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HEAR THIS HOUR'S UPDATE

Wednesday
Oct122011

FBI Search New Mexico Lake for 'Toy Box Killer's' 40 Victims

Joe Raedle/Getty Images(TRUTH OR CONSEQUENCES, N.M.) -- Authorities searched a New Mexico lake on Tuesday for victims of alleged serial killer David Parker Ray, who once boasted of killing as many as 40 women.

The FBI, New Mexico State Police and the Albuquerque Police Department scoured through Elephant Butte Lake in Truth or Consequences, N.M., but found none of the victims' bodies.

"Today's search of McRae Canyon near Elephant Butte Lake for possible victims of David Parker Ray yielded no human remains," FBI Spokesman Frank Fisher said Tuesday.  "However, searchers plan to return to the Elephant Butte area at an undetermined date in the near future to further search some areas of interest."

Ray died from a heart attack in prison in 2002 when he was 62 years old.  He was serving a more than 223-year sentence for the sexual torture of two women.  Before his death, he boasted of torturing and killing women in his trailer.  No bodies have ever been recovered.

“David Parker Ray wrote in his journals that he had up to 40 victims.  We suspect that he could have killed some.  We don’t know how many,” said Fisher.

Fisher said they received new information that led them to search the lake, but won’t disclose what that tip is.

Ray is sometimes called the “Toy Box Killer” because of how he used his trailer to torture his victims.

“His trailer is a 22-foot long white trailer that he had behind his residence near Elephant Butte Lake.  He called it a toy box and it was equipped with various instruments of torture,” Fisher said.

Ray equipped the trailer with things like whips, knives, handcuffs and a gynecological exam table.

“He would tie a lady on to it and for a period of days subject her to various tortures while videotaping her,” said Fisher.

Signs in the trailer read “Satan’s Den” and “Bondage Room.”  He reportedly got tired of telling his victims what he was going to do to them, so instead he played an audio recording of his instructions.

Fisher said that Ray’s own writings reveal that he began having fantasies about torturing women as early as 1955.  He was arrested in 1999 after a woman escaped from his trailer.  The woman was wearing only a dog collar and chain.  Ray, his daughter and two others were arrested and charged with sexual torture.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Oct122011

Tennessee Pastor Busted as Possible Burglar by Parishioner

Smyrna Police Department(SMYRNA, Tenn.) -- A Tennessee woman set up a surveillance camera in hopes of catching the thief that had been stealing prescription painkillers from her home, and she did.  But she was shocked at the person she caught fiddling at a door to her home: her own pastor.

Jean Harris, of Smyrna, Tenn., was prescribed painkillers for a shoulder injury.  When pills disappeared from her weekly pill planner and an entire bottle went missing, she questioned family and friends who had access to her house, according to The Tennessean, but the pills never turned up.

So she set up a surveillance camera pointed at a side entrance to her house.  She couldn’t believe when the camera captured Rickey Alan Reed, 55, pastor of the First Free Methodist Church, where Harris had been attending church for 55 years.

The video showed a nervous looking Reed attempting to enter the house.

“You see that he comes up, taps on the door, and looks around, possibly to see if anyone else was there,” said Sgt. Bobby Gibson, Smyrna Police Department Public Information Officer.  “He taps on the window lightly, but he doesn’t waste a lot of time before trying to make access to the lock.”

While the act of manipulating the lock could not be seen in the video, it appeared and sounded as though Reed tried to use a credit card to unlock the door.  But Harris had increased her security since the last time she was robbed, adding a dead-bolt lock, bars on her window and a chain on the door.

“He appeared somewhat visibly frustrated and that’s when he left,” Gibson said.

After watching the video, Harris didn’t know what to do.

“I took me a week and a half of prayer,” Harris told The Tennessean.  “But if I didn’t [turn him in], he was going to keep doing this.”

She called the police and Reed was arrested and charged with aggravated burglary.  He is currently free on bond, but police suspect he may have had other victims.

“From what we understand, he knew when people would be at the church,” Gibson said.  “That’s when he would go.”

Police believe there may be as many as five other victims, but Gibson said parishioners have been reluctant to report their pastor.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Oct122011

Georgia County Considers Using Inmates as Firefighters

Photodisc/Thinkstock(WOODBINE, Ga.) -- A Georgia county looking to save some money is considering using inmates from a local prison to fill out its fire department ranks rather than hiring trained firefighters.

Camden County Administrator Steve Howard told ABC News Tuesday that the Board of Commissioners is looking at a proposal that would use inmates from a nearby prison for firefighting, though he noted that no official proposal had been made nor any vote taken.

The plan, according to the Florida Times Union, would include putting two inmates in each of three existing fire houses,  which could allegedly help save the town $500,000 in fire insurance costs by boosting the town’s fire coverage.  Howard declined to discuss the specifics of the proposal with ABC News.

Under the model used by neighboring Sumter County, the inmates would not be guarded by prison staff while at the firehouse, but instead would be overseen by fire department supervisors who would receive “correctional training.”

The inmates chosen to be part of the program would be low-level criminals, according to the report, with convictions for robbery, theft, or drug charges.  They will be available during all shifts to help fight fires, unlike paid firefighters, who are given time off after working 24-hour shifts, the report said.

As a result, the county could save on the typical costs of about $6,000 to train a firefighter, $2,000 to outfit him, and about $40,000 to pay his salary and benefits.  Camden County’s public safety director said it would cost $10,000 to $15,000 to feed and outfit each inmate, install security measures such as surveillance systems, and provide correctional training for traditional firefighters, the newspaper reported.

The inmates in question have professed support of the plan, according to one commissioner.

“I’ve been told these inmates are very enthusiastic about being a firefighter,” Commissioner Jimmy Starline told the paper.  “It’s an opportunity to break that cycle.  This is not like a chain gang.  Life at a fire station could be a whole lot more pleasant than life in jail.”

But the firefighters are not as happy.  Stuart Sullivan objected to the commission’s plan, telling them it would tarnish the department.

“If you vote to bring these inmates into our working environment, you jeopardize not only the employees’ well-being, but the safety of our citizens,” he said.

Mark Treglio, a spokesman for the National Association of Firefighters, said the proposal could compromise the safety of firefighters, the trust between the department and the community it serves, and the privacy and safety of homeowners.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Oct122011

Citing Budget Crunch, Topeka Repeals Domestic Violence Law

iStockophoto/Thinkstock(TOPEKA, Kan.) -- Topeka, Kan., repealed its domestic violence law Tuesday night as part of a government budget fight that pits the city against the county.

Despite widespread criticism by women's advocacy groups, the city council voted to remove the law on domestic violence misdemeanors from its books, de-criminalizing it within city limits. City officials said the move was meant to show that the city will not fund the prosecution of domestic violence offenders, putting the burden on the county and the district attorney instead.

The issue boils down to budget.

"The city isn't suggesting that we don't prosecute misdemeanor crimes when there is spousal or child abuse, but we need to have an understanding with the DA and the county that it's their operation," said Topeka Mayor Bill Bunten.

The council vote comes after Shawnee County District Attorney Chad Taylor announced last month that he would stop prosecuting misdemeanor domestic violence incidents because of a 10 percent cut to his budget. By refusing to prosecute the crimes, Taylor hoped to force the city of Topeka to prosecute them instead. Tuesday's vote proved otherwise.

The DA's office has prosecuted the crimes for over 10 years, according to Bunten, and should continue to do so because they are equipped with the necessary support staff for victims, offenders, and families. Topeka, he said, shouldn't have to absorb those costs.

"We opted out of the state statue last night which says municipalities should prosecute these crimes," said Mayor Bunten. "That was done so that it couldn't be thrown into our laps."

The budget fight began when the Shawnee County Commission, made up of three elected officials, cut all county department's budgets by 10 percent this year, a result of tough economic times, according to Mary M. Thomas, who was appointed to the panel just two weeks ago.

"Everyone is facing this problem across the country, and [all county departments] were first informed in early summer that, because of the loss of income due to the devaluation of real estate, everyone would have to share equally in the pain," she said.

Thomas said that Taylor, the DA, was the only official that chose not to participate in budget discussions, and when his department's budget was cut along with the rest, he decided to stop prosecuting domestic violence crimes in protest.

"What he did was he chose a population of folks that rarely has a voice, often in an economic situation that they cannot take matters into their own hands through civil process, to get the headlines he needed to make the commission give in. Unfortunately it's been a matter of giving in or calling someone's bluff," Thomas said.

The new budget restrictions, she noted, would not go into effect until January. Taylor announced that he would stop the prosecutions in September.

While the city council and the county commissioners figure out who will prosecute the crimes, those charged with domestic violence since September -- 18 people, according to Topeka police -- have been released without trial or sentencing. One individual has since been arrested again for domestic violence against his wife, according to Bunten.

For domestic violence victims and advocates, the government's failure to prosecute crimes while fighting over budget issues is a dangerous precedent.

The Kansas Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence has been an outspoken critic of the fight, saying that the government should be prioritizing domestic violence justice, "not repealing city ordinances, not refusing to prosecute because of budget cuts, not tossing the safety of victims back and forth between city and county government and prosecutors; not reducing or omitting funding for critical services and responses. This isn't about budgets, it's about priorities."

Both city and county officials say they will meet to discuss the issue and try and find a solution. The district attorney's office did not immediately return calls for comment.

Bunten said he thinks the two parties will be able to find at least a temporary solution.

"Will we help them out for a short time? Yeah, I think we will. But the city of Topeka has run its finances well," Bunten said.

Bunten, a Republican, said his city has managed its finances better than the county, which overspent on new baseball fields and swimming pools.

Thomas, the new Shawnee County commissioner, countered that those projects were funded through grants and that the county is struggling financially just like thousands of other communities, because of falling tax revenue due to the real estate market slump.

"We really do take the protection of our citizens very seriously," she said. "This will not be left, this will be managed, it will be resolved."

Thomas noted that while the national attention Shawnee has received for the fight has made negotiations more difficult, the situation does represent how tough economic times are causing cities to make decisions with far-reaching consequences.

"These are life and death decisions," she said. "Have we met the fire code requirements, this old expensive equipment, is it up to date? It's literally that kind of decision, when we have hundreds of thousands, millions of dollars less to work with."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Oct122011

Christmas Day Underwear Bomber to Plead Guilty

U.S. Marshals Service via Getty Images(DETROIT) -- Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the Nigerian man suspected of trying to detonate a bomb hidden in his underwear while aboard a Detroit-bound flight on Christmas Day 2009, will plead guilty Wednesday to all the charges against him, ABC News has learned.

Abdulmutallab is charged with attempted murder, attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction, willfully attempting to destroy an aircraft, placing a destructive device in proximity to an aircraft, and conspiracy to commit an act of terrorism.

Had he been successful, the 24-year-old dubbed the "Underwear Bomber," could have killed the 290 passengers aboard Northwest Airlines Flight 253.

Abdulmutallab could face life in prison for the attempted bombing.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Oct112011

US Says Iran-Tied Terror Plot in Washington, DC Disrupted

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- FBI and DEA agents have disrupted a plot to commit a "significant terrorist act in the United States" tied to Iran, federal officials told ABC News Tuesday.

The officials said the plot included the assassination of the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the United States, Adel Al-Jubeir, and subsequent bomb attacks on the Saudi and Israeli embassies in Washington, D.C.

Bombings of the Saudi and Israeli embassies in Buenos Aires, Argentina, were also discussed, according to the U.S. officials.

The stunning allegations come against a backdrop of longstanding tensions between Iran and the United States and Saudi Arabia. In the last year, Saudi Arabia has attempted to build an anti-Iran alliance to push back against perceived aggression by Iran in the region.

The State Department has listed Iran as a "state sponsor" of terror since 1984. Officials in Argentina have said Iran was behind an attack on the Israeli embassy in Buenos Aires in 1992.

The new case, called Operation Red Coalition, began in May when an Iranian-American from Corpus Christi, Texas, approached a DEA informant seeking the help of a Mexican drug cartel to assassinate the Saudi ambassador, according to counter-terrorism officials.

The Iranian-American thought he was dealing with a member of the feared Zetas Mexican drug organization, according to agents.

The DEA office in Houston brought in FBI agents as the international terror implications of the case became apparent.

The Iranian-American, identified by federal officials as Manssor Arbabsiar, 56, reportedly claimed he was being "directed by high ranking members of the Iranian government," including a cousin who was "a member of the Iranian army but did not wear a uniform," according to a person briefed on the details of the case. Counter-terrorism officials said they believe the cousin may be part of the special operations unit of the Revolutionary Guard, the Quds force.

U.S. officials said Arbabsiar met twice in July with the DEA informant in the northern Mexico city of Reynosa, across the border from McAllen, Texas, and negotiated a $1.5 million payment for the assassination of the Saudi ambassador. As a down payment, officials said Arbabsiar wired two payments of $49,960 on Aug. 1 and Aug. 9 to an FBI undercover bank account after he had returned to Iran.

Federal agents said the DEA and the FBI recorded a number of meetings and phone calls between the informant and Arbabsiar, some of them from Iran.

Officials said Arbabsiar flew from Iran through Frankfurt, Germany, to Mexico City Sept. 28 for a final planning session, but was refused entry to Mexico and put on a plane to New York, where he was arrested.

Arbabsiar, a naturalized U.S. citizen, expressed "utter disregard for collateral damage" in the planned bomb attacks in Washington, according to officials.

He also reportedly told the undercover DEA informant that his contacts in the Iranian government could provide "tons of opium" for the Mexican cartels, according to officials who have reviewed the case file.

Officials said Arbabsiar is now cooperating with prosecutors and federal agents in New York, where the case has been transferred.

Senior Justice Department officials in Washington are reported to still be closely reviewing the specific language to be used in any charging documents.

A spokesperson at the Saudi embassy in Washington, D.C., said she was unaware of the plot.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Oct112011

Underwear Bomber Trial: ‘Hey Dude, Your Pants Are on Fire’

U.S. Marshals Service via Getty Images(DETROIT) -- Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the man accused of trying to blow up Northwest Flight 253 on Christmas Day 2009 with a bomb in his underpants, sat expressionless as shocked passengers shouted at him, “Your pants are on fire,” according to testimony Tuesday, the first day of the trial of the so-called Underwear Bomber.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Tuckel described Abdulmutallab as an alleged al Qaeda member who calmly attempted to blow up the plane and then sat expressionless while his underwear burned because he had fully accepted his mission of martyrdom.

“His mission, his goal, was to blow it up,” Tuckel said during his opening statement at the trial in U.S. District Court. “It had to be blown up over U.S. soil.”

Abdulmutallab made numerous trips to the bathroom and prayed and went through rituals before allegedly depressing a plunger on a syringe, setting off a chemical reaction of two high explosives, Tuckel said.

“There was a loud pop … smoke … a fireball … the fireball was on the defendant … he was engulfed,” the prosecutor said.

Michael Zantow a passenger aboard the flight who was seated one row away from Abdulmutallab said people were alarmed by the initial loud pop of the device. He said someone yelled, “Hey man, hey dude, your pants are on fire.”

“This guy’s pants is on fire,” another passenger yelled, according to Zantow.

Zantow said that passengers struggled to get Abdulmutallab’s seatbelt off and lifted him out of his seat and laid him down on the floor with his pants down to his knees and the device smoldering.

“It was bulky and they were burning,” Zantow said. “It looked like my son’s Pampers.”

Zantow echoed Tuckel’s statement in his opening arguments that Abdulmutallab sat expressionless as he was enveloped by the flames.

“I never saw any reaction at all,” Zantow said about the 24-year-old Nigerian who faces terrorism charges for the attempted bombing and conspiracy allegedly organized by al Qaeda.

Abdulmutallab, whose handcuffs were removed before the jury was seated, sat quietly watching the proceedings wearing a gray and yellow dashiki and a skullcap.

Tuckel described how passengers were unable to put out the chemical fire that had engulfed Abdulmutallab and that flight attendants had to use fire extinguishers on him. As the crew fought the fire, one flight attendant notified the pilots.

The jury heard how controllers cleared the airspace for an emergency landing as the plane descended almost 3,000 feet in 60 seconds. The jury heard the radio communications from the flight with Stewart asking for fire trucks and the authorities.

After the fire was contained, Abdulmutallab was brought up to a business class seat where an airline employee and flight attendant watched him while he sat with no pants and a blanket wrapped around him, prosecutors said.

Only seven minutes passed from the time the explosive device went off until the flight landed in Detroit, according to a timeline with the elevation and route of the plane.

Tuckel said that on numerous occasions after he was removed from the aircraft, Abdulmutallab told federal agents and medical workers it was his intention to bring the plane down and that he was a member of al Qaeda.

He allegedly told Customs and Border Protection officer Marvin Steigerwald that he obtained the device in Yemen and that he hid it in his underwear. When he was questioned later by two FBI agents, Abdulmutallab allegedly said he went to Yemen to become involved in jihad and that he was influenced by a man named Abu Tarak to undertake a suicide operation.

When he was taken to the hospital for his severe burns Abdulmutallab told a nurse that he intended to kill himself aboard the aircraft.

Abdulmutallab’s stand-by counsel Anthony Chambers tried Tuesday to prevent pictures of burns on Abdulmutallab’s genitals and legs from being entered into evidence, but U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds denied the request.

Abdulmutallab came from a privileged family in Nigeria and studied abroad in London and Dubai but then became influenced by the radical cleric Anwar Al-Awlaki.

The jury saw still images from Abdulmutallab’s martyrdom video that was later released by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula after the failed bombing attack. Tuckel said the jury would see evidence including fingerprints recovered from the remnants of the bomb and an encryption code that Abdulmutallab had kept in his shoe allegedly to communicate with al Qaeda members on computers.

Following Tuckel’s opening statement, Chamber’s reserved the right to give an opening argument later and the trial proceeded with witness testimony. The prosecution is expected to call several passengers as witnesses from the flight in the next day.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Oct112011

CDC Official Accused of Child Molesting, Bestiality

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(ATLANTA) -- An official from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been arrested for allegedly molesting a child and bestiality, according to police in DeKalb County, Ga.

Kimberly Lindsey, 44, a deputy director at the CDC, is charged with child molestation and bestiality for two incidences involving a 6-year-old child. Lindsey's live-in boyfriend, Thomas Westerman, 42, is also being charged with child molestation.

The pair is accused of involving the child in their sex acts, including allowing the boy to spank Lindsey's nude buttocks and letting him use an electric sex toy on her, according to warrants issued for their arrests.

Lindsey is also accused of performing sexual acts with two pets.

Police said they found evidence in the home during a search that led to the issuance of the warrants, though they would not comment on the nature of the alleged evidence.

The pair turned themselves in on Sunday after they learned warrants had been issued for their arrests, police told ABC affiliate WSB-TV.

Officers said a medical professional treating the victim alerted police. The incidences are alleged to have occurred in January of 2010 and August of 2011.

Lindsey is a deputy director for the Laboratory Science Policy and Practice Program Office at the CDC, where she oversees $1.5 billion in funds that are disbursed across the agency for emergency response funding. She is listed as "Top Leadership" on the organization's website, which also says she has worked extensively with bioterrorism prevention, HIV/AIDS prevention, and laboratory testing.

The website says she got her PhD from Emory and undergraduate degree from the University of Central Florida.

Lindsey was released on $20,000 bond and Westerman was released on $15,000 bond. Neither Lindsey nor Westerman could immediately be reached Tuesday.

The CDC had no comment other than to say its policy is to let situations like this play out in the criminal justice system.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Oct112011

Girl Scouts Revamp Badges for Modern Times

Giuliana Nakashima/The Washington Post/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The Girl Scouts of the USA is making over its badges for modern times, adding a number of digital skills to its ever-expanding repertoire, as the organization gets ready to celebrate its 100th anniversary.

Scouts can soon earn badges in such areas as digital filmmaking, web design, netiquette, product design, customer loyalty and more.

The update is the first major change to the badges since 1987, and signals an effort by the Girl Scouts to help its troop of nearly 2.3 million girls acquire the skills to become 21st century leaders.

“Girls told us they want more challenge, and we’ve responded with substantive, focused, fun new badge offerings that will prepare girls for lifelong success,” Kathy Cloninger, chief executive officer of Girl Scouts of the USA said in a statement. The new badges encourage “the critical thinking, creativity and entrepreneurship that the next generation of leaders will need to make the world a better place.”

Other new badges speak to this theme of leadership, including insignia in financial literacy, business etiquette, public policy and local food awareness.

For those scouts who still want to decorate their vests and sashes with popular badges in traditional skills like cooking, first aid, and sportsmanship, not to worry -- most of those have made the cut. Others have been revamped. The "Fashion, Fitness and Makeup" badge has been renamed "Science of Style" and scouts can learn about the chemistry of sunscreens and nanotechnology in fabrics.

There are also new "Make Your Own" badges to give girls at every age the chance to explore their own interests.

Of course, the group didn’t forget its roots. There’s a Cookie Business badge, which should come in handy for their $700 million annual cookie business.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Oct112011

Supreme Court: Are Prison Strip Searches Constitutional?

Dick Luria/Photodisc(WASHINGTON) -- It was bad enough that Albert Florence was hauled to jail by an officer who mistakenly thought there was an outstanding warrant for his arrest. But Florence’s shock turned to humiliation at the prison when he was strip searched, transferred to another county jail, strip searched again and held for a total of six days until the matter was cleared up and charges against him were dismissed.

“The strip search was humiliating,” Florence says. “Degrading.”

After his release, Florence sued the two county jails that held him, arguing that his constitutional rights were violated when he was subjected to strip search without a reasonable suspicion that he was bringing contraband into the jail. Florence argued that detainees who are placed in the general prison population for minor offenses should not be subject to such searches.

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court will hear Florence’s case and discuss the balance between the Fourth Amendment’s ban on unreasonable search and seizure and the security interests of prison facilities.

Carter G. Phillips, a lawyer representing the county jails, argues that courts should defer to the security interests of the prisons. He says the privacy interest of the incoming prisoner must yield to an “overriding security interest” of the jail to protect inmates and staff.

But Susan Chana Lask, Florence’s lawyer, says that the prisons should not treat those who have committed serious crimes in the same way as those who are there for minor offenses.

“You need to strip search the murderers, criminals and drug dealers,” she says, “those are the ones who are committing crimes.”

Florence’s story dates back to a 1998 conviction for a minor offense. He was late in paying the accompanying fine and a warrant was issued for his arrest. He eventually paid off the fine which should have cancelled the outstanding warrant.

But when his car was stopped for a driving violation in 2005, the officer could find no evidence in his computer that the fine had been paid. He arrested Florence, even though Florence showed him a copy of the paid receipt from the court.

Florence says in prison he was directed to remove all his clothing, then open his mouth and lift his tongue, hold out his arms and turn around, and lift his genitals.

Lower courts have split on whether reasonable suspicion is needed before strip searching an individual entering the prison population.

In 1979 the Supreme Court ruled that in the interest of security, prisons could conduct visual body cavity searches of all detainees after they had contact with outsiders. For years after that ruling, lower courts ruled that the prison had to have a reasonable suspicion that the arrestee was concealing contraband before subjecting him to a strip search upon entering the facility.

But in recent years some courts have begun to allow a blanket policy to strip search all arrestees.

The Obama administration has filed a friend of the court brief in support of the jails involved in Florence’s arrest. In briefs it argued that the need for security in the jails outweighs the individual privacy rights regarding strip searches.

The government points out that the Federal Bureau of Prisons house more than 216,000 pretrial detainees and convicted inmates and subjects them all to visual body-cavity inspections before they can be placed in the general prison population.

“Prisons and jails are unique place[s] fraught with serious security dangers,” Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli, Jr. argued in court papers, “where the smuggling of weapons, drugs, and other contraband poses a serious threat to inmate and officer safety and institutional security.”

Florence is excited the Justices will finally hear his case.

“It feels good,” he says, “because it’s been a long road filled with ups and downs, and finally the Court can set it all straight.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio