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Regional Headlines for Monday, June 24, 2013




Supreme Court Refuses to Hear Kansas Doctor's Appeal

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to hear the appeal of a Kansas doctor and his wife convicted in a moneymaking conspiracy linked to 68 overdose deaths. The court on Monday denied without comment a petition seeking a hearing for Stephen and Linda Schneider, who ran a pain clinic in Haysville. The Schneiders 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. The decision lets stand a federal appeals court ruling that the Schneiders waived their right to conflict-free legal representation. New lawyers for the couple had argued their trial attorneys were little more than "mouthpieces" for an advocate for chronic pain patients who used the case to promote her agenda.


1/3 of Voter Registration Applications 'in Suspense'

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Records from the Kansas secretary of state's office indicate one-third of all voter registration applications submitted this year are in a state of "suspense" because the applicant failed to provide proof of citizenship. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that 310 of the 370 applications in suspense in Douglas County came from the state's Division of Vehicles, where people getting their driver's licenses often register to vote. More than 11,000 applications submitted since Jan. 1 are in suspense, while 20,780 voters have been added to the rolls during that period. A $40 million upgrade to the Division of Vehicles computer system was supposed to store electronic copies of birth certificates and other proof-of-citizenship documents and send them to election officials, but Douglas County Clerk Jamie Shew says that hasn't happened.


UPDATE: Judge Sets Hearing on Planned Parenthood Request

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge in Kansas will hear arguments this week on Planned Parenthood's request to stop parts of the state's new abortion restrictions from taking effect in July. Chief Judge Kathryn Vratil has scheduled a hearing Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Kansas. Planned Parenthood wants Vratil to issue a temporary order against enforcement of parts of the new law. The group's Overland Park clinic and the clinic's medical director filed suit last week over a section detailing the information that patients must receive before abortions — including a statement that abortion ends the life of a separate human being. The lawsuit argues those requirements violate free-speech rights. Backers of the law believe it protects patients.


Analysis: Kansas HIgher Ed Debate Shows Differing Priorities

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Higher education officials in Kansas argue that public universities and colleges are crucial to economic growth. But they'll still see their state funding shrink because many members of the Republican-dominated Legislature believe income tax cuts will be a bigger engine of prosperity. The Kansas higher education system operates in the broader political context created by Republican Governor Sam Brownback's desire to eventually eliminate personal income taxes to boost the economy. Brownback balanced his push for additional cuts in income tax rates this year with proposals to keep state funding for higher education flat for the next two years. Republican majorities in both chambers demonstrated that they consider lower income taxes more important than public universities and colleges to promoting economic growth.

3 Kansas Community Colleges Form Insurance Group

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Three Kansas community colleges have created an insurance consortium in response to higher insurance rates and new laws that allow weapons on campus. The Independence Community College board of trustees voted last week to join Coffeyville and Neosho community colleges in the consortium. The three community colleges are all insured by EMC Insurance Company, which told colleges last week that it was raising rates in response to a law that allows some guns on campus. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the three colleges will buy a policy from Wright Specialty, which has a neutral stance on the new guns laws. Officials say the policy offers a modest savings in the first year but members believe the savings will grow as more education groups join the consortium.


Kansas Insurance Commissioner Says GOP No Longer a Good Fit

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Outgoing Kansas Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger admits she no longer fits into the state Republican party she has served for most of her life. Praeger, who is in her final term as insurance commissioner, favors abortion rights and gun control, and is a strong supporter of the new health insurance plan called Obamacare. All those positions put her at odds with the current Republican party establishment, including Governor Sam Brownback. Praeger, who was mayor of Lawrence, a state representative and a state senator before becoming Insurance Commissioner, says she will end her public service career after her current term is completed. State Representative Scott Schwab, a former Johnson County Republican Party chairman, told The Kansas City Star that somewhere along the line Praeger stopped listening to her constituents.

Lenexa Teenager Dies Trying to Cross Interstate

LENEXA, Kan. (AP) — A 13-year-old suburban Kansas City boy is dead after he was hit by a truck while trying to cross Interstate 35 with friends. The Kansas Highway Patrol says 13-year-old Ezkial Crapo died in the accident Saturday night. Officers say Ezkial and two friends had gone to a Wal-Mart and were trying to return to an Overland Park home when he was struck. The boys made it across the northbound lanes and over a concrete median when Ezkial was hit by a truck. The driver stopped and is cooperating with authorities.


Start of Fort Riley Soldier's Trial Delayed 1 Day

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — The trial for a former Fort Riley soldier charged with killing a Kansas National Guard member on New Year's Day in 2012 has been delayed for at least one day. Jury selection for the first-degree murder trial of 26-year-old Daniel Parker was scheduled to begin Monday in Riley County District Court. KMAN reports that the trial was delayed because one of the attorneys had a medical emergency. Parker is charged with killing 21-year-old Frederick Beverly outside a Manhattan motorcycle group's clubhouse. Prosecutors say Parker fired from a passing car at the "Assasin Street Rydaz" clubhouse after having a disagreement earlier in the night with another member of the club. Beverly was working the outside gate and was hit in the forehead by a bullet.

Wichita Officials Seek to Curb Copper Thefts

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita officials are looking to curb rising copper thefts by revising the city's scrap metal ordinance. The proposed revision would classify copper as a specially regulated metal. The Wichita Eagle reports such a designation would require scrap dealers to hold the copper for 72 hours. That presumably gives police a better shot at tracking the metal back to the thief or victim. It will also allow the chief of police to suspend a business' operations for one day or more. The proposal is expected to be brought to the city council by early fall.

Lansing Prison Defends Its Security after Escapes

LANSING, Kan. (AP) — Eight minimum-security inmates have walked away from the state's prison in Lansing in the past three years. But officials there are confident in their security systems. All eight were eventually recaptured, including the latest to escape. Paul Cohagen was found Thursday. He was a plumber at the prison, a job that gave him the freedom of movement to escape from minimum security. Prison spokesman Jeremy Barclay tells The Leavenworth Times the number of escapes is small in proportion to the inmate population. He says higher security prisoners rarely escape. Escapes from minimum security are more likely because inmates are allowed more freedom for their jobs. Barclay says the prison offers classes for inmates on the consequences of leaving and studies each escape to find ways to improve security.


Ex-Cadet Enters Plea in KS Military School Assault Case

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — A former cadet leader accused of assaulting a younger student at a Kansas military school has struck a deal with prosecutors for a 45-day jail sentence. The Salina Journal reports that 18-year-old David J. Burke, of McLean, Virginia  entered an Alford plea Monday to a reduced charge of aggravated battery. Such a plea means he does not admit the act, but acknowledges prosecutors could likely prove it. Burke was a student at St. John's Military School in Salina. The judge on Monday revoked his bond so that Burke could begin serving the proposed jail time, although his sentencing won't take place until early August. Burke's lawyer says the agreement avoided trial on more serious charges of sexual battery. Prosecutor Christina Trocheck says the younger student agreed to the deal.


Kansas Woman Pleads Guilty in Cattle Fraud Scheme

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A central Kansas woman has pleaded guilty to embezzling more than $211,000 from a feedlot where she worked to pay off losses from her own cattle trading. The U.S. Attorney's office says 37-year-old Carrie L. Frederick, of Sterling, entered the pleas Monday to three counts of wire fraud. She was charged late last year and will be sentenced September 11. Frederick admitted stealing the money from Sellers Farms, a livestock feeding operation in Lyons where she went to work in 2007. She owed more than $150,000 to her previous employer, Golden Belt Feeders in St. John, for losses from cattle transactions she financed while serving on Golden Belt's board. Prosecutors said Frederick used the money stolen from Sellers Farms for personal expenses and to repay Golden Belt.


Federal Judge Sets Bond for Indicted Ex-Doctor

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge has set bond for a former Kansas doctor accused of illegally having a handgun as a convicted felon. Lawrence Simons, of Wichita, has been jailed since his arrest last month. U.S. District Judge Monti Belot on Monday set a $50,000 surety bond in the case. The ex-doctor was indicted on charges of unlawful possession of a firearm, ammunition and controlled substances. He has a 2010 felony conviction for unlawfully distributing prescription drugs. A magistrate judge had refused to set bail, saying he needed to assure the safety of the community. Simons then asked Belot to review that decision. Prosecutors say he gave a bondsman a gun as partial payment for bailing him out of jail in April in an unrelated criminal threat case.


Trial in Kansas Prescription Case Set for May 2014

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A northeast Kansas doctor charged with illegally dispensing prescription drugs is scheduled to go to trial in May of next year. U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson set the trial date during a brief hearing Monday after federal prosecutors and attorneys for 53-year-old Michael Schuster agreed on the timing. A federal grand jury indicted Schuster last month on four counts alleging he operated a so-called "pill mill" at his Manhattan clinic. He continues to be held without bond. Schuster has pleaded not guilty. Prosecutors allege that from April 2007 until at least August 2012, Schuster had staff members who weren't licensed to write prescriptions dispense controlled substances using signed, blank prescription pads he left while traveling. The May 2014 trial is expected to last two weeks.


Kansas School Counselor Denies Charges in Sex Case

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — A former middle school counselor in Salina has pleaded not guilty to having sex with a boy younger than 14. Thirty-two-year-old Brooke Dinkel, a former counselor for Smoky Valley Middle School, was bound over for trial Monday. She faces 10 counts of rape and 10 counts of aggravated criminal sodomy. Her trial was scheduled for October 14. The Salina Journal reports that the boy testified in a preliminary hearing last Wednesday that he and Dinkel had sexual contact more than 10 times after he started stripping wallpaper at her house.

Post-Tenure Review Requirement Taking Shape at KU

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Tenured University of Kansas professors soon will begin facing periodic reviews. The Lawrence Journal World reports that the goal of the reviews is to make sure tenured professors are still on track. But some faculty are worried that research will suffer because professors will be spending so much time being reviewed or reviewing others. The time-suck fears are being expressed as the university works to meet a spring 2014 Kansas Board of Regents deadline to institute post-tenure review. Post-tenure review is a long-range look at each tenured faculty member's productivity every five to seven years. University of Kansas Provost Jeff Vitter says dozens of state universities around the country have post-tenure review policies. That includes 22 of the 35 public institutions in the Association of American Universities.


Man Dies in Kansas City Club Shooting

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A shooting outside private club in Kansas City has left one person dead and as many as eight others wounded. Police say officers heard multiple gunshots in the area around 3:30 am Sunday. As officers approached, they found people fleeing and gunshot victims. Police say it appears that a disturbance began inside the club and continued outside. The name of the man who was killed wasn't immediately released. Another victim suffered life-threatening injuries. But police say most of the other victims suffered minor injuries. Officers are continuing to investigate and asking for the public's help.


Restitution Hearing Postponed for Child Sex Predator

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A convicted child sex predator will have to wait another month before learning how much he must pay the 9-year-old Kansas girl he used to produce pornography. Monday's restitution hearing for 50-year-old Philip Andra Grigsby, of Marquette, has been continued to July 15 to give attorneys more time to resolve questions about insurance payments. U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Marten sentenced Grigsby last month to 260 years in prison. His attorney has already filed a notice of appeal. Grigsby pleaded guilty to eight counts of sexually exploiting a child. He also pleaded guilty to possessing child porn and illegally possessing a firearm as a convicted felon.


Kansas City to Move Ahead with Downtown Bike Lanes

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Bicycle riders in Kansas City will have an easier time navigating downtown streets beginning sometime next year. The Kansas City Star reports the City Council recently approved plans to paint 12 miles of downtown bike lanes in 2014. The project will also provide links to the city's east side and to bike routes just over the state line in Kansas. The approval for downtown striping is part of the "Bike KC" program adopted in 2002. Progress on implementing the plan has been slow. The program envisioned a 600-mile system, but signs marking the first 175 miles only started going up this spring. Next year's project will also complete some unfinished links to downtown Kansas City, Kansas and a popular bicycle commuting route to Johnson County, Kansas.

Student Transfers on Hold in Kansas City Schools

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — School districts in suburban Kansas City aren't yet allowing student transfers from the Kansas City district. Some St. Louis area school districts are processing transfers from that city's school district this summer. But Kansas City area schools are waiting to see the outcome of a case before the state Supreme Court. Duane Martin, an attorney for Blue Springs, Independence, Lee's Summit, North Kansas City and Raytown districts, says the case probably won't be resolved in time to allow transfers for the 2013-2014 school year. The state Supreme Court ruling upheld a law this month that allows transfers from unaccredited districts. The Kansas City Star reports that the issue in the second case is whether the law force districts into an unfunded mandate that is barred by the Missouri Constitution.

Abortion Provider Seeks to Block Parts of Kansas Law

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Planned Parenthood is seeking a federal court order to block Kansas from enforcing parts of a new, sweeping anti-abortion law. The group's clinic in Overland Park and the clinic's medical director formally filed the request Monday in U.S. District Court. Last week, they filed a lawsuit challenging portions of the new law spelling out the information that must be provided by clinics and doctors to patients before terminating their pregnancies. They want a judge to block enforcement of the provisions while the lawsuit is heard. Planned Parenthood objects to requirements that its website link to a state website with information about fetal development; and that its patients receive information saying abortion ends the life of a separate human being. The lawsuit argues that those requirements violate free-speech rights.

**This story has been updated. Please see above. 


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