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Headlines for Thursday, December 19, 2019

Kansas Congressional Delegation Splits Along Party Lines over Impeachment

WICHITA, Kan. (KMUW / KNS) — The Kansas delegation in the U-S House split along party lines on Wednesday night's vote on whether to impeach President Donald Trump.  Republicans Roger Marshall, Ron Estes and Steve Watkins all voted no on the two articles of impeachment. Democrat Sharice Davids voted yes on both.  The House, also voting largely along party lines, voted to impeach Trump. He is the third president in U.S. history to be impeached.  The case should now move to the U.S. Senate, which will vote on whether to remove Trump from office.  But it's unclear exactly when that will happen.  Kansas Senator Jerry Moran has said he’ll oppose impeachment. Senator Pat Roberts, who’s retiring after 2020, has not said yet how he’ll vote.

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Pompeo Gets a New Deputy Amid Speculation on a U.S. Senate Run

WASHINGTON (AP) — Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has a new deputy, assuring a degree of continuity at the helm of U.S. diplomacy should he resign for a potential Senate bid. The Senate voted 90-3 on Thursday to confirm Stephen Biegun as deputy secretary of state. Biegun's confirmation fills a vacancy that opened up earlier this month when current deputy John Sullivan was confirmed to be the new ambassador to Russia. Biegun is a former Ford Motor Company executive who currently serves as the U.S. special representative for North Korea. He is widely expected to fill the secretary of state job at least on an interim basis if Pompeo departs.

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Justice Dept. Plans Crackdown on Violent Crime in 7 Cities, Including Kansas City

DETROIT (AP) — The Justice Department is launching a crackdown aimed at driving down crime in seven of the nation's most violent cities. Attorney General William Barr announced the initiative known as Operation Relentless Pursuit at a Wednesday news conference in Detroit. He was joined by the leaders of the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and the U.S. Marshals Service. The Justice Department will intensify federal law enforcement resources in the seven cities with violent crime rates way above the national average. They are: Detroit, Albuquerque, Baltimore, Cleveland, Kansas City, Memphis and Milwaukee.

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Kansas Man Admits Offering Money and Marijuana for Child Porn

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A 21-year-old Kansas man has admitted to offering marijuana and money to young girls in exchange for child pornography. Austin Ballew, of Cherryvale, pleaded guilty Tuesday to five counts of sexually exploiting a child and three counts of sex trafficking of a minor. In exchange for his plea, seven other charges were dismissed. Federal prosecutors say Ballew used Facebook to offer teenage girls in southeast and south-central Kansas marijuana and money to send him sexually explicit videos of themselves. He then threatened to make the videos public if the girls stopped cooperating. He will be sentenced March 23.

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Governor: Kansas May Have to Help Pay Spirit Employees

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly says that the state may have to help pay workers at aircraft parts maker Spirit AeroSystems to keep them on the assembly line if the Boeing 737 Max stays grounded much longer. The Wichita Eagle reports that Kelly said she talked with Wichita-based Spirit AeroSystems CEO Tom Gentile on Tuesday, one day after Boeing announced that it was temporarily halting production of the 737 Max as it struggles to get approval from regulators to put the plane back in the air. Spirit has continued to build 737 Max fuselages and now has dozens lined up on a tarmac near the company's south Wichita factory.

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Affidavit: Kansas Jail Guard Beat Up Handcuffed Inmate

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A criminal affidavit that led to charges against two Wyandotte County Sheriff's Office employees alleges a sergeant at the county jail beat up a handcuffed inmate whose arm was being held by a deputy. Sgt. David Toland and Deputy Marcus Johnson were charged last month, but details of the September jail incident were not made public until The Kansas City Star obtained the affidavit. Toland is accused of punching the prisoner in the face and slamming the inmate's head against an elevator door.

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Lawsuit: KCK Police Barged into Home, Beat Man for No Reason

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A federal lawsuit alleges that police in Kansas City, Kansas, broke into a man's home in the middle of the night and beat him before having him charged with battery of a law enforcement officer. The Kansas City Star reports that 43-year-old Joseph Harter claims in the lawsuit filed last week that he was beaten and falsely imprisoned in October 2018. The charge was dropped less than two months later. The police department and the Unified Government of Wyandotte County declined to comment on the pending litigation.

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Lawrence Leaders Want to Move to 100% Renewable Energy

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Leaders in Lawrence want to move the city and its residents toward getting  100% of their energy from renewable resources. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the City Commission voted unanimously Tuesday night to direct city staff to draft an ordinance to achieve 100% renewable energy use and develop a plan for achieving that goal. A city advisory board is recommending that Lawrence rely solely on renewable resources for its city government operations by 2025 and for the entire community to use renewable resources for all energy needs by 2050. About 10% of Lawrence residents voluntarily use renewable energy sources.

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Former Kansas Bank Vice President Pleads Guilty to Embezzlement

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A former vice president of a Kansas bank has pleaded guilty to embezzling. Sixty-year-old Debra Kay Converse, of Harveyville, pleaded guilty Monday and was ordered to pay $107,715 in restitution. Prosecutors say she was vice president of the First National Bank in Harveyville when the crime occurred. The bank's investigation focused on what Converse claimed were glitches in software. The bank started an audit when Converse resigned in March. U.S. Attorney Stephen McAllister said Tuesday the bank also learned Converse wrote $5,700 to First National while she was serving as city treasurer. Rather than credit the revenue to the bank, she cashed the checks

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University of Kansas Will Close Confucius Institute

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The University of Kansas plans to close its Confucius Institute in January. An email sent this week to faculty and staff from interim Provost Carl Lejuez said the institute will close in part because of a 2018 law that restricts Department of Defense funds to universities that host Confucius Institutes. The institutes offer Chinese language, cultural enrichment and cultural events. In 2018, former FBI Director Christopher Wray and some U.S. lawmakers said the institutes are propaganda tools of China's Communist Party. At one point, the Chinese government sponsored more than 100 institutes in the U.S. but several colleges have closed theirs.

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British Man Accused of Hacking U.S. Health Care Companies

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A 38-year-old British man who is allegedly a member of a hacking group called The Dark Overlord has pleaded not guilty in U.S. federal court in Missouri to charges that he threatened to release data stolen from health care and accounting companies. Nathan Francis Wyatt appeared in court Wednesday on a conspiracy charge, two aggravated identity theft charges and three counts of threatening to damage a protected computer. He and co-conspirators are accused of accessing company data and demanding ransom paid in bitcoin or they would release the data publicly. The companies were in Missouri, Illinois and Georgia.

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Kansas Man Admits Killing Missouri Girlfriend on Cruise Ship

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A 55-year-old Kansas man has admitted that he killed his girlfriend during a fight aboard a cruise ship of the coast of Florida last year. Federal prosecutors announced Thursday that Eric Duane Newman, of Topeka, pleaded guilty in federal court to second-degree murder. Prosecutors say Newman and 50-year-old Tamara Tucker were on a cruise ship heading to the Bahamas in January 2018 when they began fighting inside their cabin. Newman admitted strangling Tucker and pushing her over the cabin room balcony railing. She fell from the 13th deck to the 11th deck. Tucker, of Lawson, Missouri, died from blunt force trauma from the fall.

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Man Who Helped Steal More Than 75 Cell Phones Sentenced

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita man who served as lookout while another man hog-tied a Sprint store clerk and stole more than 75 cell phones has been sentenced to nearly six years in prison. Twenty-six-year-old Xavier Lopez was sentenced Thursday after he pleaded guilty in September to robbery. He admitted that he was lookout while 26-year-old Camarin McPherson, of Wichita, robbed the Sprint store on April 25. McPherson tied up the clerk and brandished a handgun before taking 78 phones. The two men were arrested after their vehicle crashed during a police chase. McPherson was sentenced in November to 13.5 years in prison. 

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KU Food, Housing Costs to Dip; 4 Other Schools Plan Hikes

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — University of Kansas student will pay a little bit less for basic food and housing starting next fall, while costs will remain the same or increase at the state's five other public universities. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that the Kansas Board of Regents voted Wednesday to drop the rate of a double occupancy room and limited dining option at KU to $9,700 from $9,768 for the 2020-21 academic year. KU Chancellor Douglas Girod said the savings came from food service employees finding “efficiencies in the system." Costs will remain the same at Wichita State University. All other public universities saw an increase.

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Man Given Probation for Theft at Lawrence Islamic Center

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A man convicted of stealing between $1,000 and $2,000 from the Islamic Center of Lawrence has been sentenced to two years of probation.  Thirty-two-year-old Amadou Bah was sentenced Wednesday after pleading no contest in September to burglary. As part of his plea, prosecutors dropped a felony theft charge and a misdemeanor charge. The Islamic Center was burglarized Aug. 13. Bah was identified through surveillance video, which showed a man using bolt cutters to remove two cash donation boxes and then taking cash from a third box. Bah’s attorney, Julia Butler, said Bah holds a permanent resident card and was aware the conviction could affect his immigration status. 

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Girlfriend of Kansas Man Who Wounded 2 Lawmen Sentenced

LYONS, Kan. (AP) — The girlfriend of a Kansas man who fatally shot his father and wounded two Kansas law enforcement officers before killing himself has been sentenced to 60 days in jail. The Wichita Eagle reports that District Judge Mike Keeley told Erin Baker that she had some responsibility for the April 29 shooting in ordering the sentence for aggravated child endangerment and obstruction of law enforcement. She was behind the wheel when Rice County Undersheriff Chad Murphy pulled her over in the town of Sterling. With her child in the backseat, Madden shot Murphy, then got more guns before killing his father, wounding the sheriff and killing himself. 

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Lawrence Man Charged with Murder in Fatal DUI Crash

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A Lawrence man has been charged with killing a woman on a scooter while driving drunk. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that 43-year-old Eric Spaeth is free on $75,000 bond. He was charged this week with second-degree murder or, in the alternative, involuntary manslaughter, in the death of 24-year-old Elizabeth Allen. He also is charged with a misdemeanor count of driving under the influence, his second offense, and driving while suspended. The crash report said Allen and her scooter were dragged under Spaeth's truck in August. Police said Spaeth's blood alcohol content was more than 2 1/2 times the legal limit.

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Kansas City Suspect Wants Women's Skeletal Remains Retested

HARRISONVILLE, Mo. (AP) — A man charged in the deaths of two women nearly a decade apart is asking that the women's skeletal remains be retested. Attorneys for Kylr Yust filed a motion this week asking the state to provide the remains of Kara Kopetsky and Jessica Runions to his defense. In a motion filed Tuesday, Yust said he wants an expert to examine the evidence in a private laboratory. Kopetsky was 17 when she disappeared in 2007. Runions was 21 when she disappeared in 2016. Their remains were found in a Cass County field in 2017. Yust is charged with murder in both cases.

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Kansas Court Considers Parental Rights of Ex-LGBTQ Partners

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Some LGBTQ people in Kansas who wanted to raise children born to partners they couldn't legally marry can be denied contact with the children when the couples split up. An attorney on Tuesday urged the state's highest court to make that far less likely to happen. The Kansas Supreme Court heard arguments in two cases brought by woman who were unmarried partners of other women who became mothers through artificial insemination. Neither had a formal parenting agreement with the mothers and the high court is considering whether Kansas law requires one for them to have contact with the children.

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Unsecured Gun Left Behind in Office of Former Kansas Secretary of State

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kris Kobach's successor as Kansas secretary of state says his staff found an unsecured gun in a file cabinet after taking over the office. The Wichita Eagle reports that the discovery of the .45-caliber piston in January was mentioned in a timeline Secretary of State Scott Schwab's aides produced in investigating how 1,000 rounds of ammunition purchased during Kobach's tenure went missing. The Eagle obtained the timeline through an open records request. Kobach had a staffer receive law enforcement training and reimbursed him for a gun and ammunition. A Schwab spokeswoman said the gun was turned over immediately to Capitol Police.

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Anonymous Donors Pay Off Lunch Debt at Southeast Kansas School District

COFFEYVILLE, Kan. (KWCH) -- The Coffeyville School District is expressing gratitude after two anonymous donors paid off the lunch debt of all students.  In a Facebook post Wednesday, the school district thanked the donors.  "All negative meal accounts are being paid off thanks to a couple of anonymous elves. We can't thank you enough for your generous donations," the post said.  The district did not say how many accounts were paid off or how much money was donated.

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Secret Santa Makes Traffic Stops Joyful in Kansas Community

SHAWNEE, Kan. (AP) — Getting stopped by police was joyful for residents of one Kansas City suburb. KMBC-TV reports that Police Officer Ryanne Stevens was among the elves dolling out $100 bills on Wednesday in Shawnee, Kansas. After pulling over a van for a minor traffic infraction, she learned that the driver's wife has multiple sclerosis. She explained that a Secret Santa had donated cash and that she thought the man "might be a good recipient of that money." Another unsuspecting driver hugged Stevens, telling her, "Thank you so much, God bless you." This is the fifth year the Secret Santa has donated $10,000 for Shawnee police to hand out.

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Jury Finds Man Fit for Trial in 1999 Slayings in Oklahoma

VINITA, Okla. (AP) — A Kansas man suspected in the deaths of an Oklahoma couple and the vanishing and presumed deaths of their teenage daughter and her friend two decades ago has been found competent to stand trial. A three-man, three-woman jury deliberated for 45 minutes before returning with that verdict Wednesday in a competency hearing for Ronnie Dean Busick. The Tulsa World reports that Busick showed no emotion as the decision was announced. The defense says Busick is not competent to stand trial because he suffered a traumatic brain injury in 1978. Busick is slated to come back to court on Feb. 7, when his preliminary hearing date will be set.

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Missouri Lawmaker Wants to Halt Playful Highway Messages

A Missouri lawmaker wants to put the brakes on transportation officials' use of playful messages on electronic signs mounted along state highways. Such messages include, “Santa's Coming Have you Been A Good Driver"and “Treat the Road Like a Cat Video ... Share It.” O'Fallon Republican Rep. Tony Lovasco says the signs are “hideously expensive. ” He says they're being used to “make puns about Santa Claus” instead of more useful information. Under his proposal, the Missouri Department of Transportation would be allowed to use the signs only to convey information about traffic conditions, weather or emergency alerts.

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