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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
First American Military Veteran to be Charged With Aiding ISIS; Frightening Moments on a United Airlines Flight from Washington Dulles Airport to Denver, Colorado; Secret Service Catch Suspicious Envelope Sent to White House; Interview with Two Former Durst Trial Jurors; 24- Year-Old Linebacker Quits NFL. Aired 8-9p ET
Aired March 17, 2015 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is the heartbeat and the brain.
JEANNE MOOS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Put them together, what you get is heartfelt.
Jeanne Moos, CNN, New York.
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ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST, OUTFRONT: A man who loves his job. Anderson starts now.
[20:00:15] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening. Thanks for joining us.
Tonight breaking news on a lot of fronts. First the airmen and ISIS. What a grand jury says a former U.S. air force mechanic did to help the terror group.
Also tonight after dodging questions about is his big spending ways allegedly on the taxpayers' dime, Congressman Aaron Shock's down to an Abby existence is collapsing like a house of cards. We will look at his decision today of the step down.
And later, police raid Robert Durst's home. Plus, how did he manage to kill a man, dismember the man, dump the pieces and get away with it? I will talk to two jurors about why they voted to acquit.
That, plus late election war from Israeli where Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is locked in the toughest fight of his political life.
We begin though with an apparent first. The first American military veteran to be charged with aiding ISIS. His name Tairod Nathan Webster Pugh. He would be arraigned tomorrow here in New York on federal charges that could send him to prison for decades to come.
For more now on what authorities believe he was up to and how exactly they caught him, we're joined by justice correspondent Pamela Brown.
So, what do we know here about this guy?
PAMELA BROWN, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, law enforcement officials have been speaking with say they have several reasons to believe that he wasn't just going to Turkey on vacation like he has said. They believe he was going to Turkey to get into Syria and link up with ISIS. And some of these are coming from his electronic devices. Authorities allege that he tampered with his electronic devices including his laptop. But the FBI was still able to recover some of what was on his computer, including more than 100 terrorist propaganda videos, including ISIS executions. And the FBI says it found web searches for ways to cross from Turkey into Syria. There were also communications with his Egyptian wife and a letter where he allegedly wrote, "I will use my talents and skills given to me to establish and defend the Islamic state. There are two possible outcomes for me -- victory or martyr." We did speak to his attorney, Anderson, and he tells us says his client will plead not guilty in court to New York tomorrow.
COOPER: So, I understand, he left the Air Force way back in 1990,, but apparently came on the radar of the FBI shortly after 9/11. Why?
BROWN: That's right. So according to this criminal complaint he converted to Islam around 1998 and became increasingly radical. And he worked for American airlines after the air force. And apparently the FBI was tipped off about him in 2001 because a co-worker was saying that he was sympathizing with Osama bin Laden, that he also had expressed interest in traveling to Chechnya to fight jihad. Pugh, as we know, then after that questioned by the FBI, he was still able to go on and work for different private aviation companies as a mechanic in the U.S. and in the Middle East where he lived for a year-and-a- half before as we know Turkish officials turned him away at the airport as he was trying o link up with ISIS, allegedly, Anderson.
COOPER: So, wait a minute. He'd already been flagged by the FBI and had expressed a number of views against the U.S. and yet he was hired as an army contractor in Iraq?
BROWN: That's right. So I've been asking a lot of officials about this today. And here's what we're learning.
Basically if you become a contractor for the army, you have to go through a security clearance. So he would have to go through a background check. But the system, Anderson, is not enough to flag cases like this where you don't have ongoing investigations. So clearly, the FBI at the time didn't have enough evidence on pew to actually bring charges against him so it wouldn't be surprising in light of that that he would have passed that background check because there wasn't an ongoing investigation at the time the check happened.
But I was speaking to a former air for the colonel, Anderson, today. He was saying that this is someone who could have done significant damage. It is clear that he was radicalized. But he had access to the military service members and airplanes despite the fact he passed his background check, Anderson.
COOPER: It is pretty unbelievable. Pamela Brown, thank you very much for the update.
Moving on. No word yet on just how much legal difficulty outgoing Illinois congressman Aaron Schock may be facing. He resigned to his seat today apparently after one too many questions about his big spending and dubious accounting including from our own Drew Griffin.
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DREW GRIFFIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Can you explain the lavish lifestyle you've been leading on the backs of taxpayers?
REP. AARON SCHOCK (R), ILLINOIS: I would say this, as I've said before. I take the law and my compliance very seriously.
GRIFFIN: Congressman, do you think it is appropriate to spend political donations in kind of a slush fund? $24,000 in private plane tickets? Do you have any explanation, whether legal or not, is it right, is the question. Looking back, do you think you made a mistake? Can you understand why people are concerned --
SCHOCK: I hope you enjoy your time in the 18th.
GRIFFIN: Can you understand why people are concerned about you sold your house such overvalued property to a political donor? Do you know why Mr. Bahash (ph) bought that property over priced?
Congressman, is it right at all, what you've been doing? Sir? Just one. Come on, I've been polite to you.
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[20:05:10] COOPER: Congressman Schock just a couple days ago neither answering Drew's questions or to the people who elected him.
Joining us now, chief legal correspondent Dana Bash. She has been working with her sources on this story.
I guess not exactly a surprise given all the heat he was under. But a lot of questions still remain to be answered.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. You talk about heat, six straight weeks of unrelenting stories about questionable spending, as you just heard from Drew, both taxpayer dollars and political donations. Finally, this morning, he told those close to him he would end his once promising congressional career.
BASH (voice-over): Sources close to Aaron Schock tell CNN it was a pair of new revelations that cemented his decision to resign. A report that Schock may have improperly benefited from a political donor in a real estate deal, and another from "Politico" that he was reimbursed by taxpayers for tens of thousands of miles he never drove. By resigning from congress, Schock is no longer subjected to ongoing
house ethics investigation, but he could still face legal troubles. And even after announcing his resignation, he is trying to clean up his financial mess. Sources close to Schock telling CNN Congressman Schock has reimbursed all moneys received for official mileage since election to Congress.
SCHOCK: I stand here mass a state representative and a nominee for Congress at the age of 27.
BASH: It has been a dramatic fall for the 33-year-old once-rising star in the GOP, starting six weeks ago when "the Washington Post" reported he decorated his congressional office to look like the set of "Downton Abbey" to the tune of $40,000, $15,000 was initially billed to taxpayers, but then returned. He had hoped to shake scandal off.
SCHOCK: As Taylor Swift said, hater's are going to hate.
BASH: But his bright red "Downton Abbey" decor sparked massive media scrutiny of his expenses. Schock to hire a team of lawyers and crisis communication experts to review owned expenses. Instagram pictures left a trail of questions about how he financed his jet setting lifestyle, tangoing on the streets of Buenos Aires, surfing shirtless, hobnobbing with celebrities from Arianna Grande to Stephen Tayler and taking his staff to a Katy Perry concert.
Then came other revelations like a $10,000 junket for his staff to New York City. It all kept him on the defensive.
SCHOCK: I take my compliance obligation seriously. And I am conducting a poll review of that.
BASH: In the end his decision to resign happened so fast, house GOP leaders and even constituents in town to see him were, well, shocked.
TED MOTTAZ, REP. AARON SCHOCK CONSTITUENT: I am very surprised that it happened. I'm sad that it happened, especially the way that it did. I honestly didn't think it would cause him to resign, but it is still sending a bad message to the constituents.
COOPER: When does his resignation take placed, take effect?
BASH: March 31st. So that's two weeks from today. And what happens is there's going to be a special election to fill his seat, likely sometime this spring or early summer. And we're already told that Darren LaHood, who was the son of long-time congressman from that district, Ray LaHood, will announce as soon as tomorrow that he is going to run. And you know, Anderson, this is a historically republican district and largely rural, central Illinois. So it should stay in GOP hands, but you never know.
COOPER: All right, Dana, stay with us because I want to bring in "Politico's" Jake Sherman who's reporting might have been the last straw today for Congressman Schock. Jake, "Politico" was reporting, you reporting basically and asking
questions of Schock 12 hours before he resigned. Explain what your reporting showed about the mileage reimbursement he got on his personal car because it is pretty damning stuff.
JAKE SHERMAN, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, POLITICO: Sure. We've been reporting for about six weeks, as Dana says, about many things but specifically the mileage reimbursements. He had a high rate of getting reimbursed from the government and from his campaign accounts for miles he drove. So we submitted a freedom of information act request with the state of Illinois for all vehicle records and we found when he sold the car that he was driving between 2010 and 2014, it only had around $80,000 miles on it.
He had claimed that he had driven about $170,000 miles on it. So even if he drove - use that car exclusively for campaign and official use, it would be far less than what he had submitted. And the answer I got was not any explanation - initially, wasn't explanation about the reimbursements but it was the message that he would be resigning effective March 31st.
COOPER: And since then, I mean, have there been any explanations? Because essentially, I mean, if he build taxpayers for 170,000 miles and the case only had 80,000 miles, I mean, that form of fraud.
[20:09:57] SHERMAN: It would appear to be a form of fraud. All that we have heard is that e is going to pay this back. He hasn't explained why he did it, why discrepancy is so large. And there are questions that need to be answered. And as Dana said in the intro to this, the federal government, the federal law enforcement agencies might have to be asking those questions. He is no longer covered by ethics committees. The congressional watchdogs that would typically pursue something like this are no longer operative because Schock is out of Congress. So still no answers, but there are a lot of questions outstanding.
COOPER: Dana, I didn't realized that that basically all the ethics have stopped because he is no long part of Congress. That's really interesting.
BASH: Yes. And that is why actually, you've seen historically when members of Congress are in really big trouble, they tend to just leave because it does stop the ethics investigation. If he would have stayed, no question the things that we know about and from what I'm told things that perhaps could have been about to come out would have been the subject of a big investigation.
His office had already been contacted by the ethics committee. Likely he was as well. So that's why this is over. But, you know, as Jake is hearing, as I am hearing and I think as is blatantly obvious by what we've been reporting, his problems could be far greater than just the ethics committee and maybe with the federal law.
COOPER: And Jake, it is interesting because he didn't exactly hide his kind of lavish lifestyle. Multiple flights on private jets. Trips abroad. It was all documented on his Instagram. And I guess he had this personal photographer who is, you know, traveled with him.
SHERMAN: He lived a very strange life on the taxpayer and campaign accounts. You don't really see too many members staying consistently at the four seasons, the Ritz-Carlton, the peninsula hotel, flying in private jets. I've talked to members of Congress who have far larger congressional districts who don't ever take private jets. So to say this was lavish is perhaps an understatement.
And you're right, he documented this entire thing on Instagram which is perhaps a commentary on being 33 and being in Congress, being a young guy, and wanted to use social media. But he didn't hide this. And as soon as that "Washington Post" story broke about redecorating his office to a model Downton Abbey, peoples like us started digging in and found that this lavish lifestyle extended way beyond the office into his official and campaign.
COOPER: Well, he has a lot of questions to answer.
Still, Jake Sherman, thank you for the report. And Dana Bash as well.
Quick reminder, make sure you set your DVRs. You can watch "360" whenever you would like.
Coming up next tonight, the inside story of a very tense mid-air moment. You are going to see in here what it was like on board united 1074 to Denver as man charged the cockpit yelling. Other passengers jumped into action to take him down.
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UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was saying like they're going to bring the down. Plane is going to go down.
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COOPER: And later, breaking news out of Israel where elections could mean the difference between war and peace for the Israelis, and perhaps for this country as well.
[20:06:16] COOPER: Frightening moments on a United Airlines flight from Washington Dulles airport to Denver, Colorado last night. A passenger is putting a key lesson 9/11 into action, namely, never, ever let anyone storm the flight deck or you can try. Fourteen years ago, passengers aboard united flight 93 knew that and did all they could, though, it wasn't enough to save their own lives. Fortunately it never came to that. It was almost certainly not a terrorist attempt. It was, however, plainly and simply a terrifying incident. A passenger joins us shortly to describe what he saw.
But first, details from Gary Tuchman.
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): An image like this exists because airline passengers took matters in their own hands. And ended a potentially dangerous situation. The unidentified man now in custody. United airlines flight 1074 with 33 passengers and six crew members had just taken off from Dulles airport outside Washington on its way to Denver. Less than 30 minutes after takeoff though this is what the tie lots told the tower.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Declaring an emergency due to a passenger disturbance.
TUCHMAN: The disturbance was man running up the single aisle of the 737 shouting jihad, jihad. According to some aboard the plane. Another passenger said the man was shouting the plane was going to go down.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He ran forward towards the cockpit and he is being restrained by other passengers.
TUCHMAN: Those other passengers and at least one male flight attendant weren't about to take any chances making sure the man was done with whatever rampage he was planning. He had bruises on his face apparently from being taken down appeared to be crying and was apologizing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm sorry! I'm so sorry!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's OK. We're going to get you off this plane, buddy.
TUCHMAN: The captain and first officer let the tower know this --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The cockpit is secure and we would just like to return to the airport and have the authorities meet him.
TUCHMAN: The cockpit door was never breached keeping the door locked as the rule in this post-9/11 era. In reality the perpetrator in every had a chance to get to that door.
MARY SCHIAVO, FORMER INSPECTOR GENERAL, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION: This day and age passengers feel empowered, and they should, to keep themselves and their aircraft safe and they are protected from suit by the person they have to subdue because the U.S. law says if passenger do that, they are immune from pursuit and prosecution.
TUCHMAN: Passengers held the man down until the plane landed.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Relax and don't move.
TUCHMAN: He's now in the hospital for observation. No weapons found and no charges filed as of yet.
Gary Tuchman, CNN, Atlanta.
COOPER: What you just saw unfolded right in front of passenger Joshua Lindstrom who was sitting with his wife in row three of the 737. I spoke with him a short time ago.
COOPER: So Pastor,, can you just take us through what happened? Because I understand you were in the third row just after takeoff. You felt a hand on your shoulder from this guy running up the aisle toward the cockpit. What happens then?
JOSHUA LINDSTROM, WITNESS: He was leaning forward as the plane was going up. And he was looking out the left-hand side. He was really occupied with the left-hand side. And his head was bobbing up and down as if almost as if he expected to head to pop up outside the window. You know what I mean? Because he was looking all around and saying they. He was talking. And almost -- it happens so fast, I remember grabbing my wife's hand and I said this isn't good. And I went to unbuckle, at the same time I noticed the guy across the aisle in 3e was unbuckling. And the attendant, flight attendant gave some sort of command to stand back and he turned and started heading towards the cockpit. And the guy in 3e was a lightning bolt and just jumped out of his seat and took the guy down to the ground.
[20:19:57] COOPER: And others actually joined in as well then, right?
LINDSTROM: Yes. His seat mate came in behind and so the first guy was the guy who was on top. The second guy had sort of the feet. And the guy from 1a kind of hump around on the head and then a flight attendant, a guy, got in the mix. And the four of them wrestled and held him down on the ground.
COOPER: And what was this guy saying? Because I mean, there are some reports that he said the word jihad. I know you believe -- you did not hear him say that. What did you hear him say? What did other people hear him say?
LINDSTROM: He was saying like -- they're going to bring the plane down. The plane's going to go down. The plane is going to go down. And then he would switch to being des respondent, I'm sorry. He had some story about making money in California. The guy that was holding him, he was like, come with me, we can make money. But then he would pushed against them. And the guy who is holding would give him instruction, don't fuzz, just lie still. We are going to get you down on the ground. And he would fight and sort of go through like this, this wave of emotion up and down for the entire length of time.
COOPER: All in all as you look back on it, even at the time, did it feel to you this was just somebody who was mentally unstable or unstable in some way, not an attempted terror attack? .
LINDSTROM: It definitely -- from my vantage looking at it, it was more troubled than it was terror. You know? But I wasn't the guys holding him down.
COOPER: I know. One of the guys holding him down said that he did say the word jihad.
LINDSTROM: No, I never heard him say jihad. But he was talking. And it could have been just because I was preoccupied with him saying the plane's going down. They're going to bring the plane down.
When the police escorted him off the plane and the passenger came back and sat down, we started to chat, he said did you hear it? Like he said jihad a couple times? And so, I don't doubt that he said it. But he wasn't running down the aisle at first saying jihad. It certainly -- it was more troubled than terror.
COOPER: Yes. I can't even imagine.
Pastor Joshua Lindstorm, thank you so much.
LINDSTROM: Yes, thank you.
We have more breaking news, just getting the word in. We just got a very troubling piece of news from the secret service. They are confirming that preliminary screening of a letter sent to the White House reveals possible signs of cyanide. And more testing is being done and we will get additional details from Jim Acosta shortly.
There is a lot more happening tonight including a late update on Israel's election. Prime Minister Netanyahu speaking just a short time ago. We'll bring you that next.
[20:26:34] COOPER: Just before the break we got word from the secret service about a suspicious envelope and an early positive test result for cyanide that was sent to the White House.
Jim Acosta is on the phone joins us with what he now knows.
What have you learned, Jim?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (via phone): Yes Anderson, on Monday, I guess which was yesterday, an envelope was received at the White House mail screening facility which as you know, was something that's been set up for many, many years, to screen mail coming in to the White House for just these sorts of situations. And according to the U.S. secret service, they did an initial biological testing on the envelop. That tested negative.
But earlier today, according to the secret service, they did chemical testing on this envelope and returned what they're calling a presumptive positive for cyanide. And then that sample was transported to another facility to confirm the results. And at this point the secret service is saying this is an ongoing investigation. They don't have any additional comment at this time. But we have heard from a law enforcement official in the last half or so, they said that there were no injuries or exposure concerns for the person at the sorting facility who opened this letter.
So, you know, Anderson, again, you know, with all the questions that are going on with the secret service, this is an example of when, you know, they do catch something and they do perform their duty and something is found in time to prevent something quite damaging from reaching the White House.
COOPER: And any idea how long it is going to get more testing?
ACOSTA: You know, typically, Anderson, these things can happen in a couple of days. And so, I think we should know something in the next 24 to 48 hours. But right now, the secret service is not commenting. I think they were just relieved that they were able to catch this when they did at this sorting facility which is, again, why that is there. And it is interesting that it initially was not testing positive, but then tested positive later today. So we are going to have to wait to see what the latest is on that in the next couple of days.
COOPER: And thankfully no one at the facility was exposed as well it seems.
Jim, appreciate your update. We will continue to check on.
Breaking news as well tonight, and perhaps the most consequential Israeli election in decades, crowds gathered tonight at Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud (ph) party campaign headquarters. The prime minister, after igniting controversy in Washington renouncing his longstanding support two-state solution with Palestinians and pushing for confrontation with Iran, is tonight claiming victory.
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BENJAMIN NETANYAHU, ISRAELI PRIME MINISTER (through translator): Against all odds we achieve this huge victory for Likud.
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COOPER: Claims and optimism now standing exit polling doesn't yet bare him out showing either a dead heat or a very slight lead over the rival Zionist union's alliance. Zionist union's Isaac Herdzog tonight saying he is still in the race for a new government. Whoever going in his coalition had been expected to outpoll Likud by about 4 seats in Israel's parliament.
There is an awful lot at stake, obviously, for Israel, the region, the United States. Let's talk about it now with senior political analyst David Gergen and Atlantic media contributing editor, Peter Beinart. He is a CNN political commentator and senior fellow at the New America Foundation.
So David, obviously, the Obama administration is saying look, you know, whoever gets in to office, whatever the ruling party is, the good relationship between the United States and Israel will continue. The support is unwavering. Clearly though for this White House, a strong showing by Netanyahu, is it clear it is not what they wanted?
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Despite their public statements, Anderson, behind the scenes we all know that the White House really, starting with the president, loathe Benjamin Netanyahu and that they have privately hoping that Herzog would be able to put together a government and restore better relations with the United States. There are a lot of wild cards here in the days ahead. One of the interesting questions to me is, if the Israeli will not have a government for, it appears, maybe several days -- could be weeks. In that situation, how does Israel -- how does Netanyahu in particular now play a role in the closing days of the Iranian negotiations? He'll speak with muffled voice. He'll no longer represent the state of Israel until this election is resolved.
COOPER: It's also interesting because not only is Netanyahu being criticized for saying that he doesn't want a two-state solution, there will never be a Palestinian state under his leadership -- which is -- some people say it confirms suspicions they've had all along, but it does officially is not what his position was years ago. Also they are critical for him basically warning Israelis about a high voter turnout by Arabs in Israel who can vote. Critics are saying it's essentially a form of racism.
BEINART: This is a very, very ugly last few days for Netanyahu, and dispiriting to me at least that this seems to have helped him. He basically appealed to his voters and said, the Arabs are voting in droves. Those are Israeli citizens, those are his citizens that he is supposed to be representing. Imagine what the reaction would be if an American said, you better get to the polls because all those black people are going to vote. It is essentially what he said. I think it was a desperate effort, and I think it is really disturbing. If Israel goes down the road of electing Netanyahu and a right wing government, it will probably mean an end to the peace process for the foreseeable future and probably mean a more isolated Israel.
COOPER: Do you agree, David? That it would basically mean the end of the peace process? Because officially, the United States backs a two- state solution.
GERGEN: I don't see how Benjamin Netanyahu as a prime minister there is going to be a realistic hope for a peace process on his watch. He said he's now against a two-state solution. I don't know where you go from there in terms of getting a peace process going. I think Peter is right.
One of the interesting questions I think hanging in there, one of the interesting sort of wild cards is the Arab vote. They now have the third-largest bloc. They have said they would stay out of forming a coalition. But Peter, do you feel after the abuse they feel they have taken, their opposition to Netanyahu, there is a possibility they could now join up with Likud, with Isaac Herzog and form a government?
BEINART: Well, this has been one of the problematic issues of the Israeli politics. By tradition, Arab parties have never been part of a forming an Israeli government coalition. There's been a historic understanding in Israeli politics, you always needed a Jewish majority. So you're right, the Arab parties have said they don't want to become part of it, but Herzog has also suggested that he himself doesn't want to bring them in. Actually I think it would actually be a very positive development for Israel if Israel were to include Arab parties in its governing coalitions, but that's not been the history.
COOPER: A lot to learn in the next couple of days and even the next couple of hours, probably. Peter Beinart, thank you very much, David Gergen as well.
Ahead, breaking news. Police raid Robert Durst's Houston home the same day he's appeared in court in New Orleans, faced with charges in addition to first degree murder of his friend in 2000. The latest on that, plus his acquittal 12 years ago in Texas after he admitted killing his neighbor and dismembering his neighbor's body, throwing the body parts into the Galveston Bay. I'll speak with two jurors from that trial, next.
COOPER: Well, breaking news tonight. Police are searching the Houston home of Robert Durst, who is in custody in New Orleans. This according to our affiliate, KTRK. Meanwhile, it looks like Durst will be staying in New Orleans a little while longer. He was in court today on drug and weapons charges related to his arrest over the weekend. Another hearing is set for Monday. He faces extradition to California, where he is charged with first degree murder in the death of his long-time confidant, Susan Berman, 15 years ago. Durst was arrested Saturday, you may remember, a day before the season finale of the HBO documentary "The Jinx" aired. Today his attorney said the California warrant was issued quote, because of a television show and not because of the facts. The series investigated the disappearance of Durst's wife, Berman's death, and Durst's acquittal in Texas, where he admitted killing and then dismembering his neighbor. In a moment I'll speak with two of the jurors from that trial. But first, Randi Kaye has a little closer look at the case.
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: His name is Morris Black. And you might say he had the rotten luck of being Robert Durst's neighbor. In 2001, Durst was arrested for killing Black, dismembering his body, and disposing of it in the Galveston Bay. Soon, his arms, legs and torso began washing ashore. A 13-year-old boy discovered them.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I didn't know it was a body until I got really close to it and I could see the whole thing.
KAYE: It all happened in Galveston, Texas, where Durst had fled to from New York after his wife disappeared. She was never found. Neither was a key piece of evidence in the death of Morris Black. His head. Without it, investigators couldn't examine the bullet wound for themselves.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't cut somebody up, another human being, into pieces, and bag him up, dump him in the bay, when you act in self- defense.
KAYE: Prosecutors believe Durst really killed Black so he could assume his identity and hide from detectives investigating his wife's disappearance. Durst was already using a fake identity, though, cross-dressing as a mute woman, often walking around smoking marijuana. Durst, meanwhile, never denied killing Black.
DURST: I figured it was deep. Going to drop it, it is going to sink. Who cares where the tide is going. It's underwater, nobody's going to see it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But the bags didn't sink.
KAYE: Durst also admitted to police Black had died in his apartment from a bullet he fired. He confessed to dismembering his body, cleaning up all the blood, and wiping out any trace Morris Black ever existed.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He says I was looking on it as if it were a dream, as if it was someone else. I was watching it happen. It was like a sea, like looking through a bloody glass.
KAYE: Defense attorneys argued Black and Durst were friends, but that Black began acting abusively. They said Durst tried to break off the friendship, telling Black never to come to his apartment again. They struggled over a gun. Durst panicked after killing Black, so he got rid of his body.
Police recovered a 9 millimeter handgun and a bow saw from Durst's car. In his trash, a 22 caliber handgun. Inside his apartment, a pair of bloody boots and a knife. Still, in the end, the jury believed it was self-defense.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We, the jury, find the defendant, Robert Durst, not guilty.
KAYE: Robert Durst walked free, avoiding what could have been up to 99 years in prison.
Randi Kaye, CNN, New York.
COOPER: Joining me, Joanne Gongora and Deborah Warren, two of the jurors that acquitted Durst in that murder trial. They join me here along with CNN senior legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin.
Joanne, before we get to the Galveston case, you are featured in the HBO documentary about Robert Durst. What went through your mind when you heard he had been arrested this past weekend?
JOANNE GONGORA, FORMER DURST JUROR: I was very surprised. Shocked. I had been interviewed for the documentary a few years ago and had been watching it every episode, every Sunday.
COOPER: Deborah, I'm wondering how you respond to criticism, which I'm sure you got after the trial was over and still today, people basically saying how could this guy, who admitted to killing, then dismembering a person, Morris Black, how could he be acquitted? I'm wondering just as a juror, how do you see it? How do you explain it?
DEBORAH WARREN, FORMER DURST JUROR: Well, Anderson, like I said, in the first trial, it wasn't a 9-3 vote that he was not guilty. It was a unanimous vote by everyone on the jury. And I did what the system required of me to do. And by the verdict coming out to not guilty, it just was what it was. I mean, I've caught a lot of flack for it.
COOPER: I mean again, you're doing a service by sitting on the jury, so, anybody who's giving you flack, they weren't sitting in your seat. Joanne, as a juror, did you take into account he had dismembered Morris Black? Could you take that into account?
GONGORA: No. That's one thing -- I'm glad you asked me that. Deborah, I'm sure, will agree with this. That was not part of this trial. The trial that we sat as jurors on was how Morris Black died. So the question was, the actual charge that we had to answer was, was he murdered or was he killed in self-defense, or by accident. And the state could not prove it.
COOPER: Jeff Toobin, it's interesting, because had there been a head -- his head was really the only body part that was still missing -- had there been a head, perhaps the authorities would have been -- the state would have been able to prove how he was shot, which may have differed from Robert Durst's account of the actual shooting. But without a head, it was basically Robert Durst's account of how he was killed. Right?
TOOBIN: That's right. And who removed the head but Robert Durst. So I respect these jurors. I respect anyone who does jury service. It's a difficult job. But it doesn't mean that they should be immune from criticism. And I do think this jury made a mistake.
If I could just point to one specific point. The jurors have consistently said, well, the cutting up of the body had nothing to do with this case. That's not true. The prosecution pointed to the cutting up of the body as proof of Durst's guilty conscience, that he knew he had done something wrong. So that was very much part of the case, and respectfully, I think the jury made a mistake in not seeing that fairly obvious point.
COOPER: Joanne, to you, was there in your mind any question though, even though he wasn't charged for chopping up the body, that that told you what kind of a person he was, that told you about what he thought about what he had done?
GONGORA: The instructions that we had had and the remarks in the trial were that he wasn't on trial for these things. I mean, he admitted that he did them. I mean, we were told that he was -- you know, one reason that he cut up the body was because no one would believe what happened, and so he was running away from Jeanine Pirro.
Well, when we hear that as jurors, we expect the information that's given in trial is the truth. COOPER: Two of the lawyers who represented Durst in Galveston are
going to be representing him in Los Angeles. How good are they? In the documentary, they seem really, really good to me.
WARREN: You asked are they good? I call them brilliant. Brilliant attorneys sitting over there fighting for him. When the D.A. only had two people sitting over there fighting for this case. We were told we couldn't hold these things against this man. He was on trial for a murder and that's the way it was. And I would like to say to you that for 11 years I've been -- hasn't a month gone by that I've been reminded of Robert Durst. Not a day. In fact, to the point where they called it my boy. That's my boy.
COOPER: You must love that.
WARREN: I just did what I had to do. No. I don't love that.
COOPER: I'm kidding. I'm kidding.
WARREN: I'm not his next of kin. I'm not his next of kin.
COOPER: And I think you're counting your lucky stars you're not every single day on that one. I would certainly be. Joanne and Deborah, appreciate your time. Speaking out on this. Thank you very much. Jeff Toobin as well.
Coming up next, a tough call. Promising NFL rookie with the potential to make millions quits the NFL. He says it is not worth the risk to his head and long-term health. Dr. Sanjay Gupta has done extensive reporting on professional football and head injuries. He joins us next.
COOPER: Tonight, a decision that could not have been easy to make. An NFL linebacker Chris Boreland (ph) who had a breakout rookie season says he is leaving the game and his multi-million dollar contract for the sake of his health. He's 24 years old, and many consider him a future superstar, but he's walking away because he says he's worried about the long-term effects of concussions. Here is what he told ESPN.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is a unique decision to me. I've done a lot of research. What I had experienced in my past. Projected to what I would have to do to be the linebacker I wanted to be. And for me, it wasn't worth the risk. I'm certainly not going to take on health risk or compromise my well being just for money. (END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Studies have linked repetitive head trauma, concussions, with long-term brain damage. Dozens of NFL players have been diagnosed with progressive brain damage after their deaths. Dr. Sanjay Gupta has done a lot of reporting on this issue and joins me tonight.
Sanjay, to retire from the NFL at 24 is pretty unheard of. But long term, the risks these players expose themselves to, are very serious.
GUPTA: If you look at some of the documents that came out from the NFL even, they say they expect one-third of their retired players develop some sort of a long-term cognitive problem. They say they guessed high because they tried to account for as many players as possible that might have problems because they can take care of them from a medical standpoint. But one-third of players is pretty significant. Average age that a player dies, a retired player from the NFL, is 57.
COOPER: Is that right, 57?
GUPTA: Three times more likely to developed things like Alzheimer's, ALS and other cognitive problems. So there's correlation that we've seen for a long time. He is the first player though to basically say, because of my concern about brain injuries, specifically CTE, I'm making this decision.
COOPER: Are there certain positions that are at greater risk than others?
GUPTA: It's interesting, I looked at that today as well, and this may surprise you a little bit. He is a linebacker. You think those guys on the line are going to have the biggest blows to the head. And oftentimes they do, but it is really more the speed players. Quarterbacks, for example, runningbacks. Players who are moving at a high rate of speed, and then have collisions. They seem to have -- or if you are a quarterback, somebody is coming at you at a high rate of speed. For whatever reason, those sorts of injuries seem to be the most significant.
Keep in mind, it is not just the impact itself. But also what we call rotational impact. Look at the way the brain moves in that animation there. It is not just a blow, but the brain is actually moving in a rotational force as well. That seems to be really more highly associated with concussions and subsequently CTE. As you look at this animation, you see the brain actually doesn't just take a blow, it changes its shape. It contorts. It moves in response to a blow, and that causes some of the damage even at the neuron level.
COOPER: Obviously for a lot of players they will stay from. They need the money, they love the game, whatever the reason, they've worked really hard to get there obviously. Is there anything they can do to mitigate the risk?
GUPTA: I think there's been a lot of talk of can you make football be a safer game and still be football. I think there's been some various things that have happened at the league level to try and reduce the impact of these injuries. For example, the kickoff return is one of the fastest moving parts of the game. Player gets the ball, they're running back, as fast as they can, a bunch of other players running at them. They've moved the kickoff line further forward so that you have fewer of these instances where people are returning the ball at a high speed. You also find it is not just the big blows that cause the problem, but also many different blows to the head that can, over time, add up. A lot of those are happening in practices. But it is a rough and tumble game. There's no question.
COOPER: Incredible. Sanjay, thanks very much.
GUPTA: Thank you.
COOPER: We're learning a lot more about the suspicious letter sent to the White House and what it contained. New details next.
COOPER: We're following developments on the suspicious letter sent to the White House. According to an internal law enforcement alert, the envelope held some kind of milky substance in a container wrapped in a plastic bag. Again, preliminary testing suggests the presence of cyanide. More testing is under way.
On St. Patrick's day weekend in 1990, 13 priceless works of art disappeared from a museum in Boston. Tonight we look at how the thieves did it, and how they have managed to elude investigators all over the world. In just a few minutes, we ask the $500 million question -- who pulled off the greatest art heist in history? In a CNN special report. Here a quick preview.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'd like to say it is Boston's last best secret.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Boston's last best secret, who stole the 13 works of art from the Isabella Stuart Gardner museum and where are they now? It is a question that continues to puzzle museum security director Anthony Amore (ph).
What is it about this case that keeps you up at night, that just does not sit right with you?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There were lots of quirky things about it. Every time you turn around, there is a different interesting fact that you find.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: One of the biggest questions for Amore -- why did the thieves steal what they did? Remember the path of the thieves on the second floor when they went from the Dutch room to the short gallery, they bypassed valuable works of art that were small and portable and worth a lot more than some of the other art they stole.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The two big Rembrandts and the Vermeer, those three pieces account for 90 percent of let's call it $500 million, of the value.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Another big question -- why did the thieves bother taking the golden finial (ph) that sat atop of a Napoleonic flag?
At first, it seems they attempted to steal the flag itself, but it proved to be too difficult to take down.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They wanted very badly to get that flag. That always seemed to me the clue that's most interesting.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: It's a fascinating hour, fascinating mystery. It starts right now. Here is the CNN special report, "The $500 million question: Who pulled off the greatest art heist in history?"