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Headlines for Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Take a look at what's happening in our area.

Brownback Sees Rolled-Back Kansas Cuts Still Shaping Debate

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback argues as he prepares to leave office that his experiment in aggressive tax-cutting pioneered a national debate over helping small business owners. He said during a year-end interview with The Associated Press that what Kansas did on taxes influenced Congress and other states even if his home-state lawmakers rolled back the cuts. The conservative Republican governor predicted that other states will look at lowering personal income taxes for small business owners. He pointed to provisions of a GOP federal tax overhaul as a sign that the idea has taken root. Brownback is awaiting U.S. Senate confirmation as ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom. Looking ahead, he said he believes religious liberty issues are more visible globally and "the time is right" to focus on them.

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Firm's CEO Seeks to Reassure Kansas Panel on Prison Costs 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A private corrections company's CEO is seeking to reassure Kansas lawmakers that a plan they're reviewing for building a new state prison is the most cost-effective option. A joint committee on budget issues met Wednesday to review a plan for a new prison for 2,400 inmates in Lansing to replace the state's oldest and largest prison there. The state Department of Corrections wants to have private-prison giant CoreCivic build the prison and lease it to the state for the first 20 years. A union representing state employees questioned whether the lease-purchase deal would be cheaper than having the state issue bonds to finance the project. But CoreCivic CEO Damon Hininger told the panel that it can build the project faster than the state can and with lower financing costs.

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Suspect Arrested in 2015 Fatal Shooting of Topeka 5-Year-Old

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Topeka police say they have arrested a 21-year-old suspect in a 2015 drive-by shooting that killed a 5-year-old girl.  The victim, Lily Mai Coats-Nichols, was in the back seat of a car in Topeka in July 2015 when shots were fired and a bullet hit her in the head.  Topeka police Lt. Colleen Stuart says the suspect was booked into the Shawnee County Jail Tuesday facing possible charges of first-degree murder and criminal discharge of a firearm.  At the time of the shooting, police said they had few leads, with only a vague description of a white car seen on the street around the time of the shooting.  Police did not say what led to Tuesday's arrest.

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Body Found in Missouri Amid Search for Missing Overland Park Woman

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Authorities have found a woman's body in Kansas City, Missouri, while searching for a missing 18-year-old and say a person of interest in her disappearance has killed himself.  Kansas City police say a tip Tuesday night led officers to a wooded area where the woman's body was found. Police are trying to determine if the body is that of Mikayala Norris, of suburban Overland Park, Kansas. She was last seen Sunday leaving a barbecue restaurant where she worked. A missing person flyer said she was headed to a party. She didn't show up for work Monday.  Police say the person of interest in the case was found dead Tuesday night behind a sporting goods store in suburban Liberty, Missouri, and that the case is being investigated as a possible murder-suicide.

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Kansas Mental Hospital Regains Federal Certification

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Kansas officials say one of the state's mental hospitals has regained federal certification for one of its housing units.  The Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services confirmed Tuesday that Osawatomie State Hospital had passed its second federal inspection within four months.  Secretary Tim Keck granted an exclusive interview to The Associated Press before the agency's official announcement.  The hospital is about 50 miles (80 kilometers) southwest of Kansas City. State officials worked for two years to address safety issues and making extensive renovations to lessen the risk of patient suicides.  The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services' decision in December 2015 to revoke the hospital's certification was costing Kansas up to $1 million a month in federal funds.

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Bartlett Grain's Fines Reduced in Deadly Kansas Explosion 

ATCHISON, Kan. (AP) — The federal government has sharply reduced the fines facing a Kansas City-based company after a grain elevator explosion killed six people and injured two others in northeast Kansas. A pending settlement would require Bartlett Grain Co. to pay $182,000 in fines, safety audits and improvements at its 20 grain handling facilities in six states. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration had proposed $406,000 in fines after the October 2011 explosion in Atchison. The Kansas City Star reports the agreement must still be approved by an administrative law judge. Kansas investigators previously determined the grain dust explosion was accidental. Federal investigators have declined to file any criminal charges. OSHA said previously that the deaths could have been prevented had operators addressed known industry hazards.

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Haskell Student Receives $13,000 Federal Payout in Lawsuit Settlement

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) - The federal government paid $13,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by a former Haskell Indian Nations University student who claimed she was raped at the school.  The Lawrence Journal-World reports it obtained a settlement agreement Monday.  The woman filed a lawsuit in 2016. She said she was raped in 2014 by two male students in a Haskell dorm. Among other things, she contended the university, which is Lawrence, retaliated against her after she reported the alleged rapes. She also alleged the school unlawfully released her private records.  According to the agreement, the federal government, which operates Haskell, didn't admit any wrongdoing.  The woman's attorney, Dan Curry, said she is "content" with the settlement and plans to re-enroll in at Haskell in the spring.

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Attorney Lends Urgency to Kansas School Finance Debate

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - An attorney representing Kansas in a school finance lawsuit says lawmakers should come up with a funding fix by the beginning of March.  The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Arthur Chalmers told an interim legislative committee Monday that the solution needs to be reached quickly to give the state's attorneys time to develop their arguments.  Lawmakers have started work on a response to a Kansas Supreme Court order in October to boost spending on public schools.  Legislators aren't so much interested in slashing spending in other parts of the budget to provide more money for schools. Many also don't want to increase taxes next year.   Lawmakers earlier this year phased in a $293 million increase education funding over two years. The court said that still wasn't constitutionally adequate.

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Audit: Kansas Schools Get Millions in Unauthorized Aid

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - An audit has found that the largest school districts in Kansas have received millions in funding not allowed by state law.  The Wichita Eagle reports that the Kansas State Department of Education has given more than $45 million to the districts in just the past five years to help bus students to school. State auditors estimate Wichita's district alone will get nearly $3 million more than legally allowed.  The audit report released last week found the department is distributing transportation funds to districts using a method repealed by lawmakers in the 1970s. The method results in districts with the highest population densities receiving more aid.  The report recommends the department remove the unauthorized aid beginning in the 2018-19 school year.  Department officials say they began making the payments decades ago after a request from lawmakers.

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Missouri Man Gets 20 Years in Prison on Child Porn Charges

RAYTOWN, Mo. (AP) - A Raytown man who photographed nude children and shared the pictures online has been sentenced to 20 years without parole in federal prison. Twenty-year-old Cody Davidson was sentenced Tuesday for distributing child pornography on the internet. Prosecutors say he took pornographic pictures of two girls, one 7 and the other 8, and posted them on social media.  

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Former Manhattan City Attorney Sentenced in Child Porn Case

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — A former Manhattan city attorney has been sentenced to 17.5 years in prison on child pornography charges. The U.S. Attorney's office announced that 55-year-old Bill Raymond, of Andover, was sentenced Tuesday in federal court in Wichita. Raymond pleaded guilty in August to three counts of transporting child pornography and one count of possessing child pornography. Prosecutors say Raymond committed the crimes in Butler and Riley counties. He was city attorney in Manhattan from 2012 until he was charged in the child porn case in 2015. Before moving to Manhattan he was an assistant county counselor in Sedgwick County.

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Man Dies in Trench Collapse in Wichita Suburb 

BEL AIRE, Kan. (AP) — Officials say a man who was working inside a trench when tons of dirt fell on him has died. The collapse happened Wednesday morning in the Wichita suburb of Bel Aire. Bel Aire Police Chief Darrell Atteberry said the man was at the bottom of the trench when between 16 and 20 tons of dirt shifted and fell on top of him. Workers tried for hours to rescue the man, including digging with heavy equipment and their hands to reach him. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is on the scene investigating. No further details were immediately released.

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Kansas State Hires Firm to Assist in Boosting Enrollment

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Kansas State is hiring consultants to help it reverse declining enrollment. The university said Tuesday it will pay Huron Consulting Services $550,000 to help the school reconsider its enrollment plan. Spokeswoman Jennifer Tidball says the national consulting firm's contract is for 16 weeks. The Manhattan Mercury reports the effort will begin early next year. The project will be led by Provost April Mason and Vice President for Student Life Pat Bosco. In October, the Kansas Board of Regents announced that Kansas State recorded the largest percentage drop in enrollment this fall of the state's six regents universities. The university in Manhattan had 22,796 students this fall, a drop of 984, or 4.14 percent, from the previous fall.

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Body Found in Missouri Amid Search for Missing Kansas Woman

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Authorities have found a woman's body in Kansas City, Missouri, while searching for a missing 18-year-old and say a person of interest in her disappearance has killed himself. Kansas City police say a tip Tuesday night led officers to a wooded area where the woman's body was found. Police are trying to determine if the body is that of Mikayala Norris, of suburban Overland Park, Kansas. She was last seen Sunday leaving a barbecue restaurant where she worked. Police say the person of interest in the case was found dead Tuesday night behind a sporting goods store in suburban Liberty, Missouri. Police say he also fired shots Tuesday in Liberty at another woman while she was driving. She wasn't struck but hit a tree. The man's name hasn't been released.

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Wichita Landlord Accused of Groping Tenants, Pushing Them for Sex

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - The U.S. Department of Justice has filed a lawsuit accusing a Wichita landlord and property manager of inappropriately touching female tenants and repeatedly asking them for sex in exchange for rent.  The Wichita Eagle reports that the department announced Monday it filed the lawsuit in federal court in Kansas. The lawsuit alleges two women at Wichita rental properties suffered "egregious sexual harassment and retaliation in violation of the federal Fair Housing Act."  The lawsuit names Thong Cao, Mai Cao, Van T. Le and Tong Nguyen as the defendants. The Justice Department says each defendant owns or owned the properties where the harassment occurred.  The suit also alleges Thong Cao evicted tenants who refused to engage in sexual conduct with him.  A defense attorney says the Caos deny the allegations.

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Woman Convicted of Posting False Comments About Teacher on Facebook

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) - A South Hutchinson woman who posted comments on Facebook falsely accusing a teacher of being a child predator has been convicted of harassment.  On Monday, a judge in Reno County convicted 39-year-old Melissa Wadkins of four misdemeanors. Wadkins was sentenced to 90 days on each count and a year's probation.  The Hutchinson News reports that the teacher targeted in the posts was providing foster care for Wadkins' teenage son.  The charges accused Wadkins of posting two photos of the teacher on separate occasions, suggesting the woman was a predator.  During a bench trial earlier this year, the student testified that he thought the post was vindictive because he was happy at the teacher's home.  Reno County Assistant District Attorney Dan Gilligan says the teacher's school knew the allegations were baseless.

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Prosecutors: Virginia Man Posed as Doctor, Treated Patients

A man who prosecutors say posed as a physician and treated patients in southeastern Virginia has been arrested in Kansas. The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Virginia says in a news release that 30-year-old Vishal Patel of Glen Allen Was arrested Tuesday by Drug Enforcement Administration agents in Overland Park, Kansas. According to an indictment, Patel has never been licensed to practice medicine in Virginia. Prosecutors say Patel stole identifying information of a licensed physician and obtained documents that fraudulently said Patel was a doctor. The indictment says Patel used the fake documents to get a job at a health center in Newport News, Virginia. Prosecutors say Patel saw patients, conducted and ordered tests and exams, and prescribed medication. Court documents don't list a lawyer for Patel.

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New Kansas Volleyball's New Arena Delayed for a Year

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) - The Kansas volleyball team will have to wait at least another year to move into a new home.  Associate athletic director Jim Marchiony said Tuesday the volleyball portion of a $350 million fund-raising campaign to upgrade the university's athletic facilities is on hold for a year.  The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Marchiony said the delay will help Kansas build a state-of-the-art arena for the volleyball team and its fans. He said supporters didn't want to rush the project or interfere with the team's schedule.  The university announced in September that Stu Horejsi, a longtime benefactor, and his family had pledged $10 million for the volleyball renovations. The plan is to demolish the existing gym and replace it with one that increases seating from 1,300 to 3,000.

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