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Regional Headlines for Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2013


Kansas Legislature Adjourns 2-Day Special Session

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas legislators have adjourned their special session. Lawmakers wrapped up business Wednesday in only two days. They approved a bill repairing a law allowing convicted murderers to be sentenced to at least 50 years in prison. The Senate also approved multiple appointments by Governor Sam Brownback, including the appointment of chief counsel Caleb Stegall to the Kansas Court of Appeals. The House adjourned at 5:21 pm. The Senate followed suit six minutes later. It was the Legislature's first special session since 2005, when lawmakers were ordered by the Kansas Supreme Court to increase funding on public schools. This year's special session was the 22nd in state history. The only other two-day special session was held in 1989 to extend a deadline for owners of homes and businesses to pay property taxes.


UPDATE: Kansas Senate Confirms Court Appointment

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Senate has confirmed Governor Sam Brownback's appointment of his chief counsel to the state Court of Appeals. The Senate voted Wednesday on Caleb Stegall's nomination to the state's second-highest court. The outcome was expected because Brownback's fellow conservative Republicans have a supermajority in the Senate. None of them publicly expressed misgivings about his appointment. The 41-year-old Stegall will be the youngest member of the Court of Appeals or Kansas Supreme Court by about a decade. Brownback's critics expect Stegall to be a reliably conservative voice on the bench. However, he pledged during a confirmation hearing to remain impartial and received strong written endorsements from a bipartisan group of prominent attorneys. Some Brownback critics saw the appointment as cronyism, yet acknowledged that Stegall is qualified.


Kansas Democrats Solid Against Appeals Court Nominee

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Senate split along party lines in confirming Republican Governor Sam Brownback's nomination of his chief counsel to the state Court of Appeals. All 32 Republicans voted Wednesday in favor of the appointment of Caleb Stegall, while all eight Democrats voted against it. But two Republican senators — Vicki Schmidt of Topeka and Kay Wolf of Prairie Village — criticized the selection process. Stegall's appointment was the first under a law that took effect in January, having the governor appoint Court of Appeals judges, subject to Senate confirmation. Previously, a nominating commission screened applicants and named three finalists, with no role for lawmakers after the governor's appointment. Democrats also complained about the process and criticized Stegall for his ties to Brownback. But GOP senators said he's well-qualified.


New Appeals Judge: Kansans Value Loyalty to State over Party 

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Newly confirmed Kansas Court of Appeals Judge Caleb Stegall says the state's residents want their public servants to show more loyalty to the state and their neighbors than to a particular political party. Stegall said Wednesday that loyalty to what he called "our mutual home" and to the common good will continue to drive him as he serves on the state's second-highest court. His appointment to the court by Republican Governor Sam Brownback was confirmed Wednesday by the GOP-dominated state Senate on a 32-8 vote. Stegall told The Associated Press that he's honored by the confidence that both Brownback and state senators have shown in him. He declined to comment on the vote, which was along party lines. He doesn't know when he will be sworn in.


KS Senate Passes 'Hard 50' Legislation; Bill Heads to Governor

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Senate has sent Governor Sam Brownback a bill revising a state law allowing 50-year sentences in certain murder cases to fix a constitutional flaw. The legislation requires juries rather than judges to decide if the facts of a case warrant a sentence of 50 years without parole. Wednesday's 40-0 Senate came one day after the House approved the measure 122-0. Kansas legislators revised the so-called "Hard 50" law during a special session prompted by a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in a Virginia case. The high court ruled that giving judges the sole authority to determine whether to impose a mandatory minimum sentence was unconstitutional. Kansas adopted the "Hard 50" in 1999, replacing a mandatory 40-year sentence that had been in place since 1990.


Kansas Senate Confirms New Regents, Other Appointees

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Senate has confirmed three state Board of Regents members and other appointments by Governor Sam Brownback. Senate action Wednesday means that Shane Bangerter of Dodge City, Helen Van Etten of Topeka and Ann Murguia of Kansas City, Kansas can continue serving as regents overseeing the higher education system. The votes were 35-5 for Bangerter and 37-3 for Van Etten and Murguia. Brownback named them as regents in June, and a Senate committee gave them permission to start serving on the board. Had senators rejected their appointments, they'd have had to step down. The Senate also confirmed Secretary of Administration Jim Clark and Securities Commissioner Josh Ney. The votes were 40-0 for Clark and 37-2 for Ney.


Push to End Kansas Proof-of-Citizenship Rule Falters

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A legislative effort to repeal a Kansas law requiring new voters to show proof of U.S. citizenship when registering has stalled. The House refused Tuesday to consider a proposal to rescind the policy, which took effect in January. The proposal from Wichita Democrat Jim Ward would have allowed new voters to simply affirm that they are citizens, rather than requiring them to produce papers. The Republican-controlled House ruled the proposal out of order. Ward offered it as an amendment to a bill revising a law on sentencing of some convicted murderers. The registration law is designed to prevent non-citizens from voting. But the registrations of more than 15,000 legal Kansas residents are on hold because they have yet to provide proper documents.


State of Kansas Tightens Eligibility for Food Stamp Program

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas officials say the state will join several others in letting a federal waiver that allows an estimated 20,000 Kansans to receive food assistance without keeping a job expire. The Kansas Department for Children and Families says it wants to encourage employment over welfare dependency. Able-bodied adults with no dependents would need to work no less than 20 hours per week to qualify for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, commonly known as food stamps. The federal waiver expires September 30. That means that come October 1, adults will have three months to either find work or enroll in federally-approved job training. Other states that do not use the waiver include Delaware, New Hampshire, Vermont, Wyoming and Utah. Oklahoma and Wisconsin also plan to let the waiver expire.


Search for Kansas Shooting Suspect Enters 3rd Day

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Butler County's sheriff has sent detectives to southwest Kansas in search of a man suspected of shooting one of his deputies. The Wichita Eagle reports that the search for 41-year-old Jan Tracy Kilbourne has entered its third day since he exchanged gunfire with a Butler County deputy around 5:15 a.m. Monday. A bullet hit the deputy in the shoulder but most of the impact was stopped by the bulletproof vest he was wearing. The deputy returned fire and wounded the suspect, who ran off and prompted a massive search Monday both on the ground and in the air. Butler County Sheriff Kelly Herzet says he has sent detectives to the Liberal-Hugoton area in southwest Kansas and to Hutchison in search of Kilbourne. Herzet says the deputy is recovering at home.


Pompeo Supports Authorizing Attack on Syria

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Congressman Mike Pompeo says he will vote in support of authorizing a U.S. strike on Syria. The Republican congressman spoke Tuesday to The Associated Press by phone from Israel. Pompeo is traveling to several Middle Eastern countries this week as part of his role on the House Intelligence Committee. The rest of the state's all-Republican delegation is opposing a military response to an alleged chemical weapons attack in Syria that killed hundreds. Pompeo says a no vote in Congress would guarantee a bad outcome. He says the Iranians are watching how Americans respond to the alleged use of chemical weapons inside of Syria on civilians. He says the objective of any military action should be the "massive degradation" of Syria's capacity to use chemical weapons.

Kansas Lawyer Faces Hearing over Tweets

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A former Kansas Court of Appeals research attorney faces a disciplinary hearing for derogatory comments she tweeted during the same kind of hearing last year for former state Attorney General Phill Kline. WIBW-AM reports that the hearing for Sarah Peterson Herr was scheduled Tuesday for December 20. Herr posted the comments last November 15 while Kline was appearing before the Kansas Supreme Court in a disciplinary hearing. The court was considering whether to suspend Kline's law license for his conduct during investigations of abortion providers while he was attorney general and Johnson County district attorney. Herr apologized and was fired a few days later. She had worked since 2010 for a Court of Appeals judge and was promoted the following year to research attorney.


Suspect Faces Trial in Killing of Kansas Dog Expert

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A Missouri man has been ordered to stand trial in last year's killing of a well-known dog breeder from Kansas City, Kansas. The Kansas City Star reports that a Wyandotte County judge on Wednesday bound 50-year-old Darrell Lee Broxton over for trial on charges of first-degree murder, theft and auto burglary. Broxton, of Kansas City, Missouri, is accused in the December 2012 death of 69-year-old Peter Belmont Jr. in the older man's Kansas City, Kan., home. A doctor testified during the preliminary hearing that Belmont had been attacked with a sharp implement, such as a hatchet. Belmont raised Afghan hounds and was internationally known on the dog show circuit as a judge and handler. He had also taught art in the city's public schools for many years before retiring.


Man Gets 10 Years for Sex Crime Committed While at Larned

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A 39-year-old Kansas man has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for an Internet sex crime he committed while confined as a sexual predator at Larned State Hospital. Mark D. Brull was sentenced Wednesday after pleading guilty in July to one count of transferring obscene materials to a minor. Prosecutors say Brull gave co-defendant Ryan Dancosse passwords to Brull's profiles on social networking sites and Dancosse uploaded pornographic images to Brull's accounts. Brull started communicating with the teen by telephone and email in 2011 and guided him to the images, which Brull and the boy would discuss. Prosecutors say the teen also sent lewd pictures of himself, which Dancosse would describe to Brull. Dancosse has pleaded guilty to receiving child pornography and is to be sentenced October 2.


Report: Kansas Corn Crop Maturing Slowly

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A new report from the National Agricultural Statistics Service shows the Kansas corn crop maturing far more slowly than normal. The agency said in its weekly update Tuesday that just 4 percent of the crop has matured, well behind last year's figure of 60 percent and an early-September average of 33 percent. Corn condition is rated as 30 percent poor to very poor, while 31 percent is considered in fair shape. About 32 percent of the crop is in good condition, and 7 percent is rated excellent. About 30 percent of the sorghum is turning color now. About 83 percent of the soybeans are setting pods.

4 Kansans Plead Guilty in Mortgage Fraud Case

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Four Wichita residents have pleaded guilty in a mortgage fraud scheme that cost lenders hundreds of thousands of dollars. The U.S. Attorney's Office in Wichita announced Tuesday that the four defendants admitted to conspiring with another man to make false statements in prepared loan applications. That allowed money to be transferred to buy homes in Wichita. KAKE-TV reports that the four are Christopher Ginyard; Henry Pearson Jr.; Janice Young and Henry Pearson Sr. In their pleas, the four admitted to conspiring with co-defendant Manjur Alam, who prepared the loan applications. Sentencing is set for November 25. They each face a maximum penalty of 30 years in federal prison and a fine up to $1 million.


Police: No Foul Play in Death of Missouri Runner

LIBERTY, Mo. (AP) — Authorities in northwest Missouri say a 30-year-old man who disappeared after going for a run in July died of natural causes. The body of Chad Rogers was discovered inside a portable toilet near a Liberty construction site on July 26, four days after he left his home in the Kansas City suburb for an evening run. Liberty police said Wednesday the Jackson County (Missouri) medical examiner's office found no signs of foul play. The precise cause of his death was not released. Rogers was an avid runner and a former youth minister at a Jefferson City church. Family members said he had been a stay-at-home dad since moving back to Liberty recently with his wife and 1-year-old son. His disappearance had triggered a massive search by hundreds of friends and volunteers.


Police Investigate KCK Woman's Shooting Death

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Police are looking for a gunman who shot and killed a woman inside a northeast Kansas City, Kansas house. Officers responding to reports of a shooting about 2:20 am Wednesday found the woman dead in the home. The woman, in her early 20s, was shot several times. The gunman was gone when officers arrived. Police did not release suspect information.

Kansas Woman Gets Jail, Probation in Infant's Death

PITTSBURG, Kan. (AP) — A judge has ordered a southeast Kansas woman to spend 30 days in jail followed by three years' probation for the death of her 4-month-old son. KOAM-TV reports 25-year-old Heather Buckalew, of Arma, was sentenced Tuesday in Crawford County District Court. Buckalew pleaded no contest in July to involuntary manslaughter in the death of Memphis Cash Harvey in August 2012. Prosecutors believe the baby was smothered when Buckalew rolled over onto him while they were sleeping. Investigators said the mother was inebriated at the time. Buckalew was initially charged with second-degree murder, but the judge reduced the charge to involuntary manslaughter.


Kansas Trio to Join Talks on Future of Amtrak Line

GARDEN CITY, Kan. (AP) — Community leaders from Kansas are meeting with their counterparts from Colorado and New Mexico next week to look for ways to save an Amtrak route through Kansas and Colorado. The Hutchinson News reports that the Colorado Rail Passenger Association is sponsoring the September 14 meeting in Pueblo, Colorado to discuss the future of the Southwest Chief. Amtrak has indicated that it will reroute the line when its contract with BNSF Railway expires in 2015 if track conditions aren't improved in south-central and southwest Kansas. Deteriorating conditions force the Southwest Chief to slow in Kansas on its run between Chicago and Los Angeles. Garden City state Representative John Doll, Garden City Commissioner Janet Doll and Dodge City Mayor Kent Small are expected to represent Kansas at the meeting.


Fort Hood Shooter Forcibly Shaved in Prison

FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (AP) — The Army psychiatrist sentenced to death for the Fort Hood shooting rampage has been forcibly shaved. Major Nidal Hasan began growing a beard in the years after the November 2009 shooting that left 13 dead and 30 wounded. The beard prompted delays to his court-martial because it violated Army grooming regulations. Hasan is at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, home to the military death row. Lieutenant Colonel S. Justin Platt, an Army spokesman, said in a statement Tuesday that Hasan had been shaved. Officials at Fort Leavenworth previously had said Hasan would be subject to Army regulations. The dispute over the beard had led to the ouster of the original judge in his court-martial. The new judge had allowed Hasan to keep it at his trial last month.


Wichita State Men's Basketball Player Hospitalized

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita State University basketball player D.J. Bowles will undergo tests to determine why he blacked out at practice. Bowles, a freshman guard, was taken to a Wichita hospital Tuesday night after collapsing during a workout at Koch Arena. Assistant athletic director Larry Rankin says Bowles was stable and talking when he was taken to Via Christi on St. Francis. Bowles' father, Darren Bowles, says his 18-year-old son is scheduled to undergo tests at the hospital on Wednesday. Bowles is from Chattanooga, Tennessee but played last season at Oldsmar Christian High School in Florida.


Salina Man Loses Over $1,000 in Work Scam

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — A 33-year-old Salina man is out more than $1,000 in a work scam but his loss could have been much worse. The Salina Journal reports that the man answered an online ad for a position with Shell Global and was later told he got the job but would have to send $900 for a work permit. The man sent the money through Moneygram, which charged him a $61 fee. He then was notified that he would need housing and told to wire $1,800 for the housing option he picked. The man paid a $93 fee to send the money before calling Shell Global and being told the offer was a scam. He stopped the transfer of the $1,800 and got that back, but still had to pay the fee.


Hall Foundation Pledges $75 Million to Hospital

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Hall Family Foundation has committed $75 million to Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City to build a medical research building but only if voters approve a half-cent sales tax for such research. Jackson County (Missouri) residents will vote on the proposed sales tax in November. It would raise an estimated $800 million for medical research over 20 years. The Kansas City Star reported that the commitment announced Wednesday would be the largest pledge ever made by the private foundation started by the Hall family, founders of Hallmark Cards Inc. Donald J. Hall, chairman of the Hall Family Foundation, said in a statement that the $75 million would be used for constructing the building, which would allow the sales tax revenue to be used to hire scientists, researchers and support staff.


MO Business Owner Sentenced for Tax Fraud

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A northwest Missouri businessman has been sentenced to two years and three months in federal prison without parole for filing false income tax returns while maintaining an extravagant lifestyle. The U.S. Attorney's office says 49-year-old Christopher Huffman, of Lexington, Missouri was also ordered on Tuesday to pay $484,505 in restitution. Huffman, the owner of IG Construction, admitted in February that he under reported the gross receipts for his business for tax years 2006 through 2008. He claimed business expenses almost equal to his gross receipts, making his reported income low enough to claim the earned income tax credit. During those years, Huffman owned a 4,000-square-foot house with a 13-car garage that he valued at $1.6 million. Huffman under-reported his gross receipts by a total of $1.3 million.


Man Sentenced in Pittsburg Killing

PITTSBURG, Kan. (AP) — A southeast Kansas man has been sentenced to more than seven years in prison for his role in the death of a Pittsburg man three years ago. Forty-one-year-old Charles F. Mitchell of Pittsburg was sentenced Tuesday for in the death of 29-year-old Ian P. Monaghan. Mitchell and 33-year-old Amie Lee Ryburn were originally charged with first-degree murder after Monaghan was found shot to death in July 2010 in a field two miles west of Pittsburg. The Joplin Globe reports that Ryburn, who was the person who shot Monaghan, pleaded guilty earlier this year to second-degree murder and manufacturing methamphetamine. She was sentenced to more than 25 years in prison. Witnesses testified at a preliminary hearing that Ryburn lured Monaghan to the field because she thought he was a confidential informant.

KC Police: Man Dies After Being Shot by Homeowner

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Police say a homeowner in northern Kansas City shot and killed an armed man who broke into his home while being chased by several law enforcement agencies. Kansas City police spokesman Captain Tye Grant says a man in his early 20s was killed early Wednesday. Grant says the man had stolen three vehicles before eventually fleeing on foot. The man then tried to steal a car from a man who was outside his house. That man fought him off and the suspect broke into a nearby home. The homeowner, whose wife and baby were also in the house, fought the intruder and eventually shot him. Grant says the intruder died inside the house.


Kansas Senate Expected to OK Appeals Court Nominee

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Senate is expected to confirm Governor Sam Brownback's nomination of his chief counsel to the state Court of Appeals. Senators planned to vote Wednesday afternoon or evening on the appointment of Caleb Stegall to the state's second-highest court. The Senate Judiciary Committee approved the nomination Tuesday. Brownback's fellow conservative Republicans have a supermajority in the Senate, and none of them has publicly expressed misgivings about Stegall's nomination. Majority Leader Terry Bruce said during the Judiciary Committee's confirmation hearing that Stegall is well-qualified. The 41-year-old Stegall was Jefferson County's elected prosecutor for two years before joining Brownback's staff in January 2011. He also was an attorney in private practice. Senate Democratic Leader Anthony Hensley has called the appointment cronyism, but Brownback says Stegall is "a sharp legal mind."

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



Top KS Senate Democrat Questions Court Appointment


TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Senate's top Democrat is calling Republican Governor Sam Brownback's nomination of his chief counsel to the state Court of Appeals a political maneuver. But the GOP-dominated Senate was expected Wednesday to confirm Caleb Stegall's appointment to the state's second-highest court by a wide margin.Minority Leader Anthony Hensley of Topeka said the appointment represents political cronyism. But Judiciary Committee Chairman and Independence Republican Jeff King said Stegall is well-qualified. King predicted that Stegall will be a strong asset to the court. The 41-year-old Stegall was Jefferson County's elected prosecutor for two years before joining Brownback's staff in January 2011. He also was an attorney in private practice. A bipartisan group of prominent attorneys wrote letters of recommendation for Stegall, including former Democratic Attorney General Steve Six.


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


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