Kansas Supreme Court Vacates 2 'Hard 50' Sentences
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Two more "Hard 50" prison sentences have been vacated by the Kansas Supreme Court and sent back to the lower courts, including one that was at the heart of a 2013 legislative special session. The rulings issued Friday by the court dealt only with whether the prison sentences of Matthew Astorga and Joaquin DeAnda were constitutional. The prison terms were for life without possibility of parole for 50 years. Both convictions were for murder, one in Finney County and the other in Leavenworth. In both cases, the court says the men must be resentenced because their prison terms were decided by a judge not a jury, a process deemed unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in June 2013 in an unrelated case from Virginia.
Pyle Mulls Joining Kansas US Senate Primary
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A conservative Republican state senator from northeast Kansas is launching an exploratory committee to consider challenging incumbent U.S. Senator Pat Roberts in the August primary. state senator Dennis Pyle of Hiawatha said Friday he is asking residents to help him decide in the next 10 days if he should join Leawood radiologist Milton Wolf in challenging Roberts. Pyle says he has heard from others concerned that Roberts has been in Washington too long and isn't conservative enough. Roberts is seeking his fourth, six-year term. Wolf has been endorsed by a number of tea party organizations but his campaign has struggled after revelations that he posted patient X-rays on Facebook. Roberts has been dogged by accusations that he doesn't spend enough time in the state.
Planned Parenthood Closes Hays Clinic
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Planned Parenthood will be closing its Hays health center to save its larger Wichita clinic in wake of an appeals court ruling that let Kansas strip federal family planning funding. The organization also said Friday it will no longer be able to provide free contraceptives and other no-cost medical services to low-income patients in Wichita without the federal money. The Hays clinic will close its doors on June 30. The clinic manager and a nurse practitioner will lose their jobs. No staff cuts are planned at the Wichita clinic. An appeals court panel in March overturned a federal judge's ruling that had temporarily kept Planned Parenthood's funding intact. Planned Parenthood then dropped its legal challenge. More than 5,700 people receive health care services at the Hays and Wichita clinics.
Westar Increase for Environmental Costs Approved
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ The Kansas Corporation Commission has approved a Westar Energy rate increase to help pay for environmental projects. The approval means average residential customers will pay about 67 cents more per month. Westar expects to gain about $58 million dollars to cover environmental costs. That's about $11 million more than the utility collected last year. The utility listed 20 environmental projects necessary to meet federal or state requirements.
Group Asks Regents to Reverse Social Media Policy
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) _ A national association of journalism educators wants the Kansas Board of Regents to reverse the social media policy it finalized earlier this month. A statement from the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication says the policy "restricts academic freedom'' and interferes with the education of those seeking journalism careers. The regents adopted the policy in December in response to a University of Kansas journalism instructor's twitter message that harshly criticized the National Rifle Association after a mass shooting at the Washington Navy Yard. The policy allows university leaders to suspend and fire employees for social media posts that conflict with the best interest of the school. A spokeswoman for the regents declined a newspaper request to interview members of the board.
Mayor Faces Recall Vote in KS Town
DENISON, Kan. (AP) - A small-town Kansas mayor is under fire for a possible open meetings violation and not getting along with city council members, but she says the town of roughly 190 residents just doesn't like change. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports a petition to recall Denison Mayor Audrey Oliverius needed only 12 signatures but got 29 to force an August vote. The petition states Oliverius called an executive session on March 10 at the end of a regularly scheduled City Council meeting and emailed the city clerk nearly four weeks later telling her what to add to the March 10 minutes. The petition says a vote was taken during that executive session to appoint someone to a vacant city council seat, which is not allowed under the state's Open Meetings Act.
KS Company Installing Largest Private Solar Array
HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) - A Hutchinson company is installing what is believed to be the largest private solar project in the state. A Lawrence company this week began installing a 200-kilowatt system on the roof of BOLD LLC's building in Hutchinson. The system will supply an estimated 80 percent of the electricity consumed by the 110,000 square feet of office space and warehouse. The project is part of a larger effort to increase energy efficiency at the building. Company president Bob Peel says the company also is installing motion-activated and more efficient LED lighting. The goal is to eventually have all power supplied by solar energy. The Hutchinson News reports the system's electrical generation will equal that required for 25 average homes.
Heavy Rainfall Brings Minor Flooding to Kansas
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Locally heavy rainfall was causing some minor flooding in parts of Kansas, but a Wichita forecaster says most of it was confined to city streets where drainage isn't very good. National Weather Service meteorologist Scott Smith says water had covered a road in western Butler County on Friday, but most other roads were still passable mid-afternoon. He says the potential for further heavy rain could increase the flooding risks, but that situation is nothing unusual for late spring. Smith says an elderly couple who drove into water covering a road in Hutchinson earlier Friday got stuck and had to be rescued when their car died. Otherwise, he says he hasn't heard of others having problems with floodwaters. The weather service says rain is expected off and on in parts of Kansas through Tuesday.
3 Kansas Lakes Flagged for Algae Levels
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Kansas health officials are warning people to stay out of one lake and avoid direct contact with the water in two others because of high levels of toxic blue-green algae. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment on Thursday issued a toxic algae warning for Veterans Memorial Park Lake in Barton County. The agency says humans, pets and livestock should not enter the lake or drink water from it. Fish caught from the lake should be cleaned and rinsed with clean water, and only the fillet should be eaten. The agency also posted toxic algae advisories for Lake Warnock in Atchison County, and Logan City Lake in Phillips County. Boating and fishing are allowed, but direct contact with the water is discouraged for people and animals.
Blast Victim's Family to Receive $323,000
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The family of a Topeka woman who died in a natural gas explosion will receive about $323,000 of a $709,000 settlement. A Shawnee County judge on Tuesday approved settlements and dismissed three lawsuits linked to the blast that killed 81-year-old Lucinia Tolliver in January 2012. The blast destroyed Tolliver's home and injured a neighbor. Tolliver died four days after the explosion. She was a retired employee of The Topeka Capital-Journal. The lawsuits contended workers for N-Line Lawn Service installing a lawn sprinkler accidentally moved a gas line owned by Kansas Gas Service, eventually causing the explosion. One lawsuit sued an employee for Factory Direct Appliance, who told Tolliver he smelled natural gas and then left her home. The remainder of the settlement will go to insurance and legal fees.
Appeals Court Deals Setback to Former KS Doctor
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ A federal appeals court has dealt another setback to a former Kansas doctor convicted in a conspiracy linked to 68 overdose deaths. The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has denied a request by Stephen Schneider for appointment of a new attorney to fight his conviction on the basis of ineffective counsel. Schneider says that his defense team was plagued by many shortcomings and was not well prepared for his trial. The doctor and his wife, Linda, ran a pain clinic in Haysville. They were convicted in 2010 of conspiracy, unlawfully prescribing drugs, health care fraud and money laundering. Stephen Schneider was sentenced to 30 years, and his wife to 33 years.
2 Arrested in Antique Car Thefts in Saline County
SALINA, Kan. (AP) - Saline County Sheriff Glen Kochanowski says two men are in custody in connection with the theft and destruction of five antique cars. Kochanowski says Gary Hansen discovered in early April that five of the antique cars he kept in a rural area of the county were missing. A 53-year-old Herington man and a 47-year-old man from Hope were arrested in the case Wednesday. The sheriff says more arrests are possible. Kochanowski says it's likely the cars were sold for scrap. The missing cars include a 1939 Plymouth, a 1949 Studebaker two-door coupe and a 1950 Studebaker four-door.
Kansas Man Dies After Struggle with Police
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Kansas City, Kansas police say a man died after a brief struggle with officers. Police on Friday identified the man as 44-year-old Craig J. McKinnis. Officers who stopped McKinnis's car Thursday evening for a traffic violation determined he was wanted on a criminal warrant. The man resisted arrest and tried to flee, police said in a statement. After a brief struggle, officers realized the man needed medical attention and called for emergency responders and tried to help the man. McKinnis was taken to a hospital and later died.
Man Convicted in Shooting at Manhattan Motel
MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) - A man who was shot and wounded by police during a confrontation at a Manhattan motel pleaded no contest to three charges. Dustin Monroe of Wamego entered the plea Thursday of two counts of aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer and a charge criminal discharge of a weapon at an occupied building. Several other charges were dropped as part of the plea agreement. Prosecutors say Monroe shot at officers several time at the Quality Inn in Manhattan before officers shot and injured him. Sentencing is scheduled for August 14. Monroe is currently out on bond.
Silver Alert Issued for Kansas City, Kansas Man
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Authorities have issued a Silver Alert for an 80-year-old Kansas City, Kansas man who has dementia and Alzheimer's Disease. Police say John E. Burris told his family Thursday evening that he was in Overland Park buying a pair of shoes. Family members said he sounded confused and said he was lost trying to get home. Authorities believe Burris might have driven north along Kansas 7 toward Atchison or Leavenworth. He is driving a maroon or burgundy 1995 Crown Victoria with Kansas Tag of 440BZH. Burris is a black man, 6-feet-2-inches, 180 pounds with brown eyes, gray hair and a full gray beard. The family was not sure what clothes he was wearing.
Cattle Truck Overturns Near Kansas City
PLATTE CITY, Mo. (AP) — Traffic has resumed on Interstate 29 after a cattle truck overturned near Platte City. The highway was reduced to one lane in both directions for several hours early Friday after the truck overturned on the interstate near Platte County HH. The Missouri State Highway Patrol says the truck driver was not injured but some of the up to 40 cattle in the truck were hurt. The crash is under investigation.
2 Thrill Rides Delayed at Area Amusement Parks
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Thrill seekers looking forward to trying two new massive rides at Kansas City-area amusement parks will have to wait awhile. Worlds of Fun announced Thursday that its new SteelHawk ride will not open Saturday as scheduled. The ride, which spins people around a 301-foot-tower, is likely to open in a few days. Worlds of Fun spokeswoman Rachael Murie said high winds this week prevented crews from working on the SteelHawk. Last week, the Schlitterbahn water park in Kansas City, Kansas, announced that the opening of the world's tallest water slide would be delayed from Friday until June 5. The Verrückt, at 168 feet 7 inches, was still undergoing testing.
Kansas Man Charged in Driver's Street Race Death
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A 26-year-old Kansas man has been charged with involuntary manslaughter for the death of a man who was killed during a drag race down a Wichita street. The Wichita Eagle reports that Dacosta Yankey is facing the felony count in the death of Jorge Espinosa-Velez, whose car slammed into a decorative pillar during a spontaneous street race January 12. Yankey was driving the second car involved in the race. He made his first appearance in Sedgwick County District Court on Thursday and is free on $25,000 bond. Police say Espinosa-Velez lost control and hit the pillar as the two cars were racing shortly before 3 pm on January 12. They say Yankey returned to the crash scene and tried to render aid. Yankey's attorney was unavailable for comment Friday afternoon.
Ex-Substitute Teacher Sentenced for Molesting Girl
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A former Kansas substitute teacher has been sentenced to nearly three years in prison for engaging in sexual activity with a 15-year-old girl last summer. The Wichita Eagle reports that 31-year-old Jarrod Acquistapace was sentenced Thursday on two counts of indecent liberties with a child, two months after he entered into a plea agreement with prosecutors. Acquistapace was a substitute teacher with Wichita public schools, but a district spokeswoman would not disclose the schools where he taught or how often he worked. She did say he didn't teach during the 2013-2014 school year. Initially Acquistapace faced one count of aggravated indecent liberties alleging he had sex with the girl, but the plea deal reduced the charges.
KC Still in the Running for GOP Convention
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Kansas City remains one of several cities still being considered to host the next Republican National Convention. Republican Party officials announced yesterday (THURS) that Las Vegas and Cincinnati are no longer being considered for the 2016 event. That leaves Dallas, Denver, Cleveland, and Kansas City, Missouri, under primary consideration.
Wakefield Files to Challenge Jenkins in Kansas 2nd
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ A Lawrence Democrat has officially jumped into the race to challenge incumbent Republican Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins for the Kansas 2nd District seat in the U.S. House. Margie Wakefield, an attorney and longtime Democratic activist filed the paperwork yesterday (THURS) and paid the fee to put her name on the ballot. She later held a rally in Topeka. Jenkins's campaign issued a statement noting that telephone calls placed by Wakefield's staff announcing the Topeka rally did not contain federally required disclaimers that they were paid for by Wakefield's campaign.
KS Legislator Deploying to Kosovo
LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (AP) _ A state House member from Leavenworth has decided against running for re-election as she prepares to deploy to Kosovo with the 35th Infantry Division. Democrat Melanie Meier is a lieutenant colonel in the Kansas Army National Guard. Her pending deployment is part of the ongoing mission in NATO peacekeeping operations. Meier says it would be unfair to voters if she won re-election knowing she would miss the 2015 legislative session.