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Headlines for Friday, December 21, 2018

Report: Kansas Needs to Fix Troubled Child Welfare System

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A new report by a coalition of legislators and advocates says Kansas must fix its troubled child welfare system now or more vulnerable children will suffer.  The Kansas City Star reported Thursday's document details problems ranging from racial disparities in children removed from their homes to children lingering in state custody too long. The group spent the past year hosting town halls.  A recent review of the Kansas Department for Children and Families also exposed high caseloads, alarming turnover and lack of timely training. At the same time, a record number of children have been in foster care.  Among the coalition's recommendations is to improve funding for food stamp benefits and other programs targeting needy families. It advocates for keeping more children in their homes and addressing the racial disparity.  Read more about this story from the Kansas News Service.

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Kelly, Koch Industries Agree on Need for Kansas Prison Reform

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Incoming Kansas Governor Laura Kelly and Wichita-based Koch Industries agree that the state's prison system needs reform in response to an increasing inmate population. Kelly has said in recent public comments that she wants the state's prison reform to mirror recently-passed federal legislation addressing sentencing laws for low-level offenders — legislation that Wichita-based Koch Industries strongly supported. The discussion comes as the state's prison system experienced its largest increase in inmates in a decade and the inmate population is projected to exceed capacity within the next couple years, The Wichita Eagle reported . The U.S. Congress passed a bill this week that expands rehabilitation programs, which could result in shorter sentences for non-violent federal offenders. President Donald Trump signed the bill Friday. Koch Industries also supported Gov. Jeff Colyer's executive order in May prohibiting state agencies from asking job applicant's about their criminal record during the initial stage of the application process. Kansas's male inmate population will exceed capacity in fiscal year 2020, which begins July 1, 2019, according to projections from the Department of Corrections. The state's prison population is forecast to grow by more than 2,000 inmates during the next 10 years, an increase of nearly 21 percent, according to the Kansas Sentencing Commission. As of June, Kansas prisons housed 9,973 inmates. By 2028, that number is projected to rise to 12,054. The number of inmates sentenced for drug offenses is expected to grow at an even faster pace, with an additional 439 drug-offense inmates by 2028, a nearly 29 percent increase, the commission said. But Ed Klumpp, a lobbyist for several Kansas law enforcement associations, cautioned that the legal system is not incarcerating a large number of people for simple possession of drugs. Kelly might find bipartisan support for changing sentencing laws. Rep. Russ Jennings, a Lakin Republican who chairs the House Corrections and Juvenile Justice Committee, agreed the prison system faces serious capacity issues, which could eventually trigger federal intervention. A coalition of groups called Kansans for Smart Justice is working for broad prison reforms, contending the state's criminal justice system needlessly incarcerates people and works against those trying to make a fresh start. Other reforms could include legislation that standardizes and promotes diversion for non-violent offenders and removes non-violent drug crimes as felonies.

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Minnesota's Caribou Coffee Reports Customer Data Breach at Stores in Kansas, Other States

BROOKLYN CENTER, Minn. (AP) — The parent company of Caribou Coffee and Bruegger's Bagels says hackers gained access to customer information at 265 of its stores, mostly in Minnesota.  The Minnesota-based company says the data breach occurred between August 28 and December 3. Caribou says it's possible that customer name and credit card information may have been taken.  The company didn't say how many people may have been affected. But it says about 200 of the affected stores are in Minnesota, while the rest are in Kansas, Iowa, Colorado, Wisconsin, South Dakota, North Dakota, North Carolina, Florida and Georgia.  The company says payments made through Caribou Coffee Perks accounts or other loyalty accounts weren't affected, nor were orders placed online with associated bagel shops.  Caribou says it believes the breach has been contained but advises customers to monitor their credit card statements and credit reports.

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Affidavit: Kansas Football Player Punched Woman in Stomach

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — An affidavit alleges University of Kansas football player Pooka Williams punched a woman in the stomach and grabbed her by the throat earlier this month.  The Lawrence Journal-World reported the 18-year-old woman showed the officer text messages from Williams admitting to punching her in the arms during the December 5 incident. The document says the officer also found the victim had bruises on her arms and side.  Williams reportedly told police that he pushed the woman when he saw her in a room with other men at an apartment building. Both have said they were in an intimate relationship.  His attorney entered a not guilty to a misdemeanor charge of domestic battery during a December 7 court hearing.  Coach Les Miles says Pooka is suspended pending investigation.  Williams, a freshman running back from New Orleans, received several national and Big 12 honors during the 2018 season.

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Kansas Man Who Set Boss on Fire Loses Appeal of Conviction

LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (AP) — A former hospital worker at Fort Leavenworth who tried to kill his boss by setting her on fire has lost an appeal of his conviction. The Kansas City Star reports Clifford Currie was convicted of assault with intent to commit murder for the September 2016 attack on First Lt. Katie Blanchard. She was seriously burned during an attack at the Munson Army Health Center at Fort Leavenworth. Currie, now 56, was a civilian employee there. Currie was sentenced last year to 20 years in federal prison. Currie argued in his appeal that the prosecutor made several improper statements during his trial. The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Friday that some of the prosecutor's statements were improper but they didn't violate Currie's right to a fair trial.

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Pickup Driver Takes Kansas Officers on Four-County Chase

PARSONS, Kan. (AP) _ A 24-year-old man is jailed after a two-day police chase that ran through four Kansas counties on roads and through fields at speeds sometimes over 100 mph. Kansas Highway Patrol spokesman Chad Crittenden said the chase started Wednesday night when officers received a report of a stolen vehicle and potential kidnapping near Parsons. Troopers lost site of the truck but the chase resumed Thursday when Pratt County officials saw the truck. The Hutchinson News reports Crittenden said the chase went through fields, county roads and highways in Pratt, Kiowa, Edwards and Pawnee counties. The chase ended in an Edwards County field when the driver hit a vehicle that had been placed in its path. Dakota Dean Demeritt is jailed in Pratt County on $200,000 bond facing several potential charges. 
    
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Ex-Boyfriend of Slain Wichita State Student Gets Life Term

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas State University student has been sentenced to life in prison plus 43 months for killing his ex-girlfriend who was studying psychology at Wichita State University.  The Wichita Eagle reports that 29-year-old Dane Owens was sentenced Thursday for first-degree felony murder and aggravated burglary in the 2016 death of 22-year-old Rowena Irani.  Prosecutors say Owens parked his truck several houses away from her Wichita home and shot her in the head when she walked around a corner. He then threw her cellphone in one pond and his gun in another.  Her mother found her several hours later, and she died the next day. The defense said the shooting wasn't intentional.  Irani was a native of Pakistan who moved to Wichita at age 10 and later became a U.S. citizen.

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Woman Sentenced for Role in Killing of Pregnant Kansas Woman

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A 26-year-old Kansas City, Kansas, woman has been sentenced to nearly 11 years in prison for her role in the robbery and killing of a pregnant woman and her unborn child. The Kansas City Star reports Alora Mendoza was sentenced to 10 years and 11 months for reckless second-degree murder in the deaths of 23-year-old Joselyn Ybarra. She pleaded guilty in November. Ybarra was killed on June 2. Relatives say Ybarra was 12 weeks pregnant when she was killed. Mendoza admitted that she set up Ybarra to be robbed by a co-defendant. Ybarra was shot by the co-defendant during the robbery attempt.

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Sprint to Pay NY State $330M in Suit over Unpaid Sales Taxes

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — New York state officials say Sprint will pay $330 million to settle a lawsuit that accused the telecommunication company of dodging more than $100 million in state and local taxes. Attorney General Barbara Underwood and Acting Tax Commissioner Nonie Manion said Friday the agreement resolves a tax enforcement case brought in 2011. The suit said Sprint violated the New York False Claim Act for nearly a decade by knowingly failing to collect and remit sales taxes owed on flat-rate wireless calling plans sold to New Yorkers. Sprint spokeswoman Lisa Belot says the Overland Park, Kansas-based company disagrees with the state's characterizations but is pleased with the settlement and believes it's in Sprint's best interests. State officials say a whistleblower in the case will receive nearly $63 million of the settlement.

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Gang Member Sentenced to 55 Years in Wichita Killing

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita gang member has been sentenced to more than 55 years in prison for killing another man.  The Wichita Eagle reports that 31-year-old Emmanuel Reed was sentenced Wednesday for second-degree murder and criminal possession of a firearm by a convicted felon in the death of 30-year-old Bretodd Williams.  Prosecutors say an eyewitness told police that he saw the men talking before hearing "what sounded like fireworks exploding." An autopsy report says Williams was shot several times, including in the left cheek, chest and back. Authorities arrested Reed near a Payless shoe store in the area after police say he was seen going into a nearby QuikTrip in one set of clothes and leaving in another.  Police said previously that both men were documented gang members and knew one another.

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Kevin Yoder: Trump's Message Falls Flat in Suburbs

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — Outgoing Republican Kansas Congressman Kevin Yoder says President Donald Trump's message and style fall flat with suburban voters, particularly woman.  The Kansas City Star reports that Yoder spoke to the paper's editorial board in the waning days of representing a district that includes a mix of Kansas City suburbs and poorer city neighborhoods. He lost in November to Democrat Sharice Davids, a Native American and LGBT lawyer, making him among dozens of suburban Republicans being swept out of office.  Yoder says criticizing the president wouldn't work. He said that voting for something the president supports, brands lawmakers as Trump backers.  He says he stylizes himself as a peacemaker, not a bomb thrower. He says the most successful people are the ones who go on talk shows and say incendiary things.

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Alabama Asks Supreme Court to Review Abortion Ruling

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Alabama is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review the state's attempt to ban the most commonly used procedure in second-trimester abortions.  State lawmakers voted in 2016 to ban the abortion procedure known as dilation and evacuation. A federal judge blocked the law as an unconstitutional restriction on abortion access.  Attorney General Steve Marshall's office asked the high court Thursday to review an August ruling by the 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in upholding that decision.  Courts have blocked similar laws in Kansas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Texas, and Arkansas.  Court records show 93 percent of abortions in Alabama occur before 15 weeks of pregnancy. For the 7 percent of abortions that occur later, 99 percent are by dilation and evacuation.  A statement from Marshall's office calls the procedure "dismemberment abortion."  Kansas lawmakers who passed a similar ban on the procedure also referred to it as "dismemberment abortion."  

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Fewer Athletes from Kansas Competing at Junior College Level

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The number of Kansas high school athletes who go on to compete at the state's junior colleges has plummeted since out-of-state roster restrictions were eliminated.  The Wichita Eagle reports that the number of Kansas football players in the Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference has declined by 80 percent, from 318 in 2016 to 64 this season.  Before the rule change, Kansas kids made up around 67 percent of the conference. Now, there are more players from Georgia, 114; and Florida, 90. Kansas kids make up just 11 percent of the Jayhawk Conference.  In basketball, Kansas participation in the last two years has declined by 53 percent in men's basketball and 28 percent in women's basketball.  Wichita Northwest coach Steve Martin said he fought the change because he "saw this coming."

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Missouri Judge Refuses to Overturn $4.7 Billion Talc Powder Verdict

ST. LOUIS (AP) — A Missouri judge has denied Johnson & Johnson's bid to overturn a $4.7 billion jury verdict awarded to 22 women who said the company's talcum powder contributed to their ovarian cancer.  St. Louis Circuit Judge Rex Burlison, in a ruling Wednesday, cited evidence of what he called "particularly reprehensible conduct" by Johnson & Johnson.  Burlison wrote that company executives knew of the presence of asbestos in the baby powder but misrepresented the safety of the product.  A jury in July awarded $4.14 billion in punitive damages and $550 million in compensatory damages after a six-week trial.  Johnson & Johnson said in a statement that it will appeal. The company says Burlison has denied similar motions in prior cases that were ultimately overturned.

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Farmer Pleads Guilty to $140 Million in False Organic Grain Sales

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (AP) — A farmer who owned an Iowa grain brokerage has pleaded guilty to falsely marketing $140 million dollars' worth of corn, soybeans and wheat as "certified organic."  Sixty-one-year-old Randy Constant of Chillicothe, Missouri, pleaded guilty to wire fraud Thursday under a plea agreement with federal prosecutors in Cedar Rapids.  Constant faces a potential prison sentence of 12 years or more, but that could be reduced at sentencing due to his ongoing cooperation.  The deal calls for Constant to forfeit $128 million, but his lawyer says he's broke.  Attorney Mark Weinhardt says Constant's profit was a tiny fraction of the $140 million in total sales and mostly supported a sustainable fish production company that has failed.  Weinhardt says Constant "accepts full responsibility" for falsely representing that grain he sold was organic.  Read more about this story at HarvestPublicMedia..org.

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Man Sentenced for Shooting 17-Year-Old Girl with Rifle

MAYETTA, Kan. (AP) — An 18-year-old Mayetta man was sentenced to five years in prison for using a rifle to shoot a 17-year-old girl, who survived. Jackson County Attorney Shawna Miller says Lance Bailey was sentenced Thursday for aggravated battery and two counts of aggravated assault. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports Bailey will be on three years of post-release supervision and must register as a violent offender for 15 years. Bailey pleaded guilty last month as part of an agreement that dismissed a charge of attempted murder. Jackson County Sheriff Tim Morse said Bailey opened fire when a car carrying three girls arrived at the home on the Potawatomi Reservation west of Mayetta. The 17-year-old girl was shot twice as she stood in the driveway. Morse said Bailey and the girl had a previous altercation.

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Willie Murrell, Former K-State Basketball Star, Dead at 78

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Willie Murrell, the former Kansas State basketball star who is one of two Wildcats with career averages of more than 20 points and 10 rebounds, has died.  He was 78.  Murrell died December 6 in Colorado.  The 6-foot-6 forward averaged 20.6 points and 10.7 rebounds in 54 games in two seasons with the Wildcats, joining Bob Boozer as the only Wildcats to post 20-10 career marks.  Murrell played for Kansas State from 1962-64 after transferring from Eastern Oklahoma A&M. He helped the Tex Winter-coached Wildcats to a 38-16 overall record, including two Big Eight Conference titles and a Final Four appearance in 1964. His No. 44 jersey was retired and raised to the rafters at Bramlage Coliseum in 2009.  Murrell went on to play three seasons in the American Basketball Association, averaging 13.1 points and 5.1 rebounds with Denver, Miami and Kentucky.

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Royals General Manager Dayton Moore Visits Kansas Inmates

ELLSWORTH, Kan. (AP) — Kansas City Royals general manager Dayton Moore has been making holiday visits to Kansas inmates.  The Kansas City Star reports that Moore stopped Wednesday at the Ellsworth Correctional Facility. Moore talked about his Christian faith, his family and took questions from an audience of about 200 for more than an hour. During his visit, Moore put his hand on one inmate's shoulder and prayed with him.  Moore said God "is not impressed with the general manager of a baseball team." He says, "It's our job, it's our responsibility, to use that gift as a platform to help others."  He also made a stop Tuesday at the prison in Larned with Matt Fulks, director of Moore's "C'' You In The Major Leagues Foundation, which seeks to promote character and community.  

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