that guy. He reportedly has received more mail than any other inmate in the U.S. prison system. What does that say?

One of the men who has corresponded with Manson is different from the others. He says there's a good chance Manson may be his father. Something he was shocked to discover. Miguel Marquez has the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEW ROBERTS, ADOPTED: I live in uncertainty and chaos.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Matthew Roberts is a haunted man. Is he the son, the spawn of Charles Manson?

ROBERTS: It's like holy hell it certainly does seem like it's more than just possible, but probable.

MARQUEZ: Roberts, adopted as an infant, had by all accounts a normal childhood in Rockford, Illinois. In 1998, at age 30, he sought out his birth mother, a recluse living in Wisconsin who told him he was conceived in 1967 in San Francisco, where she met Manson at a drug-fueled orgy.

(on camera) One account I read about orgies, there were four men present?

ROBERTS: Yes. That's what I understand. Originally, that's what I was kind of looking at. There was about a one in four chance.

MARQUEZ (voice-over): Robert says he wasn't convinced his birth mother knew Manson until he began exchanging letters with prisoner B- 33920. In those letters Manson quoted things only his birth mother would know, stories about her early life.

So, sure he's Manson's son, Roberts has twice tried to get a DNA match. The test, though, inconclusive, Manson's DNA sample contaminated.

ROBERTS: Unless I see somebody scrape a piece of skin off his ass and bring it to the lab, I want to know that I know.

MARQUEZ: What is unmistaken was not just that Roberts looks like Manson. Here are two photos, both in their 30s. A striking resemblance. The eyes, nose, mouth, and forehead. But it is the way Robert speaks and what he says that sounds eerily familiar.

CHARLES MANSON, CONVICTED MASS MURDERER: Because every time you send somebody after me they can't find me, because I'm not there in your minds.

ROBERTS: I know what goes on in my head. You guys can only guess. But I know what goes on in my head.

MARQUEZ: Even more eerie: the similarities between the two men run deep. Roberts is a militant vegetarian, pacifist, and considers himself an environmentalist, claims also made by Charles Manson.

Roberts' move to L.A. in 1986, saying, like Manson, wanted to be famous. A rock star.

(MUSIC)

MARQUEZ: Robert's band, New Rising Sun, is pure rock 'n' roll. Manson's music more folksy and at times downright weird.

(MUSIC)

MARQUEZ: Today Roberts pays the bills working at the Blue Zebra Cabaret in L.A.'s San Fernando Valley. He's been accused of cashing in on Manson's notoriety. Robert says it's anything but.

ROBERTS: It's ruined by career. It has got me nothing but grief.

MARQUEZ: Roberts just wants to know the truth before the now-77- year-old Manson dies.

ROBERTS: If he is my father, then it would be nice to lay eyes on him and been in person, person to person with him once in my lifetime.

MARQUEZ: For now, Matthew Roberts lives with a hope and a fear of knowing who his father is.

Miguel Marquez, CNN, Los Angeles.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Interesting story.

There is news tonight that's neither dark or shocking. It's about a hero. Really no other way to describe it. The middle-school student who took control of his school bus after the driver slumped over at the wheel. Dramatic moments captured on the bus's surveillance camera. Story ahead.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ISHA SESAY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Isha Sesay with the "360 News & Business Bulletin." Two breaking news stories at this hour.

A NOAA fighter jet intercepted a Korean Airline flight that took off from Vancouver International Airport after a bomb threat was called into a U.S. call center. The plane landed at a military base is Vancouver Island and is being secured. In Peru, a rescue operation is set to begin to try to reach nine miners who have been trapped since Thursday. Engineers are working to make sure the mine is secure.

President Obama is reissuing his call for higher taxes on the wealthy, making the case for what's called the Buffett Rule. He said middle-class Americans shouldn't pay a higher percentage of their income than millionaires and billionaires like Warren Buffett.

And a heroic seventh-grader in Washington saved the day after his school bus driver slumped over at the steering wheel. Jeremy Wuitschick managed to guide the bus to the side of the road. The driver was hospitalized for a heart condition -- Anderson.

COOPER: Isha, thanks. So did you celebrate Dyngus Day, everyone? Well, if you didn't, you really missed out. We'll explain on "The RidicuList."

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Time now for "The RidicuList." And tonight we're adding anyone who missed out on Dyngus Day. Yes, I said Dyngus Day.

Now, I know you probably still haven't written all your Dyngus Day notes or your thank you notes from last year. And you know, here it is again. Dyngus Day isn't some totally fake holiday cooked up by a "Seinfeld" writer like Festivus. Dyngus Day is a real thing. Obscure but real.

It's a Polish-American tradition celebrating the end of Lent the day after Easter. And all over the country -- or in three places that we know of for sure -- there were Dyngus Day parades and parties and lots of drinking and dancing and revelry.

Now, you could have gotten your dyngus on in Indiana or in Ohio. But if you really want the most bang for your dyngus buck, you've got to shuffle off to Buffalo.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Buffalo calls itself the Dyngus Day capital of the world. It's hard to argue when you see the festivities that break out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: Buffalo, the Dyngus Day capital of the world. Also the birthplace of the chicken wing. Little-known fact. They've been celebrating Dyngus Day there since the 1800s. But apparently, it really took off in the 1960s.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It caught on because -- for a number of reasons. Dyngus, first of all, is a funny word. It's spelled with a "y." People don't know what it means. (END VIDEO CIP)

COOPER: It's funny because it's spelled with a "Y." What does it mean anyway? My new favorite reference spot -- that would be DyngusDayBuffalo.com -- says "dyngus" can be traced back to the medieval word meaning worthy, proper or suitable. And here's how you celebrate Dyngus Day.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The quirky little rituals include boys sprinkling girls that they fancy with water and the girls striking back with a tap from a pussy willow branch.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COOPER: I'm not going to let you do this. I'm sorry.

It's really so stupid. Oh, come on. Come on. This is torture. Just got to let it out. Got to let it out.

I know. I know. It sounds like a bunch of waterlogged drunk people hitting each other with sticks. And then of course, there's the drinking; drinking and dancing and music and more drinking. There really ain't no party like a Dyngus Day party, because a Dyngus Day is the most random excuse to drink there is.

If nothing else next year, you have a new excuse to drink if you can't hold out until Cinco de Mayo. You're welcome.

And for the good citizens of Buffalo wringing out their clothes and tending to their beer and kielbasa hangover and pussy willow welts today, happy belated Dyngus Day.

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