JetBlue Exit: Steven Slater in His Own Words

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Steven Slater, the JetBlue flight attendant famous for quitting his job by sliding down the emergency exit of a plane, says he had been drinking on the day of the incident, but was not too intoxicated to perform his duties or keep passengers safe.

"Truthfully, I will admit that," Slater told ABC News in an interview on Wednesday.  "It was one of those days that drove me to drink, and I admit that I did have a little sip."  He added, "I was not intoxicated at the time of the incident."

Slater garnered international fame in August when, after an altercation with a passenger over some luggage on a plane at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport, he made an expletive-laden announcement over the plane's intercom before grabbing some beer from the galley, popping the emergency exit and sliding down the inflatable slide.

Slater told ABC News it was a combination of years of frustration with his job, personal pressures, one particularly bad day of flying and some drinking that pushed him over the edge after 20 years as a flight attendant.

Slater said at the beginning of the flight that day from Pittsburgh, a woman accidentally hit him in the head with a bag, causing a bloody cut.  It wasn't until the end of the flight, however, that everything came to a head.  Slater said he got into a confrontation with the woman over her bag and, after a prolonged argument, snapped.

"On the way out of the aircraft, at the front door going into the jetway, [she] became very enraged that I couldn't provide her bag at that moment," he said.  "That's when I started getting the verbal abuse and then, unfortunately, that's when I returned some of it.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Californians to Vote on Legalizing Marijuana; Polls Show Opposition

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(LOS ANGELES) -- With election day less than a week away, the proposition in California getting the most attention is one that would legalize marijuana for recreational use.  On Tuesday, Californians will take to the the polls and vote on Proposition 19 to decide whether or not small amounts of pot should be legal to carry and grow.

Many residents have embraced marijuana for medical use, but apparently disagree with recreational marijuana use.  The latest polls show Prop 19 losing by a hefty margin.

But Antonio Gonzalez, the head of a phone bank in Los Angeles that's been calling voters to get their support, claims the polls are unreliable because many people don't want to admit to pollsters how they'll vote.

Gonzalez says, "There may be a whole group of voters out there that are really going 'as long as they don't know that I'm going to vote yes, I'm fine with it,' but talking to a live person they're no."

If Prop 19 passes, Californians will be allowed to have up to an ounce of pot, as well as the right to grow it.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Ballistics Link Pentagon, Marine Museum Shootings; FBI to Investigate

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Someone is literally taking potshots at military locations, and now the FBI has announced it will investigate.

Ballistics testing from recent early-morning shootings at the Pentagon and the National Museum of the Marine Corps show a single weapon was used in both incidents.  There was another overnight shooting on Oct. 25 or 26 at the Marine Corps Recruiting station in Chantilly, Virginia.  Ballistics testing is now underway to see if those shots also came from the same weapon.

No one was injured in the pre-dawn shootings, and the shooter seems to be targeting buildings, not people.  Officials say they are taking the incidents seriously, but point out that no one is sure if the incidents are anything more than vandalism by gun.

At the Pentagon, six shots were fired in the early morning hours of Oct. 19.  Two exterior windows were hit, and four bullets hit the facade.  Officers reported audible shots fired in the vicinity of the Pentagon's south parking lot, which faces a highway, Interstate 395.

An internal sweep of the building was conducted, and that's when two rounds were found to have struck the building on the side that faces I-395.  That led Pentagon security to request the closure of the highway so that they could look for rounds or shell casings that may have been left behind along the side of the road.  Ballistic evidence found at the scene matched evidence found at the Marine Corps Museum.

The FBI said no further information, including a potential weapon used or the caliber of the ammunition, will be released at this time to preserve the integrity of investigative efforts.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Arizona Carries Out Execution of Convicted Murderer

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(FLORENCE, Ariz.) -- The state of Arizona executed Jeffrey Landrigan Tuesday night for murdering a man during a robbery in Phoenix in 1989.  Landrigan was put to death by lethal injection.

A prison official said Landrigan acknowledged his home state of Arizona before he died.

"His last words were, 'Well I'd like to say thank you to my family for being here and all of my friends,'" according to the prison official.  Landrigan finished off by adding, "Boomer sooner."

An eyewitness to the execution told reporters, "He didn't move during the procedure that I could see.  His lips parted slightly once...he was unconscious."

This is the first execution Arizona has carried out since 2007.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Pa. Governor Moves to Stop Natural Gas Drilling on State Land

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(HARRISBURG, Pa.) -- Pennsylvania Governor Edward Rendell signed an executive order Tuesday that will protect the state's forests from any new natural gas development.

The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources recently evaluated the state forest system over a seven-month period and found that additional drilling could "endanger the environmental quality" of Pennsylvania's forests and "pose a risk to Pennsylvania's existing certification that it manages its forests in a sustainable manner."

"Drilling companies' rush to grab private lands across the state have left few areas untouched by this widespread industrial activity," Governor Rendell said.  "We need to protect our un-leased public lands from this rush because they are the most significant tracts of undisturbed forest remaining in the state.  The House led the way to protect these lands, but the Senate failed to do so.  That's why it's so clear we need this executive order."

Rendell also said that preservation of the state's forest system was important to the state's economy.  Pennsylvania tourism relies heavily on state forests for recreation, and the lumber industry "needs the assurance of knowing [state officials] are going to responsibly manages these resources to protect jobs in that industry," the governor said.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Fierce Winds Continue to Tear Through the Midwest

Photo Courtesy - ABC News, WLS-TV(NEW YORK) -- Violent winds continued to rip through the Midwest Tuesday.

Residents living in Midwestern states have experienced winds upwards of 70 mph, according to local media reports.

The National Weather Service now predicts "the development of widespread winds and a few tornadoes" for regions spanning the Ohio and Tennessee Valleys as well as the Great Lakes region throughout Wednesday.  Storms are also expected to reach the Lower Mississippi Valley and parts of the Appalachians.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


FBI Opens Investigation into Pentagon and Marine Corps Shootings in Northern Virginia

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The FBI has opened an investigation in the Pentagon shooting last week, which has now been linked to the Oct. 17 shooting at the Marine Corps Museum. 

Investigation officials say there was another shooting incident which occurred on Oct. 25 or Oct. 26 at the Marine Corps Recruiting Station in Chantilly, Virginia that could also be linked to the two prior incidents.

Sources say investigators are unclear whether the episodes are vadalism by gun, since the shootings have only taken place in the early morning hours when fewer people are around.  Still, authorities are working to find answers and ask that anyone who may have seen a suspicious vehicle or person should contact Crime Solvers at 1-866-411-TIPS.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sandra Day O'Connor on Life and the Supreme Court

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(LONG BEACH, Calif.) -- Some of the most influential women in the nation shared their life experiences and tried to find new ways to tackle the world's problems Tuesday while speaking at a gathering of some 30,000 people in Long Beach, Calif.

Women -- and some men -- from politics, the press, entertainment, and everything in between appeared for the annual Women's Conference, hosted by California First Lady Maria Shriver and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

On stage during the conference, ABC's Diane Sawyer interviewed two trailblazers: Sandra Day O'Connor, the first woman to serve as a Supreme Court justice, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who joined O'Connor on the court twelve years later. With the appointments of Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, four women have now served on the court, with three currently on the bench.

"I've got to tell you, I went to the Supreme Court recently...I sat in on an argument, and I looked up at the bench on which I sat for 25 years, and what did I see?" O'Connor said. "I saw on the far right, a woman. On the far left side, a woman. And here in the middle, a woman. And it was dazzling."

The justices told Sawyer not only about their experiences on the high court but also of their early struggles in the workplace and the challenge of raising families while pursuing their careers.

"The world was so different. I was at Harvard Law School for my first two years. There were two buildings with classrooms. Only one of them had a women's bathroom," Ginsburg said.

Maria Shriver also spoke before the crowd, talking about her own experiences and the challenges of being a woman in the public eye.

"I'd like to admit today I was wrong to try to talk Arnold out of running for governor seven years ago," Shriver said. "The last seven years have taught me that, in fact, it can be the beginning of a journey that forges a stronger, wiser, more confident you."

Back on the Supreme Court panel, Justices O'Connor and Ginsburg also spoke about their belief in the unique role of women in modern life.

"Do you really think at the Supreme Court, where reason prevails, that women bring something unique?" Sawyer asked.

"Well, I think in most hard legal issues, a wise old woman and a wise old man are going to reach the same conclusion," O'Connor said. "But there are cases where our experience as women might bring some perspective to the situation before the court."

"I think that our conversation is more informed because all together, we've had such a wealth of experience," Ginsburg said. "Much better than the day when all of the people on the court looked alike."

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Police: Remains In Ill. Student Search Too Badly Burned

Photo Courtesy - ABC News | NIU Police Department (DEKALB, Ill.) -- The human remains found in the search for missing student Antinette "Toni" Keller were so badly burned that an autopsy will not be possible and more testing will be needed to identify them, police said Tuesday.

The remains were found late Saturday in a DeKalb, Ill. park where investigators were searching for the missing 18-year-old Northern Illinois University art student.

"The investigation is proceeding as a homicide investigation," DeKalb Police Chief Bill Feithen said Tuesday at a news conference. "Due to the state of the burnt remains, an autopsy is not viable."

"Forensic experts have identified the remains as human," he said. "Whether these remains are Toni's or not could take some time."

The remains were found near items that appeared to be things that witnesses said Keller had with her or was wearing when she was last seen, Feithen said.

More than 40 police officers from the DeKalb County major case squad are working on the investigation with support from from six other law enforcement agencies, including the Illinois State Police and the FBI, he said.

"We have continued to interview persons, whom we believe may have information relative to this case," he said. "To date we have spoken to approximately 50 people, some more than once."

Keller, an 18-year-old freshman, went missing on Oct. 14 after setting off alone into Prairie Park at around noon. The young woman was last seen at her residence hall, when she told fellow students she was going to the popular park to get ideas for an art project.

"She just told the people she was going into the forest, which she did all the time, to do her artwork because that's a nice way to relax and have your art feel going, and she always came back before dark," Jamie Feather, one of Keller's friends, told ABC Chicago station WLS-TV. "She was supposed to meet someone the next day and never showed up."

According to Keller's cousin and family spokeswoman, Mary Tarling, Keller had made arrangements to see family and friends last weekend, and the family realized she was missing when she did not turn up at home Oct. 15.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio


Freed From Prison, Minnesota Toyota Driver Will Sue Toyota

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(MINNEAPOLIS) -- Koua Fong Lee, the Minnesota Toyota driver set free by a judge this summer after spending two years in prison for vehicular homicide, has asked to join a lawsuit against Toyota.

Lee was convicted after his 1996 Toyota Camry sped out of control on a St. Paul interstate off-ramp and slammed into another car, killing the driver and two passengers. A motion filed by his attorneys Tuesday would allow him to join the existing lawsuit against Toyota filed by a survivor and family members of the victims.

Lee, now 32, has always maintained that his car accelerated on its own and that he applied the brakes but could not stop the car.

"He is aggravated with Toyota," said Bob Hilliard, one of Lee's attorneys. He said his client recognizes it will be a big day for him to finally get a chance to have Toyota come into court and listen to why he believes Toyota is responsible. The hearing on the motion is set for Nov. 8, 2010.

Toyota's press office declined to comment on Lee's lawsuit.

Lee served two years of an eight-year vehicular homicide sentence after his Camry crashed into an Oldsmobile, killing driver Javis Adams and his 10-year-old son and injuring Adams' seven-year-old niece Devyn Bolton, who later died of her injuries. Passenger Quincy Adams survived.

Lee granted an exclusive prison interview to ABC News in February and at that time told Chief Investigative Correspondent Brian Ross that he pressed the Camry's brakes repeatedly but the car would not stop.

Lee's attorneys maintained the accident was caused by unintended acceleration. They presented numerous other cases of owners of 1996 Camrys who alleged that they had also experienced throttle control problems, as well as the results of a re-examination of the crashed Camry by an expert witness.

The Ramsey County prosecutor's office had maintained there was no new evidence. In April, two experts hired by the prosecutor re-examined the car and reported "...there were no problems with the brakes or throttle system." They blamed the accident on driver error.

Following a four-day hearing in August, Judge Joanne Smith ruled there was enough evidence to grant Lee a new trial. She ordered him freed pending trial. However, less than an hour later, prosecutors announced they would not try Lee again.

Right before the judge's ruling, Lee had rejected a plea deal from prosecutors that would have allowed him to go home a free man, but would still brand him a convicted felon.

According to ABC affiliate KSTP, prosecutors said Lee could return home to his family if he accepted their offer to plead guilty to the same felony and be released immediately. The terms of the plea would mean Lee would still be a convicted felon with 15 years of probation and his driving privileges would be suspended for 10 years.

Lee's defense attorneys told KSTP his reason for rejecting the deal was because he continues to maintain he was pressing the brake at the time of the accident and he is not a felon.

The family of the victims had also backed a new trial. Michael Padden, attorney for the victims' family, said his clients were "shocked" at the plea offer and "disappointed" with the prosecutors.

In an interview with ABC News – his first following his release from jail – Lee said he was anxious to see his four children, ranging in age from two and a half to eight years old. "The first thing I'm going to do is talk to them, to get to know them, to play with them," Lee said. "I want them to know I am their daddy. I will teach them what the word daddy means."

Lee's attorney Bob Hilliard credited an ABC News report from Chief Investigative Correspondent Brian Ross for garnering attention on the case.

"It was the result of the ABC report that brought the people to us that said they want to help us," Hilliard said. Lee's attorneys said dozens of witnesses came forward with similar stories of unintended acceleration problems with their 1996 Toyota Camrys, like what happened in Lee's case.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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