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Regional Headlines for Thursday, November 15, 2012



Kline Ethics Case Now With Kansas Supreme Court

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The ethics case of former Attorney General Phill Kline now rests with the Kansas Supreme Court. The seven-member bench heard arguments Thursday concerning how Kline should be punished for his actions during investigations of abortion providers. Five of the seven justices hearing the case are substituting for five justices who removed themselves from the case. A three-member panel of the state Board of Discipline of Attorneys has recommended Kline's law license be suspended indefinitely. Kline has strongly denied any ethics violations. The disciplinary panel contends Kline repeatedly misled or allowed subordinates to mislead others, including a grand jury, to further his investigations. Kline was Kansas attorney general from 2003 to 2007 and Johnson County district attorney in 2007 and 2008.


Lawmaker Alleges Attempt to Shield Kansas ID Law from Scrutiny

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Democratic legislator who's trailing in a close re-election race contends that Republican Secretary of State Kris Kobach is trying to limit scrutiny of a Kansas law requiring voters to show photo identification at the polls. Representative Ann Mah of Topeka said Thursday that Kobach's desire to protect the voter ID law lay behind his unsuccessful federal court battle to prevent her from contacting voters who cast provisional ballots in the recent election. Mah criticizes the photo ID law and said contacting voters would tell her about its effects. Kobach didn't immediately return a telephone message, but he has said he's trying to protect voter privacy. Mah trailed Republican challenger Ken Corbet of Topeka by 42 votes out of nearly 11,000 cast as Douglas and Shawnee county officials reviewed provisional ballots Thursday.


Kansas AG Appeals Reversals in Sheriff's Killing

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt has appealed the state Supreme Court's order granting a new trial for a man who admitted killing a sheriff. Schmidt said Thursday he has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to decide if Scott Cheever's rights were violated at his trial for the 2005 shooting death of Greenwood County Sheriff Matt Samuels. Cheever was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to die for the killing. Cheever contended he was high on meth and incapable of premeditation when he shot Samuels at a southeastern Kansas home where illegal drugs were made. The Kansas Supreme Court ruled in August that Cheever's rights were violated during his trial. The court said a psychiatrist should not have been allowed to testify about Cheever's psychological records without his consent.


Merriam Man Shoots Brother, Kills Self

MISSION, Kan. (AP) — Police in northeastern Kansas say a Merriam man shot and killed his 52-year-old brother outside an office building and then later killed himself. Mission Police Captain David Moloy says 58-year-old Robert J. Pruitt shot his brother, Todd Pruitt, of Shawnee, early Thursday in the parking lot of an office building. Todd Pruitt died later at a hospital. Moloy says several people witnessed the shooting. Moloy says that about five hours after the shooting police found Robert Pruitt had taken his own life in a park in neighboring Kansas City, Missouri. The Kansas City Star reports that Todd Pruitt worked for the University of Kansas Hospital, which issued a statement expressing condolences to the employee and his family. Moloy says the motive for the shooting is unclear.

Kansans Chosen for Congressional Leadership Jobs

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Senator Jerry Moran and Kansas Congresswoman Lynn Jenkins have been elected to leadership positions by fellow congressional Republicans. GOP senators picked Moran on Wednesday to serve as chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, their campaign organization. Moran was elected to the Senate only in 2010. But he served in the House for 14 years before that, and he also is a former Kansas legislator. House Republicans named Jenkins as their conference vice chairwoman, their fifth-highest leadership position. Jenkins was first elected in the 2nd Congressional District of eastern Kansas in 2008 after serving six years as state treasurer. She also is a former Kansas legislator.

Judge, 2 Lawyers Finalists for Kansas Appeals Court

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A statewide nominating commission has named a western Kansas judge, a Kansas City-area prosecutor and a Topeka attorney as finalists for a vacant seat on the state's second highest court. But Thursday's announcement means the commission passed over Governor Sam Brownback's chief counsel and a prominent judge who is a former legislator. That could fuel a debate over the judicial selection process. The finalists are Stevens County District Judge Kim Schroeder, Senior Deputy Johnson County District Attorney Steven Obermeier and Topeka attorney Teresa Watson. Brownback attorney Caleb Stegall and Sedgwick County District Judge Tony Powell, who formerly served in the Kansas House, had applied for the job. Brownback has 60 days to pick one of the finalists to replace appeals Judge Christel Marquardt. She is retiring in January.

Audit: Juvenile Prison's Drug Programs Lacking

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Auditors say drug treatment programs offered at the Kansas Juvenile Correctional Complex in Topeka are not adequately helping the offenders. The auditors noted that between 70 and 85 percent of offenders in the state's juvenile programs need help with substance abuse. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Wednesday's audit followed findings in July that the complex had significant security problems. Terri Williams, acting commissioner of the Kansas Juvenile Justice Authority, says she agrees the agency's drug treatment procedures are lacking. Williams took over the program in the spring after the former commissioner and his deputy were fired. Williams says the agency is considering hiring another substance abuse specialist. It also might become a licensed treatment program, which could bring in more funding and improve quality through independent reviews.

Overland Park to Seek AG Opinion on Open Carry

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — Overland Park officials will ask the Kansas attorney general whether the city can impose more restrictions on people who want to openly carry firearms. The city voted in September to allow gun owners to openly carry weapons in public places, with some restrictions. After complaints from citizens, the city was considering requiring those who want to openly carry weapons to meet the same requirements as those for concealed carry licenses. After the Libertarian Party of Kansas threatened to sue, the public safety committee voted Wednesday to defer the proposal until it heard from Attorney General Derek Schmidt. The Kansas City Star reports that the city's legal department believes imposing restrictions like those for concealed carry would be allowed but asked for more time to fully research legal issues.

Judge Approves $3.79M Kansas Telecom Deal

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A judge has given final approval to a $3.79 million settlement over claims by thousands of Kansas landowners against three of the nation's largest telecommunications companies. The deal settles a class action property rights dispute over installation of fiber optic cable on railroad rights of way. Wednesday's ruling by U.S. Magistrate Judge Kenneth Gale affects about 3,700 Kansas landowners with property adjacent and underlying the railroad rights of way. Under terms of the settlement, more than $2.4 million in benefits will be available for landowners. An additional $1 million goes for attorneys' fees and $321,000 pays administrative costs. The federal lawsuit in Kansas was filed in 2010 against Sprint Communications, Qwest Communication Company and Level 3 Communications. Similar right-of-way settlements have also received final approval in nine other states.


Kansas Mayor Fines Himself for Parking Violation

SHAWNEE, Kan. (AP) — A suburban Kansas City mayor has fined himself after parking in a handicapped space and getting called out by a former City Council member. The Kansas City Star reports that Shawnee, Kansas Mayor Jeff Meyers was late to a council meeting Tuesday so he parked in the closest spot to City Hall he could find. It was a handicapped parking space, and former Councilman Kevin Straub took a photo of the parked vehicle and told the Shawnee police chief about it. Police wrote Meyers a warning ticket Wednesday. On Thursday, Meyers donated $135 — equivalent to the cost of a citation — to the Mayor's Christmas Tree Fund. Meyers says he decided to park in the handicapped spot and accept whatever consequences occurred. He promised to not do it again.

Group Starts Ad in Missouri to Warn About Kansas Tax Changes

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — A new group is urging western Missouri residents to push for a state response to tax cuts taking effect next year in neighboring Kansas. The group Save Missouri Jobs began running a TV spot this week highlighting the Kansas changes. Legislation approved in Kansas this year cuts individual state income tax rates and abolishes income taxes for specific types of businesses. The TV commercial shows a young girl asking what would happen if Missouri jobs and businesses move to Kansas. She asks what will happen to Missouri's tax base and who is going to pay her teacher. Save Missouri Jobs spokesman Woody Cozad said Wednesday the economic development situation could get ugly for Missouri. He says the new group is not advocating for a particular plan.

Ex-Soldier to Be Tried for Manhattan Killing

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — A former Fort Riley soldier has been ordered to stand trial for the New Year's Day killing of a Kansas National Guard member outside a Manhattan motorcycle club. KMAN-AM reports a Riley County judge found probable cause Wednesday to try 26-year-old Daniel Parker for first-degree murder. He'll be arraigned November 26th. Parker is accused in the drive-by shooting of 21-year-old Frederick Beverly early on January 1st outside the "Assassin Street Rydaz" club in Manhattan. Parker was serving at the time with the First Infantry Division with the rank of specialist. Investigators say Parker had clashed with other members of the motorcycle club, of which Beverly was a member. Parker's lawyer argued for dropping the charges, saying a witness to the shooting was unable to identify Parker as the gunman.


Autopsies Show Denver Bar Fire Victims Stabbed

DENVER (AP) — The Denver medical examiner's office says all five people who were found dead in a bar that was set on fire had been stabbed. The medical examiner's office said Thursday that the five died of multiple wounds. Their bodies were found early October 17 as Fero's Bar and Grill burned. An aspiring rapper, Dexter Lewis Jr., and brothers Lynell Jonathan Hill and Joseph Nathanael Hill are accused of killing the five victims during a robbery as the bar's closing time was approaching. Killed were 63-year-old bar owner Young Fero of Aurora; 21-year-old Daria Pohl of Denver; 29-year-old Ross Richter of Overland Park, Kansas; 44-year-old Kellene Fallon of Denver; and 45-year-old Tereasa Beesley of Denver.

Hutchinson Wind Farm Parts Plant Receives New Orders

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — Plant officials at Siemens Wind Energy in Hutchinson say new orders will help the company avoid more layoffs for now. The Hutchinson News reports that the plant recently received orders to supply parts for wind farms being built in Southern California and Chile. Siemens announced in September that it was cutting 60 percent of its Hutchinson workforce. The layoffs were completed this week, leaving the plant with 150 workers. It once had more than 400 employees. Siemens also laid off 570 people at its Fort Madison, Iowa, plant and 62 others around the country. Jim Jones, interim plant manager in Hutchinson, says the company expects to get more orders. He says that will mean more hours for current workers, rather than adding extra jobs.

Kansas Lottery Approves Gaming Companies Merger

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Lottery Commission has approved a change of management for the Kansas Star Casino in Mulvane. The commission on Wednesday approved the merger of Boyd Gaming and Peninsula Gaming, transferring Peninsula's management contract for the Kansas Star to Boyd. The commission regulates companies that operate casinos for the Kansas Lottery in Dodge City, Mulvane and Kansas City, Kansas. Boyd spent $1.45 billion to buy Peninsula's five casinos, including the Kansas Star. The deal is expected to close in December. The Wichita Eagle reports that Boyd must pass background checks and be licensed by the Kansas Racing and Gaming Commission. The commission meets Friday in Dodge City. Boyd officials say no changes are planned in the Kansas Star's management, future development plans, or anything in Peninsula's contract with the state.


Economic Index Jumps for Midwest, Western States

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — An index of economic conditions in 10 Midwest and Western states has jumped for a third straight month, but the looming "fiscal cliff" and other factors have shaken confidence in the region's economy for the coming months. The overall Rural Mainstreet index released Thursday rose to 57.5 in November from October's 56.6. Any score above 50 on the 100-point scale suggests a growing economy. The survey of bankers covers rural areas of Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming. The confidence index, which reflects expectations for the economy six months out, sank to 45.6 from October's 50.7. Creighton University economist Ernie Goss attributes the lack of confidence to the looming "fiscal cliff," and the lack of a federal farm and energy bills.


KC Lawyer Charged in Dad's Death Loses Will Fight

LIBERTY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City lawyer charged with killing her millionaire father by forging documents to deny him medical care no longer has control over his will. A Clay County probate court judge removed Susan Elizabeth Van Note as the personal representative of her father's estate Thursday in Liberty. Van Note is free on $1 million cash bond and attended the hearing but did not testify or comment afterward. Van Note is charged with forgery and first-degree murder in Boone County. William Van Note died there in October 2010 after his only child showed doctors a document giving her permission to remove him from life support. William Van Note and his girlfriend were shot at their Lake of the Ozarks vacation home. No one has been charged in Sharon Dickson's death.

Autopsy Indicates Deceased Grad Student Was Drunk

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — An autopsy showed that the Harvard University graduate student who fell into Portland Harbor and drowned in May just days before his graduation had a blood-alcohol level nearly three times the legal limit to drive in Maine. The Portland Press Herald reports Thursday that 31-year-old Nathan Bihlmaier had no drugs in his system, but a blood-alcohol level of 0.22 percent. Authorities have previously called his death an accidental drowning. Bihlmaier was celebrating his pending graduation when he was asked to leave a waterfront bar for being visibly intoxicated. His body was recovered two days after he went missing. His wife was expecting their first child. He was a native of Osborne, Kansas, and a University of Kansas graduate. Police say criminal charges are unlikely in the case.


Robber Apologizes to Former Fellow Inmate

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A 51-year-old Wichita man has his wallet back after a would-be robber recognized him as a former fellow inmate. Wichita police say the man was walking home from work late Wednesday when he was approached by two young men, including one with a gun. The gunman demanded the victim's wallet and cellphone. As the older man handed over his wallet, the second suspect realized they had spent time together in prison. Police say the suspects then stopped the robbery, returned the wallet and apologized before leaving the scene. No arrests had been made Thursday. The victim told police he didn't think he could identify the robbers.

Lecompton Hopes 'Lincoln' Movie Draws Attention

LECOMPTON, Kan. (AP) — Lecompton residents are hoping Steven Spielberg's new movie about Abraham Lincoln will spur interest in the historic eastern Kansas town. The movie, "Lincoln," which is scheduled to be released this week, is based on Doris Kearns Goodwin's book "Team of Rivals." Events in Kansas and Lecompton that led up to the Civil War are covered in the book. It was the Lecompton Constitution, which would have admitted Kansas as a slave state and was rejected, that split the national Democratic Party and helped Lincoln get elected as president in 1860. Lecompton Historical Society president Paul Bahnmaier told The Lawrence Journal-World that many Kansans are unaware of the city's historic role. Lecompton is located northwest of Lawrence in Douglas County. It's home to about 600 residents and several historic sites.

Survey Shows Most Kansas Schools Teach Cursive Writing

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A new survey shows Kansas elementary students are still learning cursive writing but interest in teaching the subject is waning. The Kansas education department said Wednesday a survey found 90 percent of the state's school districts teach cursive writing, generally in third grade. But nearly 23 percent of those who responded said they don't consider cursive a high priority. And about 6 percent said they expect to eventually reduce the time spent teaching the subject. The Lawrence Journal-World reports supporters also are concerned that new Common Core State Standards in English will mean even less cursive education. Cursive is not part of the standards but states are allowed to add up to 15 percent in additional standards for English language arts and math.


Judge Allows Kansas House Hopefuls to Contact Voters

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge says candidates in a close Kansas House race can contact voters who cast uncounted provisional ballots. U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Marten on Wednesday ruled against Secretary of State Kris Kobach in a lawsuit he filed last week. Kobach was trying to keep both Democratic state Representative Ann Mah and Republican challenger Ken Corbet from contacting the voters in the Topeka-area 54th House District. Mah is one of Kobach's most persistent critics. Mah trails Corbet by 44 votes out of nearly 11,000 cast. Mah hoped to pick up votes by helping voters correct potential problems with their provisional ballots before Douglas and Shawnee county officials certify election results Thursday. Kobach argued voter privacy was at stake. Marten disagreed.

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

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