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Headlines for Monday, February 10, 2020

GOP: Kansas Lawmakers Will Revisit Abortion Amendment this Session

TOPEKA, Kan.  (KPR) — Republican leaders are pledging to continue work on a constitutional amendment on abortion after it narrowly failed in the Kansas House. It would have said there’s no right to abortion in the state constitution.  Most Republicans want to overturn a Kansas Supreme Court ruling that said the constitution protects abortion. "This game’s not over." said House Majority Leader Dan Hawkins.  "It will continue. Don’t be surprised when it comes up again because it will come up again this session.”  Leaders are also turning up the heat by tying the fate of Medicaid expansion to the abortion amendment. Senate President Susan Wagle says the Senate will not take up Medicaid expansion until the amendment passes. Expanding Medicaid is a top priority for Governor Laura Kelly and many lawmakers.

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Democrats Making Play for Kansas Senate President's Seat

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Democrats are making a push to flip the seat of Kansas Senate President Susan Wagle in the November general election. Former Sedgwick County District Attorney Nola Foulston has announced that she's running as a Democrat for the seat in the 30th Senate District in the Wichita area. Democratic Govvernor Laura Kelly was present for Foulston's kickoff. Wagle has held the seat since 2001 and has been Senate president since 2013. She is running for the Republican nomination for an open U.S. Senate seat. Wagle has endorsed GOP state Rep. Renee Erickson as her replacement. Foulston was district attorney from 1989 to 2013.

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Kansas Anti-Abortion Measure Fails; Medicaid Plan Targeted

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Republican lawmakers in Kansas have failed to get a proposed anti-abortion amendment to the state constitution on the ballot. Abortion opponents responded Friday by moving aggressively to block a bipartisan Medicaid expansion plan backed by Democrats and GOP moderates. Neither side expected Friday's vote in the Kansas House to be the last word on whether the abortion measure ultimately is put to a vote in a statewide election. It would overturn a Kansas Supreme Court decision last year protecting abortion rights. The House vote was 80-43, but supporters were four votes short of the two-thirds majority they needed for passage.  

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'Satanist' Kansas Soldier Pleads Guilty to Bomb Plot Charges

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A 24-year-old Army infantry soldier has pleaded guilty to distributing information through social media about building a bomb and making napalm. Federal prosecutors have described Jarrett William Smith as a Satanist who hoped to overthrow the U.S. government. Smith was a private first class stationed at Fort Riley, Kansas, and admitted during a court hearing Monday to providing information about explosives in September to an FBI undercover agent. He signed a formal plea agreement with prosecutors in court and his sentencing is set for May 18. Each felony count carries a penalty of up to 20 years in prison.

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Police: High-Speed Crash in Kansas City Kills Woman

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Police in Kansas City say a woman has died in a fiery crash on state Highway 169. Police say the crash happened around 2 am Saturday when a large sport utility vehicle traveling at a very high rate of speed went out of control. Witnesses told police the SUV hit a guardrail, crossed over to the other side of the road and hit the highway's concrete barrier. Investigators say the SUV then went airborne over the barrier, falling about 80 feet, hitting a tree and bursting into flames. The woman, whose name has not yet been released, died at the scene.

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Lawrence Discussing Limiting Police Work with Immigration

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The Lawrence City Commission is discussing whether to limit how police cooperate with federal immigration agents. During a meeting Tuesday, the commission will discuss the proposed draft ordinance with city staff, which will then bring a proposed city ordinance back to the commission for a vote. The Lawrence Journal-World reports a local group proposed last year that Lawrence become a sanctuary city, and that police refuse to enforce requests from immigration agents unless they involve a crime. Police Chief Gregory Burns says a draft policy for the department says police won't help hold a person based solely on if that person has a federal immigration detainer.

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2 Injured Kansas Corrections Officers Still Not Back to Work

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — A prison official says two of the five correctional officers who were hurt during a disturbance last week at the Hutchinson Correctional Facility remain off work Monday.  No details are being released as to the injuries, but authorities say no weapons were involved. The Feb. 4 incident prompted a prison lockdown at the time and cancellation of last weekend's visitation to its central unit. The investigation is ongoing as to what sparked the melee that occurred during dinnertime as a group of inmates were leaving the chow hall. About 20 inmates were placed in restrictive housing after the disturbance.

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Pit Bull Supporters Want Junction City to Lift Pit Bull Ban

JUNCTION CITY, Kan. (AP) — Pit bull supporters are calling for the military town of Junction City to lift its ban of the breed. The Hays Post reports that Kim Bradney of Legalize Bully JC says the ban forces some people in the community near Fort Riley to choose to live in surrounding communities with friendlier pit bull policies. She said the more than 20-year-old ban has left animal shelters flooded with dogs that aren't adoptable. She said several other cities in the state already have removed their bans. Commissioner Ronna Larson asked city staff last week to check into different ordinance options.

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UPDATE: Woman Dies from Injuries Suffered in Topeka House Fire

TOPEKA, Kan. — Authorities say one of two people who were hurt in a house fire in Topeka has died. Topeka fire officials said Monday that 53-year-old Kristen Edmonston died from injuries she suffered in the fire Saturday. Deputy fire chief Kelly Adams said in a news release that 65-year-old James Edmonston remains hospitalized Monday. He is in stable condition. Adams says the fire was accidental. The likely cause is improper handling of smoking materials. 

(–earlier reporting–)

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say two people were seriously hurt in a house fire in Topeka. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that smoke was pouring from the house when fire crews responded around 5:30 pm Saturday. Deputy fire chief Kelly Adams said one person was able to get out of the house but the other was rescued by fire crews. Both were taken to a local hospital with serious injuries. From there, one of the victims was transported to the University of Kansas Hospital in Kansas City, Kansas. The cause of the fire hasn't been determined.

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Men Arrested with 80 Homemade Explosives in Hutchinson

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — South Hutchinson police arrested two 18-year-old men over the weekend who allegedly had about 80 homemade explosive devices in a truck. South Hutchinson Police Chief Dean Harcrow says officers on Saturday found the men driving a truck carrying a plastic tote full of explosive devices and materials for unmade devices. A two-block radius near where the truck was stopped was evacuated for several hours. Harcrow says the men were making the explosives at a Reno County home and selling them to other people. The men, Tyler Bryce Bontrager and Andrew Hoffman, bonded out of jail during the weekend. The Reno County District Attorney's office is awaiting the police report before filing charges.  

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Ex-Kansas Prison Lab Instructor Wants Conviction Thrown Out

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A former prison dental instructor is asking a judge to throw out a conviction for unlawful sexual relations with an inmate. Tomas Co was found guilty last week of one of six counts of alleged sexual abuse of female inmates he was teaching to make dentures. The guilty verdict after an inmate said Co touched her on the insider of her knee and thigh. In a motion filed Friday, Co's attorney argued that type of touching didn't constitute “lewd” touching under state law. The motion also argues Co should be acquitted based on insufficient evidence. District Attorney Mike Kagay's office has not yet filed a response to the defense motion.

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Man Killed in Kansas Turnpike Crash in South-Central Kansas

BELLE PLAINE, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a Hutchinson man was killed in a crash on the Kansas Turnpike in south-central Kansas. The Kansas Turnpike Authority says the crash happened Friday afternoon, when the southbound car 58-year-old Gilberto Benitez-Garcia was driving went of the road near Belle Plaine. Station KFDI reports that the crashed was reported around 12:30 p.m. Friday. Investigators say Benitez-Garcia's car traveled 900 feet after leaving the turnpike and hit a tree. Benitez-Garcia, who was the only person in the car, was pronounced dead at the scene.

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Topeka Man Sentenced for Running Away with Young Castmate

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A 48-year-old man has been sentenced to nearly 10 years in prison for fleeing with and sexually assaulting a 14-year-old cast member in a Topeka community theater play. KSNT reports Michael Fitzgerald, of Topeka, was sentenced Monday to nine years and 10 months for sexually assaulting the girl in 2019. Fitzgerald met the girl when she was 11 and they later performed together in a 2018 play at the Topeka Civic Theater. She went missing in January 2019. The two were found in a hotel in Cortez, Colorado, two days after she was reported missing. 

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Kansas Farmer Sentenced for Crop Insurance Fraud

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A 63-year-old Kansas farmer has been sentenced to 2.5 years in prison for federal crop insurance fraud and bankruptcy fraud. In addition, Kevin Struss, of WaKeeney, must pay $604,303 in restitution. He pleaded guilty in October 2019. Federal prosecutors say Struss under-reported his 2015 corn and sorghum crops by a total of about 54,730 bushels. The crops were insured with a federal subsidy, which mean Struss received crop insurance benefits he was not entitled to. He also lied on his later bankruptcy filing in 2018.

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Ex-Wife Convicted of Missouri Husband's 2007 Murder

PARKVILLE, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri woman has been convicted of first-degree murder in the 2007 death of her ex-husband. A Platte County jury found 59-year-old Letti Strait, of Parkville, guilty Thursday of killing Charles Cammisano. He was shot to death at his home in Riverside in September 2007.  Prosecutors say Cammisano and Strait had argued for months before his shooting because she had improperly claimed she had custody of the four Cammisano children so she could collect food stamps. Strait's husband, Terry Strait,  pleaded guilty earlier to conspiracy to commit murder and is awaiting sentencing in Cammisano's death. He testified that his wife shot Cammisano.

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Hearing Set for Man Charged in 1999 Oklahoma Slayings

VINITA, Okla. (AP) — A preliminary hearing is set for a Kansas man charged in the 1999 deaths of an Oklahoma couple and the disappearance and presumed deaths of their teenage daughter and her friend. Court records show the hearing is scheduled for March 26th for 68-year-old Ronnie Dean Busick. Busick is charged with killing Danny Freeman and Kathy Freeman, 16-year-old Ashley Freeman and 16-year-old Lauria Bible. Busick was found competent for trial in December. He has denied any involvement or knowledge in the case. The bodies of Danny and Kathy Freeman were found in the burned rubble of their mobile home, the two girls have never been found.

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Wichita Woman Charged with Federal Sex Trafficking

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita woman has been charged with sex trafficking in federal court. Prosecutors say Kelly Lee Grounds posted dozens of ads online offering sex acts. The ads were for herself and other people offering to perform sex acts. Grounds was arrested in September and January on suspicion of similar charges. She was initially charged in state court last fall, but those charges were dropped after she was indicted in federal court in late January. Local prosecutors had said that Grounds posted ads on behalf of a 17-year-old who was offering to have sex in exchange for compensation.

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Fired Wichita Officer Not Guilty in High-Speed Crash

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A jury has acquitted a former Wichita police officer who was fired for crashing his vehicle into another while speeding at nearly 80 mph without lights or sirens. The Wichita Eagle reports that Samuel Dugo was found not guilty Friday of aggravated battery. Dugo had been charged with the felony after the March 2018 wreck critically injured a 71-year-old man. Dugo was later fired in August 2019. The Kansas Highway Patrol determined Dugo was driving 79 mph in a 30 mph zone before the collision, while responding to a burglary call. He was not using his emergency lights or sirens. Before the collision, Dugo was clocked at 100 mph.

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Brother and Sister Sentenced for Colorado - Missouri Marijuana Conspiracy

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri woman and her brother from Colorado were sentenced for their roles in a marijuana distribution conspiracy that involved mailing the drug from Colorado to Missouri. Prosecutors say they and five others distributed more than $1.7 million in marijuana. Thirty-four—year-old Natalie McNeil, of Lee's Summit, Missouri, wcs sentenced Friday to four years and three months in prison without parole and ordered to pay $121,000 to the government. Her brother, and 30-year-old Tanner McNeil, of De,nwas sentenced to 2.5 years in prison and ordered to forfeit $1 million. Prosecutors say Tanner McNeil and others shipped marijuana from Colorado to Missouri, where his sister deposited cash that her brother and another man withdrew in Colorado.

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Wichita Considers Banning or Taxing Plastic Bags

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The city of Wichita is considering banning plastic bags or implementing a city-wide tax to curb their use. The Wichita Eagle reports that the City Council voted for a new task force to consider reducing or eliminating single-use plastic bags. Either option would make Wichita the first city in Kansas to pass a plastic bag ordinance. Other cities in the U.S. have banned plastic bags or imposed taxes on them. The task force is scheduled to meet this month to discuss what such a move could end up costing businesses and the city to implement.

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WSU Tech Offers Free Scholarships to Laid-Off Spirit Workers

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — WSU Tech in Wichita is offering free scholarships to laid-off Spirit AeroSystems employees. The college's president, Sheree Ustash, announced Friday the school and its partners will offer "Wichita Promise" scholarships with several options for tuition-free, short-term certification training in manufacturing and engineering. Spirit plans to lay off more than 2,800 workers after the Boeing 737 Max was grounded. The company makes more than 70 percent of the Max. Classes for the employees will start in March. They will be six-to-eight weeks long and offered on half-day schedules. WSU Tech plans to help people find federal grants and then cover the rest of the cost.

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Baylor Atop AP Top 25 Basketball Poll; KU at No. 3 

UNDATED (AP) — Baylor remains atop The Associated Press men's college basketball poll in a week that saw preseason No. 1 Michigan State fall out. The Bears received 48 of 64 first-place votes from a media panel to stay at No. 1 for the fourth straight week. No. 2 Gonzaga had 15 first-place votes and No. 3 Kansas got one. San Diego State and Louisville rounded out the top five. Seton Hall was the only change among the top 10 after moving up two spots to No. 10. Michigan State dropped out of the rankings from No. 16 following a three-game losing streak.

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