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Headlines for Friday, September 7, 2018

Grand Jury Examination of Kobach's Office Might Not Start for Months

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Court procedures are likely to delay a Douglas County grand jury investigation into Secretary of State Kris Kobach's office until well after the fall election. A Lawrence man, Steven Davis, who gathered enough signatures to force the investigation, contends Kobach's office didn't register some people who tried to register online. Kobach denies that claim. The Kansas Supreme Court last week declined to consider the issue, meaning an appeals court ruling approving the grand jury stands. Supreme Court spokeswoman Lisa Taylor says it would be late this month before the appeals court sends a mandate to the Douglas County District Court ordering a grand jury be convened. Kansas Public Radio reports after county court receives the order, the process of alerting potential jurors will begin. That process typically takes months.

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Kansas Environmentalists Decry Order on Injection Wells

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas utility regulators have rejected environmentalists' request that more than 2,100 permits for injection wells be revoked because some of them did not follow regulations on the amount of time the public has to protest the projects. The Kansas Corporation Commission on Thursday said in an order that such a small percentage of the permits had incorrect legal notices that it had an insignificant effect. The commission said less than 3 percent of the legal notices incorrectly showed 15-day public protest periods instead of the required 30-day notice, The Topeka Capital-Journal reported . The commission's assistant attorney, Michael Duenes, said the order noted it was the responsibility of the interested parties to know they had 30 days to comment. Duenes said between 24 and 29 permits out of 1,007 at issue in the order were granted before the 30-day comment period expired. He said the record contains no evidence that any person with a substantial interest in specific permits was hurt by the permits being approved. Environmentalists who attended the commission meeting said the decision shows the Kansas Legislature must get involved. Cindy Hoedel, an activist who filed complaints about the incorrect legal notices oil and gas companies were publishing, said allowing the permits because only a small number were done incorrectly is "an odd standard." She said concerns about whether injecting wastewater into the wells is causing an increase in earthquakes in Kansas are real.

"Are you going to let 3 percent of bank robbers not go to jail because it's only 3 percent of the total?," she said. "I think it's a very odd argument. It's clear there's a culture of secrecy and pro-industry bias at the KCC, and it's going to take the Legislature to get involved to protect Kansans."

Mike Schmidt, an engineer, said during more than 40 years he has had to follow all legal technicalities and he was upset that oil and gas companies aren't being held to the same standard. 

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Rookie Officer Says She Meant to Stun Man but Shot Him Instead

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A rookie Kansas police officer charged in a shooting that wounded a man told investigators that she intended to fire her Taser but instead used her firearm.  The Lawrence Journal-World reports that an affidavit released Thursday in the case against Lawrence Officer Brindley Blood says she didn't realize she had shot Akira Lewis until she looked for the Taser wires to see if they had hit their mark and realized there weren't any.  Blood was charged last month with aggravated battery in the May 29 shooting. The affidavit says it happened after a fellow officer pulled Lewis over for a suspected seat-belt violation, and Lewis refused to cooperate. Lewis is accused of hitting another officer before he was shot. He was treated at a hospital and charged with several misdemeanors.

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Kansas Man Charged with Killing Woman Aboard Cruise Ship

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas man is charged with killing a woman while they were aboard a cruise ship in January.  Federal prosecutors announced 53-year-old Eric Newman was charged with second-degree murder and made his initial court appearance Thursday.  The indictment alleges the Topeka man and 50-year-old Tamara Tucker, of Lawson, Missouri, were aboard the Carnival Elation, a vessel registered in Panama. The cruise departed and arrived from Jacksonville, Florida.  Tucker's obituary and a news release from Park University, where she taught, describe Newman as her longtime partner and love.  Prosecutors say Newman killed Tucker aboard the ship. No further details were released.  Tucker was a full-time faculty member in the social work department at Park University in Parkville, Missouri, from 2012 to 2017. She was an adjunct instructor before that, beginning in 2007.

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Kansas House Candidate Charged with Election Perjury

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — A 35-year-old Olathe man running for a seat in the Kansas House of Representatives has been charged with election perjury.  Adam Thomas, a Republican candidate in the 26th District House race, was charged Thursday. The Kansas City Star reports charging documents allege that Thomas submitted a falsified document to state or county election officials on May 31.  This summer, Democratic lawmakers called for an investigation into Thomas. They alleged he provided false information about where he lived when he filed to run in the election.  Thomas was arrested Thursday booked into the Johnson County jail. His bond was set at $2,500.  No attorney for Thomas is listed yet in court records.

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Activist Challenges Kobach's Status as GOP Governor Nominee

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A liberal activist is challenging Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach's right to appear as the Republican nominee for governor on the November ballot.  Davis Hammet filed an objection Thursday to Kobach's nomination with the secretary of state's office. He contends that potentially hundreds of legal ballots were not counted in the state's August primary.  His objection will force a three-member board that includes Kobach or one of his deputies to consider the allegations.  Kobach defeated Governor Jeff Colyer by 343 votes out of more than 317,000 cast. Colyer supporters initially raised questions about whether legal votes weren't being counted, but the governor conceded the race.  Hammet is a Topeka resident and president of Loud Light, a group focusing on registering young voters that has criticized Republicans in the past.

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Lawrence Officer Won't Face Charges in Non-Fatal Shooting

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A Lawrence police officer who shot at the car of a man suspected in a double shooting will not face criminal charges.  Douglas County District Attorney Charles Branson announced Thursday that Sgt. Robert Neff would not be charged in the July 2 shooting in Lawrence.  The Lawrence Journal-World reports Neff followed at a vehicle that police believe was associated with a double shooting earlier in the day. The suspect in the car, Tommy May, drove away and eventually crashed into a yard. Police say Neff got out of his patrol car and ordered May to get out of his vehicle. Instead May ran into Neff's patrol car and eventually hit the officer.  Neff then fired at the vehicle as it drove away.  Neither man was seriously injured.

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Man Arrested for Kansas City, Kansas, Bank Robbery

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say man has been arrested in a Kansas City, Kansas, bank robbery.  FBI spokeswoman Bridget Patton says in a news release that the robbery happened around 8:35 am Thursday at the Bank of Labor. Patton says in an email that the robber gave a note to the teller before fleeing with an undisclosed amount of cash. The robber was arrested near the bank without incident. The release says the robber didn't show a weapon, and no one was hurt.

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AP FACT CHECK: Kansas Democratic Candidate Did Say She Favors Abolishing ICE

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Democrat Sharice Davids looks directly into the camera in a recent ad for her campaign in a competitive Kansas congressional district and declares: "I don't support abolishing ICE."  She's responding to an earlier ad from a Republican super PAC that plays a brief part of an interview in July in which she says the exact opposite.  Abolishing U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has been a rallying cry for some on the political left, who accuse the agency of using heavy-handed tactics under President Donald Trump in rounding up immigrants living in the country illegally. But Republicans and many moderate Democrats say that abolishing it is a step too far.  Davids scored a surprising victory in a crowded Democratic primary on August 7 and will face Republican Congressman Kevin Yoder in November in a Kansas City suburban district. She has gained national attention for her unusual resume as an LGBT and Native American lawyer and mixed-martial arts fighter. Her website shows a video of her kickboxing at a gym.  

A look at her response ad:
DAVIDS AD: "You probably saw an ad from Kevin Yoder's special interest friends, twisting my words. Well, they're wrong. I don't support abolishing ICE. I do support bipartisan immigration reform, with strong borders and a pathway to citizenship, especially for those who serve in our military," she says in the ad, which has been running on television in the Kansas City market in the last week.

THE FACTS: Republicans aren't twisting her words but citing what she said during a July 21 podcast. When she was asked directly whether she supported abolishing ICE, Davids responded: "I do. I would, I would."  Since The Kansas City Star first reported on the podcast two weeks ago, Davids has said in statements to news organizations, including The Associated Press on Wednesday, that she does not support abolishing ICE but favors comprehensive immigration reform.

Asked to explain the contradiction between the podcast and her new ad, the Davids campaign said the ad was consistent with her views before she won the primary. As an example, the campaign pointed to comments she made in a June interview with The Star's editorial board, but the specific issue of abolishing ICE did not arise in that interview. Instead, she spoke in broader terms about her belief that talking about all immigrants as a national security risk dehumanizes them.

The July 21 podcast interview cited by Republicans was part of the Millennial Politics Podcast, sponsored by GCK Consulting, a Democratic-leaning, Washington, D.C., firm that helps elect millennial candidates. The host was Jordan Valerie Allen, the podcast's politics editor and communications director for Run With Pride, a PAC working to elect LGBT candidates. It endorsed Davids.

During part of the podcast, Davids discusses her concerns about having ICE handle immigration issues "in terms of policing," which she said was the wrong framework.

Nearly 33 minutes into the interview, Allen asked: "And just to clarify, you do support abolishing ICE?"  Davids answered: "I do. I would, I would."  The Washington Post later reported that Davids said she had never endorsed abolishing ICE and had "stammered briefly" in answering the question.  But in the podcast, Davids then mentioned defunding ICE, which she says is "essentially the same thing" as abolishing the agency.

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Trump Schedules Missouri Campaign Rally for September 13

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump will urge the defeat of Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill during a campaign rally next week in her Missouri home state.  Trump's campaign says he will rally supporters September 13 in Cape Girardeau and urge them to replace McCaskill with Republican Josh Hawley, the state attorney general who has Trump's endorsement. Trump won Missouri by 18 percentage points in 2016. McCaskill is a top target for Republicans seeking to expand the party's slim 51-49 edge in the U.S. Senate.  She is among 10 Senate Democrats up for re-election this year in states where Trump won, and is considered among the most vulnerable incumbents.  Trump plans a heavy schedule of campaigning and fundraising through the November 6 midterm elections.

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4 KU Students Accuse Dormmate of Sexual Assault

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Authorities are investigating a report that a University of Kansas student sexually assaulted four female dormmates during the first few weeks of classes. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the 18-year-old man was arrested Wednesday on suspicion of aggravated criminal sodomy and sexual battery, but was released from jail later that day without being charged. The Douglas County District Attorney's Office sent the case back to police with a request for additional investigation. Police say the women reported being touched inappropriately from Aug. 23 to Aug. 30. University spokeswoman Erinn Barcomb-Peterson says the man is enrolled as a student but isn't currently a resident of Oliver Hall, which houses both male and female students. She didn't say whether he had been disciplined, citing federal privacy law.

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Lenexa Police Say Shooting Call Was Likely 'Swatting'

LENEXA, Kan. (AP) — Lenexa police say a call to a crisis line reporting that someone had shot one of his parents apparently was a swatting call. Police spokesman Danny Chavez says police were notified Thursday by a suicide crisis line from New York that someone was sending texts saying he had shot one of his parents, was suicidal and would kill anyone who came in. Chavez told The Kansas City Star that police had contact only with the crisis line and never contacted the supposed shooter. Police say investigators who went to the home found no evidence of a crime. Chavez says the two people inside the home were cooperating with the investigation and are not believed to be involved with the false report.

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Lawrence Dad Pleads No Contest in Daughter's Gun Death

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A 33-year-old man who left a loaded semi-automatic handgun within reach of toddlers pleaded no contest to charge resulting from his daughter's death. In exchange for the plea to two counts of aggravated child endangerment, prosecutors dropped an involuntary manslaughter charge Friday against Chance Smith, of Lawrence. He will be sentenced Nov. 7. Smith's 1-year-old daughter, Autumn Grace Smith, was hit by a bullet and died in September 2017 at the family's home. Smith told police that he was outside for five or 10 minutes and didn't hear a gunshot. When he came back in he found a 2-year-old boy crying and Autumn upstairs, shot. The Lawrence Journal-World report s Smith's attorney said he's expected to be placed on probation and ordered not to own any guns.

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Killer of Kansas Girl Gets Chance at Release from Prison

PRAIRIE VILLAGE, Kan. (AP) — A school janitor who subdued a 13-year-old girl with chloroform more than 40 years ago as she walked home from a suburban Kansas City pool and then killed her is set to go before a parole board later this month. The Kansas City Star reports that John Henry Horton was arrested in 2003 for the 1974 death of Liz Wilson. She vanished while cutting through the parking lot of Shawnee Mission East High School. Horton was sentenced to life in prison. But life, under Kansas law in force at the time of Liz's death, meant serving only 15 years before being eligible for parole. The parole board has already heard from prosecutors and police who oppose Horton's release. The board will announce a decision in October after hearing from Horton.

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Ex-Cowboys Running Back Joseph Randle Facing Rape Charge

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Former Dallas Cowboys running back Joseph Randle has been arrested in Kansas on suspicion of rape. Records show that Randle was booked into Sedgwick County Jail at around 3:40 a.m. Friday. The prosecutor's office wasn't releasing information, and a police spokesman and Randle's attorney in previous cases didn't immediately reply to phone messages seeking details about his latest arrest. Randle was released on probation in June under a plea deal that allows prosecutors to seek to have him put in prison if he gets into trouble again. He spent most of the past two years in jail, with occasional stints in a state mental hospital, on an array of charges. Several of them were related to Randle hitting three people with a car after an argument at a housewarming party.

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4 Hurt After Tram Hit a Tree at Outdoor Theater in Branson

BRANSON, Mo. (AP) _ Authorities say four women were hurt after a passenger tram hit a tree at an entertainment venue in the southwest Missouri tourist town of Branson. The Missouri State Highway Patrol says the crash happened Thursday at the Shepard of the Hills outdoor theater. The patrol says the tram was going downhill on a private path when the brakes locked up. The tram started skidding and ran off the roadway before striking a wooden fence and a tree. Three of the women suffered minor injuries and a third had moderate injuries. The women are from Oklahoma and Kansas.  The patrol says the tram can carry up to 24 passengers. 

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8 Survivors of Duck Boat Sinking in Missouri File Lawsuit

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Eight family members who survived a duck boat sinking in Missouri have filed a federal lawsuit against the owner and operators of the tourist attraction.  The lawsuit was filed Thursday in Kansas City, Missouri, on behalf of Ronita McKinley and her daughter, Tiffany Collins, both of Carlsbad, New Mexico; another daughter, Tomlyn McDonald, of Midland, Texas; and their families. Their attorneys say that although they survived the boat's sinking July 19 on Table Rock Lake in Branson, the family will be "forever scarred" by the experience and by witnessing the deaths of 17 fellow passengers.  The lawsuit mirrors claims made in previously filed lawsuits that Ripley Entertainment and five other businesses disregarded weather warnings the day the boat sank and ignored long-standing warnings about flaws in the boats' designs.  Ripley and the other defendants have declined to comment on pending litigation.

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Kansas ACLU's Free Speech Lawsuit Proceeds Against District

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A months-long dispute between a Kansas City school district and students alleging free speech violations has escalated into a court battle involving the American Civil Liberties Union.  The Kansas City Star reports that the ACLU of Kansas asked the court this week to allow its lawsuit to proceed against the Shawnee Mission School District. The response comes after the district filed a motion last month asking to dismiss the federal lawsuit filed in May.  The dispute began April 20 when students alleged district officials stopped their participation in a nationwide walkout protesting gun violence. The lawsuit accuses the district of suppressing students' political speech on campus "merely to avoid controversy."  District officials say they'll continue to work to ensure staff members respect students' First Amendment rights.

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Heavy Rains Reduce Parking for Kansas State Football Game

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Fans attending the Kansas State-Mississippi State game Saturday are encouraged to arrive early to look for parking spots.  Kansas State Athletics announced Thursday parts of grass parking lots around the football stadium are still under standing water or muddy because of torrential rains that hit the Manhattan area this week. The school said parking will be reduced in some of the lots.  Some areas received up to 10 inches of rain and more is forecast through Friday, leaving little time to improve ground conditions before the 11 am contest Saturday.  Only 300 of the 1,000 spaces in the Ag Lot bill be available for parking and all grass parking near the Grain Sciences areas are closed. And at least half of the 1,000 unpaved spaces in Lot 9 are unavailable.

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County Not at Fault After Wichita Man Set Himself on Fire

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A jury ruled that a Sedgwick County community mental health agency and one a psychiatrist were not at fault in the death of a patient who set himself on fire. The 55-year-old Wichita man, Allen Rouse, died in April 2015 after he drove through a security gate at the National Weather Center in Norman, Oklahoma, doused himself with a flammable liquid and burned to death. The Wichita Eagle reports the Sedgwick County jury reached its verdict Friday in a lawsuit against Comcare, the county community mental health agency, and Rouse's psychiatrist, Lin Xu. Comcare attorney Stephen Netherton said no one, including Rouse's siblings, saw or heard anything to indicate Rouse intended to harm himself. Rouse's family's attorney argued Rouse had not received effective medication or psychiatric care as his condition deteriorated.

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