Stranger Than Fiction

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Monday night's show started with a "surprise." We were supposed to begin the show with the father of the two Georgia toddlers (search) who tragically were found in the pond a short distance from their home. With less than a minute to start the show, my line producer in New York told me that the father was not answering his phone (he was a phoner.) Frankly, I was not surprised — I assumed that he was in extreme grief and not wanting to talk to a stranger (me.) We immediately "changed gears" and went to one of our reporters followed by the news conference after the bodies were discovered. It seemed a bit chaotic to me — but that is live TV.

As it turned out, mid way through the first segment my producers were able to make contact with the father and he did speak to us on air. As we were doing "Plan B," my producer said via the earpiece, "We have the father. Go to the father." So, back to "Plan A." Of course we have to make that switch back to "Plan A" without looking disjointed, confused, etc.

You might wonder why the father would talk on TV the night his children were found dead ... and one of the reasons I have found is that people want to thank the many searchers who poured their heart and soul into trying to find the children. If you watched last night, you heard the father thank these people. I did not prompt the gratitude — he spontaneously thanked everyone. Of course we ALL wanted a very different ending to this search.

As for the Michael Jackson (search) case ... can it get any stranger? Laura Ingle has her note from inside the courtroom below. And, while I am on the topic of strange, check out the article I posted for you after Laura's e-mail. Yes, it is from my hometown and caught my attention. It is also a "creative" sentence. My guess is that the woman opts for the jail time. What do you think?

E-mail No. 1 — from Laura Ingle inside the Michael Jackson trial:

Subject: Laura note

Tearful, and apparently terrorized, a former Neverland security guard breaks down on the witness stand.

Kassim Abdool (search) is the guard who has the story of delivering a jar of Vaseline to the "King of Pop" late one night when he had a young boy sleeping over in his master bedroom suite — reportedly, the 1993 accuser. The judge ruled last week that he will not allow jurors to hear that tale, but allowed him to be called to relate other things he allegedly saw while working the grounds in the early 90s.

Abdool is a quiet, older gentleman sporting a long grey bushy beard. He was asked by D.A. Tom Sneddon about seeing M.J. heading to the Jacuzzi, giving a piggyback ride to the '93 accuser. He said M.J. only had a towel around his waist and the boy was wearing a robe. Earlier in the night, he saw the two wearing "bathing pants" — swim trunks. After he saw the semi-nude piggyback ride, he went into the bathroom and saw the bathing pants of M.J. and the boy on the floor, two to three feet apart. He also told jurors about seeing the two hugging at a peter pan display on property. Abdool says he was subpoenaed by grand jury to talk about the things he saw on the ranch. Abdool was asked by the D.A. if he had received threats around this time. This is when he chokes up. He paused, started touching his eyebrows like he was trying not to cry, then reached for a glass of water. He wiped away tears next and said, "Yes. They were calling to tell me they would kill me and my family." Says he asked to go into the Witness Protection Program. Seemed believable and jurors kept busy as usual taking notes.

After days of speculation, the mother of Jackson's children will testify. Debbie Rowe will be called by the D.A. at the end of the week it appears. The judge had to make the call on whether or not she could take the stand. I was watching the back of M.J.'s head to see if he would flinch when the decision was made. Nothing. The two are in a nasty custody battle over their children. Prosecutors want her to talk about the role she had in the "rebuttal video" praising Jackson as a great man and good father.

And finally ... jurors listen to jazz! The area where they go for breaks is gated and covered by a green tarp. Reporters walk by this area to and from live locations and the security checkpoint at the courtroom entrance. Today, I could distinctly make out jazz tunes floating through the juror break area. After poking around a bit, I confirmed that the jurors have been treated to music at breaks for about a week. I asked my source if that had anything to do with the reports that jurors could be overheard talking at breaks and they could sometimes hear us. A "drown-out" effect perhaps? My source smiled and said
"no comment."
Laura Ingle

Here is my favorite news item of Monday:

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press

OSHKOSH, Wis. — For some Green Bay Packer (search) fans it would be a tough choice — give up 12 tickets to Lambeau Field for a season or spend 90 days in jail.

Sharon Rosenthal of Appleton has been given that sentencing option by a Winnebago County judge for taking $3,000 from labor union accounts.

Judge Scott Woldt said Rosenthal, 59, can do the time or donate the four seats she and her husband hold for the Packers' three-game season package to charity.

There's no word yet on her decision.

If she gives up the tickets, they would go to the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

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