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Billionaire Boys Club's Joe Hunt seeks cut in life sentence

The young Joe Hunt once used his intelligence, a high-energy salesman's patter and powers of persuasion to get wealthy friends to invest in his Billionaire Boys Club to fuel an opulent lifestyle that abruptly ended with a first-degree murder conviction and a prison sentence of life without the possibility of parole.

Now he's using those same skills in to try to close the biggest deal of his life.

He's calling on California Gov. Jerry Brown to make him eligible for parole and give him a chance to leave prison after spending 34 years behind bars.

A Los Angeles County jury convicted Hunt in 1987 of killing Ron Levin, who disappeared in 1984. Prosecutors have said Hunt killed Levin over a false promise to rescue the financially struggling "club," which purported to invest members' money in commodities but was mostly a Ponzi scheme that relied on new cash infusions to keep it afloat.

Hunt argues Levin faked his own death to escape a pending fraud case.

Hunt, 59, is hoping to capitalize on Brown's desire to burnish his gubernatorial legacy during his last two months in office. The termed-out Democrat took office eight years ago vowing to reduce the prison population and reform harsh criminal justice laws, which includes reconsidering some life without parole sentences.

Brown's office said the governor has given 42 inmates with those sentences a chance at parole during his two terms in office, including 18 this year.

With time running out on Brown's final term, Hunt and his family have launched a publicity blitz to sway the governor to commute his sentence before he leaves office in early January.

For most of an hour-long telephone interview with The Associated Press, Hunt displayed the same confident, enthusiastic and articulate hustle that he used to convince his wealthy high school buddies to join his "investment club" with their families' money. Hunt originally named the group after a favorite restaurant — Bombay Bicycle Club — but it became known as the Billionaire Boys Club because of the hedonistic gang's larger-than-life presence in Los Angeles.

To appear successful, Hunt rented an expensive business office suite, tooled around town with his top assistants and was often seen dining at the trendiest restaurants. His exploits were the subject of two Hollywood movies.

During the interview, Hunt discussed prison culture, what he believes are inherent inequities in the legal system and — most of all — his claim of innocence.

But Hunt went quiet when asked what would happen if Brown turns him down. He tenaciously but fruitlessly fought for three decades to win his freedom in the courts. He said he had resigned himself to never leaving prison when he lost his final appeal in 2016 but that his hope was renewed after inmates serving the same sentence walked out of prison because of Brown's intervention.

"I see other men similarly situated getting commutations and figured 'Why not me, too?'" he said.

Brown's spokesman Evan Westrup declined comment on Hunt's appeal, saying the governor does not comment on commutation applications.

In 1984, the then 24-year-old Hunt was elated he had met Levin, who was 18 years older. Hunt thought Levin was the financial savior for a scheme badly in need of new investment. Hunt had squandered most of the original investments on luxury condos, sports cars and Armani suits.

"With high overhead, lavish personal spending and little income, the BBC was essentially a pyramid scheme," Hunt's attorney Charles Carbone wrote in his client's application to the governor.

Levin gave Hunt access to a $5 million commodities trading account and the two agreed to split profits. Hunt quickly racked up $13 million in profits, but when he went to cash out he discovered the account was not real.

Levin, who operated a freelance video news agency, had convinced a brokerage house to open the dummy account. Levin told the brokerage firm he was working on an investment documentary, that Hunt was his subject and needed to believe the account was real for the project to work.

Prosecutors argued at his trial that Hunt was angry and humiliated when he discovered that summer that he was the target of Levin's sophisticated hoax.

Levin went missing in the summer of 1984 and has never been found. Kevin Spacey played Levin in the 2018's financial flop "Billionaire Boys Club."

No body, weapon or any physical evidence like blood was found. But the jury convicted Hunt on the strength of club members' testimony that Hunt had bragged he killed Levin — and a macabre "to-do list" Hunt wrote that was found in Levin's home.

"Closed blinds, scan for tape recorder, tape mouth, handcuff, put gloves on, explain situation, kill dog," the note read.

Hunt said he wrote the note and left if for Levin to find to scare him. Hunt has always maintained his innocence and argued that Levin faked his death to evade a pending fraud case.

But now, he's changed tactics with Brown and is highlighting his stellar prison record of volunteer work, religious service and good prison behavior. His commutation cites his legal work with other inmates, helping them write briefs and fill out court forms.

Hunt's application also discusses in depth his embrace of yogi and meditation and a brand of Eastern religion as practiced by the Ananda Church of Self-Realization.

He was recently transferred so he could work helping other inmates at the California Health Care Facility at Stockton, a medical prison and much less stressful place for inmates than the maximum-security lockup where he spent most of prison time.

Hunt filed his commutation application in January, but has not heard back.

So he and his family recently launched a publicity campaign, with a website, FreeJoeHunt.com and accounts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. His family has hired a publicist to arrange phone calls with reporters and he eagerly recounted his story.

"Was I a catastrophic, world-class jackass in in 1984? No doubt," Hunt said. "But it's not right that I get to be the garbage dump of everybody's peccadillos."

PBS docuseries 'Native America' recreates cultures pre-1492

The story of Native America taught in U.S. public schools usually begins at contact with European explorers. Children then get lessons about Thanksgiving, maybe the Trail of Tears or the 19th century wars over the removal of tribes in the American West. Rarely discussed is life in the Americas before Columbus' 1492 voyage.

A new four-part PBS docuseries entitled "Native America" seeks to recreate a world in the Americas generations prior to the arrival of Europeans. Using archaeology, Native American oral traditions, even high-tech 3D renditions, viewers are presented images of busy cities connected by networks that span from the present-day United States to South America.

The docuseries shows how Chaco Canyon in New Mexico became a busy spiritual and commercial center that stood five stories high in the desert sky, centuries before skyscrapers went up in New York.

They also discuss the tunnel under a pyramid in Teotihuacán, Mexico, that revealed an intricate belief system that was also found elsewhere. And outside present-day St. Louis, Missouri, 10,000 people helped erect massive earthwork pyramids into a city now known as Cahokia around the time the real-life Macbeth ruled Scotland.

Series executive producer and director Gary Glassman said the project took more than a year to plan because producers wanted to make sure they had buy-in from Native American communities the documentaries sought to cover. Filmmakers wanted to include animated pieces of sacred art and stories to illustrate the importance of the site and wanted to be sensitive, Glassman said.

"We wanted to give them ownership to their own stories," Glassman said. "It was about building trust."

That's how producers convinced Leigh Kuwanwisiwma, director of the Hopi Cultural Preservation Office of the Arizona tribe Hopi, to allow directors to briefly film a group of elders conducting a smoking ceremony at Chaco.

In one episode, Kuwanwisiwma explains the religious significance of the Kiva and how elders used the smoking ceremony to contemplate the power of the universe. "The bird world, the reptilian world, the animal world, the insect world...they are all part of who we are as Hopi people," Kuwanwisiwma tells viewers.

The docuseries then takes viewers to the rock art of the Amazons and the Haudenosaunee Confederacy of New York to show how similar spiritual theologies through diverse practices linked people thousands of miles apart from the pyramids of Mississippi to the Andes in present-day Peru.

The first episode of "Native America" is scheduled to air on most PBS stations on Tuesday. Other episodes will air on following Tuesdays until November 13.

Episodes will be streamed for free for a limited time after airings.

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Associated Press writer Russell Contreras is a member of the AP's race and ethnicity team. Follow Contreras on Twitter at http://twitter.com/russcontreras

Texas Christian football star suspended after arrest on assault charge

Texas Christian University suspended wide receiver KaVontae Turpin, who was arrested Sunday on an assault charge, coach Gary Patterson said in a Big 12 conference call Monday.

>> Read more trending news 

Turpin, who scored two touchdowns in the Horned Frogs’ 52-27 loss to Oklahoma, was charged with assault with bodily injury to a family member, the Fort Worth Star Telegram reported.

Turpin, a senior, is TCU’s all-time leader in special teams touchdowns with six in his career, WFAA reported. He scored on a career-best 99-yard touchdown against Oklahoma.

“Texas Christian University is aware that one of its students was recently arrested for a reported domestic situation,” school officials told Star-Telegram in a statement. “The university takes these types of reports very seriously and is continuing to gather information to determine next steps. TCU expects its students to behave in an ethical manner, abide by campus policies and adhere to state and federal law.”

Patterson said Turpin was unlikely to play against Kansas on Saturday.

“Everybody knows how I handle things like this,” Patterson said on the conference call. “My track record usually speaks for itself if you go back through it. We’re gathering information, but at this point in time he probably won’t play against Kansas.

“We have not received anything as far as information, police report, anything else. At this point in time, he knows how that all goes. All of (the players) do.”

Turpin was released from Tarrant County Jail, a spokesman said. The assault charge is a class A misdemeanor, and Turpin could face up to a year in prison and up to a $4,000 fine if convicted, the Star-Telegram reported.

A Fort Worth police spokesman said the incident involved Turpin and a woman, the newspaper reported. The spokesman did not say how Turpin and the woman were related but said a dating relationship would fall under “family member” assault.

Rowling, Tolkien, Austen novels vie for bragging rights

The results are in for an impassioned national election that put the popularity of candidates Jane Austen, J.R.R. Tolkien and J.K. Rowling on the line.

The effort to discover America's best-loved novel — and promote reading — ends with the winner announced on Tuesday's 8 p.m. EDT finale (check local listings) of PBS' "The Great American Read." The series profiled the contenders and let bookworms, famous and not, advocate for their pick.

More than 4 million votes were cast over six months, PBS said, with Austen's "Pride and Prejudice," Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings" series and Rowling's "Harry Potter" saga making the top 10 on an alphabetical-order list that was released as voting wrapped last week.

The other front-runners were "Charlotte's Web" by E.B. White; "The Chronicles of Narnia" series by C.S. Lewis; "Gone with the Wind" by Margaret Mitchell; "Jane Eyre" by Charlotte Bronte; "Little Women" by Louisa May Alcott; the "Outlander" series by Diana Gabaldon; and "To Kill a Mockingbird" by Harper Lee.

"Harry Potter" was among the multivolume series that counted as a single entry. Given its hold on the modern imagination on the page, screen and stage, it might be the obvious winner.

Eliyannah Yisrael, who discovered Rowling's magic touch about 15 years ago as a Chicago State University student, was among its vocal boosters on "The Great American Read" and beyond.

"Listen, me and 'Harry Potter' are going to take this thing to the end. I want to be victorious," Yisrael told a TV critics' gathering last summer.

Series host Meredith Vieira didn't spill the beans in a recent interview. But she was glad to tout the initiative's ripple effect, including a nearly 50,000-member online book club and more than 5 million views for series-related video content across PBS platforms, Facebook and YouTube.

"We forget the power of a book, not just on individuals but on groups of people. There's something wonderful about sitting down with your friends and talking about a book," Vieira said. "And ultimately with these novels you learn something more about yourself. They force you to question who you are, your values as an individual, your values as a society."

About a fifth of the 100 books were provocative enough that they've been censored in some manner, said series executive producer Jane Root, who called that number "astounding."

"We were expecting it to be two or three. But a huge number of books, I think because of their potency and the power of the relationship that you have with a really great book, they upset people," she said. "They disturbed the waters. They make people fearful."

Some popular books simply have a whiz-bang story to tell, with top 100 titles "Fifty Shades of Grey" and "The Da Vinci Code" making the point.

The list was based on an initial survey of about 7,000 Americans, with an advisory panel of experts organizing the 100-contender list. Books had to have been published in English but not written in the language, and one book or series per author was allowed.

A fair amount of regional partisanship emerged. Louisiana voters were alone in ranking native son John Kennedy Toole's "A Confederacy of Dunces" in the top 10, "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" was No. 6 in New York and Mark Twain's "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" was a front-runner with readers in his home state of Missouri.

Voters also went big for sci-fi and fantasy both past and present, with representatives including Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein" and George R.R. Martin's "Game of Thrones" epic.

The point of "The Great American Read" initiative has been made no matter what work ends up as No. 1, Vieira said.

"Getting people to vote in a way is a gimmick," she said, a way to reinvigorate the love of reading and to foster discussions about why and how certain books resonate with people.

But while readers' passions may run high, she said, the divisiveness so rampant in politics is happily absent.

"It doesn't matter where you fall. People I've spoken to who liked books I didn't have inspired me to take second look at them, like 'Game of Thrones,'" Vieira said. "I don't leave a project like this and not feel optimistic."

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This story has been updated to correct the spelling of author Diana Gabaldon's first name.

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Online:

https://www.pbs.org/the-great-american-read/home

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Lynn Elber can be reached at lelber@ap.org and on Twitter at http://twitter.com/lynnelber .

Garth Brooks promises concert tickets to terminally ill cancer patient

Country music star Garth Brooks promised a terminally ill cancer patient tickets to a future concert after the Indiana woman missed the singer’s concert Saturday night, WSBT reported.

>> Read more trending news 

Vickie Frederick, of Elkhart, had tickets to Brooks’ concert at Notre Dame Stadium, but was unable to attend because of a bronchitis attack, the television station reported.

She was diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer two years ago, but it had gone into remission. Delighted, Frederick, who said she is a big Brooks fan, bought tickets to the singer’s concert at the stadium, WSBT reported.

However, doctors told her three weeks ago that her cancer had returned and had spread to her lungs. Doctors told her the cancer was terminal.

“It’s hard to come back and explain to your family that, ‘I’m hit with it again,’” Frederick told the television station.

Although Frederick missed the concert, her two children attended and sent her an email. When she opened it, there was a video from Brooks, promising her tickets to a future concert of her choice, WSBT reported. Brooks also offered to pay her flight to the venue, the television station reported.

“I just went, ‘Oh my gosh, you know!!' And I said ‘Are you for real?!’” Frederick said. “I didn’t have any words.

“I will get well enough because I want to see Garth Brooks,” Frederick told WSBT, adding that she wanted to attend a concert next spring. “I’m not going to stop fighting until God tells me it’s time to go home and until the end. We will have to continue to prove him wrong.”

Mariah Carey announces 'Caution' 2019 world tour

Mariah Carey has announced a world tour in support of her upcoming album “Caution.” 

Rolling Stone reported that the 22-city date tour starts Feb. 27 in Dallas and goes across the U.S. and Canada through early April.

>> Read more trending news 

“I’m so excited to bring the CAUTION WORLD TOUR to you, starting Feb 2019!” Carey said on Twitter Monday. “I can't wait to perform songs from the new album + some of our favorites.”

Fans can get presale tickets by registering for the Honey B. Fly Live Pass. Early access starts Oct. 22.

Tickets are available for the general public Oct. 26 at 10 a.m. local time.

Carey’s 15th studio album, “Caution,” will be released Nov. 16. Fans who buy a ticket online get a digital or physical copy of the album, which includes the singles “GTFO,” “With You” and “The Distance” featuring Ty Dolla $ign. 

More information is at the singer’s official website. Tour dates are below.

Feb. 27: Dallas at The PavilionMarch 1: Houston at Smart Financial CentreMarch 2: Biloxi, Mississippi, at Beau Rivage TheatreMarch 5: Atlanta at Fox TheatreMarch 6: Louisville, Kentucky, at The Louisville PalaceMarch 8: Detroit at Fox TheatreMarch 9: Indianapolis at Murat TheatreMarch 11: Chicago at The Chicago TheatreMarch 13: Minneapolis at State TheatreMarch 15: Milwaukee at Miller High Life TheatreMarch 16: St. Louis at Stifel TheatreMarch 18: Pittsburgh at Benedum CenterMarch 20: Toronto at Sony Centre for the Performing ArtsMarch 21: Orillia, Ontario, at Casino Rama ResortMarch 23: Buffalo, New York, at Shea’s Performing Arts CenterMarch 25 : New York at Radio City Music HallMarch 28: Boston at Boch Center Wang TheatreMarch 30: Atlantic City, New Jersey, at Hard Rock LiveMarch 31: Washington, D.C., at The TheaterApril 3: Philadelphia at Metropolitan Opera HouseApril 5: Wallingford, Connecticut, at Toyota Presents Oakdale TheatreApril 6: Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, at Sands Bethlehem Event Center

Indiana museum to tell story of basketball great Larry Bird

A planned museum will tell the story of basketball great Larry Bird and his Indiana roots.

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb announced Saturday that the museum will be part of a convention center being built in Terre Haute in western Indiana. Bird plans to donate personal items and memorabilia from his career with the Boston Celtics, Indiana State University, the U.S. Olympic team and beyond, The Tribune-Star reported.

Holcomb predicts the museum will be a global draw, describing Bird as "Larry the Legend — Indiana's favorite son."

"To have this museum, which symbolizes what being a Hoosier is all about — hard work, determination and striving to be the best — and to have that in Terre Haute, that's just a match made in heaven and I can't wait to see it," Holcomb said.

Bird grew up in French Lick, Indiana. He created excitement during his days at Indiana State University in Terre Haute when he led the school to the NCAA title game in 1979, although the Sycamores lost to Magic Johnson's Michigan State team.

Bird's school pride carried over to his NBA career as a player, coach and executive. When the Celtics won the 1984 NBA Championship, Bird dedicated the win to Terre Haute.

Details about the museum are still being developed, but plans include interactive displays about Bird's life and career. He won three NBA championships with the Celtics.

Construction on the convention center is expected to start in the spring. The Vigo County Capital Improvement Board recently approved a more than $1.6 million contract with CSO Architects for the project.

Michael Caine looks back in 'Blowing the Bloody Doors Off'

Michael Caine has been looking back, and on the whole he likes the view. Regrets? He's had few.

The 85-year-old star of "Alfie," ''Get Carter" and "The Dark Knight" — among many, many others — reminisces fondly in "Blowing the Bloody Doors Off," whose title adapts a line from his 1969 heist caper "The Italian Job." Being published Tuesday in the United States by Hachette, it's part memoir, part advice manual for aspiring actors and anyone else nursing an elusive dream of success.

Most of the advice is resolutely old-fashioned. Learn your lines. Work hard. Be nice to people. And be lucky. Caine knows he has been extremely fortunate.

"The luck I've had, you couldn't make it up," Caine said during an interview in his riverside London apartment, with a panoramic view up and down the Thames. "I mean, even once I was a success, I made a lot of flop movies. But I only made three at a time before I had a hit."

In print and in person, Caine describes his success as sequence of lucky breaks. His first big movie break, as a British Army officer in "Zulu" in 1964, was followed by a role as a world-weary spy in "The Ipcress File." On the back of that came his breakthrough as a callous man-about-town in "Alfie." That film made blond, bespectacled Caine a symbol of Swinging London, brought him American fame and earned him the first of six Academy Award nominations.

He went on to win two Oscars — for "Hannah and Her Sisters" and "The Cider House Rules." Later came a stint as butler and mentor Alfred in three Batman movies directed by Christopher Nolan. Along the way, he became an icon, and his signature glasses and Cockney accent spawned a thousand imitators.

Caine says his optimistic outlook is rooted in his hardscrabble early years. Born Maurice Micklewhite into a working-class London family, he was a child during the London Blitz and later, as a teenage conscript, was sent to fight in the Korean War.

"I have found it pretty easy to be happy since then," he notes in the book. "Once you've been on maneuvers in Korea, everything else seems like quite a lot of fun."

When he returned to London and a dead-end job in a butter factory, Caine resolved to be an actor, although he had little idea how to go about it.

"I was nobody from nowhere who knew nothing about anything," he said. His drive to succeed came from "desperation — the determination to become something other than a factory worker.

"My father was an example of what I was and how lucky I was to have been born all those years later," he said. "My father was an extremely clever, intelligent man but completely uneducated and a complete waste of a brain — and that's what was happening to me, and I could see that."

Answering a classified ad led to small parts in a provincial repertory company. Then came work on the London stage, television parts, movie roles and global stardom. If he has a secret, he says, it's that he kept going when others gave up.

"If someone rejected me, I never worried about it," he said. "I tried again, because my only alternative was working back in the butter factory.

"But also, timing played a massive part in my career."

Caine was starting out just as a new generation of writers was emerging — playwrights like John Osborne and Harold Pinter, telling stories about working-class life.

"Suddenly every working-class boy who was going to work said: 'Sod this. I'm going to do something I want to do and do it my way,'" he recalled. "And that's the way the 60s started."

The 60s made Caine a star, and he wasn't alone. Suddenly, he writes in the book, "everybody I knew seemed to become a household name."

Caine enjoyed fame, when it came, but also worked extremely hard, at one point making 12 films in four years.

The result is a resume of more than 100 features, of varying quality. Caine is cheerful about the low points, films like schlocky shark sequel "Jaws: The Revenge" or "The Swarm," a disaster movie in both senses of the word where Caine and his co-stars learned another lesson: Never work with bees.

"None of us realized it was a disaster till about halfway through, when the bees turned up," Caine said. "We were doing a scene and they all shit on us.

"I learned from them — also earned from them," he said of his critical duds. "I got the same money for the flops as I did from the successes."

When leading-man parts dried up, Caine retired — briefly. The last two decades have brought some of the most rewarding parts of his career, including his six films with Nolan, whom Caine calls "a brilliant director ... the new David Lean."

These days, Caine is contentedly unretired, balancing work and time with his family: Shakira, his wife of 45 years; his two daughters; and his three grandchildren aged 9 and 10, with whom he is "besotted."

"I have such great times with them," Caine said. "What astonishes me the things they know. It's like talking to a 20-year-old."

Of his recent films, he's proudest of Italian director Paolo Sorrentino's "Youth," in which he played an aging orchestra conductor.

"I don't play the leads in movies now — I'm too bloody old to be getting up every morning at half past six," he said. "I just take little character parts and have a bit of fun.

"You don't give up movies — they give up you. And while I get these parts, I'll keep doing them."

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Follow Jill Lawless on Twitter at http://Twitter.com/JillLawless

AP Exclusive: 2 rarely seen Hemingway stories coming out

Two Ernest Hemingway stories written in the mid-1950s and rarely seen since will be published next year.

The director of Hemingway's literary estate, Michael Katakis, told The Associated Press recently that "The Monument" and "Indian Country and the White Army" will be included with a special reissue of the author's classic "For Whom the Bell Tolls." The new edition also will include the story "A Room on the Garden Side," which had been little known beyond the scholarly community before The Strand Magazine published it over the summer.

"For Whom the Bell Tolls: The Hemingway Library Edition" is scheduled for the summer of 2019. The celebrated novel, set during the Spanish Civil War, was in the news earlier this year. It was a favorite of Sen. John McCain, who died in August, and the title of an HBO documentary about the Arizona Republican and Vietnam War veteran.

Katakis, whose "Ernest Hemingway: Artifacts from a Life" comes out this week, has overseen numerous posthumous projects. He has worked in coordination with the author's son, Patrick Hemingway, on reissues of "A Moveable Feast," ''Green Hills of Africa" and other books, along with the controversial publication of "True at First Light," which Ernest Hemingway had left unfinished when he killed himself in 1961.

"I've been talking to Patrick for a long time and we always ask the same question, 'Is there a reason for this to be released?'" Katakis said during a telephone interview. He declined to comment further on why they had decided to publish the 1950s stories, part of the Ernest Hemingway Collection at the John F. Kennedy Library and Museum in Boston.

Hemingway wrote five pieces in 1956, reflecting upon his time as a correspondent and participant in World War II. He would tell his publisher, Charles Scribner Jr., the stories likely needed to come out after his death because they were "a little shocking" and dealt "with irregular troops and combat and with people who actually kill people."

One of those works, "Black Ass at the Crossroads," was released years ago. Another story, "The Bubble Reputation," will for now remain unpublished.

"Ernest Hemingway: Artifacts from a Life" also draws from the collection at the JFK library. It features photographs, letters and extensive annotations. In a brief foreword, Patrick Hemingway cites a memento not pictured in the book, or anywhere since he was a child: a trout fishing trunk used by the author on outings with his family.

"That fishing trunk for me enhanced the elegant ritual of my mom and dad as they waded side by side six feet off each bank downstream, casting toward each other their terminal cluster of three wet flies, letting their lines drift and straighten out before raising their rods and casting again," Patrick Hemingway wrote.

But, he added, "even the finest bowl and bell will crack." The marriage was over by 1940, the trunk was gone a few years later.

'Shark Tank' backs late 9/11 cleaner's idea, pitched by kids

The sharks on "Shark Tank" are supporting an invention created by a New York City firefighter who died of cancer after helping clean up the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks.

Kevin Young's children on Sunday pitched his Cup Board Pro, a chopping block that features a detachable bowl for cleanup. The 53-year-old died in March, months before the ABC show taped the segment.

His children explained their dad had to delay his project because their mom was diagnosed with breast cancer and died in August 2012.

The panel decided to invest $100,000 in the project and pledged to donate any proceeds to support firefighters who have illnesses related to the Sept. 11 attacks.

Contestants on the show try to persuade the panel to invest in their ideas.

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