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Headlines for Friday, March 28, 2014


Decision in Kansas Voter Citizenship Suit Appealed

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Voting rights groups are appealing a judge's decision requiring federal election officials to help Kansas and Arizona enforce state laws requiring new voters to document their U.S. citizenship. A court filing on Friday sent to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals seeks review of this month's ruling by U.S. District Judge Eric Melgren. The judge ordered the U.S. Election Assistance Commission to immediately modify a national voter registration form to add special instructions requiring proof-of-citizenship for Kansas and Arizona residents. The appeal was made by more than a dozen voting rights groups and individuals who had earlier intervened in the case on behalf of the election commission. Secretaries of State Kris Kobach of Kansas and Ken Bennett of Arizona, both conservative Republicans, sued the agency last year seeking the requirement.


Kansas Congressman Ends Feud with District Attorney

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Douglas County District Attorney's office is no longer looking into an NCAA basketball tournament lottery conducted by Rep. Tim Huelskamp. Huelskamp's campaign took exception to a release earlier this month from Douglas County District Attorney Charles Branson announcing that a Huelskamp raffle for two tickets to the NCAA regional in St. Louis violated Kansas law. Branson said the promotion was illegal because it required a $10 campaign contribution to be eligible for the drawing. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the Huelskamp campaign said it dropped the contribution requirement before Branson's news release. Huelskamp, a Hutchinson Republican, said Thursday that Branson's office acted appropriately when it inquired about the contest. Branson said in a release that his office has done all it intends to do on the matter.


Deputy Charged with Inappropriate Contact

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Sedgwick County sheriff's deputy is charged with several counts of having sexual contact with two female inmates. Sheriff Jeff Easter says the deputy was charged with seven counts of unlawful sexual relations with an inmate and one count of making false information. He was arrested Thursday and bonded out of jail. The deputy worked for the sheriff's office for 14 years before resigning in February as an investigation was being conducted. The alleged incidents occurred between October 2012 and March 2013 and an investigation began after the inmates reported the encounters.


Kansas Offender Convicted in Sex Case

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — A Pawnee County jury has convicted a man sentenced to a sexual predator program on charges stemming from assaults on a state hospital patient. A Pawnee County jury found Perry Lee Isley guilty of aggravated sodomy, aggravated sexual battery and sexual battery after a three-day trial. The Hutchinson News reports that Isley was convicted late Wednesday. District Attorney Douglas McNett says the victim at Larned State Hospital initially complied with Isley's requests for sex out of fear. When the victim refused Isley requests, Isley forced himself on the victim. The incidents allegedly occurred in 2011, when Isley was in the sexual predator program at Larned. He was convicted earlier of aggravated indecent liberties with a child under 14 in Shawnee County. Isley was released from parole in 2011.


Victim in Suspicious Death ID'd as McPherson Man

MCPHERSON, Kan. (AP) — Police in the central Kansas town of McPherson have identified a man found dead outside a storage shed as a 26-year-old resident of the community. The death of Ernest Charles Miller is being investigated as suspicious, although police have not yet classified it as a homicide. Miller's identity was released Friday, one day after two people passing by spotted the body. The McPherson Sentinel reports an autopsy concluded Miller died of blunt trauma and suffocation. Police had also been looking for Miller's car and found it Thursday night at his home.


Kansas Author Convicted of Tax Evasion

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas obesity specialist who co-authored a book with the late Dr. Robert Atkins has been convicted of evading federal income taxes. The U.S. Attorney's office says that 61-year-old Dr. Mary Vernon, of Lawrence, was found guilty of five counts of tax evasion Friday by a federal jury in Kansas City, Kan. Vernon practiced medicine in Lawrence and Shawnee. Prosecutors said she earned nearly $800,000 for services to Atkins' nutrition and weight-loss companies from 2003 to 2008. She and Atkins co-wrote "Atkins Diabetes Revolution," which was published in 2004. She also served as a medical director for nursing homes. Prosecutors said Vernon avoided paying income taxes from 2004 through 2008. The conviction carries maximum penalties of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine on each count.


Lawrence Man Pleads no Contest in Wife's Death

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A 67-year-old Lawrence man has pleaded no contest in the death of his ailing wife. Larry Hopkins entered the plea Thursday in Douglas County court to one count of first-degree murder in the November 2013 shooting of 61-year-old Margaret Hopkins. Investigators said Hopkins told police he killed his wife because of her ongoing health problems. 6NewsLawrence reports that Hopkins previously pleaded not guilty in January. He also underwent an evaluation by mental health specialist and was found competent to stand trial. Hopkins could face life in prison with parole after 25 years. He is scheduled to be sentenced May 15th.


10 Kansas Counties Listed as Drought Disasters

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The U.S. Department of Agriculture has listed 10 counties in central, southwest and northern Kansas as primary natural disaster areas because of the ongoing drought. Kansas Agriculture Secretary Jackie McClaskey said in a news release Thursday that the designation gives farmers access to programs that can help them get through the dry conditions. She says it also highlights the importance of water to the state. Counties listed are Barton, Ellsworth, Kiowa, Mitchell, Edwards, Jewell, Lincoln, Osborne, Smith and Russell. Some contiguous counties to them are also eligible for assistance. The designation makes qualified farm operators in those areas eligible for low-interest emergency loans from the Farm Service Agency. Farmers in eligible counties have eight months from to apply for loans to cover part of their actual losses.


Man Sentenced for Theft of Pioneer Woman Statue

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. (AP) — An Independence man was sentenced to seven years in prison for stealing a statue from a museum and trying to sell it for scrap. Thirty-year-old Randy Perez was sentenced Thursday for his role in the theft of the Pioneer Woman statue from the National Frontier Trails Museum in Independence. He was one of three people charged in the June 2013 theft of the life-size bronze statue of a woman with a baby in one arm and a bucket in the other. The cases against the other two suspects are pending. The Independence Examiner reports that police believe the statue was destroyed and the three suspects tried to sell it to a recycling plant in Kansas City. An artist has been commissioned to create a similar statue for the museum.


Kansas Shutting off Cold Weather Protection

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — State officials are reminding Kansans who fall behind on electric and natural gas bills that they will lose some protection against shutoffs next week. The utility-regulating Kansas Corporation Commission notes that Monday is the last effective day of the annual Cold Weather Rule. The rule is in effect every year from November through the following March. It bars utilities regulated by the state from cutting off electric or gas service whenever temperatures are expected to drop below 35 degrees within the next 24 hours. Disconnections may resume only if the temperature is forecast to top 35 degrees for the next 48 hours. The rule also requires utilities to offer customers a 12-month plan to pay outstanding bills.


Kansas Starts Printing Veteran Driver's Licenses

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas residents who served in the military may now get the word "veteran" printed on their state-issued driver's licenses and photo ID cards. The Department of Revenue announced this week that the service is available to veterans with an honorable or general discharge or a general discharge under honorable conditions. To obtain the printing, veterans must provide a copy of their military discharge papers indicating their status, or a letter from the Kansas Veterans Commission. There is no charge to have the word "veteran" printed beneath the photo on the card. Veterans may get the designation when they renew their licenses or pay an $8 charge to have a new card issued before it is expired.


Rural Opportunities Meeting Features Development

DODGE CITY, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Department of Commerce is holding a rural opportunities conference next month that will highlight rural business and development topics. The conference takes place April 9 and 10 at the Magouirk Conference Center in Dodge City. The registration deadline is April 2. Among the topics for speakers are options for financing local and state government, the state's water supply, and strategies to connect rural youths within communities. Breakout sessions will also discuss funding diversity, closing the workforce housing gap and the economic impact of water in Kansas. One session focuses on attracting residents, workers and entrepreneurs to rural Kansas.


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