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Two Atlanta-Area Teenagers Accused of Serving Poison Cake to Classmates; Election Recount in Washington State

Aired November 19, 2004 - 09:30   ET


BILL HEMMER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back, everybody. 9:30 here in New York.
SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: It's just about half past the half -- yes. We're at the end of the show on a Friday. Half past the hour on this AMERICAN MORNING is what I was trying to say, which we say every day about this time. They've got a big job ahead of them in Washington State. Election officials hard at work rounding up people to recount every single ballot in the governor's race, 2.8 million of them. We're going to talk to someone this morning about an election separated by less than 300 votes. A reporter from "The Seattle Times" will check in.

HEMMER: And no small job, too, in that state, by the way.

O'BRIEN: Well, a lot of them are mail-in ballots. It was really, I think, fair to say, a complete mess.

HEMMER: All right, we'll get to that. Also, a case that's getting a lot of attention in Georgia. Two 13-year-old girls, each charged with a dozen counts of assault with the intent to commit murder. They're accused of poisoning their classmates with a cake. We'll look at where that case is headed in a moment here.

O'BRIEN: First let's check in on stories now in the news with Heidi Collins.

Good morning again.

HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning again to you guys. And good morning, everybody.

Now in the news this morning, an explosion in Baghdad. A suicide car bomb attack targeting Iraqi police less than two hours ago. Officials say at least five people were killed, 10 others wounded.

President Bush expected to focus on world trade, and fight against terror. As he heads to Santiago, Chile -- we're looking at him here -- his helicopter just landed in Waco, again, on his way to Chile this hour for the APEC Summit. The president also looking for more backing to convince North Korea To abandon its nuclear weapons program. Meantime, police have been clashing with protesters as world leaders begin gathering for the weekend conference.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture looking into a possible case of mad cow disease. The agency says it is sending tissue samples to a national laboratory for more testing. Officials stress the American beef supply is safe. The animal in question never entered the food supply.

Final results are expected within the week. And another airline says it is planning major cuts. Continental says it will cut $500 million in payroll and benefit costs by the beginning of next year. The airline says it will meet with worker groups to discuss the changes. USAirways, United, and American airlines have made similar cuts.

Back over to you guys.

HEMMER: Don't really want to bring it up here, but Heidi is a graduate of the University of Maryland, and she's a huge fan, too, of her college. And last night, they were on national TV, and they just got whooped.

COLLINS: I think that's like an understatement. 55-6.


COLLINS: I'm OK. I worry about Ralph Friedgen (ph), but I'm OK.

HEMMER: He's the coach?

COLLINS: He's the coach. He had some interesting language during halftime.

O'BRIEN: That's bad, too. Thanks, Heidi.

HEMMER: Hang in there.

From Atlanta now, two Atlanta-area teenagers will face a judge today on assault charges, accused of serving poison cake to classmates.

Eric Phillips has more on this story this morning in Georgia.


ERIC PHILLIPS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Two 13-year-old girls, their wrists shackled, their futures uncertain, arrested after baking a cake for their seventh grade classmates in Marietta, Georgia, that authorities say was tainted. More than a dozen of the youngsters who ate a piece of the cornbread case Tuesday were rushed to the hospital.

SOON HAM, VICTIM: In the incident, apparently it looks like a normal cake. But when you put it in your mouth, it's really bad.

PHILLIPS: The two girls appeared at a preliminary hearing Wednesday and were charged with 12 counts of aggravated assault with intent to murder. Alan (ph), the father of one of the girls, says his daughter had no malicious intent. To her, it was just a joke.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A prank. A bad prank. What more can you call it? It wasn't anybody trying to kill anybody.

PHILLIPS: Tests will determine what was put in the cake. But Alan's (ph) daughter has been charged with committing a terrorist act for what she allegedly said was in the cake.

DET. W.A. DELK, COBB COUNTY POLICE DEPT.: One of the defendants, SAD, made an announcement there was bleach in the cake.

PHILLIPS: The district attorney says he needs to verify the contents of the cake before he makes a final decision on charges.

PAT HEAD, COBB COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: It could be that it stays serious, or it could be that the analysis of the cake says that there was nothing in there that was that harmful.

PHILLIPS: Alan (ph) says his daughter denies putting bleach in the cake, but admits to mixing in glue, and that she's feeling a range of emotions, including remorse. So is he.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Fear I might not see my daughter for several years and that my daughter's life could be ruined.

PHILLIPS: The girls are being held in juvenile detention. A hearing later today will determine if they'll stay there or be released to their parents.

Eric Philips, CNN, Atlanta.


HEMMER: One other note on this, if the assault charges stick, as Eric is reporting, the girls cannot be tried as adults. Authorities are not sure when the test results on that cake will be ready -- Soledad.

O'BRIEN: Well, 17 days after the election, and people in Washington State still don't know who their next governor is going to be. The results of a recount in the closest governor's race in the state's history are expected just before Thanksgiving. The latest tally has Republican Dino Rossi leading Democratic opponent Christine Gregoire by just 261 votes out of more than 2.7 million that were cast.

David Postman is a "Seattle Times" chief political reporter, joining us this morning.

Nice to see you, David. Thanks for being with us.


O'BRIEN: The lead's really gone back and forth. If you look at a chart that sort of shows who was ahead at each time. I mean, look at it, back and forth, back and forth over certain days. How do you account for the seesawing? Why is it this close?

POSTMAN: Well, the seesawing is because each county in the state, we have 39 counties here, each county runs its own election department, it's not a state-run election. And so if it's a county in eastern Washington where more conservatives are, more Republican voters, that'd be a good day for Dino Rossi if they counted. In King County, here where Seattle is, counter, a much better day for Christine Gregoire, the Democrat, and they didn't all count on the same day, they didn't all count the same number of ballots on the day. So ever since Election Day, those two weeks were pretty much just random and sort of chaotic actually.

O'BRIEN: So now there's a recount under way. Rossi, as we mentioned, leading by 261 votes, is there an expectation that Christine Gregoire can actually make a comeback?

POSTMAN: It would be the first time in history in our state. There's never been a statewide election where the apparent winner was changed because of a recount. So unlikely on that case. However, it's the closest election we've had, and there have certainly been recounts that have moved vote totals more than their margin. But normally, what we've seen is that the winner would expand a winning margin by 200 or 300 votes. And so it's possible, you know, mathematically, but it would be history.

O'BRIEN: History does not support her chances. She was favored to win, though. Why in the end was it so close?

POSTMAN: Well, that's a great question. I think that you have to look at both of their campaigns. Republicans have had a hard time running for governor in Washington State. They've not elected a governor here since 1980 in the Reagan landslide. And since then they haven't really even come very close to beating the Democrats. The last two Republican challengers got about 40 percent of the vote. So I think there was certainly history on the side of the Democrat here. Christine Gregoire had been elected attorney general three times. It's a statewide position. She had name recognition. She was known both here and nationally as championing the nationwide settlement with the tobacco companies. And there was a sense on the part of many that she was the heir apparent.

Dino Rossi is a good candidate. He's a real estate salesman. He's got kind of a salesman personality to him. He was a legislator for about seven years. But he successfully ran as the outsider. His main argument was, things are tough in Washington State right now, Democrats have been in charge for a very long time. If you want to do it differently, you should elect a Republican. And Christine Gregoire tried to cash in on that same, I think, unhappiness with the way things are going here, but it didn't work as well given that she is the party that's been in the control.

O'BRIEN: At the end of the day, it might be more about litigation than counting.

David Postman, nice to see you. Thanks for clearing some of this up for us, appreciate it.

POSTMAN: You bet.


HEMMER: In a moment here, the U.S. dollar weak overseas, we know that. But Andy will tell us how you can take advantage of that, when he minds your business in a moment.

O'BRIEN: Plus the wait is over. The "Spongebob Squarepants" movie has finally arrived. Is it worth a trip to the theater? "90- Second Pop" coming up. Stay with us. You're watching AMERICAN MORNING.



O'BRIEN: SpongeBob, you sexy thing! Good morning. "90-Second Pop" on a Friday with our gang of three this morning. Toure is CNN's pop correspondent. Sarah Bernard -- hello. We're still on me.


O'BRIEN: We just dissed you hard. We just missed you.

TOURE: I know.

O'BRIEN: Let's move on to Sarah Bernard.


O'BRIEN: Contributing editor for "New York" magazine. And B.J. Sigesmund, there he is, staff editor for "US Weekly."

Good morning to all of you.


O'BRIEN: Let's get right to it. And, Sarah, you're going to start. Jude Law.

BERNARD: Let's just look at this first.

O'BRIEN: Shall we?


BERNARD: Shall we? Yum. There he is. There he is. So, Jude Law is the sexiest man alive.


BERNARD: Not that surprising...

O'BRIEN: Right.

BERNARD: ... to a lot of people. But I think, you know, some people actually have argued this title. And I think it's just because he is... O'BRIEN: They're jealous?

BERNARD: Well, they're jealous. But also, the sexiest man alive traditionally has some kind of mystery. Johnny Depp was the sexiest man alive last year. And Jude Law, one problem with Jude Law is that he is everywhere. He had six movies this fall, and he's just kind of saturated the market, even himself.

SIGESMUND: Right. And so far, not one of those movies has actually been a success.


SIGESMUND: Although it's not necessarily Jude Law's fault. He was very good in "Alfie." It was the script that was terrible, but...

O'BRIEN: And it does not say best actor man alive.

SIGESMUND: No, no. But, you know...

BERNARD: Just the sexiest.

SIGESMUND: ... for a guy...

BERNARD: No, but that's a good point, because he cannot still open a movie.

TOURE: True.

BERNARD: And open a movie means that even if the movie is terrible, people will see it because you're in it.


BERNARD: And "Alfie" only made 6.2 million.

TOURE: It's interesting because we've talked before about how commitment is in and people break up and lose Q rating and lose image. Jude broke up, got divorced from his wife and child, and still didn't lose...

O'BRIEN: Children, he had I think three.


TOURE: ... any bit of popularity at all, which is kind of interesting. Somehow he's been able to keep it going.


TOURE: Definitely.

SIGESMUND: He's always taken supporting roles, and he was so good in "Cold Mountain" and "The Talented Mr. Ripley."

O'BRIEN: "The Talented Mr. Ripley," he was great.

SIGESMUND: And the most underrated movie in the last two years, "Gattaca," also which I loved. He was so great in that. But it's...

TOURE: That was the most underrated?

SIGESMUND: Yes, it was terrific.

O'BRIEN: That's another topic, though.


O'BRIEN: That's not on my list of things to talk about. And I think we can really say he is the sexiest man alive.

BERNARD: Done, yes.

O'BRIEN: He can open a movie, but he's not that great of an actor. But...

BERNARD: He's cute.

O'BRIEN: He's cute. And that's what we're judging him on today. You go, Jude. We love you.

Moving on, talk about other sexy men alive, B.J.


O'BRIEN: SpongeBob versus "National Treasure." What's "National Treasure" about, and who's in it?

SIGESMUND: "National Treasure" is a very typical Jerry Bruckheimer movie, starring Nic Cage. They're back to doing what they do best. Nic Cage plays this treasure hunter who becomes convinced that there's a map to riches on the back of the Declaration of Independence. Yes, that very likely story...

O'BRIEN: Isn't that on display somewhere?

SIGESMUND: Yes. So he has to steal it.


SIGESMUND: And then, you know, find out other bad guys are chasing him and that kind of thing. And the movie is not getting very good reviews.

O'BRIEN: No. How is SpongeBob doing?

SIGESMUND: SpongeBob is probably going to be the No. 1 movie of the weekend, either that or "The Incredibles." It's going to be neck and neck. And SpongeBob, the reviews are much better. This is the big smash series Nickelodeon that's very silly. But you should know that one-third of its audience is adults. Well, that is maybe teenagers and young adults.

BERNARD: The voices, though, they have such interesting people being the voices, like Scarlet Johansson is one of them.

SIGESMUND: Yes, she plays the mermaid.

O'BRIEN: She plays the girl.

SIGESMUND: And Alec Baldwin is in it, and David Hasselhoff is in it playing himself. But the star is SpongeBob and Plankton, his archrival, who tries to take over the town of Bikini Bottom through mind control.


O'BRIEN: I'm like, yes, I know all about this. We watch this a lot. OK, I watch it. I have to say though, "The Incredibles" we're not talking about it today really, but that rocked.

TOURE: Go see it again and again and again.

SIGESMUND: Yes, that rocks.

O'BRIEN: That was a great movie.


O'BRIEN: I would see that again.

You guys, as always, thanks. Bill, back to you.


HEMMER: All right, Soledad. In a moment here, one of our favorite stories of the day. One of the most powerful CEOs in the world taking his cues from Snoop Dog. Andy's got that, back in a moment after this.


HEMMER: Markets are open right now. Also growing concern about the drop in the dollar against the euro overseas. And Andy is back "Minding Your Business," has a whole lot for us now.

Good morning.

ANDY SERWER, "FORTUNE" MAGAZINE: Indeed, let's talk about the stock market. First of all, stocks like Nike are trading down. Dow is down 34 points. Phil Knight stepping down at Nike. That stock is under pressure. Disney up a little bit. Their earnings are up 24 percent. And Sirius Satellite Radio. That stock is up 15 percent with the news that Mel Karmazin will be coming on board.

The falling dollar, you may be hearing a lot about this. What does it mean for you? Well, it actually does impact your life in a bunch of ways. Why is the dollar down? People ask me this question. It's kind of a mysterious process, but it really is a reflection of our economy, relative to other economies. And with the trade deficit and the budget deficit ballooning, the dollar gets weaker. That's a shorthand version. Here's what happens. Imported goods become more expensive. All those French wines and Italian ties that Jack Cafferty shops for -- not. Overseas travel, all jacks trips to gay Paris -- not. Got more expensive.

There's one good thing about it, it's good for U.S. exporters, companies that make and sell things abroad to Europe, and you may be working for one of those. You know, any of these big companies that sell things overseas, it's good for them, and so it could be good for you.

Speaking of foreign companies, it's not often that you hear a car executive try to get his street cred going, and there's reasons for that. The head of Chrysler yesterday, remember we were talking about Motor Trend's car of the year, the Chrysler 300. Well, the CEO of Chrysler, one Dieter Zech (ph) was talking about it. He said he's delighted that "Motor Trend" named it car of the year. And he said, as Snoop dog would say, "It's the shizzle." Well, there's Dieter and there's Snoop. Actually these two have a long history. Snoop called Dieter up and said he wanted one of these cars, thought it was really cool. And then Dieter gave him one if Snoop would use it in his video, and Snoop did. So Snoop and Dieter have, like, this thing going on. But I can't even do it in the German accent, the shizzle.


O'BRIEN: Strange but true.


O'BRIEN: All right, Andy, thanks.

SERWER: You're welcome.

O'BRIEN: Turning now to our weekly "Extra Effort" segment. We pay tribute to those who go the extra mile to help others. This morning, it's a group of high school students from Conyers, Georgia whose heroism saved their teacher's life. That teacher, Debbie Brodie, and two of her student heroes Scott Wigington and Austin Hutchinson are in Atlanta. I asked Debbie to explain exactly what happened in her classroom.


DEBBIE BRODIE, HIGH SCHOOL TEACHER: The doors slammed open, and my soon-to-be ex-husband and was standing there, holding a butcher knife. And I asked him what he was doing there, because at last count, he had been in a mental facility, and he didn't answer me. He gritted his teeth and came dashing across the room with the knife raised.

O'BRIEN: You have 24 students, maybe more inside that classroom. What went through your mind, and what did you do?

BRODIE: The first thing that went through my mind, of course is run. But I was the one in charge, and I had to protect my students. So I was sitting behind my desk, and I heard a voice, an undefinable voice inside my head that said, stand up and grab the weapon arm. And I believe that was my guardian angel. And I grabbed his weapon arm, and struggled with him. And he stabbed me once, and then pushed my hand down the knife blade as I was struggling for him. And I called for my heroes.

I said guys, pin him now. And they weren't waiting for an invitation, they were already set to motion. And they jumped on him and knocked him down.

O'BRIEN: In fact, most of your other students ran out the door, many of them with their cell phones calling 911. But there were six students who stayed to help. And we have two of them with us this morning. I want to talk to Scott first.

Scott, tell me a little bit about what you thought was going on when this guy burst in the door?

SCOTT WIGINGTON, STUDENT HERO: Well, at first we didn't know who he was. We had never seen him before, and we just thought he was another person coming into class. And that's when I saw the knife, and he started heading toward her, and that's when I realized that it was -- it wasn't right; it was something serious.

O'BRIEN: Why not run, Scott?

WIGINGTON: You don't really think about it at first. I just did what I thought was right and went straight for the knife.

O'BRIEN: Austin, you and another boy, I know, jumped on Miss Brodie's attacker back and tried to wrestle him down. What was going through your mind when all this was happening? Was it completely chaotic?

AUSTIN HUTCHINSON, STUDENT HERO: Yes, everything was just going crazy at that point. I know I got there right after Scott did, and just tried to get in between the two. And it was just crazy. Because everybody was jumping on at that point, and we were just pulling them down to the ground and just trying to get him down and keep him still and hold him there until some authorities arrived.

O'BRIEN: Were you worried about your own personal safety? I mean, the guy has a butcher's knife. Did you think, I could get stabbed, I could get killed in all this?

HUTCHINSON: Well, at the time you didn't really think of that. You look back at it now, and you're like, wow, I could have got seriously injured. But at the time, you just thought about keeping her safe, and you just don't want to do anything but protect the teacher. And we just, I think I can speak for everyone when I say we weren't really scared or concerned about ourselves; we were just concerned about her.

O'BRIEN: Debbie, it must be nice for you to hear that. I know you said that, in a way, these guys really, I think it's fair to say, saved your life. I assume they all get an 'A' on the final.

BRODIE: Right, it was a done deal.


O'BRIEN: Debbie Brodie and Scott Wigengton and Austin Hutchinson joining us this morning.

HEMMER: As she says, soon to be her ex-husband, too.

Coming up next hour on CNN LIVE TODAY, the top five tips for travel on the cheap. Some Web sites you've never heard of before that you really ought to check out. Rick has that with Fredricka next hour. We're back in a moment here on AMERICAN MORNING, right after this.


CAFFERTY: I invite you to join us this weekend for "IN THE MONEY," a tidy little business program, Saturday at 1:00, Sunday at 3:00. We're going to talk about approaching gun violence in this country the way they approach automobile and highway deaths 30 years ago. Everybody thought automobile deaths were inevitable until they came up with things like air bags and (INAUDIBLE). Well, maybe the same kind of thing can be done with guns. Or maybe not. But we'll explore it on "IN THE MONEY," and you're invited to check it out.

O'BRIEN: Tidy program.

CAFFERTY: Yes, it is, actually. The Question of the Day, is what ought to be done about Iran's nuclear program? Greg in Edenperry (ph), Minnesota says, "Outsource the problem to Israel. They have real intelligence. Besides, if it's true, they will take care of business in their neighborhood. They bombed Iraq's nuclear program out of business in a single flight."

Tom in Alma, West Virginia writes, "We should quit worrying about Iran's nukes. All we have to do is send them our porn. It will help take their minds off the fact that their country lies between Iraq and Afghanistan."

And Larry in Detroit says, "Jack, on the subject of the public health study of pornography, I really don't want to see ads like this is your brain, this is your brain on porn, got it?" We got it, Larry.

O'BRIEN: That's funny.

All right, well, guess what, we're out of time.

CAFFERTY: Gee, what a shame. I'm so disappointed.

O'BRIEN: It's Friday. There's only 20 seconds left in our TV morning newsday, but we hand it over to Rick Sanchez and Fredricka Whitfield.


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