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Headlines for Friday, November 2, 2018

UPDATE: Judge Rules Additional Polling Site Not in Public Interest

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) —  A federal judge says it is not in the public interest to order a western Kansas county to open another polling site in Dodge City just days before the election. U.S. District Judge Daniel Crabtree said in a written ruling Thursday evening that the request from the American Civil Liberties Union for an order to open a second polling would likely cause more voter confusion than it might cure. He notes the city has offered for the past 20 years only one polling location for its 13,000 registered voters. But he says that while another location might mitigate concerns about long lines during certain times, the plaintiffs have had 20 years to present that claim. Crabtree wrote he was troubled by Ford County Clerk Deborah Cox's reaction to an ACLU that she forwarded to the Secretary of State's office with the comment "LOL." The ACLU had contended that moving the polling location makes it more difficult for the city's mostly Hispanic population to vote. Cox testified that she moved the polling place because of a planned construction project at the old site that has yet to start. The two sites are nearly 4 miles apart. U.S. Attorney Stephen McAllister has notified a federal judge that his office in Kansas plans to send a monitor to Dodge City to observe voting in next week's election.

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ACLU: Some Kansas Officials Undermine Nonpartisan Voter Help

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The American Civil Liberties Union says some county election officials in Kansas are undermining its nonpartisan efforts to help voters at polling sites — despite a state's attorney general's opinion last month that such voter assistance programs do not constitute "electioneering." ACLU of Kansas field director Ellen Glover said Friday that most of the problems facing its Kansas Election Protection Program are in Johnson County, the state's largest county. Johnson County Election Commissioner Ronnie Metsker did not return messages left at his office. But he wrote in a letter to ACLU that they cannot post signs within 250 feet from any polling location or on county property due to possibility of electioneering. The signs have a hotline number people can call if they encounter problems voting.

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Pence Rallies GOP in KC for Hawley, Kobach

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Vice President Mike Pence has rallied hundreds of fellow Republicans in Kansas City to boost Senate candidate Josh Hawley in Missouri and governor candidate Kris Kobach in Kansas. Pence's speech Friday to a crowd of several hundred people at a Kansas City, Missouri, basketball arena mixed remarks touting President Donald Trump's record with praise for Hawley and Kobach as conservatives. Hawley is the Missouri attorney general and is in a tough race against Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill. Kobach is the Kansas secretary of state and in a dead-heat race against veteran state legislator Laura Kelly. Pence and other speakers portrayed Democrats as favoring open borders. They also touched frequently on McCaskill's vote against confirming U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Trump carried both states easily in 2016.

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Kobach Hits Democrats on Immigration in Missouri GOP Rally

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas Republican Kris Kobach is accusing Democrats of suffering from "open borders psychosis" on illegal immigration in appearing at a rally meant to boost his campaign for governor and GOP Senate candidate Josh Hawley in Missouri.' Kobach is the Kansas secretary of state and spoke at a Friday rally in Kansas City, Missouri, sponsored by the American Conservative Union and the Family Research Council. Several hundred Republican voters and activists attended the event in a basketball arena. Kobach has a national reputation as an advocate of tough immigration policies. He said Democrats are "cheering for more illegal immigrants." While speakers praised Hawley's conservative credentials in his race against Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill. But they also focused on praising President Donald Trump. He carried both Kansas and Missouri in 2016 easily.

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Kobach Echoes Trump on Birthright Citizenship Issue

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) -  Kansas gubernatorial candidate Republican Kris Kobach is echoing President Donald Trump's assertion that Trump can deny U.S. citizenship to babies born to parents living in the country illegally. Kobach's comments Wednesday in a Fox News television interview intensified a focus on immigration in the final days of a close governor's race. Kobach is the Kansas secretary of state and one of Trump's major political allies in the state. He also has made pursuing tough state measures against illegal immigration a cornerstone of his campaign for governor. In backing Trump on whether the president can end birthright citizenship without amending the U.S. Constitution, Kobach broke with some fellow Republicans including U.S House Speaker Paul Ryan. Many legal experts see the issue as long-settled and clearly in violation of the Constitution's 14th Amendment.
   
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Lawsuit: 2 Men Died at Kansas Plant from Superheated Steam

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Two employees were killed when an elevator filled with superheated, "flesh-boiling" steam at a Westar Energy plant in Kansas this summer, according to a federal lawsuit. The lawsuit was filed Wednesday on behalf of the children of Damien Burchett, who died June 3 alongside Jesse Henson at a plant near Topeka. The family is suing three companies that manufactured and maintained the turbine and valve. Westar is not named in the lawsuit. The lawsuit also challenges a $250,000 state limit on compensation for survivors of people who die in on-the-job accidents.  After a three-month shutdown for routine maintenance, two of three steam turbines went back online without incident, but a third turbine didn't have full power, according to the lawsuit. Burchett, of Overbrook, and Henson, of Manhattan, took an elevator to investigate a loss of steam at a safety relief valve, which is supposed to vent steam outside the plant if the pressure gets too high. Investigators determined the steam relief valve had either been ripped apart or failed altogether, allowing the steam to fill the room, according to the lawsuit. The lawsuit names Team Industrial Services, which did the maintenance work; Emerson Electric Co., the manufacturer of the steam valve; and Siemens, which built the turbines.  Kansas law exempts employers from legal action, leaving workers' compensation insurance as the sole remedy, said John Carmichael, an attorney and member of the state House Judiciary Committee. That immunity doesn't extend to subcontractors or the manufacturers of equipment, Carmichael said.

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Kansas Judge Revokes Probation for Former Immigration Agent

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge has revoked the probation for a former agent with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement who sent a Wichita television news anchor sensitive law enforcement material. A court document filed Wednesday shows former agent Andrew J. Pleviak violated terms of his supervised release by having unauthorized contact with a former employee of the Department of Homeland Security. He must now serve 12 months in prison. Pleviak had been sentenced in May to time served and a year of supervised release for exceeding authorized access to a government computer. The government says Pleviak went to the home of his former supervisor on September 9 and banged on the door, but left before a sheriff's deputy arrived. His defense attorney says he has mental health issues.

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Man Dropped Off at Liberal Hospital Dies from Gunshot Wounds

LIBERAL, Kan. (AP) — Police in Liberal are investigating the shooting death of a 27-year-old man. Captain Robert Rogers says Esteban Arzate died early Friday after being dropped off at the Southwest Medical Center suffering from several gunshot wounds. KSN-TV reports police searched a Liberal home later in connection with the death and discovered evidence in the case. Several people are being sought as possible witnesses and an investigation is ongoing.

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Kansas Man Pleads Guilty to Using Customers' Credit Cards

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — The longtime owner of an Olathe barbecue restaurant pleaded guilty to using customers' credit cards to fund spending sprees. Matthew Sander, owner of Smokin' Joe's Bar-B-Q, pleaded guilty Thursday to seven counts of identity theft, four counts of theft and one count of criminal use of a credit card. The Kansas City Star reports a plea agreement calls for Sander to serve a year in prison and make full restitution. Assistant District Attorney Alex Scott said two of the cases Sander pleaded guilty to involved him using credit cards customers had inadvertently left behind at the restaurant. In a third case, Sander stole a woman's purse from her seat at a restaurant bar in Overland Park and used her debit card. He will be sentenced January 9.

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Attorney: FBI Investigating 3 Sedgwick County Commissioners

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — An attorney says the FBI is investigating three Sedgwick County commissioners because they tried to fire County Manager Michael Scholes after he cooperated with an FBI investigation. Lawyer Austin Parker is representing County Counselor Eric Yost. He said Friday that commissioners David Unruh, David Dennis and Michael O'Donnell tried to fire Scholes because he cooperated with an FBI investigation into O'Donnell. The Wichita Eagle reported Parker said some commissioners also are trying to fire Yost, who also has spoken to FBI agents. O'Donnell faces federal charges of wire fraud and money laundering related to his handling of campaign funds in his race for commissioner, and when he was a state senator. He remains on the commission, pending a trial on Jan. 29. Unruh declined to comment. In a statement, Dennis called said Parker's comments were "public unsubstantiated allegations."

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Sexual Predator Recaptured After 12 Days on the Loose

OTTAWA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas authorities say a sexual predator has been recaptured 12 days after he didn't return to a mental health facility. The Miami County Sheriff's office said 38-year-old Jason Michael Hale was taken into custody Friday in Ottawa. The Kansas City Star reports Hale was convicted of sexually assaulting a 5-year-old boy in Shawnee County in 2006. He was later found to be a sexually violent predator and committed to Larned State Hospital. He was living at a transitional housing unit at the Osawatomie State Hospital. The sheriff says he didn't return after being dropped off at his job in Edgerton. Before he was arrested, Paola police say Hale was seen in Gardner buying camping supplies, a bicycle and a mask of the character "Jason" from the Halloween movie.

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Definition of a Lake is Focus of Hearing in Duck Boat Deaths

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (AP) - The legal definition of what constitutes a lake was the focus of a court hearing concerning a tourist boat accident in Missouri that killed 17 people. The Kansas City Star reports a federal judge heard arguments Thursday on whether Table Rock Lake in Branson is a "navigable waterway."  A ruling on that question could determine the scope of damages Ripley Entertainment would be required to pay to survivors or relatives of people who died when a duck boat sank in July on the lake. Ripley, the owner of the Ride the Ducks operation, argues an 1851 law limits the amount of damages it would have to pay - if Table Rock Lake is a navigable waterway. The plaintiffs' attorneys contend the law doesn't apply. The judge did not rule after Thursday's hearing.
 
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Wichita Police to Submit All Rape Kits for Testing

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police say all sexual assault kits will now be submitted for forensic testing, including a backlog of nearly 1,700 kits going back to 2002. Police Chief Gordon Ramsey announced Friday that all the backlogged kits will be submitted by the end of the year. The Wichita Eagle reports that previously, law enforcement officers would determine which kits were sent for testing. Between 2002 and 2015, more than 1,000 rape kits were not submitted by Wichita police. Between 2015 and Friday, a backlog of around 600 rape kits built up. The kits contain DNA taken from women reporting a rape and photos that show their injuries. In April, the Kansas Bureau of Investigation recommended all state law enforcement agencies submit all rape kits for testing.

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Prosecutors: Kansas Man Made 122 Bogus 911 Calls

LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (AP) — A 38-year-old Lawrence man has admitted making more than 100 calls to 911 threatening to commit sexual assaults, which apparently never occurred. Justin Allen Roehrich pleaded no contest on Wednesday to three counts of making a false alarm. The Kansas City Star reports prosecutors said Roehrich made 122 calls to 911 dispatchers in Leavenworth County. He told dispatchers his name was "Jesse." Leavenworth County Attorney Todd Thompson said officers who investigated the calls found no evidence that anyone was harmed or threatened. The charges stem from three calls during which Roehrich said he was going to perform sexual acts on drugged, underage girls.

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Prosecutors Allege Child Porn Found on Justin Rey's Phone

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — Johnson County prosecutors say child pornography was found on the phone of a man accused of dismembering his wife's body last year. Prosecutors filed a motion Thursday seeking court permission to add three counts of sexual exploitation of a child to previous charges against 36-year-old Justin Rey. Rey testified in September that he cut up is wife's body in a Lenexa storage unit. He has said she died at a Missouri hotel in October 2017. Rey is scheduled to go on trial Monday on charges of child endangerment and contributing to a child's misconduct. He also faces charges in Missouri but is not charged in his wife's death. In Thursday's motion, prosecutors say police found the child pornography while searching Rey's phone last month at his request.

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Report: Midwest Economy Expands Despite Tariff Concerns

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — The economy expanded in nine Midwestern and Plains states last month despite mounting concerns about tariffs and trade skirmishes, according to a report released Thursday. The Mid-America Business Conditions Index slumped to 54.9 in October, from 57.5 in September , the report said. The October reading was the lowest since January 2017, but it also was the 23rd month in a row that the index has remained above growth neutral 50.0. "The regional economy continues to expand at a healthy pace," said Creighton University economist Ernie Goss, who oversees the survey. "However, as in recent months, shortages of skilled workers remain an impediment to even stronger growth. Furthermore, supply managers are reporting mounting negative impacts from tariffs and trade skirmishes," he said. Trade restrictions, expanding tariffs and rising short-term interest rates are likely to slow regional growth in the months ahead, Goss said. The survey results are compiled into a collection of indexes ranging from zero to 100. Survey organizers say any score above 50 suggests growth. A score below that suggests decline. The survey covers Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma and South Dakota. Survey results cast a shadow on the October employment index, which dropped to 52.2 from 56.2 in September and 58.5 in August. Economic optimism, as reflected by the October index, plummeted to a still strong 59.6 from September's 68.0.

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Mother of Injured 3-Year-Old Arrested on Suspicion of Abuse

LIBERAL, Kan. (AP) _ Authorities have arrested a southwest Kansas mother on suspicion of child abuse and attempted first-degree murder after her 3-year-old daughter was seriously injured. Liberal police Captain Robert Rogers said that officers were called Sunday to Southwest Medical Center for a report of child abuse. Family members had brought a 3-year-old girl to the emergency room. The release says the child's condition worsened while at the Liberal hospital, and she was later flown to a Wichita hospital. The release says her injuries appeared to be ``intentional'' and that other possible signs of abuse also were discovered. The investigation into the girl's 20-year-old mother is ongoing. No charges were immediately filed.

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Pedestrian Dies After Being Hit by Car in Wichita

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police say a man has died after being hit while walking across a street. Officer Charley Davidson says a man in his 30s was hit Friday morning while crossing a street in southeast Wichita. He was taken to a hospital, where he died. Davidson says the case is being investigated.

 

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