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Headlines for Friday, November 16, 2018

Lawsuit: Kansas Foster Care System Policies Harming Children 

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) _ A federal lawsuit says foster children in Kansas are shuffled between homes and facilities so much that they can be essentially rendered homeless while in state custody.  The Kansas City Star reported that a class action lawsuit filed Friday on behalf of 10 children by local advocates and two children's rights groups alleges children are treated so poorly in the foster care system that they suffer mentally or run away. It says some have been sexually abused. A 10-year-old spent three months in a series of night-to-night placements during which he never knew where he would be sleeping. Another boy has had more than 130 placements during the six years he has been in state care.  Kansas officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

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Kansas AG Wants to End Elections Chief's Prosecution Power

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas's attorney general is proposing to strip the secretary of state's office of its power to prosecute election fraud cases. The proposal from Attorney General Derek Schmidt comes less than four years after fellow Republican and Secretary of State Kris Kobach persuaded legislators to grant him prosecutorial power. Kobach became the first secretary of state in the nation to have such power in July 2015. Schmidt announced the proposal Friday, and Secretary of State-elect Scott Schwab said he supports it. The GOP-controlled Legislature would consider the measure after convening its next annual session in January. Kobach will leave the secretary of state's office in January after an unsuccessful run for governor. He had argued that the attorney general and local prosecutors were often too busy to handle election fraud cases.

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Attorney: US Attorney's Office in Kansas Stalled Investigation 

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A court-appointed attorney investigating the use of secretly recorded conversations between prisoners and their attorneys says he was stunned and disappointed when he realized the U.S. Attorney's office in Kansas was not cooperating with his investigation. David Cohen, an Ohio attorney who was appointed by a federal judge to investigate the matter, testified Friday that he initially believed federal prosecutors were gathering information to help his investigation. He said it was only after several months that he realized that was not true. Cohen was responding to testimony earlier in the day from Tom Beall, who was acting U.S. attorney in Kansas in the early months of the investigation into whether prosecutors had improperly listened to the recordings. Beall insisted that his office had not tried to delay or circumvent Cohen's investigation. Cohen testified at a hearing on a motion to declare the government in contempt for its conduct during the probe.

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Suspected Truck Thief Drives Wrong Way on I-70; KHP Seeks Witnesses

The Kansas Highway Patrol says a suspected truck thief has been apprehended after leading troopers on a chase down Interstate 70 in Wabaunsee County.  Just after 11 o'clock this (FRI) morning, troopers near the Maple Hill exit began pursuing a stolen work truck out of Colorado. The suspect driver fled eastbound on I-70 toward Topeka, passing other vehicles on the shoulder.  The suspect then drove through the median and into oncoming traffic.  At that point, the Highway Patrol suspended its pursuit.  The suspect continued to travel eastbound in the westbound lanes of I-70 and traveled head-on toward a Wabaunsee County sheriff's deputy who was driving with his emergency lights activated. The deputy took evasive maneuvers to avoid a head-on collision with the work truck.  The suspect later fled the truck on foot, but was captured hiding near a residence on Carlson Road.  The suspect has been booked into the Wabaunsee County jail and charges are pending.  State troopers are hoping to speak with motorists who may have witnessed these events, especially any victims on I-70 who may have been forced to swerve out of the way because of the on-coming stolen truck driving the wrong way.  If you or someone you know witnessed this event, please contact the Kansas Highway Patrol at (785) 296-3102.

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Jury Finds Kansas Sheriff Not Guilty of Mistreating Suspect

GREAT BEND, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas jury took less than 15 minutes to find Barton County Sheriff Brian Bellendir not guilty of a misdemeanor for allegedly slapping a handcuffed man. The Hutchinson News reported that the verdict Friday followed a three-day trial in a case the sheriff has called a "politically motivated witch hunt" by the county attorney's office. Questions to the county attorney's office were referred to an attorney who was gone for the day. The defense attorney told jurors the sheriff slapped the suspect in a propane theft on the back of the head as someone would do a child. Bellendir says that was a mistake on his part, but did not rise to the level of mistreatment of a confined person. Jurors watched body cam footage of the slap.

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2 Small Airlines Raise Concerns over KC Airport Project

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Two small airlines are protesting the price tag involved in funding the new single terminal project at Kansas City International Airport.  The Kansas City Star reports that executives at Spirit and Allegiant airlines outlined their concerns in letters to the Kansas City Council Airport Committee, citing the $1.6 billion project price and cost-sharing issues.  The airline executives were not at Thursday's committee meeting.  Mayor Sly James says the dispute includes how to pay for a $20 million baggage claim system. But James says the city will "push forward" with the project.  Voters approved the project last year, but the cost is supposed to be borne by airlines that use the airport. The project will create a single terminal to replace the three horseshoe-style buildings at Kansas City's main airport.

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67 Inmates Seek Kansas Prison Release over Secret Recordings

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — The federal public defender's office has asked for 67 inmates to be released from federal prison and plans to also seek freedom for more than 150 others because authorities at a Kansas prison secretly recorded conversations between the prisoners and their attorneys that are supposed to be private.  Most of the federal inmates are being held in drug or firearms-related cases.  The practice first came to light in a prison contraband case during which criminal defense lawyers discovered the privately-run Leavenworth Detention Center was routinely recording meetings and phone conversations between attorneys and their clients. A court-appointed expert was brought in to independently investigate.  A judge will hear arguments on a motion to have the government declared in contempt for its conduct during the probe.

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Governor-Elect Laura Kelly Senses "Momentum" in Kansas Toward Medical Marijuana

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Could Kansas soon join the growing list of states allowing medical marijuana?  The election of Democrat Laura Kelly puts a medical marijuana supporter in the governor's seat, and she recently said she senses "some momentum" among legislators to legalize medical marijuana with strict regulations, The Kansas City Star reported.  Medical marijuana bills have been considered without success for years in Kansas, even though several surrounding states allow recreational or medical marijuana. Missouri voters on November 6 approved a ballot measure allowing for medical marijuana, joining nearly three dozen states.  The election of a supporter "will definitely change the conversation" in Kansas, said Esau Freeman, spokesman for the pro-legalization group Kansas for Change. Freeman said conservatives who may be skeptical or opposed should consider that Kelly is focused on medical, rather than recreational, use.  "We've had eight years with a governor who would not even hear of it, and now we have a governor who has indicated, if it falls within the right perimeters, that she would sign a bill," Freeman said.  (Read more about this story.)

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Sedgwick County's New GOP Chairman Reveals He's Gay

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The chairman of the Republican organization in Kansas's second-most populous county says he decided to come out as gay after a back-channel campaign against him. Dalton Glasscock is a 24-year-old former congressional aide to U.S. Rep. Ron Estes who was recently elected chairman of Sedgwick County Republicans. Glasscock told the Wichita Eagle Thursday that he decided to come out after those opposing him circulated texts and emails to precinct committee members identifying him as "homosexual." Glasscock says his decision is worth it if it inspires even one other young person to be honest about their sexual orientation. Glasscock says he looks forward to bringing new energy and unity to the part.

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Militia Men Convicted of Garden City Bomb Plot Try to Bar Somali Videos

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Attorneys for three Kansas militia members convicted of plotting to bomb a mosque and apartment complex housing Somali immigrants in a western Kansas meatpacking town have asked the court to bar at sentencing any victim impact statements because no one was hurt.  Prosecutors say the men are trying to "minimize their actions and de-personalize their crimes.  The dispute has derailed a two-day sentencing hearing that was scheduled to begin Monday. U.S. District Judge Eric Melgren is expected to set a new sentencing date after conferring with attorneys Thursday.  A jury convicted Patrick Stein, Gavin Wright and Curtis Allen of one count of conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction and one count of conspiracy against civil rights in April. Wright was also found guilty of lying to the FBI.

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Ex-Massage Therapist Guilty of Secretly Recording Nude Woman in Kansas City

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — A suburban Kansas City massage therapist faces sentencing January 3 after admitting that he secretly recorded video of a woman while she undressed.  The Kansas City Star reports that 32-year-old Daniel Gorski pleaded guilty Thursday to a felony count of breach of privacy. He previously worked as a massage therapist at a chiropractic clinic in Gardner, Kansas.  An investigation began in 2016 after Gorski's girlfriend reported finding a computer flash drive containing images of women undressing or nude. Prosecutors eventually charged Gorski with crimes involving several women, but the additional charges were dismissed as part of a plea agreement on Thursday.  Gorski also pleaded guilty earlier this year in Jefferson County, Kansas, to possession of child pornography.

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Kansas AG: Kris Kobach Not Liable for Exposure of Data on Voters

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas' attorney general is arguing in federal court filings that Secretary of State Kris Kobach should not be held liable for exposing sensitive information about voters.  Attorney General Derek Schmidt also contends that voters have no constitutional right to the privacy of their data.  The Topeka Capital Journal reports that Schmidt's office in recent weeks has filed documents outlining the state's defense of Kobach in a federal lawsuit filed in June by the American Civil Liberties Union.  The information exposed by Kobach's office for 945 Kansas voters included partial Social Security numbers.  The ACLU alleges "reckless maintenance" of the Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program that compares voter registration lists among participating states to look for duplicates.  Kobach is a conservative Republican who lost this year's race for Kansas governor.

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White Official Tells Black Woman he Belongs to "Master Race"

LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (AP) — A white county commissioner in northeast Kansas said he belongs to "the master race" as he critiqued a land-use proposal by a black city planner at a board meeting.  Leavenworth County Commissioner Louis Klemp cited the Nazi ideology of Aryan supremacy Tuesday in response to the presentation by Triveece Penelton on road development options in Tonganoxie, just west of Kansas City.  Klemp told Penelton: "We are part of the master race, don't you forget that."  Commissioner Robert Holland said he was shocked by the comments and that he wants Klemp to resign before his term ends January 15.  Klemp told KSHB-TV off camera that his comment was a joke.  Klemp, who once ran for governor, has come under criticism in the past for making racist comments.

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Kansas City Nurse Donates Kidney, Triggers Transplant Chain

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City nurse decided to donate a kidney to a patient, triggering a series of events that led to three people getting new organs in the first kidney donation chain collaboration between Children's Mercy and University of Kansas hospitals.  The Kansas City Star reports that Children's Mercy nurse Christa Jordan wanted to donate to her patient and friend Victoria "Dayshanae" Hosman, but better matches were found and a kidney donation chain began.  Donation chains start when a donor wants to give to a person but they aren't a good match. The donors can then give to someone they match with but don't know.  Jordan and Hosman met the other donors and recipients at Children's Mercy Wednesday following the six surgeries conducted on October 29 and October 30.

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Western Kansas Crash Kills 2 from Minnesota, 1 from Kansas

WELLSFORD, Kan. (AP) — Authorities have identified the three people killed when two tractor-trailers collided head-on in southwest Kansas and caught on fire.  The Kansas Highway Patrol says the crash happened early Wednesday when the rig that 55-year-old Gary Heald, of Fergus Falls, Minnesota, was driving crossed the center line on U.S. Highway 54 near the town of Wellsford in Kiowa County. He then rammed the rig that 38-year-old Justin Wise, of Arkansas City, Kansas, was driving.  Both drivers were killed, along with 56-year-old Cheryl Thoma, who was a passenger in Heald's rig. She also was from Fergus Falls, Minnesota.  The highway was closed for several hours after the crash. One truck was empty and the other was carrying pork products.

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Kansas Man Who Grew Marijuana in Park Sentenced to Prison

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A 55-year-old Kansas man who was growing marijuana on an island in the Neosho River has been sentenced to more than five years in prison.  U.S. Attorney Stephen McAllister said Scott Joseph Skibo, of Chetopa, was sentenced Thursday for unlawful possession of a firearm following a felony conviction.  Prosecutors say Skibo admitted he was growing a marijuana garden when investigators had him under surveillance. He fled in a boat when law enforcement officers tried to arrest him.  Officers pursued them in their boat for about a half mile before he surrendered. Investigators found about 50 marijuana plants, a loaded .40 caliber Glock handgun, spare ammunition and other items with him in the boat.

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U.S. Senate Confirms Kansas Bank Regulator Miki Bowman for Fed Reserve Board

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Senate on Thursday confirmed Michelle Bowman, a Kansas banking regulator, as a member of the Federal Reserve board.  Bowman was approved on a 64-34 vote to fill the spot on the seven-member board reserved for someone with community banking experience.  With her confirmation, President Donald Trump has now filled three vacant seats on the Fed board. He also nominated Jerome Powell to be Fed chairman, choosing not to tap former Fed Chair Janet Yellen for a second term.  Trump in recent weeks has leveled pointed attacks on the Fed's effort to raise interest rates to keep the economy from overheating, calling it his "biggest threat." The Fed has hiked rates three times this year and is expected to do so again in December.  Powell, speaking Wednesday night to an audience in Dallas, addressed Trump's criticism without mentioning the president. He said that the Fed's accountability was really to Congress, which created the central bank more than a century ago. Congress has directed the Fed to pursue the goals of maximum employment and stable prices.  "We have a very important job that Congress has assigned us and we have the tools to do it," Powell said. "We're just trying to do our jobs and we're doing fine."

Trump's other choices have included Columbia University professor Richard Clarida for Fed vice chairman and Utah investment banker Randal Quarles for the Fed's vice chairman for bank supervision.  Carnegie Mellon University professor Marvin Goodfriend was nominated for another vacancy on the Fed board, but that selection has run into opposition and has not been brought up for a vote by the full Senate.  The president's latest nomination was of Nellie Liang, a longtime Fed official who headed up the financial stability division that the Fed created in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. Liang's efforts on bank regulation have raised questions among some Republican lawmakers.

Bowman is a fifth-generation banker from Council Grove, Kansas, who became Kansas banking commissioner, the state's top banking regulator, in January 2017.  The president has had the chance in his first two years in office to make selections for six of the Fed's seven seats. Lael Brainard is the only Fed board member not chosen or re-nominated by Trump.

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Man Pleads Guilty to Running over Wichita Police Officer

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The man accused of running over a Wichita police officer last year has pleaded guilty.  Justin Terrazas pleaded guilty Wednesday to aggravated battery and other charges.  Prosecutors say Terrazas ran over officer Brian Arterburn while fleeing in a stolen vehicle in February 2017.  Terrazas will be sentenced January 14.  KAKE-TV reports District Attorney Marc Bennett said the state and defense have agreed to a 39.5-year prison sentence.  Arterburn, a 25-year police veteran, suffered chest, abdomen and brain injuries when the vehicle hit him as he placed spike strips on a road in south Wichita. He spent nearly 10 months in hospitals in Colorado and Texas before returning to Wichita last November.  Earlier this year, the city approved Arterburn's medical retirement.

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GOP Proposal in Ohio Would Ban "Free Speech Zones" on State Campuses

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — The creation of so-called "free speech zones" designated for protests and demonstrations would be prohibited at Ohio's public college campuses under legislation introduced by two Republican lawmakers, who say it's aimed at protecting free speech.   Similar proposals to block campuses from designating such areas have popped up at legislatures around the nation, including this year in Florida and Kansas.  The bill in Ohio was proposed by Representatives Niraj Antani (NEER'-ahj an-TAHN'-ee), of Miamisburg, and Andrew Brenner, of Powell, who leads the Ohio House education committee. Antani argues that the use of "free speech zones" actually restricts speech and unfairly limits students expressing views that are conservative and anti-abortion.  Conservative advocacy groups have challenged the use of such zones, citing First Amendment rights.

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Chronic Alcohol Abuse Blamed in Death of Topeka Inmate

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Complications from chronic alcohol abuse are blamed in the death of a Topeka jail inmate.  The Topeka Capital-Journal on Thursday acquired an autopsy report related to the September 19 death of 55-year-old Ruth Spence. The coroner, citing the chronic alcohol abuse, called the manner of death "natural." No alcohol was found in her blood at the time of her death.  Spence was arrested and booked into the Shawnee County Jail on September 18 for allegedly driving under the influence of alcohol and other crimes. She was found unresponsive in her cell the next day and taken to a hospital, where she died.

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