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Regional Headlines for Wednesday, June 26, 2013




Gay Marriage Rulings Get Mixed Review in Kansas

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — As Kansas gay-marriage backers were celebrating a pair of U.S. Supreme Court rulings, Republican Congressman Tim Huelskamp was vowing to take action. On Wednesday, the justices struck down a provision of a federal law that denies federal benefits to married gay couples. It also cleared the way for same-sex marriage in California. The most colorful celebration was at a rainbow-painted Topeka house that's across the street from a church whose members are known for protesting outside funerals with anti-gay messages. Leaders of the Planting Peace organization unfurled a large banner from the roof of the brightly painted house announcing "Bye, Bye DOMA." But Huelskamp was far from elated. He vowed to push for an amendment to the U.S. Constitution defining marriage "as the union of one man and one woman."


UPDATE: Federal Judge Ponders Blocking Kansas Abortion Rules

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge in Kansas is weighing an abortion provider's request to block parts of a sweeping state anti-abortion law that takes effect next week. Chief Judge Kathryn Vratil heard arguments Wednesday in the lawsuit by Planned Parenthood. Vratil said she would decide soon whether to issue a temporary restraining order blocking enforcement of the disputed sections. Planned Parenthood is challenging provisions of the law detailing what information patients must receive before undergoing abortions. That information includes a statement that abortion ends the life of a "separate" and "unique" human being. Planned Parenthood claims the law violates free-speech rights, but backers of the law say it will protect patients. The law takes effect Monday.


Another Lawsuit Filed Against Monsanto over Wheat

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Another lawsuit has been filed against seed giant Monsanto over last month's discovery of an isolated field of genetically engineered wheat in Oregon. Kansas wheat farmer Dan Brown sued Monsanto on Tuesday on behalf of himself and potentially thousands of other growers. The Seward County resident's lawsuit is seeking class-action status. It's at least the third lawsuit filed against St. Louis-based Monsanto this month over the release of the experimental wheat. Kansas farmer Ernest Brown individually sued the company, and a class action lawsuit was filed in Washington on behalf of growers of soft white wheat. Monsanto reiterated Wednesday that none of the genetically modified wheat entered the commercial market. The company says that given the care undertaken no legal liability exists and it vowed to present a vigorous defense.


Kansas AG Issues Guidance on Concealed Carry Signage Changes

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Attorney General Derek Schmidt says counties and cities that exempt themselves from a new law on concealed weapons need to change any "No Guns" signs on public buildings. The law taking effect Monday allows people with concealed-carry permits to bring their guns into public buildings that don't have adequate security, such as screening. But many cities and counties have taken advantage of a provision letting them exempt their buildings for six months. Schmidt said Wednesday he's proposing temporary regulations requiring that state or municipal buildings in those counties and cities have signs making clear that they're exempt from the new concealed carry law. A state board will meet Friday in Topeka to approve the proposed regulations.


Kansas Judge Sets Thursday Hearing in Doctors' Abortion Lawsuit

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas judge has scheduled a hearing for Thursday in a lawsuit filed by two doctors against the state's new abortion law. Dr. Herbert Hodes and his daughter, Dr. Traci Nauser want Shawnee County District Judge Rebecca Crotty to block the state's enforcement of the entire law, which is scheduled to take effect Monday. Hodes and Nauser perform abortions at their health center in Overland Park. The first hearing in their case is set for 2:30 pm Thursday. The law bans sex-selection abortions, blocks tax breaks for abortion providers, prohibits providers from furnishing materials or instructors for public school courses and spells out the information that must be provided to patients before abortions. A separate federal lawsuit from Planned Parenthood is also challenging portions of the law.


Kansas Utility Commission Hires New Staff Leader

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The commission that regulates utilities in Kansas has hired a top-level state Department of Agriculture official as its new executive director. The Kansas Corporation Commission announced Wednesday that Kim Christiansen will supervise its staff of more than 200 employees. It did not say exactly when she would begin working at the KCC full time. She will replace Patti Petersen-Klein, who left the executive director's job earlier this month. Petersen-Klein's departure came after The Topeka Capital-Journal published contents of a consultant's report based on interviews and surveys KCC employees. Petersen-Klein criticized people who worked for her at the KCC, and the consultants concluded that the rift between her and the staff couldn't be repaired. Christiansen is an assistant secretary at the Department of Agriculture and its general counsel.

KCC to Ask State for Help in Open Meetings Lawsuit

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Corporation Commission will ask the state's attorney general to defend it against a charge of violating the Kansas Open Meetings Act. The commission also decided Tuesday to ask Attorney General Derek Schmidt's office to assess the agency's open meetings practices but not to issue an opinion. Shawnee County District Attorney Chad Taylor sued the commission last week, alleging it violated the open meetings law by deciding a water rate case for a small Salina utility without holding public meetings. On June 6, the commission approved a rate hike of more than 100 percent for about 65 customers of the Salina company. The complaint against the KCC was filed by the Citizens' Utility Ratepayer Board, a state agency that represents residential and small-business utility customers.

Kansas Regulator Loosens Rules for Local Investments

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas regulator has loosened the rules for small businesses trying to raise capital by selling stock within the state. Interim Securities Commissioner Josh Ney announced Tuesday that he increased the limit on how much businesses are allowed to accept from a single investor to $5,000. It had been $1,000. Ney issued an order last week modifying what's known as the Invest Kansas Exemption in the state's securities regulations. The exemption allows Kansas businesses to raise $1 million in capital within the state without having to register the stock they sell with the state as securities. The exemption was enacted in August 2011 and is aimed at allowing small, local investors to start new businesses. It's been used to start a variety store in Stafford and a grocery in Minneola.

Army to Cut 1 Brigade at Fort Riley

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Army says it will eliminate one infantry brigade at Fort Riley as the military reduces its overall number of soldiers by September 2017. Chief of Staff General Raymond Odierno said Tuesday the 4th Brigade Combat Team of the 1st Infantry Division will be inactivated. The move is part of the Army's plans to reduce its overall strength by 80,000 soldiers to 490,000. The cuts were already planned by the military before federal budget reductions were put in place in March. Fort Riley is home to nearly 18,000 soldiers and three brigades of the 1st Infantry Division, as well as a combat aviation brigad Odierno says there will also be a reduction of civilian employees but an exact number has not been determined.

Court Rejects Appeal from Kansas Contractor

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A federal appeals court has dismissed the appeal of a private contractor convicted of trying to smuggle $150,000 from Afghanistan to his ex-wife in Kansas. The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said Tuesday the appeal from Donald Gene Garst would be frivolous. The Topeka man was sentenced in February to 2 and a half years in prison and a $52,000 fine. He later asked the court to dismiss his appeal. Garst pleaded guilty to bulk cash smuggling for trying to ship the undeclared cash in a DHL box from Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan to Kansas. He worked on the base as a private contractor from 2009 to 2011. The government contends the money was part of a larger kickback scheme. Garst claims the money was gambling proceeds.

Kansas Pilot Killed in Crash of Ultralight Plane

GREAT BEND, Kan. (AP) — A central Kansas man has died after the ultralight aircraft he was flying crashed at Great Bend Municipal Airport. The Kansas Highway Patrol identifies the victim as 26-year-old Lucas Campbell, of Great Bend. Investigators and witnesses said Campbell was flying slowly across the airport just after 1 pm Tuesday when the single-seat aircraft rose, then nose-dived into a grassy area near a runway. Campbell was later pronounced dead at Great Bend Regional Hospital. He was described as an experienced pilot who worked as a flight instructor for an aviation company at the airport.

City of Lawrence Creates Rental Inspection Program

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — City commissioners have approved a new program requiring 10 percent of all rental properties in Lawrence be inspected every year in an effort to improve living conditions. The Lawrence Journal-World reports Wednesday that the program requires single-family rentals to be licensed with the city, covering all zoning areas and making every rental property subject to random inspections. The city's current inspection program covers only rentals in single-family neighborhoods. City staff estimates the program will cost about $385,000 a year and add about 4,000 inspections to the city's work load each year. More inspectors will likely be hired. Commissioners say the program is aimed at making sure that landlords are paying attention to unsafe conditions, such as mold or faulty fire alarms.


Man Arrested for "Flashing" in Topeka

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Topeka authorities have arrested a man who's accused of flashing people at the state park near the Governor's mansion. Officer Patrick Saleh with the Capitol Police told WIBWNewsNow that officers received reports earlier this month from visitors at the Kaw River State Park of a man flashing people, including children. Capitol Police and Topeka Police then set up a sting operation at the park. Saleh says the suspect, a 53-year-old man, flashed one of their officers, and was taken into custody Monday. He was booked into the Shawnee County Jail on charges of lewd and lascivious behavior and aggravated indecent liberties with a child. Formal charges are pending.

Lawsuit Against KU Fraternity Dropped

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Lawyers for a University of Kansas student have dropped the student's lawsuit claiming a fraternity allowed underage drinking that contributed to a severe head injury he suffered. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Douglas County court records show that lawyers for Andrew Charles Johnson, of Salina, voluntarily dismissed the lawsuit earlier this month. An attorney representing Johnson declined comment, and a lawyer for the defendants commented only to confirm the dismissal. Johnson had been seeking to sue the local chapter of Sigma Phi Epsilon and its national organization. Johnson alleged they permitted underage drinking that contributed to a severe head injury he sustained at the chapter's house in Lawrence in 2011.


Jayhawks' Self Reprimanded for NCAA Tournament Outburst

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — University of Kansas men's basketball head coach Bill Self was publicly reprimanded by the NCAA and fined an undisclosed amount on Wednesday after damaging the scorer's table during an NCAA tournament game in Kansas City. Self struck the table at the Sprint Center on March 24 during a third-round win over North Carolina. Ron Wellman, the chair of the Division I men's basketball committee, said in a statement that "Coach Self's actions were out of line with the committee's expectations that championship participants act in a manner that represents the highest standards of sportsmanship." The damage fell under NCAA guidelines that define misconduct as any "unsportsmanlike conduct, unprofessional behavior or breach of law, occurring from the time the championship field is announced through the end of the championship that discredits the event or intercollegiate athletics."


NCAA Reprimands Wichita State Associate AD


WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita State senior associate athletics director Darron Boatright was publicly reprimanded by the NCAA on Wednesday for his conduct during the Shockers' trip to the Final Four. The NCAA said that Boatright had a verbal confrontation with Staples Center security staff before Wichita State's regional semifinal game against La Salle. Ron Wellman, the chair of the Division I men's basketball committee, said in a statement that "the expectations for all championship participants, including athletics administrators, are to act in a manner that represents the highest standards of sportsmanship." Boatright oversees marketing, development, fundraising, corporate sponsorships, radio and television broadcasting, media relations and ticket operations for the Shockers. He's also in charge of the day-to-day oversight of the men's basketball program.


Hays Bar Owner Pleads No Contest to Arson

HAYS, Kan. (AP) — The owner of a popular Hays bar and grill has pleaded no contest to aggravated arson for a fire that heavily damaged the business and damaged six other businesses last October. Benjamin Michael Butler entered the plea Tuesday in a fire at T-Bone's Sports Bar and Grill. Investigators say the blaze apparently started when Butler left a candle burning when he left the business. The Hays Daily News reports  that the state's sentencing guidelines mean Butler will likely be sentenced to two years of probation and be required to pay $350,000 restitution to the other businesses damaged by the fire.


Police: Cyclist Had Meth Lab in Backpack

PITTSBURG, Kan. (AP) — If only he'd been riding in the street, a bicyclist who Pittsburg police say had a meth lab in his backpack might have gone unnoticed. But the 29-year-old man from Nevada, Missouri caught the eye of an officer in the southeast Kansas community Tuesday morning because he was riding on a sidewalk. The officer tried to make contact with the bicyclist. The man instead rode away before he was stopped a few blocks away. Police say a search of his backpack turned up what they called an active, "one-pot" mobile meth lab. The man was arrested on suspicion of making and possessing methamphetamine, felony possession of drug paraphernalia, and obstruction. He also got a ticket for riding a bike on the sidewalk.


Kansas Man Pleads Guilty to 12 Robberies in 10 Days

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas City, Kansas man admits he went on a robbery spree last year. On Tuesday, 45-year-old Llewellyn Richard pleaded guilty to robbing 12 businesses over a 10-day period in late December last year. All but two of the robberies were in Kansas City, Kan. Police arrested Richards on January 1. He fled when officers tried to pull over his truck but was arrested when he crashed. Sentencing is scheduled for October 25. KAKE reports that a plea agreement recommends a sentence of 20 years in federal prison.

Man Charged with Arson, Assault in Failed Burning

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita man who started his clothes on fire while allegedly trying to burn another man is now charged with aggravated arson and aggravated assault. Twenty-four-year-old Brian Anthony Michael Thomas was formally charged Tuesday and his preliminary hearing was set for July 9. Sedgwick County authorities say Thomas burst into an apartment on June 20 and threw gasoline on a 38-year-old while he bathed. The man was not injured but Thomas set his own clothes on fire. The Wichita Eagle reports court records indicate three people were placed "in a substantial risk of bodily harm" as a result of Thomas's actions. Thomas's bail was set at $150,000. He asked for a court-appointed attorney.

Kansas School Districts Receive Tech Education Awards

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — More than 100 Kansas school districts have been rewarded for their efforts to get more students certified in technical education specialties. Governor Sam Brownback presented checks totaling $703,000 to 111 school districts on Tuesday for helping high school students improve their skills. The state awards districts $1,000 for each student who completes a technical education program and earns certification through a state vocational or technical college. The funds are part of a program the state launched in 2012 to increase the number of certified technicians to meet industry demands. Brownback's office estimates that 5,800 high school juniors and seniors enrolled in technical education programs during the last school year, with 703 students earning certification.


Fort Hays Fossil Collection Gets 3-D Scanning

HAYS, Kan. (AP) — Parts of the fossil collection at the Sternberg Museum in Hays are coming alive on computer screens. The museum and the Forsyth Laboratory at Fort Hays State are collaborating on a project to digitize the fossil collection using 3-D scanning. Sternberg director Reese Barrick says the fossils are photographed and then some will be scanned to produce a 3-D image. The Hays Daily News reports that the 3-D images can be moved around on the computer, allowing someone to look at one image rather than several different photos. Supporters hope the 3-D images will be used in classrooms. And they say it will allow the museum to show the public more of its collection, which could attract more visitors.


2-Year-Old Child Dies After Being Pulled from Pool

RAYTOWN, Mo. (AP) — Police say a 2-year-old child has died after being pulled out of a pool at a suburban Kansas City home. Emergency workers were called to the home in Raytown Tuesday. The child had been pulled from an above-ground pool and was not breathing when responders arrived. The child died at a hospital later that evening. Police continue to investigate but say the drowning appears to be a tragic accident.

Ex-Insurance Agent Accused of Stealing $2 Million

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Federal prosecutors have charged a former Kansas insurance agent with stealing nearly $2 million from policyholders. The U.S. attorney's office says a 51-count indictment unsealed Tuesday alleges 41-year-old Jason Matthew Pennington, of Bel Aire, defrauded customers and lied to beneficiaries to cover up the thefts. He's charged with wire fraud, attempted wire fraud, money laundering, attempted bank fraud and making false statements to a financial institution. His 65-year-old father, James L. Pennington, of Wichita, is charged with four counts of filing false tax returns. Neither had an attorney listed in court records, and their home phones were disconnected. Among the alleged victims was Marlene Brown, a Wichita teacher and philanthropist who died in 2009. Jason Matthew Pennington was a State Farm Insurance agent from June 2000 until June 2010.

Missouri Man Pleads Guilty on 2nd Day of Rape Trial

PLATTE CITY, Mo. (AP) — A 43-year-old Kansas City man faces up to life in prison after abruptly pleading guilty during his trial for the December 2006 rape of a Platte County woman. Zachary Townsend represented himself in a bench trial that started Monday in Platte County Circuit Court. He was accused of entering the victim's unlocked apartment and repeatedly raping her in her car and her residence. Townsend was identified as the attacker through a cold-case DNA match. Prosecutor Eric Zahnd says the odds of any other person being a DNA match was 1 in 20 quadrillion. Townsend abruptly told the judge Tuesday he wanted to plead guilty. After being given time to think about his decision, Townsend confirmed that's what he wanted to do. His sentencing is set for July 29.


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