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Update: 7:54 a.m. PT: Ask me how much I like United Express/Sky West. We have been up since 4:30 a.m. to catch a 7 a.m. flight to L.A. and then onto Arkansas. The United Express/Sky West plane is broken. They have no other planes here to replace it and no mechanics (I was told they have some area contractor mechanics they can call but are not here). We are missing our connections and the airline will not give us our bags back so we can drive or pursue other options. And, of course they have us "locked" in a secure area with no customer representatives to help us. Stay tuned…
Update: 9:16 a.m. PT: An update on our "road show:" After standing in line for an hour (yes, the airline finally released us from the "false imprisonment"), we have boarding passes for the 10 a.m. flight. Of course there is a hitch… since now our tickets are "odd," we were "specially selected" for the complete screening — the one where you get completely unpacked in public. It does not matter that we already went through screening and sat on their plane and then have been standing in their line. I did point out that I am a United Premier Member and got re-issued another (third of the day) boarding pass. This time the computer had mercy on me and did not suspect me of being part of a sleeper cell. But alas, one of our staff still is subject to "the special search."
Update: 9:25 a.m. PT: The head of security in the airport just came up to me and said, "Ms. Van Susteren?" I wanted to say "no" since I assumed that I was in trouble — my luck so far today had not been spectacular. But I admitted that I am Van Susteren — I figured lying would not help me — and he then said that he had seen me working and studying in this small airport and wondered if I needed to use his office. It was a very nice offer, but I declined. My luck is changing.
Update: 10 a.m. PT: One final note — the airline customer service people did do a good job in the end... the problem was that they were understaffed for a big problem. I don't think they had "fun" with our problem, either. They remained cheerful and competent throughout the mess. They made a "silk purse out of a sow's ear."
By the time you get this blog, or read it online, our show will be back on an airplane. Yes, we must be nuts... we got in late Thursday night after the show and then dinner and then up at 5 a.m. for a flight to Arkansas. Sometimes I wonder why we bother to get hotel rooms when we do most of our sleeping on planes. Our show will originate Friday night in Little Rock... back to D.C. on Saturday to do laundry, etc., and then back to California Sunday night or early Monday morning for the Michael Jackson (search) verdict. I already admitted we were nuts, but the job is really fun and really exciting — it just does not provide much chance for sleep.
The closing arguments in the Jackson trial were fascinating. After hearing only the D.A.'s argument, I was convinced there would be a guilty verdict. The D.A.'s argument was a very powerful one. Then I heard the defense attorney's argument and now I have no idea what the verdict will be. I don't dare guess. The defense attorney had an equally powerful argument.
Dick Gregory (search) was in the courtroom on Thursday. He did not recognize me but about 25 years ago, as a student lawyer at Georgetown Law School, I represented him with a team of other student lawyers. He was part of a group demonstrating at the White House gates. I can't remember the cause for which he and the others were demonstrating (they say the first thing to go is the mind) but I remember him because he was a celebrity. At the time probably the only other celebrities I had ever met were Roy Rogers and Dale Evans in a Big Boy restaurant in Appleton, Wisconsin. Now I have met a big celebrity — Shepard Smith! (search) Everyone loves to meet Shep!
I am posting only one picture today — of Jackson at court — because time is short this morning!
Also, here's an e-mail from Laura Ingle:
E-mail No. 1
Subject: Laura note
Closing arguments are underway in the Michael Jackson child molestation trial. It's dreary and dark here today in Santa Maria — it's been raining off and on all morning. Over 300 people showed up this morning for public lottery, many of them "bookers" for the various networks. They tell me they want to get in there not only to hear the closing, but most importantly to see the faces of the jurors, so they know who they need to "stalk" after the verdict to get the best interviews for their shows.
I did not win today in the lottery. (Losing ticket number 660 was not called!) Instead, I sat in the listening room where we have a close circuit feed to watch the proceedings. We are strictly forbidden from having a phone, Blackberry, camera, laptop... anything electronic. If you get caught by the bailiff with a phone or anything, you can be kicked out for days. Today a FLASH went off... reporters eyes bugged out because we couldn't believe someone would take a picture in this sacred room. It turns out it was a sheriff's deputy taking shots of the room. She looked like someone you see at a crime scene taking photos with her big flash.
Deputy District Attorney Ron Zonen (search) has been delivering what many legal experts here have called a "brilliant closing argument." He started his pitch for a conviction with a heavy sentence: "This is about the exploitation and sexual abuse of a 13-year-old cancer patient."
Zonen did spend a good deal of time defending the actions of the boy's mother, but then he gained steam by going to the heart of the case. He described what life is like around Neverland for children during the day: children are groomed, they were allowed to run free, eat candy, play video games. At night, Zonen explained the accuser entered into the world of the forbidden, Jackson's sequestered in his bedroom suite, where there are locks and alarms and codes to get in. The children (boys) would feel special. Jackson, Zonen said, would introduce them to sexually explicit materials and experiences. He talked to them about masturbation. Boys learned about sexuality from "someone who is only too willing to be their teacher." It was a chilling moment the way Zonen said this and there were more.
One that struck me, was a photo exhibit put up on the big screen: photos of all the boys Jackson is accused of molesting and a photo of Jackson in the middle. The set up reminded me of "The Brady Bunch" TV series opener. What is so dramatic about the "1108 evidence" — the previous alleged victims — is that all the boys were the same age, all had the same coloring, making it clear that — if Jackson is guilty as charged — he definitely has a "type."
Also, Zonen talked to jurors as parents. He went back to the testimony of the accuser's mother and that of Jackson's former publicist. Both say they saw Jackson lick the head's of 13-year-old boys while sitting on an airplane. Zonen looked at jurors, "many of you have either had 13-year-old children at one time, or maybe you do now. This is bizarre by anyone's standards. You would no sooner lick the head of a 13-year-old child than you would lick the bottom of a shoe."
Zonen explained that predators do not go after the strong, they go after the weak. Likened what happens with Jackson as a lion at the Serengeti... he doesn't pick families who are strong to target, he chooses those that are broken and weak — it's the best chance of success if you want to snatch a boy.
Jackson looks so worried today and after this closing, you can understand why. Zonen's closing remark: "The accuser is entirely credible and Michael Jackson should be held responsible for what he did."
Jackson's Tom Mesereau (search) is up now! Stand by...
And finally, as for booking stories... we had Dick Gregory booked in the afternoon but we were later told he could not do the show or decided against. The, several hours later, during the first commercial break on the show my producer with me in Santa Maria came to me on set and said, "Dick Gregory is here... and he was in the E.R. with Jackson. Jackson is dehydrated."
Then what developed were several conversations back and forth with our senior producer in New York about whether to put Gregory on. We were confused about the story and wanted more information. Jackson's spokesperson was near in a car talking to Jackson (that is what she later told us.) She also could not confirm the hospital visit. Hence we put both Gregory and the spokeswoman on the show and I asked open-ended questions about Jackson's health. Neither said on air Jackson had just been at the E.R. After the segment, Jackson's spokesperson talked to me for a bit and said she could not confirm the E.R. trip.
So while you are watching the show, we are still working our sources and trying to get you the latest information.
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Watch "On the Record" weeknights at 10 p.m. ET