Candidates Flock to Kansas Ahead of Weekend Caucuses
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Donald Trump plans to have a rally Saturday in Wichita as Republicans prepare to vote in the state's presidential caucuses. The billionaire businessman's campaign for the GOP nomination announced the event Friday, as rival and Florida Senator Marco Rubio was campaigning in the state. Trump's campaign said his event would be at 9 am at the Century II arena. The local caucus is at the arena, and Republican candidate Ted Cruz planned to be there as voting opened at 10 am. Cruz had a campaign stop Wednesday evening in Olathe, followed by a rally at Johnson County Community College in Overland Park. Rubio's rallies Friday were Topeka, Wichita and Overland Park. They're vying for the state's 40 delegates to the GOP National Convention this summer.
The state's party caucuses will take place on Saturday. Here are some details of what's happened in the region in the last few days:
Rubio previously had scheduled a Friday afternoon rally at Jabara Airport in Wichita. His campaign is now sandwiching that event between a morning rally at Topeka's regional airport, south of the city, and one in the evening at the Marriott hotel and convention center in Overland Park. Rubio is vying with Cruz for the status of the alternative in the GOP race to billionaire businessman Donald Trump. On Friday, Donald Trump's campaign announced a rally in Wichita as well. Cruz has the support of many conservative Republican activists and U.S. Rep. Tim Huelskamp, a tea party favorite who represents the 1st District of western and central Kansas. But Rubio has been endorsed by Governor Sam Brownback, Kansas Senator Pat Roberts and Kansas Congressman Mike Pompeo, who represents the 4th District of south-central Kansas. Brownback planned to participate in the Topeka and Overland Park events, and Pompeo, in the Wichita rally. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach has endorsed Trump.
Some of the prospective caucus-goers who came to the Sanders rally in Lawrence were drawn there by his calls for universal health care coverage and campaign finance reform. "We've got to get money out of politics," said Jared Gilbert, a 28-year-old bar worker from Kansas City, Kansas. "We can't have an honest conversation about issues if special interests are going to paying for one side." The Sanders event was in a livestock arena at the Douglas County Fairgrounds and came after a rally for him last week in Kansas City, Missouri, also drew Kansas supporters. Sanders hit on a variety of issues during his speech, telling the crowd, "Go beyond establishment thinking. Go beyond the status quo." Kansas is a Republican-leaning state that hasn't been captured by a Democratic presidential candidate since 1964. But Sanders drew loud cheers when he joked, "I have a feeling that Lawrence may not be that conservative a community." The city is home to the University of Kansas's main campus and is among a few liberal bastions in the state. Meanwhile, Clinton's campaign is airing three television commercials this week in the Kansas City, Topeka and Wichita markets. Her supporters in Kansas argue that because of her political experience and her pragmatism, she's more likely as president to make progress on liberal goals.
The Latest: It's Rubio vs. Wichita State in Kansas Caucuses
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Marco Rubio is taking quite a risk campaigning in Kansas a day ahead of the state's Republican presidential caucus: he's competing alongside Wichita State basketball. The Florida senator took the stage at a Wichita airport hangar Friday with about three minutes remaining in a tight conference tournament game between the local favorite Shockers and Loyola University of Chicago. More than a few Rubio loyalists directed their attention at the television screens around the venue instead of the would-be leader of the free world. Rubio acknowledged the timing, and tried to capitalize, telling the crowd that all his opponents were "cheering for Loyola." He said they "all told me at the debate last night, 'I hope Wichita State loses.'" He laughed and added, "Nice try. I know." Trailing Donald Trump and Ted Cruz in delegates, Rubio sought inspiration from the Shockers. He noted "they were down six just a few minutes ago," before taking the lead about the time the rally started. Wichita State won, 66-58.
Kansas Governor Vetoes American Royal, Power Plant Measures
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Governor Sam Brownback has vetoed measures to block a major economic development project and to protect a government office building near the Kansas Statehouse. The governor on Friday vetoed a provision in a budget bill preventing his administration from authorizing bonds backed by state sales tax revenues to lure the American Royal horse and livestock exhibition to Kansas from Kansas City, Missouri. Most of the rest of the bill will become law. Brownback also vetoed a separate bill preventing the state from tearing down the Docking State Office Building. Legislators passed the bill after Brownback cancelled a $20 million project that would have torn down the building. The project also would have built a new power plant to replace one at the Docking building for the Statehouse and other buildings.
Schmidt Asks Kansas Supreme Court to Hold DUI Decisions
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt is asking the state Supreme Court to delay formally issuing rulings on drunken-driving laws. The court ruled last week that a law punishing drivers who refuse a breath test is unconstitutional. Schmidt said Friday that the U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to decide a case from other states that present the same constitutional issues as the Kansas case. A decision is expected by June. He said in a news release the national case would either confirm or call into question the Kansas ruling, so it is a better use of everyone's time to delay issuing the state rulings. Schmidt noted if the Kansas court declines his request, the state could appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, which would delay the issuing of the state decisions.
Kansas Mental Hospital Director Leaves Amid Staff Shortage
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The director of a Kansas psychiatric hospital has resigned, leaving a facility hurt by staff shortages without a superintendent. Angela de Rocha, a spokeswoman for the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services, says superintendent Tom Kinlen is no longer with Larned State Hospital. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the department's commissioner of behavioral health services, Bill Rein, will serve as acting superintendent until the position is filled. Rein and secretary of the department, Tim Keck, testified before legislators in January, facing questions about state hospital staffing shortages. Keck said staffing issues are caused by several factors, including low employment, pay and respect shown toward employees. Kinlen took over as director of the hospital in 2012 after staffing issues forced out superintendent Chris Burke.
Misdemeanor Charges Recommended in Swim Team Case
ELLSWORTH, Kan. (AP) — A central Kansas sheriff is recommending misdemeanor charges against several members of the Great Bend High School boys swim team. The Salina Journal reports that Ellsworth County Sheriff Tracy Ploutz said Thursday that five students are suspected of battery and three of criminal restraint. He says several students are alleged to have been victimized on the team bus as it passed through the county February 6. The final charging decision rests with the county attorney. An investigation also is underway into allegations of swim team bus misconduct on February 3 in Barton County. The incidents have sparked protests at the Great Bend school district offices by family members and students who question the district's response to the allegations. The district has changed how students are monitored on bus trips.
Kansas Senate Bill Would Make it Easier to Impeach Supreme Court Justices
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A bill before a Kansas Senate committee sets out several impeachable offenses for Kansas Supreme Court justices. The Senate Judiciary Committee heard from supporters and opponents of the bill Thursday. The state constitution currently uses high crimes and misdemeanors as grounds for removal from office. The new proposal would allow impeachment of Supreme Court justices if they usurp the authority of the Legislature, or for reckless judicial conduct, personal misconduct and failure to properly supervise judicial personnel. The bill's sponsor, Republican Senator Mitch Holmes, says the court has made several decisions recently that overstepped its authority, such as school funding rulings. Opponents say the proposal attacks fair and impartial courts and singles out Supreme Court justices for treatment not applied to executive and legislative branches.
Kansas House Committee OKs Bill to Oversee Refugee Resettlement
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas House committee has approved a bill addressing concerns about refugees settling in the state. The bill approved Thursday would allow local governments to seek a one-year moratorium of refugee resettlements if the community doesn't have the capacity to handle the influx. It also would create a state office for refugees and authorize Governor Sam Brownback to name a state refugee coordinator. Opponents say the bill is unconstitutional, discriminatory and un-Christian. Supporters say the bill would coordinate local and state governments work with federal authorities to resettle refugees, while giving the state a way to oversee the process. Under the Refugee Act of 1980, only the federal government has authority to manage refugee resettlement.
Former Missouri Teacher Accused of Soliciting Students
LIBERTY, Mo. (AP) — A former suburban Kansas City teacher has been charged with exchanging sexually explicit photos and messages with two high school girls. The Kansas City Star reports that 29-year-old Jarrett Morris of Independence also is accused of asking one of those students to meet him at his residence to have sex and spend the night. The former Winnetonka High School teacher was charged Thursday with a felony sexual exploitation of a minor charge and two misdemeanors. Prosecutors said he communicated with the 16-year-old students on Twitter for several months last year. In one exchange, he suggested a school training room rendezvous. He said he had been there with other teachers but that it's "riskier" with a student. His attorney didn't immediately return a phone message from The Associated Press
Police: Man Shoves Bleach-Soaked Cloth in Girl's Mouth
SALINA, Kan. (AP) — A Salina man accused of shoving a bleach-soaked cloth into a girl's mouth has been arrested. The Salina Journal reports that the 43-year-old man was arrested Wednesday on a child abuse warrant in connection with the February 18 incident at a north Salina home. The Salina Police Department says that the high school-aged girl suffered chemical burns to her mouth and throat. Captain Mike Sweeney said the girl was treated at Salina Regional Health Center.
Man Pleads Guilty to Vandalism at Missouri Congressman Cleaver's Office
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City man pleaded guilty to a failed attempt to firebomb an office for U.S. Representative Emanuel Cleaver. Eric G. King admitted Thursday that he threw two Molotov cocktails at the building in midtown Kansas City on September 11th, 2014. One device didn't go inside the building and the second did no damage. Cleaver was in Washington and no staff members were in the building at the time. King pleaded guilty in federal court to using an incendiary device to commit arson. He faces a minimum sentence of 10 years in federal prison. Prosecutors say King had expressed anarchist beliefs on social media and was a potential suspect in other anti-government vandalism in the city. King's sentencing has not been scheduled.
Dean of KU School of Social Welfare Resigns
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The embattled dean of the University of Kansas School of Social Welfare is resigning to return to the faculty. Paul Smokowski says he is resigning because of declining finances for the program and his desire to do more research. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that student protesters have demanded Somokowski's resignation, citing inequities within the school affecting students of color. He said the school is working hard on social equality issues and he hopes his resignation will make that process easier. His resignation will take effect July 1 but until then he will relinquish his duties as dean to focus on special research initiatives. Stephen Kapp, social welfare professor and associate dean of academic programs, will be acting dean for the remainder of the academic year.
Man Guilty in Fraud from Missouri Company
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri man was sentenced to one year and three months in federal prison for defrauding a Kansas City-based construction company out of $442,000. Prosecutors say Rodney Tatum of Branson was sentenced Thursday and ordered to pay $442,810 in restitution. Prosecutors say he stole the money from Clarkson Construction Company by using the firm's credit card to buy computer and communication equipment, which he resold for personal profit. He pleaded guilty in October to mail fraud. Tatum worked for Clarkson construction since 1991 and was director of information technology since 2003. He hid his fraud by bulk purchasing merchandise that could be used for his department and by faking invoice reports. Prosecutors say he earned $120,000 a year during the fraud scheme but still incurred significant debt.
Police Investigate Death of Wichita Man as Suspicious
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Police are investigating the death of a 35-year-old man whose body was found in a southeast Wichita yard as suspicious. The Wichita Eagle reports that the discovery was made late Thursday. Wichita police Lieutenant Jeff Allen says officers were dispatched to the area for a reported shooting and found the man unresponsive. He says emergency responders attempted to resuscitate the man before he was eventually pronounced dead. Police weren't immediately able to determine the nature of the injuries the man sustained. A woman who was with the man was taken in for questioning. Allen says the case will likely be worked as a homicide.
Former Wichita State Official Sues University over Firing
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A former Wichita State University vice president has sued the university alleging he was fired in retaliation for voicing his concerns about the handling of a rape accusation made against a basketball player. The lawsuit filed Wednesday by Wade Robinson, the former vice president of student affairs, also names as a defendant Wichita State President John Bardo. It alleges violations of a Title Nine, a federal civil rights law prohibiting sex discrimination. It stems from an incident involving an alleged rape of a female student in April 2013 by a men's basketball player after the Final Four NCAA tournament. No charges were filed. Wichita State's general counsel David Moses says in a statement the lawsuit's claims are without merit, and the university welcomes the opportunity to set the record straight.
U.S. Will Pay Boeing $32.2 Million for Pollution at Kansas Plant
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The federal government has agreed to pay Boeing $32.25 million to settle a dispute over pollution at the company's old aircraft plant in Wichita. The proposed settlement comes in a joint consent decree filed Thursday in U.S. District Court in Kansas over past and future costs for cleaning up soil and groundwater contamination at the facility. Payment is subjected to availability of funds. The agreement culminates more than two years of negotiations and represents what the parties call a "pragmatic solution" to cut costs and risks of litigation. Boeing contended in its lawsuit that the government controlled military aircraft production and waste handling through regulations, contractual requirements, military specifications and inspections. The company said the cleanup costs are necessary to address a threat to human health or the environment.
Wanda's AMC Theater Chain to Buy Carmike for $1.1 Billion
LOS ANGELES (AP) — AMC Entertainment, the movie theater chain bought by Chinese conglomerate Dalian Wanda Group in 2012, is acquiring rival chain Carmike Cinemas for $1.1 billion including debt. The acquisition will make the combined entity the largest theater chain in North America and the world, and signals Wanda's further expansion into entertainment. It comes just two months after Wanda said it would spend $3.5 billion to acquire mid-level studio Legendary Entertainment, the co-financier of blockbusters like "Jurassic World" and "The Dark Knight." AMC will pay $30 a share, about 19 percent higher than the $25.11 Carmike shares closed at Thursday. Wanda is also behind a multibillion-dollar studio complex being built in eastern China that was used to shoot the upcoming movie, "The Great Wall."
Man Accused of Faking Cancer for Money Pleads Not Guilty
MERIDEN, Conn. (AP) — A Connecticut man accused of shaving his head and taking weight loss pills to convince people he had stage 3 brain cancer and collect thousands in donations has pleaded not guilty. Tyler Tomer of Wallingford entered the plea Thursday to charges of first-degree larceny and first-degree larceny by defrauding a public community. Police say an investigation started in May after they received complaints that a man claiming to have cancer was collecting donations at benefits in his honor. Police say there have been multiple benefits for the 29-year-old Tomer in Connecticut and Kansas. They say medical records determined he was never diagnosed with cancer. Tomer allegedly accepted at least $22,000. His attorney didn't comment on the charges.