Return to Transcripts main page
Predators in Plain Sight; The Mountaintop; Plastic Wars; Hunting Down Sharks
Aired October 30, 2011 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: Tonight on CNN PRESENTS, "Predators in Plain Sight." Priests accused of sex abuse kicked out of the church.
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN PRESENTS CORRESPONDENT: That's his apartment right there. You can see the red light. We've seen his head bopping around. We'll try to see if he will come to the door.
ANNOUNCER: An alarming investigation. How they could be living in your neighborhood.
"The Mountaintop." An all-star cast. A controversial play.
SAMUEL L. JACKSON, ACTOR, "DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.": God don't like to be laughed at.
ANNOUNCER: How a 30-year-old playwright is challenging the way we remember the last day of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s life.
Plastic wars. Why is this man wearing 500 plastic bags and hanging off the side of a boat? And why is the plastic industry out to get him?
Hunting down sharks. They're the most feared predators in the ocean. But we reveal how sharks have more to fear from us.
Revealing investigations. Fascinating characters. Stories with impact. This is CNN PRESENTS, with your hosts tonight, Soledad O'Brien and Sanjay Gupta.
SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN PRESENTS HOST: We begin this evening with a CNN PRESENTS special investigation. It's a story that sounds all too familiar.
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN PRESENTS HOST: Catholic priests accused of abusing children. Church leaders accused of covering it up.
O'BRIEN: But this familiar story has a disturbing new chapter. Hundreds of these priests live unmonitored in unsuspecting communities.
GUPTA: As we learned in some cases, they live next to schools and they live next to parks. Gary Tuchman tracks down some of the most notorious offenders.
Predators in plain sight.
TUCHMAN (on camera): Here we are on a block where a molester priest lives.
RAY BOUCHER, LOS ANGELES ATTORNEY: Right.
TUCHMAN: Do you think these neighbors know about it?
BOUCHER: I'm certain that they do not.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): Ray Boucher is a Los Angeles attorney who works with victims of sexual abuse.
BOUCHER: Unfortunately in California and around the country there are hundreds of priests in our communities without anybody having any understanding that there's this danger sitting there in the middle of their communities.
TUCHMAN: Boucher's firm tracked down accused pedophile priests living all over the country and compiled a list of their addresses.
(On camera): How does it make you feel living across the street from a guy on a list like that?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have to really think about this and be cautious, you know, with kids or something. I didn't know it. I'm just dumbfounded.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): Nearly 6,000 priests have been accused of molesting children in the U.S. since 1950s, according to the U.S. Conference of Bishops. Very few of those accused ever make it to a criminal trial. Often because by the time victims come forward, the stature of limitations for the crime has passed. At that point even if a priest admits to the abuse, he cannot go to jail.
BOUCHER: The only reason why they weren't really convicted is because the church gave them a safe harbor and hid them. I mean if the church had done what every school, you know, civic organization faced with sexual abuse would have, it should have done at the time, which namely alert the police. These priests would have been arrested.
TUCHMAN: Boucher says former priest Carl Sutfin is one example. A report from the Los Angeles Archdiocese says Sutfin is accused of molesting 18 boys. Even though Sutfin admits he's guilty he's never been convicted. His victims came forward too late.
(On camera): Mr. Sutfin?
(Voice-over): Now 79 years old, we found him living in Ventura, California. About 90 miles north of Los Angeles.
(On camera): You have admitted the child molestation from before. Do you think the public should know where you live? CARL SUTFIN, FORMER PRIEST: They know.
TUCHMAN: No, the public doesn't know where you live. Do you think the public should know?
Sir, I just wanted to get your comments so we can give you a chance to speak.
(Voice-over): Next, we traveled to another town north of L.A. The upscale West Lake Village. A community filled with families. That's where we found 56-year-old former priest Kevin Barmacy. The Los Angeles Archdiocese says Barmacy is accused of molesting eight boys.
Barmacy has never commented. But the church called the allegations credible and finally defrocked him in 2006. He's never had a criminal trial.
(On camera): That's his apartment right there. You can see the red light. We've seen his head bopping around. We'll try to see if he will come to the door.
Mr. Barmacy? Mr. Barmacy?
(Voice-over): Barmacy would not answer the door.
BOUCHER: I want the church to put out information about where these individuals live. I want the church to bring these priests back in to a place where they are safe. Safe for themselves and safe for the communities.
TOD TAMBERG, SPOKESPERSON, ARCHDIOCESE OF LOS ANGELES: Unfortunately, they've never been convicted. They're private citizens. And so they're free to move about and live where they want to.
TUCHMAN: Tod Tamberg is the spokesman for the Los Angeles Archdiocese.
(On camera): Could the church have done more to get convictions now that you look back at it?
TAMBERG: When we take priests out of ministry for allegations, we sent them to treatment. And in some cases they were reassigned to other duties.
TUCHMAN: Let me stop you for a second. I'm wondering if the church as a whole here looks back at it, that wasn't a good way to deal with it.
TAMBERG: Looking back now at what we did back then, I think it was -- it was the wrong thing to do. We relied too often on the stories of the priests themselves. We thought too much about their well-being than the victims'. And --
TUCHMAN: That's a startling admission you make. And it's honest. And --
TAMBERG: Well, it's true.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): Tamberg says the church today notifies the police immediately if a child comes forward with an allegation of abuse. But it's too late for the people who say they were abused by this former priest. Nicolas Aguilar Rivera. Who is now an international fugitive wanted in the U.S. and in Mexico.
FEDERICO SICARD, FORMER LAPD DETECTIVE: Back then, there were 26 victims.
TUCHMAN: Former LAPD detective Federico Sicard worked on this case for more than 20 years.
SICARD: Back in January 11, 1988, around 8:30 in the morning, we got a call via the police radio. And we were directed to go to this particular school in east L.A. in the Hollenbeck area.
TUCHMAN: Sicard arrived at Our Lady of Guadalupe to find four children who said they were molested.
SICARD: It was horrible. Because what the kids were telling us.
TUCHMAN: But Sicard never had a chance to question Aguilar.
SICARD: We went to interview the priest, and they told us, he's no longer here. He's gone. He was taken to Mexico.
TUCHMAN: Church officials found out about the alleged abuse on a Friday. The officials met with Aguilar on Saturday. This police report indicates the priest told them he planned to return to Mexico at the beginning of the week. Police were notified Monday morning. But it was too late.
TAMBERG: We made a call to -- I think Child Protective Services. Nobody was answering the phone. It was 5:00 on a Friday. So Monday morning the call was made. The notification was made. And Aguilar Rivera during the weekend fled without telling anybody to Mexico.
SICARD: If we had been able to get our hands on him, yes, he would have been detained.
TUCHMAN: After Aguilar fled, more reports of abuse surfaced. The district attorney later filed a warrant charging Aguilar with 19 counts of lewd acts against a child.
When we come back, we travel to Mexico to look for accused child molester Nicolas Aguilar Rivera, the former priest who authorities say is impossible to find.
(On camera): Yes, you do. You recognize him.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) GUPTA: We've been investigating hundreds of Catholic priests accused of abuse. And then allowed to blend back into society. Alarmingly, no one keeps track of where they live.
One of the most notorious is a priest who fled to Mexico after being accused of molesting dozens of children. Authorities say they can't find him. But that doesn't stop our Gary Tuchman.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): Mexico City. Population, 20 million. Not a bad place to hide if you're a fugitive. Except fugitive Nicolas Aguilar Rivera doesn't seem to have anyone looking for him.
Aguilar fled Los Angeles in 1988, charged with molesting 10 children. Still a priest, he surfaced four years later. Assigned to this church in Mexico City.
Joaquin Mendez remembers him vividly.
JOAQUIN MENDEZ, FORMER CHURCH ALTAR BOY (Through Translator): I met him being an altar boy. He became a close friend of my family. Honestly, his presence made me feel uncomfortable. His breath smelled really bad. It was a disgusting smell. Even now, I feel the scars of those memories.
TUCHMAN: Joaquin was 13 years old when he says Aguilar called him into his bedroom at the church.
MENDEZ (Through Translator): So he said, come on in. Let me show you some music tapes I made. So I go in, and he forced me to pull down my pants. He raped me. I got away from him however I could. He threatened me not to say anything to my family because if I did, he was going to do the same thing to my brother.
TUCHMAN: Joaquin found the courage to come forward. He told his parents, and they went to the police.
MENDEZ (Through Translator): They never arrested him. But that's the law in Mexico. The investigation continued while he was free.
TUCHMAN: Aguilar left Mexico City in 1995. Over the next 10 years, he continued working as a priest in small towns in the Mexican state of Puebla.
Sanjuana Martinez is a Mexican journalist who's interviewed many who say they were abused by Aguilar. She's also interviewed Aguilar.
(On camera): You talked to him on the telephone?
SANJUANA MARTINEZ, JOURNALIST: Yes, I talked to him.
TUCHMAN: How did you feel when you got off the phone with him.
MARTINEZ: Both angry and excited, you know. I said, I can't believe it that he's talking with me.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): Aguilar repeatedly denied the allegations, including the charges made by Joaquin Mendez.
NICHOLAS AGUILAR RIVERA, FORMER PRIEST: All this has been a series of defamation, slanders. That is what all of this has been.
TUCHMAN: We spoke to two men who are afraid to show their faces. They saw Aguilar molested them as young boys.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (Through Translator): He said if I told anyone, he will kill my parents, my brothers.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (Through Translator): He had me come into his room. He locked the door with the key. And then he started to touch my private parts.
TUCHMAN: Five formal complaints have been filed against Aguilar since his return to Mexico in 1988. He's wanted in the state of Puebla for statutory rape. But authorities there tell us they've lost his trail.
We decided to look for Aguilar ourselves. And got a lead that he was last seen in the town (INAUDIBLE), two hours south of Mexico City.
(On camera): Yes, you do. You recognize him.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE (Through Translator): Yes. I've seen him twice.
TUCHMAN (voice-over): Emiliano, a local farmer, takes us to a local bus stop where he most recently saw Aguilar. We asked Emiliano if he recognized Aguilar from the news.
(On camera): Yes. That's why I came with you. Because I've seen him.
(Voice-over): At the bus stop we meet a woman who tells us she sees him regularly. She has no idea about his past.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (Through Translator): I saw him on the bus. And he said I should take care of my baby. That was all.
TUCHMAN: She agrees to show us where she says Aguilar gets off the bus. Unfortunately, once in the neighborhood, the people we meet say they don't know him. And our trail runs cold.
Back in Mexico City, a spokesman for the Archdiocese, Hugo Valdemar, says the church has no further responsibility for Aguilar.
HUGO VALDEMAR, MEXICO CITY ARCHDIOCESE SPOKESMAN (Through Translator) : Here in Mexico City, we have no news of victims of Nicolas Aguilar.
TUCHMAN: He says the church disputes the claim of rape by Joaquin Mendez. But he acknowledges Aguilar may be guilty of other abuse.
VALDEMAR (Through Translator): I'm not saying he may not have done things because we have the impression that he did. The church has done what needed to be done. It suspended Nicolas Aguilar. He is no longer a priest.
TUCHMAN: But church officials did not defrock Aguilar until 2009. Years after they knew about the alleged abuse. Valdemar told us it's not the church's job to hunt down suspects.
VALDEMAR (Through Translator): This is a job for the police.
TUCHMAN: But Sanjuana Martinez doesn't see any evidence the police are looking for him.
(On camera): Do you think that one day he will be arrested here in Mexico?
MARTINEZ: I don't think so.
O'BRIEN: Gary Tuchman joins us now.
So theoretically, could Aguilar face charges in the United States if he's arrested?
TUCHMAN: Well, the charges still stand. And what prosecutors in Southern California are telling us is if Mexican authorities arrest him, if he were to be extradited, they would continue the prosecution.
But police in Mexico are telling us they can't find him. And church officials in Mexico have indicated to us they have no interest in finding him. But what's interesting about what the police tell us is that when we were there, we almost immediately found people who just saw Aguilar. We were directed to a neighborhood where he either lives or visits frequently, and we're just reporters. We don't have search warrants. But if we were with police who had search warrants, I'm convinced they could have found him very quickly.
GUPTA: Now it seems pretty notable that the Los Angeles Archdiocese essentially acknowledged that there was improper conduct, they'd handled it inappropriately. What does that mean?
TUCHMAN: It was very notable to have the spokesman from the L.A. Archdiocese admit fault, admit that perhaps we should have called the police back then, years ago. Not perhaps, we definitely should have called the police back then. That was a mistake. That was a very important part of our story.
What was also important is him telling us that the archdiocese is not doing this anymore. That it's doing it right. And we sure hope that's the case.
O'BRIEN: Gary Tuchman, thanks.
GUPTA: Thanks, Gary.
O'BRIEN: Coming one a play that has Broadway buzzing with its irreverent look at one of America's most revered figures. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
I'll introduce you to the young playwright behind it and tell you how growing up in Memphis helped inspire her.
O'BRIEN: I've reported several documentaries about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. So I was intrigued by a new star-studded play that opened recently on Broadway. It's called "The Mountaintop." The way it portrays the last night of Dr. King's life has people talking. And the playwright, Katori Hall, wasn't even born when Dr. King was killed. But she says her play makes King look more real.
MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR., CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT LEADER: We've got some difficult days ahead, but it really doesn't matter with me now. Because I've been to the mountaintop. I don't mind.
O'BRIEN (voice-over): Wednesday, April 3rd, 1968.
KING: My eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.
O'BRIEN: The last speech Martin Luther King ever gave. Memphis's Mason Temple. He finished exhausted and returned to the nearby Lorraine Motel. His favorite room, 306.
It was the last night of his life.
(On camera): Have you ever had a chance to be inside Dr. King's actual room at the Lorraine Motel?
KATORI HALL, PLAYWRIGHT: No. Only in my imagination.
(Voice-over): Playwright Katori Hall has imagined Dr. King's last night for almost 30 years of her life.
(On camera): They never let anyone in this room. Almost never.
O'BRIEN: This is all the way the room was when he died.
HALL: Mm-hmm. It is so small. It's too small to contain his dreams. You know? Wow.
O'BRIEN (voice-over): Now, Hall has vividly brought that last night to life in a controversial play that's electrifying theatergoers. It's an unusual and very human take on Dr. King. He drinks and smokes. He curses. He flirts. JACKSON: Do you think I should shave off my mustache?
I like the fact that it was just about, you know, Dr. King being in a room and not being that iconic speech-making, marching, protesting man that we knew.
Mustache? No mustache?
O'BRIEN: Academy Award nominee Samuel L. Jackson plays Dr. King.
JACKSON: It was an opportunity to create a Dr. King that we don't ordinarily associate with people who were that large.
O'BRIEN (on camera): Is there a risk to that?
JACKSON: It's not a risk to me. It's an opportunity.
O'BRIEN (voice-over): An opportunity both Jackson and co-star Angela Bassett couldn't pass up.
ANGELA BASSETT, ACTOR, "GAYLE KING": I love that he is seen as -- and my character says this a couple times -- sugar, shush. You're just a man.
O'BRIEN: The idea was inspired by Katori's mother, Kerry May.
HALL: She grew up around the corner from the Lorraine Motel. And when Dr. King came to speak in support of the sanitation workers strike at Mason Temple, she wanted to go. And she asked her mother can she go to Mason Temple to hear Dr. King speak.
And big mama told her, no, you are not going to go. Somebody's going to bomb that church. You know they're out to kill that man. And my mother was like, that's one of my biggest regrets. I never got a chance to hear him speak.
KERRY MAY, KATORI HALL'S MOTHER: I would tell Katori that story basically about every time black history came about. And it just kept going on. Martin Luther King became one of her favorite peoples.
O'BRIEN: Hall grew up with that story walking her mother's childhood streets.
HALL: This entire street was just, you know, full of people. Miss Ida. Miss Ruth.
O'BRIEN: She calls Memphis her muse. Where she found inspiration. And her fighting spirit.
HALL: I was, you know, the first black valedictorian. And I had heard a rumor at school that the powers that be were going to change the march into alphabetical order. We weren't going to walk in according to rank. I'll be with the H's.
HALL: So when Kerry May Hall heard about that.
O'BRIEN (on camera): Your mama.
HALL: My mama, said, you ain't going to do that to my child. And you know, I ended up walking in first.
O'BRIEN (voice-over): Hall received a full scholarship to Columbia University. An actor, she found few roles written for women of color.
HALL: I was taken an acting class, and a teacher, you know, told me and my acting partner to go to the library and get a play that had, you know, a scene between two young black women. We really struggled. That's when I was like, well, I must -- got to write some plays, then.
O'BRIEN: Hall has written nearly a dozen plays since. She was only 26 when she finished "The Mountaintop."
BASSETT: It's a gift. She was meant to do it.
HALL: I did feel even at a young age that I had walked this earth before.
O'BRIEN (on camera): You're an old soul.
O'BRIEN (voice-over): In 2009 in London, it opened to rave reviews and top awards.
(On camera): In retrospect, was it easier to go to London because people don't have that same ferocious love and respect for Dr. King?
HALL: Absolutely. Absolutely. There's cultural distance. They were also very open to judging the play on its own merits and not, you know, being disturbed over the human portrayal of Dr. King.
O'BRIEN (voice-over): Close to home, on Broadway, there's more at stake. Some are disturbed by the portrayal.
HALL: I actually have lost 12 pounds in the past month due to stress. I have had a lot of sleepless nights.
O'BRIEN: A lot of pressure for one of Broadway's youngest playwrights.
HALL: I would feel really sad if people didn't understand that what I'm trying to do is to show that we all can be kings and all great people are human. It just shows that a human being was able to change the world. And you can change the world, too.
JACKSON: Fear makes us human.
GUPTA: So that moment, she's walking into the room for the first time. I mean, she's written about it obviously. What was the moment like for her?
O'BRIEN: Hey, you know, she was so nervous going in I literally thought she might pass out. She was so anxious about it. But when we went in, she actually -- big talker -- she stopped talking. And she started focusing on every detail. The cigarettes in the ashtray. What was the look of the bedspread. What was in the bathroom.
O'BRIEN: You know, as a playwright she honed in on the details.
O'BRIEN: She said to me, you know, I'm not sure I got his story exactly right. It's a story from my imagination. But, really, all these years later, we'll never really know what Dr. King's last night was like.
GUPTA: It's fascinating. And for a writer, again, to be in there for the first time having written this whole thing, just absolutely remarkable.
O'BRIEN: For me, too.
GUPTA: Yes. For you as well. Thank you.
Coming up, plastic bags. They're everywhere. And you won't believe where they end up. You're about to meet an activist who's out to get rid of them.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ANDY KELLER, CHICOBAG: You keep feeding the bag monster. I can reproduce.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GUPTA: But as you might imagine, the companies that make plastic bags, well, they're not too happy.
ANNOUNCER: We now return to CNN PRESENTS, with your hosts Soledad O'Brien and Sanjay Gupta.
O'BRIEN: Plastic bags. There are trillions of them, literally trillions. It is the most abundant consumer product in the entire world, according to the "Guinness Book of World Records."
GUPTA: We all use them. But after seeing this report, you may have some second thoughts.
Amber Lyon introduces you to a man who's made getting rid of plastic bags his mission.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Will you feed me some plastic?
AMBER LYON, CNN PRESENTS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Andy Keller is the bag monster.
(On camera): Here you go.
(Voice-over): The bag monster travels across the United States.
KELLER: Behold the bag monster.
LYON: Wearing costumes he creates from 500 plastic bags.
KELLER: People can come, try on a bag monster. See what it feels like, you know, to wear what you use in a single year.
LYON: His goal, eliminating single-used plastic and paper bags. And plastic bags do seem to be everywhere. Including everywhere they shouldn't be. In the street. Up a tree. In lakes and streams.
KELLER: My whole mission is to help humanity kick their habit.
LYON: Keller's mission to save the environment is all consuming. At ChicoBag, his company in northern California, even the chickens get in on the act. Recycling employee garbage.
KELLER: They'll take care of this compost within a day.
LYON: ChicoBag sells reusable bags that can fit in your pocket. It's Keller's brainchild. Inspired when he visited this. The local landfill.
KELLER: Nice cushion here. Here's a bed frame. Or a sprinkler. Look at all the plastic bags. This is when it really got me. The bags were blowing around, caught on all these fences.
LYON: Andy Keller is part of a growing movement of activists and politicians concerned about the environmental impact of plastic bags. Cities like Washington, D.C. and San Francisco are taxing and even banning them. And the concern goes well beyond land.
(On camera): Whether plastic bags start out here on the coast or a couple thousand miles away in a river in the Midwest, many of them end up right here in the ocean.
(Voice-over): So we went to see for ourselves. Dawn off the coast of California.
(On camera): So normally when you're on boats like this, you're out looking for dolphin or fish. But today it's grocery bags. We're fishing for plastic bags.
(Voice-over): My fishing partner is Dr. Marcus Ericson who has a PhD in science education.
(On camera): Plastic and nature meet. Look.
(Voice-over): Ericson studies the amount and impact of plastic debris in the ocean. After successfully fishing the surface, we wondered what might be below.
(On camera): Out here the water looks very clear, but you never know what's lying underneath.
(Voice-over): The bags we found do more than just litter the ocean floor. This is the Marine Mammal Center. Its staff and volunteers rescue and rehabilitate sick and injured animals.
DR. BILL VAN BOND, MARINE MAMMAL CENTER: He's not very responsive. And he'll get an initial assessment.
LYON: Dr. Bill Van Bond is director of Veterinary Science.
BOND: Whales, sea lions, dolphins, in my personal experience, I've seen all three of those animals with bags in them.
LYON (on camera): If a marine mammal swallows a plastic bag can it kill the animal?
BOND: It could. It could. But I think the bigger concern is the unseen effects of these materials.
ERICSON: But as those plastic bags migrate out the deep ocean, they fragment very quickly. So one plastic bag can turn into 10,000 particles the size of fish food.
LYON (voice-over): Ericson has traveled to remote locations on rotating ocean currents known as gyres have trapped debris, sometimes creating what's described as an enormous plastic soup. Some claim the garbage patch in the Pacific Ocean is the size of Texas. But nobody really knows.
ERICSON: We collected this debris. There are few recognizable items in here. There's a pen cap. There are two pen caps. Look carefully right there. It's a toy gorilla. As far from land as you can get on the planet, we found evidence of our trash.
LYON: And they found the remnant of a plastic bag.
ERICSON: Here is a plastic bag that's been knotted. Evidence of plastic bags in the gyres. We're going to open these fish up and just see if they are ingesting our trash.
LYON: Ericson brought us three lantern fish from his 2008 trip to the great Pacific garbage patch. ERICSON: Right there, that's plastic.
LYON: We searched their stomachs and found not plastic bags but bits of plastic garbage in two of the three fish.
(On camera): This little yellow piece of plastic was inside the lantern fish's stomach. Why does it worry you if something this small is in a lantern fish?
ERICSON: That small fish eats pollutant laden trash. The pollutants go in its body. A bigger fish eats a small fish. And then we eat that fish. It's on our dinner plates. So by a few steps, we are eating our trash and the pollutants that stick to it.
LYON: Do you know of any cases of people getting sick from consuming fish that had eaten plastic?
ERICSON: I don't. The science on this is so very, very new.
LYON (voice-over): What's also new is a battle over what to do about all of this ubiquitous plastic.
KELLER: Outlaw plastic bags here.
LYON: Andy Keller is leading the charge. But now he's under attack.
(On camera): Why are three of the nation's leading plastic bag manufacturing companies suing Andy Keller and ChicoBag, a company of 30 employees.
KELLER: Yes, that's a good question.
LYON (voice-over): When we come back, who is winning the plastic wars?
GUPTA: You just met a man who's on a mission to eliminate plastic bags. Andy Keller. He's also known as the bag monster. He believes they're polluting our land and our water. Well, now he's under attack. Three plastic bag companies have taken him to court.
Amber Lyon continues her investigation.
LYON (voice-over): One landfill. Five minutes. Fifty-five bags. Most of them --
KELLER: Hilex Poly. Hilex Poly.
LYON (on camera): Hilex Poly. (Voice-over): Hilex Poly. The largest plastic bag maker in the U.S. is one of three companies that have sued ChicoBag. Andy Keller's reusable bag company.
MARK DANIELS, HILEX POLY VICE PRESIDENT: We're recycling somewhere close to 70,000 pounds of post consumer bags, wraps, in fact, every day.
LYON: Hilex Poly vice president Mark Daniels gave us a tour of the company's plastic bag recycling plant in Indiana. Which it touts as the biggest in the world. Daniels says many bags not recycled benefit consumers who reuse them.
DANIELS: They use it for a trashcan liner. You know, one of the biggest reuses, you know, cleaning up after a dog when you take it for a walk.
LYON: Keller has been a thorn in the company's side. In a lawsuit Hilex Poly accused Keller posting unsubstantiated or misleading statistics about plastic bag its Web site. Statistics, it said, were causing it to lose business.
DANIELS: We honestly thought that this kind of false and misleading information was not appropriate. Especially, you know, for their commercial gain at the expense of us.
LYON (on camera): How much revenue did Hilex Poly lose as a result of ChicoBags advertising?
DANIELS: I'm not going to share that confidential information.
LYON (voice-over): What really bothers Hilex Poly is Keller's claim that most plastic bags aren't recycled. Ending up as trash or litter. Like what we found diving off the California coast. On his Web site, Keller says the recycling rate is less than 1 percent. A rate he got from an Environmental Protection Agency Web site.
But Hilex Poly says the EPA stopped using that rate after 2005. On its Web site, Hilex Poly uses a higher rate of 12 percent of plastic bags recycled. But that rate combines bags with other plastics like shrink wrap.
(On camera): So you think they were inflating the number with wrap?
KELLER: Well, they were.
DANIELS: According to the Environmental Protection Agency, 12 percent of bags, sacks and wraps are recycled. And --
LYON (on camera): But there's no bags, sacks and wraps mentioned in this. It just says, "Plastic bags are recycled."
DANIELS: That is -- that would be an error on us because we want to be very clear with the American public that it's bags, sacks and wraps. LYON (voice-over): One percent or 12 percent. Either is a failing grade for us consumers. We do a very poor job of recycling our plastic bags. Even if you intend to recycle your plastic bags, often they end up in the trash.
Because while Hilex Poly's recycling plant is state of the art, many plants look like this one in San Leandro, California.
(On camera): When you put your recyclables in the curbside bin, this is where they end up to be sorted and then recycled.
(Voice-over): Here they say plastic bags are a nightmare. Clogging machines. And few of the plastic bags ultimately get recycled.
PETER HOLTZCLAW, DISTRICT MANAGER, WASTE MANAGEMENT: Very few. Probably 10 percent, 10, 20 percent. Because most of it is not recyclable because they're so dirty.
LYON: China, Italy and Rwanda have banned or severely limited plastic bags. In the U.S., dozens of cities and some states have tried to curb their use.
(On camera): You authored a bill that would have banned plastic bags across the state of California.
JULIA BROWNLEY (D), CALIFORNIA STATE ASSEMBLY: Plastic bags and paper bags.
LYON: Who was the biggest opponent of your bill?
BROWNLEY: The American Chemistry Council, for sure. They came here to Sacramento and hired lobbyist after lobbyist after lobbyist. They had television ads.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A $19 billion deficit. What are some Sacramento politicians focused on? Grocery bags.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
STEVE RUSSELL, VICE PRESIDENT, AMERICAN CHEMISTRY COUNCIL: Plastic bags --
LYON (voice-over) : Steve Russell is a vice president of the American Chemistry Council. A lobbying firm representing makers of plastic bags.
RUSSELL: We spent almost $1 million, most of that costs of television advertising, and that was necessary because citizens weren't being given access to complete information that was accurate and fair.
LYON: Russell says plastic bags have gotten a bad rap. He told us a local study found that 3 percent of plastic bags in California are recycled.
(On camera): And you look at that number, 3 percent, that's 97 percent of California's bags, sacks and wraps are ending up in a landfill or is litter. How can 3 percent be a good number?
RUSSELL: Because it started at almost zero. And it's -- it's the trend and the progress that we want to focus on.
LYON (voice-over): Russell's group won the fight in California. The ban on plastic bags failed. And that's not the only battleground where the plastics industry has won. Measures also were defeated in Oregon and Virginia.
As for Andy Keller, he and Hilex Poly settled before going to trial. Both sides made concessions in their war of words, and Keller's insurance company ultimately made a payment to Hilex Poly.
KELLER: And they could potentially have put me out of business. And that's the goal is under that threat, I would shut up and not say anything because I don't want to go out of business.
LYON (on camera): But you didn't.
KELLER: I didn't. Plastic bags have got to go, hey, hey, ho, ho. Plastic bag, they've got to go.
O'BRIEN: Coming up, we go inside the controversial sport of shark fishing. Then we go face to face with sharks and show who the real predators are.
O'BRIEN: Remember the movie "Jaws," how scary that was?
O'BRIEN: I literally did not go back into the water for the rest of the summer.
GUPTA: And you like scary movies.
O'BRIEN: I do, yes.
GUPTA: And I like them, too. But there's something about sharks, in particular, because I like being in the water, but there's something about them -- the shark attacks, really -- they make headlines. They obviously make great ratings. We're still talking about "Jaws. But in reality your chances of getting attacked by a shark are really, really slim.
O'BRIEN: And actually, sharks have more to fear from man.
GUPTA: Right. O'BRIEN: Than we have to fear from them. Sharks are in deep decline because of commercial fishing and they're also a big demand for their fins now.
GUPTA: That's right. And Kaj Larsen, he investigates how the threat to them, the sharks, can also threaten our environment.
O'BRIEN: Got to warn you, though, some of these images you're going to see are a little bit graphic.
KAJ LARSEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Each summer, dozens of shark fishing tournaments are held up and down the East Coast. Big sharks draw big crowds and big prize money. But the tournaments have also sparked protests from the Humane Society of the United States.
Shark populations are crashing around the world. Roughly a third of all shark and ray species face some threat of extinction. Without them, the marine food web could start to unravel.
Native New Englander Captain Dave Johnson doesn't let the controversy stop him.
CAPT. DAVE JOHNSON, NEW ENGLAND: You guys see those Sirjen jumping?
LARSEN: A neuroscientist by day and big game fisherman on the weekends, he started a shark fishing tournament in Sakko, Maine, to raise money for a local charity.
JOHNSON: We're measuring the fork length on this shark. There he goes.
LARSEN (on camera): We got 20 boats cruising out shark fishing today. What happens next?
JOHNSON: These guys are competitive fishermen. They want to win the tournament. They want to win it for bragging rights. They will win some money and some nice prizes.
LARSEN (voice-over): All day long one shark after another takes the bait.
JOHNSON: He doesn't know he's got a hook in him yet. That's for sure.
LARSEN (on camera): Still in neutral.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Stay in neutral.
LARSEN (voice-over): And one after another is released.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right. Cut it.
LARSEN: None big enough to be entered into the tournament. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, brother. Sorry, buddy.
LARSEN: But these big sharks aren't so lucky. Back at the dock, they're being hauled in. Each shark is weighed, measured and sampled for research on shark populations. Some are also eaten. An estimated 73 million sharks are killed each year by commercial fisheries. Millions die by finning to feed the growing demand for shark fin soup in Asia.
(On camera): If sharks are being depleted in the ocean, why do you still run a kill tournament as opposed to just a catch and release tournament?
JOHNSON: The amount of sharks that we kill is way under the federal guidelines. Shark tournaments and recreational fishermen have extremely small effect on sharks in the ocean. Less than 1 percent.
LARSEN (voice-over): While their overall take of sharks is small, there's growing pressure to stop the killing of sharks in these tournaments.
LUKE TIPPLE, MARINE BIOLOGIST: What we can do is work to turn these tournaments into catch and release. At least then these animals have some ability to survive and continue.
LARSEN: Marine biologist Luke Tipple is on a mission to protect sharks. What would terrify most people is just a day's work for the 32-year-old Australian native. We met up in the Bahamas.
TIPPLE: Actually, the marina we're in right now was one of the first shark-free marinas in the Bahamas.
LARSEN (on camera): We were recently at a shark fishing tournament in Maine. Their argument was that they barely make any dent in the shark populations.
TIPPLE: They're right. You know in some respects if that was the only game in town, then realistically they wouldn't be having that much of a significant impact on the sharks. But the fact is they are targeting the larger breeding adults. So when you add that to the cumulative effect of the much larger scale finning that's going on around the world, it does actually have an impact.
LARSEN (voice-over): Sharks are an apex predator, which means they're at the very top of the marine food chain. They grow slowly, mature late and produce few young. Making them vulnerable to overfishing.
TIPPLE: We're supposed to have a certain number of sharks to be able to control all of these animals which are below them. So what we do is we take out that apex and we allow a lot of other fish to breed underneath them. They basically annihilate everything below them. And that leads to terrific collapse which means we don't have healthy ocean systems and we won't be able to pull food or product from there anymore. LARSEN: The Bahamas once had a large shark population. Now many of the species here are threatened so the Bahamas banned commercial shark fishing. And that's helped lure more diver and tourist dollars to the islands.
(On camera): Coming back with both of these. All 10 of these.
(Voice-over): Luke and I jump in to see some sharks up close.
(On camera): Wow. They were right there.
(Voice-over): But outside of sanctuaries like this one, sharks remain at risk.
JOHNSON: This is going to be tricky as usual.
LARSEN: Back at the shark tournament in Maine, no luck for Captain Dave Johnson.
JOHNSON: OK? Jump off.
LARSEN: The winners reeled in a 268-pound thresher shark and a big mako.
TIPPLE: Removing these large animals and showing people that the only value these sharks have is when they're hung up and strung up for a trophy, and then they get thrown in the trash. That's not something that we can tell a first world progressive nation like the U.S., that that's OK, because we're talking about future generations not having the productive and live oceans that we are seeing declining right now.