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Headlines for Thursday, November 30, 2017

Here's a look at area headlines from the Associated Press

Kansas Health Department Secretary Mosier Leaving Office 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The leader of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment plans to leave the agency in early January. Governor Sam Brownback on Thursday announced Susan Mosier's decision to leave a job she has held since December 1, 2014. Mosier, an ophthalmologist, was elected to the Kansas House of Representatives in 2010 and became the state's Medicaid program director in 2012 until three private health insurers took over daily operations in 2013 and rebranded the program KanCare. The KanCare program, which serves more than 400,000 poor, disabled and elderly residents, has been criticized for offering too few services, too quickly denying services and a large backlog of claims. Brownback said Lieutenant Governor Dr. Jeff Colyer will name a replacement for Mosier in the near future.

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Memo: Larned​ Workers Shouldn't Speak to State Lawmakers

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas agency that oversees psychiatric facilities sent a memo earlier this month to employees at the troubled Larned State Hospital warning them that said they should not to speak to state lawmakers without permission from the department, according to a newspaper. The Kansas City Star reports it obtained a copy of a November 15 memo sent to Larned employees by the Kansas Department of Aging and Disability Services. When contacted Tuesday, Department Secretary Tim Keck said employees won't be disciplined for talking to lawmakers, as long as they make it clear they are not representing the agency. "It's about who has the right to talk on behalf of the agency," he said. Keck said his department didn't help craft the memo, although it says employees must obtain permission from his spokeswoman. He said he is not aware of other state agencies issuing similar policies. "I think we'll probably have to take the policy back to (Larned) leadership for clarification," Keck said. Larned Superintendent Bill Rein said in a statement that since the memo was released, he has "made it clear" the policy applies only to official business of the hospital and the department. "We have never, nor do we ever intend to discipline employees who express their personal beliefs, experiences, and concerns with the media or legislators," he said. Larned, which serves mentally ill patients, has been under scrutiny because low staffing is forcing employees to work long hours. Hospital employees have accounted for nearly a quarter of the state's overtime pay during the 2016 fiscal year, leading to concerns about employee and patient safety. Robert Choromanski, the executive director of the Kansas Organization of State Employees, said he believes the memo likely violated the Kansas Whistleblower Act. The memo drew bipartisan criticism from legislative leaders. It was sent out the same week The Star published a series of stories on secrecy throughout the Kansas government. "It's the chutzpah that amazes me. The willingness to put that in writing is just amazing," said state Senator Laura Kelly, a Topeka Democrat. "I can't imagine that it is either legal, nor is it good policy. It is just no way for an employer to treat an employee to try and gag them." Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning, a Republican from Overland Park, also questioned the policy. "It doesn't make sense because we're all public servants and if they have an issue I'd rather they reach out to me," Denning said. "They can't keep anybody from talking to the Legislature." Rachel Whitten, spokeswoman for Governor Sam Brownback, said in an email that the policy applies only to the state hospital's official business and "does not prohibit employees from speaking to their elected officials as a constituent."

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Kansas Legislative Panel Won't Back Prison Plan

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Latest on Kansas's plan to have the largest private prison operator in the U.S. build a new prison for the state:

2:10 p.m.

A Kansas legislative committee won't endorse a plan from state corrections officials to build a new prison mainly because of how the project would be financed. The state Department of Corrections outlined its plan Thursday to have the nation's largest private prison operator build a replacement for the state's oldest and largest prison in Lansing, which is near Kansas City. CoreCivic, based in Nashville, Tennessee, would lease the new prison to the state for 20 years before the state owned it. The legislative committee wants the department to pursue financing the project with state bonds instead. The committee's recommendation to delay the project will go to top legislative leaders and Republican Governor Sam Brownback. State law gives them the final say on whether the project moves forward.

10:45 a.m.

Kansas legislators in both parties have misgivings about a plan to have the nation's largest private prison operator build a new correctional facility for the state. The plan outlined Thursday by the state Department of Corrections would replace the state's oldest and largest prison in Lansing, which is near Kansas City. CoreCivic, which is based in Nashville, Tennessee, would build the $170 million prison. The state would pay for the project by leasing the new facility over 20 years. Democratic state Sen. Laura Kelly, of Topeka, questioned whether the arrangement is the most cost-effective for the state. Republican state Representative J.R. Claeys (CLAYS), of Salina, questioned why the department didn't consider other potential sites. Legislative leaders and the governor would have to approve the proposal next month for it to proceed.
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9:33 a.m.

Kansas plans to have the biggest private prison company in the U.S. build a replacement for the state's oldest and largest correctional facility. The state hopes to pay for the project in Lansing in the Kansas City area by leasing the new prison from Nashville-based CoreCivic for 20 years. The state Department of Corrections announced Thursday that it selected CoreCivic as its contractor for the new prison for 2,400 inmates in Lansing. Parts of the existing prison date to the 1860s. Corrections officials contend a modern facility will be safer while operating with 46 percent fewer employees. CoreCivic owns, controls or manages more than 80 facilities in 20 states and the District of Columbia. It has been the subject of lawsuits and critical audits in six states, including Kansas.

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Kansas Nursing Homes Deal with Spike in Fines, Citations

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas nursing homes are facing a spike in fines and citations industry members consider heavy-handed enforcement of federal regulations. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the Legislature's KanCare oversight committee heard concerns from nursing home industries on Wednesday. Industry members say rising citations and penalties from regulatory enforcement surveys make it tough to stay in business and provide care to patients. A trade organization representing not-for-profit nursing homes called LeadingAge Kansas says federal fines levied against nursing homes for non-compliance have risen nearly 8,900 percent since 2012. LeadingAge officials say the increased fines don't result from a lack of quality at nursing homes and add to significant challenges the institutions already face, such as limited resources, a small workforce and slow Medicaid reimbursements. An advocate for seniors says she thinks enforcement is instead lacking and that citations are underreported.

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Authorities Finish Review in Officers' Shooting of Topeka Man 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say they've finished an investigation into the fatal shooting of a black Topeka man by two police officers and have forwarded the case to a local prosecutor. The Lawrence Police Department provided no other details Wednesday about the September 28 death of 30-year-old Dominique White near an east Topeka park. Lawrence police investigated the shooting because Topeka officers were involved. Authorities said the case went to Shawnee County District Attorney Mike Kagay for review. Kagay said he does not have a timetable for determining whether someone will be charged over the shooting. The officers involved have not been identified and police body camera footage has not been released despite a demand from White's family that it be made public.

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Records: Taxpayer Cash Spent to Track Official's Ex-Mistress

FRONTENAC, Kan. (AP) — Court records say a former southeast Kansas city administrator spent taxpayer money on GPS devices and monitoring services that he used to track his former mistress. The new details about Doug Sellars were included in the arrest affidavit that the Pittsburg Morning Sun obtained. Sellars is charged with official misconduct, misdemeanor stalking and three other felonies. The affidavit alleges that Sellars embezzled $8,000, spending some of it on the GPS devices that he hid inside his former mistress' car bumper. Sellars began working as the Frontenac city clerk in 2004 after more than a decade with the city's police department. He was appointed interim city manager in 2014. Sellars resigned from both positions in 2015. A woman who answered the phone at his home hung up after declining to comment.

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Not Guilty Plea in Alleged Hate Crime Killing at Olathe Bar

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — The man accused in an alleged hate crime at a suburban Kansas City bar that killed one Indian national and left two men wounded has pleaded not guilty. Adam Purinton is charged with first-degree murder in the February shooting in Olathe that killed 32-year-old Srinivas Kuchibhotla. He also faces two counts of attempted first-degree murder for wounding two other men. The Kansas City Star reports Purinton on Thursday waived his preliminary hearing and the not guilty plea was entered on his behalf. His next hearing is scheduled for May 8. Purinton also faces hate crime charges in federal court. Federal prosecutors allege that Purinton targeted Kuchibhotla and another Indian man because of their race or ethnicity. The third man was shot when tried to help the two victims.

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Man Ruled Competent for Trial in 2014 Lawrence Homicide 

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A Douglas County judge has ruled that the suspect in the beating death of a Lawrence woman is competent to stand trial. Twenty-one-year-old Rontarus Washington is charged with first-degree murder and aggravated battery in the November 2014 death of 19-year-old Justina Altamirano Mosso. The Lawrence Journal-World reports the case stalled for several court hearings to discuss Washington's competency. On Tuesday, Douglas County District Court Judge James McCabria ruled Washington was able to stand trial. Mosso's body was found in a bloody bathroom of an apartment leased by her estranged husband. Investigators say Mosso was bludgeoned and stabbed repeatedly. Washington, who lived down the hall from Mosso, was later arrested in Mississippi.

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Kansas Widow Sues Sheriff, Undersheriff over Shooting Death 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The widow of an unarmed Kansas man killed last month during an encounter with Barber County deputies has sued the Barber County sheriff and his undersheriff. Kristina Myers filed a federal lawsuit Thursday alleging law enforcement officials used excessive force when they killed 42-year-old husband, Steven. He was shot by undersheriff Virgil Brewer at close range with a beanbag round on October 6 in Sun City, Kansas. The sheriff's office referred comment to the county attorney's office, which did not immediately return a phone message. The lawsuit contends video shows Myers was standing with empty hands at his sides, and did not threaten officers or attempted to escape. Video from a body camera captured Sheriff Lonnie Small saying, "Shot him with a beanbag round. Hadn't shot anybody with it yet."

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Online Video Gamers Heard Gunshots in Kansas Killings

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Houston man playing video games in an online group said he and others heard the gunshots that hundreds of miles away killed a Kansas man and his mother this past weekend. The Wichita Eagle reports that three to four players, including one from Canada, were playing online Saturday night when one of them and his mother were shot. The players could hear, but not see, each other. Among the players that evening was 23-year-old Cody Ha, who lived with his 62-year-old mother, Huong Pham, in Wichita. Also online that night from Houston was Ha's friend Ashley Martinez. Around 10 p.m., Martinez said he and the other players heard popping noises so loud it hurt his ears under the headphones — at least two shots from what sounded like a handgun. Martinez said the players thought they might be overreacting, "because you don't expect to hear that." When they called Ha's number, they could hear it ringing. They also listened as Ha's sister she found the bodies. Police have said that Ha's sister returned home that evening and found her brother and mother covered in blood and unconscious. Authorities have not disclosed a motive and are seeking tips to help solve the case.

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Woman Settles Suit Against Haskell, US over Alleged Rape

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A woman who sued Haskell Indian Nations University after she said she was raped by two students in a dorm on the Kansas campus has settled her lawsuit. The lawsuit filed in 2016 by the former student, listed in court documents as Jane Doe, closed after she and the U.S. government, which runs the university, agreed to the dismissal. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the woman's attorney, Dan Curry, and Jim Cross, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney in Kansas, both confirmed the settlement but did not specify the amount. A spokeswoman for the U.S. Bureau of Indian Education did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Curry said that, with the lawsuit and criminal proceedings over, the woman plans to return to Haskell this spring.

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Judge: Wichita Officer's Shooting of Vet with PTSD Reasonable 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A judge has dismissed a lawsuit against the city of Wichita saying police officers' actions in the fatal shooting of an Iraq veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder were reasonable. The Wichita Eagle reports that police fatally shot 26-year-old Icarus Randolph in front of his family in 2014 when he came toward officers with a knife and after a Taser didn't stop him. Family members say they were trying to get Randolph taken to a hospital so he could be treated for a mental health crisis. The family's lawsuit says officers didn't follow proper procedure on dealing with mental health crises when approaching Randolph, who had PTSD. Sedgwick County District Court Judge Bruce Brown ruled Wednesday that the officers' actions were reasonable. He says police procedure on dealing with mental health crises allows officers to use their discretion.

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County to Auction Racetrack Property Near Wichita 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — County officials are auctioning off the property of a former racetrack near Wichita that's been closed for about 10 years. The Wichita Eagle reports that Sedgwick County commissioners agreed Wednesday to auction the Wichita Greyhound Park, which has been appraised for over $2 million. It shut down when voters rejected a measure to allow slot machines at the facility. Commissioners say gambling magnate Phil Ruffin has recently tried to purchase the land, but county officials decided it wouldn't be appropriate to sell without competitive bidding. Ruffin owns buildings on the property and pays the county $87,000 a year in rent. Ruffin has been unsuccessful for a decade in his efforts to have the Legislature revisit the slot machine issue. Commissioners say they could use the auction funding for pressing needs like firefighting equipment.

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Cargill to Build $90 Million Biodiesel Plant in Wichita

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Cargill says it will begin construction next month on a $90 million biodiesel plant in Wichita. The company said Wednesday in a news release that the 42,000-square-foot plant will employ 35 full-time workers. It is expected to begin operating in January 2019. Cargill official Pat Woerner said the new plant will allow Wichita to be a competitive supplier of biofuels. The Wichita Eagle reports the plant is separate from the construction of Cargill Protein's new $60 million headquarters in Wichita. The Minneapolis-based company said the plant will replace an oil refinery. Work from the refinery will be transferred to other Cargill facilities. The new biodiesel plant is expected to produce 60 million gallons of biodiesel annually. Cargill also has biodiesel plants in Iowa Falls, Iowa, and Kansas City, Missouri.

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Murder Charge Dropped in Exchange for Plea in Altercation

GARDEN CITY, Kan. (AP) — Authorities have dropped a murder charge against a Kansas man in exchange for him pleading guilty to a jailhouse altercation. The Liberal Leader & Times reports that 21-year-old Ruben Valentine Fernandez, of Garden City, is scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 18 for aggravated battery and conspiracy to commit aggravated battery. He pleaded guilty Monday to the altercation, which happened in July while Fernandez was jailed in Seward County. Fernandez initially was charged with second-degree murder. But that charges was dropped as part of the plea, along with one count each of criminal possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, criminal discharge of a firearm at an occupied vehicle and conspiracy to commit criminal discharge of a firearm at an occupied vehicle. No details have been released about the killing.

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Kansas Chase Ends with Injury Crash That Causes Power Outage

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say one person has been taken to a hospital with serious injuries after a police chase ended with a crash that toppled a power pole. The Wichita Eagle reports that the two-vehicle crash also left more than 1,500 Westar customers without power Thursday morning and closed an intersection because power lines had fallen. Westar expects to restore power to the area by midmorning. No other details were immediately released.

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Tractor Overturns Near Topeka, Killing 67-Year-Old Man

The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the victim has been identified as 67-year-old Marty Garren. Shawnee County sheriff's Sgt. Todd Stallbaumer says emergency crews found Garren trapped under the tractor Wednesday night. Stallbaumer says the tractor was equipped with a front-loader and rear attachment. Garren was using it to level a sloped area when it rolled. Family members found Garren under the tractor upon returning and called for help. Garren was pronounced dead at the scene.

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Missouri Man Killed in Hit-and-Run Crash in Central Kansas

GREAT BEND, Kan. (AP) — Authorities are investigating a deadly hit-and-run crash in central Kansas. The Hays Post reports that the victim was identified as 65-year-old James Zager, of Holden, Missouri. Great Bend police said in a news release says Zager was walking across a street Wednesday night when he was struck by a full-size pickup truck with an unknown Oklahoma license plate. Officers dispatched to the scene found Zager lying in the roadway, unresponsive. He was taken to a hospital in critical condition and later died of his injuries. Authorities say the driver didn't stop after the crash and are looking for the light-colored vehicle. Witnesses said the truck had a grill guard and an "oversize load" sign on the front. Anyone with information is urged to call police or a tips hotline.

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Man Dragged to Death While Trying to Stop Vehicle Theft

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a man has been dragged to death in Kansas City, Kansas, while trying to stop his pickup truck from being stolen. The Kansas City Star reports that relatives identified the victim as 86-year-old Frank Davila. Police say Davila died Wednesday morning after he confronted someone trying to steal his truck. During the struggle, he was dragged down the street. He was taken to a hospital, where he later died. The carjacker fled in the truck, which was later found unoccupied across the state line in Kansas City, Missouri. His son, Frankie Davila, says his father was attacked after eating breakfast with a relative and taking her home. He says he is confident that the killers would be brought to justice, adding that they "messed with the wrong guy."

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Man Sentenced for Hacking Former Employer's Computers, Child Porn 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Parkville, Missouri man has been sentenced for hacking into his former employer's computer system and for viewing thousands of images of child pornography. Thirty-eight-year-old Jacob Raines was sentenced Wednesday to six years in federal prison without parole. Raines was an information technology manager for American Crane & Tractor Parts in Kansas City, Kansas, from July 2004 until March 2014. Investigators found the company's proprietary source code files and file folders were copied to Raines's remote server in May 2014. Prosecutors say it's not clear if Raines transferred the source codes to a third party but he had the connections to provide them to at least one of the firm's largest competitors. Investigators also discovered Raines used his home computers and hard drives to access thousands of images of child pornography.

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Ex-KU Student Convicted of Misdemeanor Sexual Battery

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A former University of Kansas student convicted of misdemeanor sexual battery for groping a female friend who was in bed with him has been convicted of misdemeanor sexual battery. Twenty-year-old Hanbit Chang of Shawnee was found guilty Tuesday. Although his sentencing was delayed, Chang's attorney, John Frydman, said Chang will be required to register as a sex offender for 15 years. The incident occurred in September 2016 in Chang's dorm room. The Lawrence Journal-World reports the trial revolved around the issue of consent. Frydman argued Chang thought the woman was consenting based on her actions leading up to the touching. But prosecutors argued the women's previous actions were irrelevant and she didn't consent to the touching. Chang is no longer a student at KU.

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Injured Police Officer Brian Arterburn Returns to Wichita 

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A police officer who was critically injured in February received a rousing welcome home in Wichita. Officer Brian Arterburn was treated in Colorado and Texas since he was run over by suspect fleeing police in a stolen vehicle. He was unconscious for several days and underwent multiple surgeries. When he returned home Wednesday, Arterburn was able to walk off the plane. He told about 100 police officers and other supporters that he missed his home, his children and his family. Captain Jeff Weible said Arterburn will continue rehabilitation in Wichita. A welcome home celebration is scheduled for 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday at Harvest Community Church in Wichita. The suspect, Justin Terrazas, is awaiting trial for aggravated battery of a law enforcement officer and other charges.

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Kansas Man Dragged to Death by Carjacker Who Took His Truck

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — An 86-year-old Kansas City, Kansas, man died after he was confronted by a carjacker and was dragged down the street. Kansas City, Kansas, police said Frank Davila died during the confrontation Wednesday. The carjacker fled in Davila's pickup truck. The Kansas City Star reports the victim was known as Frankie D, the name of the bar and grill he owned on Kansas Avenue for more than 40 years. His son, also called Frankie Davila, said his father had just dropped off his sister after they had breakfast when he was attacked.

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Records: Taxpayer Money Spent to Track Official's Mistress

FRONTENAC, Kan. (AP) - Court records say a former southeast Kansas city administrator spent taxpayer money on GPS tracking devices and monitoring services that he used to track his former mistress. The new details about Doug Sellars were included in the arrest affidavit that the Pittsburg Morning Sun obtained. Sellars is charged with official misconduct, misdemeanor stalking and three other felonies. The affidavit alleges that Sellars embezzled $8,000, spending some of it on GPS devices that he hid inside his former mistress' car bumper. Sellars began working as the Frontenac city clerk in 2004 after more than a decade with the city's police department. He was appointed interim city manager in 2014. Sellars resigned from both positions in 2015.

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Saline County Deputies Bust Colorado Pot Carriers

DENVER – Two Coloradans were arrested late on Tuesday night near Salina after deputies allegedly found them with more than 32 pounds of marijuana in their car. The Saline County Sheriff’s Office pulled over a car on I-70 just after 11 p.m. Tuesday for a lane violation. Deputies searched the car after saying they could smell marijuana, according to the sheriff’s office. Inside, deputies found 32.2 pounds of packaged marijuana worth approximately $143,000 the sheriff’s office said. Deputies arrested both people in the vehicle: 22-year-old Ryan Cullen of Aurora, Colorado and 43-year-old Maritza Ortega of Centennial, Colorado. They could face charges of marijuana possession with intent to distribute.
 

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