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Headlines for Friday, October 25, 2019

Court: Part of Kansas Criminal Threat Law Unconstitutional

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ The Kansas Supreme Court has struck down part of a state law against making a criminal threat after concluding it violates free speech rights. The court on Friday declared unconstitutional a provision of the law making it illegal to communicate a threat of violence with ``reckless disregard'' of the risk that it might cause fear. The justices said that part of the law is so broad that it could affect the speech of political protesters and violates the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The Supreme Court overturned criminal threat convictions in two cases. One from Douglas County involved a man convicted of making a reckless criminal threat toward an acquaintance in a convenience store. Another from Montgomery County involved man's threatening language toward his mother.
 
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18 Arrested in Shawnee County Domestic Violence Sweep

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Shawnee County authorities have arrested 18 people and served 23 warrants during a domestic violence crackdown.  The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the sweep occurred Wednesday, as part of the 17th annual National Family Violence and Apprehension Detail. Shawnee County Sheriff Brian Hill says more than 300 law enforcement agencies from 29 states participated.  Of the 18 arrests in Shawnee County, 14 were for domestic violence suspects, clearing 18 warrants. Four other arrests were for other crimes, clearing five warrants.

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Embattled Douglas County Attorney Retires Amid Protests

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas prosecutor is retiring amid calls for her to step down after a Missouri judge overturned the double murder conviction of a man whom she helped send to prison for 23 years.  Douglas County, Kansas, Chief Assistant District Attorney Amy McGowan's retirement takes effect November 1. She had been the subject of recent protests because she played a role in the case of Ricky Kidd while working in the Jackson County, Missouri, prosecutor's office. Kidd was freed in August and said previously that McGowan "should be disbarred."  The Kansas Supreme Court has previously vacated a sentence for one of McGowan's cases in Lawrence and has pointed to issues in other cases.  McGowan didn't immediately return a message from The Associated Press left for her through the prosecutor's office.

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GM Workers Ratify Contract, 40-Day Strike Ends

ROMULUS, Mich. (AP) — General Motors workers voted 57.2% in favor of a new contract with the company, ending a 40-day strike. The United Auto Workers union says Friday that the contract was approved 23,389 to 17,501. The vote means that workers will put down their picket signs and return to their jobs. Some will start as early as Friday night, and some production could resume on Saturday. Skilled trades workers will begin restarting factories that were shuttered when 49,000 workers walked out on Sept. 16. The deal includes a mix of wage increases and lump-sum payments and an $11,000 signing bonus. But GM will close three U.S. factories. The union has decided that it will now bargain with Ford.

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New Trial Denied for Day Care Worker in Baby's Death

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A judge has denied a new trial for a Kansas home day care worker who was convicted in the death of a 9-month-old baby. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the sentencing for 44-year-old Carrody Buchhorn is now set for Nov. 18. She faces nine to 10 years in prison. Her sentencing had been delayed while she argued that she deserved a new trial. She got new attorneys after she was convicted last year of unintentionally but recklessly causing the death of Oliver Ortiz in 2016 in Eudora. Her new attorneys challenged the work of her trial attorneys and how they handled the testimony of the coroner, who ruled that the baby's death was a homicide. A judge ruled last week that her trial attorneys "were not ineffective."

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Wichita Man Sentenced to 3 Life Terms for Child Sex Crimes

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita man has been sentenced to three life terms for 25 felony sex crimes with six children. The Wichita Eagle reports that 41-year-old Damian Isaac Hallacy is appealing the sentence ordered Wednesday. The investigation started in 2017 after a man found sexual messages from Hallacy on his wife's phone. The probable cause affidavit says the woman sexually abused her 8-year-old daughter at Hallacy's request, and investigators found photos of the abuse on her phone. The woman is expected to be sentenced next month. Her plea agreement called for her to testify against Hallacy and receive a life prison sentence without the possibility of parole for 25 years. The Eagle isn't naming her to protect the identity of her daughter because the girl is a victim of a sex crime.

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Officer Who Killed Man During Swatting Call Sues over Wages

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas police officer who fatally shot an unarmed man while responding to a bogus emergency call is suing over wages. The Wichita Eagle reports that Justin Rapp alleges in the lawsuit filed Thursday that he wasn't allowed to resume his usual jobs "in a reasonable amount of time" after fatally shooting 28-year-old Andrew Finch in December 2017. He says that caused him to lose out on $31,000 from his regular police duties in Wichita and a city-approved off-duty security job. Rapp wasn't charged. He said he feared Finch was reaching for a firearm when he fired, not knowing that a hoaxer had reported a fake homicide and hostage situation at Finch's home. A lawsuit filed by Finch's family is pending. The city's attorney declined to comment on Rapp's allegations.

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Lawsuit Alleges Kansas Student Allowed to Remain in High School After Committing Sexual Assault

HOYT, Kan. (AP) — A lawsuit alleges that a Kansas student was allowed to stay in school after sexually assaulting a classmate, even though he was facing charges for other sex crimes.  The Kansas City Star reports that the student's father filed the lawsuit Tuesday in federal court. The suit says the Royal Valley School District was aware that the classmate already had been charged in March 2016 and August 2017 with sex crime when the girl reported that she had been raped at school in November 2017.  The suit says she was forced to transfer to get away from her attacker, who pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of sexual assault in her case. He initially was charged with rape and aggravated sexual battery.  Superintendent, Aaric Davis says he can't discuss pending litigation.

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Kansas Becomes 8th State to Report Livestock Disease

GOODLAND, Kan. (AP) — A disease that causes blister-like sores on the mouths of horses and other livestock has spread to Kansas, marking the eighth state where it has been detected.  The Kansas Department of Agriculture announced Thursday in a news release that the vesicular stomatitis virus has been confirmed in horses at a private residence in Sherman County, along the state's western border with Colorado. The animals have been quarantined.  The virus primarily sickens horses, but can also affect cattle, sheep, goats, swine, llamas and alpacas. Symptoms include excessive salivation, lesions, lack of appetite and lameness. The most common method of transmission is insect bites.  Humans can become infected while handling sick animals and develop flu-like symptoms, but that's rare. The virus also has been detected in areas of Colorado, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah and Wyoming.

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Board in Kansas City Declines to Endorse TIF Funding for Luxury Hotel Project

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City, Missouri, board has recommended against public subsidies for a luxury hotel project that developers say is intended for "the Mercedes audience."  The Kansas City Star reports that members of the Kansas City Tax Increment Financing Commission Board voted 8-3 Thursday against a 23-year TIF agreement. The board only makes recommendations, but the negative vote means the project requires a supermajority of nine votes to win City Council approval.  Developers Whitney Kerr Sr. and Eric Holtze want to build a 145-room hotel near the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. They say Kansas City needs a top-of-the-line hotel to compete with other major American cities for top conventions and events.  New Democratic Mayor Quinton Lucas has been critical of incentives for new developments, especially for luxury projects.

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Man Dies When Four-Wheeler Collides with Semitrailer in Northwest Kansas

KANORADO, Kan. (AP) — An 83-year-old man has died after the four-wheeler he was driving collided with a semitrailer in northwest Kansas.  The Kansas Highway Patrol reports that as Gaylen M. Weeden, of Kanorado, Kansas, was driving the four-wheeler and died at the scene. The semitrailer driver, fifty-eight-year-old Jose Madrid Araujo, of Bethune, Colorado, was not injured.  Both vehicles were traveling north on a Cheyenne County road when the semitrailer began to pass the four-wheeler. Wheeden tried to make a left turn into a driveway and struck the semitrailer on its passenger side as it was passing in the left lane, the patrol said.

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Man Struck and Killed by Car While Walking on Highway

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A man is dead after being struck by a car while walking down the middle of a Kansas highway. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the victim was struck shortly after 4 a.m. Friday on U.S. 40 just east of Topeka. His name has not been released. Shawnee County Sgt. Scott Wanamaker says authorities were first called with a report that a man was walking in the middle of the road. Minutes later, another call notified authorities that a car had struck the pedestrian. Police say the man was dead by the time officers arrived. Wanamaker says the incident does not appear suspicious and there was no indication the driver was impaired.

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2 KCK Men Sentenced for Kidnapping, Robbing Women

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Two Kansas City, Kansas, men have been sentenced to lengthy prison terms for kidnapping and robbing three women. The Kansas City Star reports that 37-year-old Anthony Williams and 34-year-old Jamerl Wortham were sentenced Friday in U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Missouri. Williams was sentenced to four consecutive life terms without parole. Wortham was sentenced to 60 years without parole. The crimes occurred in April 2016. The men and a third man stole a Jaguar in Kansas City, Kansas, and drove into Kansas City, Missouri. They kidnapped a woman waiting for an Uber, then later forced two women in a Toyota Camry into that car's backseat. The men drove the two vehicles back across the state line, then later forced all three women to withdraw money from an ATM.

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16-Year-Old Wounded in Wichita Grocery Store Parking Lot

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a 16-year-old boy has been shot and wounded in a Wichita grocery store parking lot during a suspected drug deal.  The Wichita Eagle reports that the shooting happened Tuesday night after the 16-year-old, an 18-year-old and 20-year-old Rico Jermin Brown met another group of men for the suspected drug deal. Officer Charley Davidson says Brown took the teen to a hospital with non-life threatening injuries.  Brown was later arrested on charges of aggravated battery and felony possession of a firearm in an October 14 shooting at a park in which a 22-year-old woman suffered multiple non-life-threatening gunshot wounds.  Another woman was previously arrested on charges of aggravated battery in the park shooting.

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Officer Who Killed Man During Swatting Call Sues over Wages

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas police officer who fatally shot an unarmed man while responding to a bogus emergency call is suing over wages.  The Wichita Eagle reports that Justin Rapp alleges in the lawsuit filed Thursday that he wasn't allowed to resume his usual jobs "in a reasonable amount of time" after fatally shooting 28-year-old Andrew Finch in December 2017. He says that caused him to lose out on $31,000 from his regular police duties in Wichita and a city-approved off-duty security job.  Rapp wasn't charged. He said he feared Finch was reaching for a firearm when he fired, not knowing that a hoaxer had reported a fake homicide and hostage situation at Finch's home. A lawsuit filed by Finch's family is pending.  The city's attorney declined to comment on Rapp's allegations.

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GOP Medicaid Expansion Plan Gets Committee Approval

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Republican-dominated Senate committee has endorsed a plan for expanding government-funded health care for poor and working-class Kansans in spite of concerns that it raises tobacco taxes and doesn't have a work requirement for participants.  The Medicaid expansion proposal written by Kansas Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning differs significantly from an expansion plan backed by Governor Laura Kelly and fellow Democrats. It contains provisions designed to keep some working-class Kansans in private health plans, rather than having them receive Medicaid, as plans favored by Democrats would.  The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the plan would offer health care coverage to an estimated 150,000 Kansans. It would raise tobacco and vaping taxes by $50 million and add a $31 million surcharge on hospitals and $63 million in fees assessed for managed-care organizations serving Medicaid clients.

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State Board Revokes Certification of Fired Wichita Police Recruit

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A state oversight board has revoked the certification of a fired Wichita police recruit who admitted to battering his girlfriend.  The Wichita Eagle reports that the Kansas Commission on Peace Officers' Standards and Training wrote in the order of revocation that Lauro Garcia III lacks "conduct that warrants the public trust." Garcia admitted as part of a diversion agreement that he battered and screamed at his girlfriend while at bar before going home and throwing her belongings into a pond. Garcia said in Sedgwick County District Court that he was guilty of domestic battery and criminal damage to property.  The order, dated September 26, was released to The Eagle on Monday following a Kansas Open Records Act request.  Garcia was fired in March 2018 before he completed the training academy.

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Wichita Pharmacist Sentenced to 12 ½ Years in Opioid Conspiracy

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita pharmacist has been sentenced to 12 ½ years in federal prison for filling thousands of prescriptions for opioids to patients of a doctor who is serving a life sentence in the scheme.  The Wichita Eagle reports that 47-year-old Ebube Otuonye, of Bel Aire, was sentenced Wednesday for unlawfully dispensing opioids and health care fraud. He filled prescriptions at his now shuttered Neighborhood Pharmacy in Wichita for patients of Dr. Steven Henson. The physician was sentenced to life in prison in March for unlawful distribution of prescription drugs after one of his patients died from an overdose.  Prosecutors say Otuonye ignored warning signs, which included customers paying cash instead of using insurance and patients from the same family filling identical prescriptions. Otuonye denied that there was a conspiracy in court filings.

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