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Headlines for Thursday, December 21, 2017

Here's what's happening.

Firm's CEO Seeks to Reassure Kansas Panel on Prison Costs

LAWRENCE, Kan (KPR/AP) -  Should Kansas hire a private company to build the next state prison?  That's the question lawmakers are trying to answer.  The CEO of a private corrections company is seeking to reassure lawmakers that this is the state's most cost-effective option.  A joint committee on budget issues met yesterday (WED) to review a plan for a new prison for 2,400 inmates in Lansing, which would replace the state's oldest and largest prison located there.  The state Department of Corrections wants to have private-prison giant CoreCivic build the prison and lease it to the state for the first 20 years.  A union representing state employees questioned whether the lease-purchase deal would be cheaper than having the state issue bonds to finance the project.  But the CEO of CoreCivic (Damon Hininger) told the panel that it can build the project faster than the state and with lower financing costs.


KU Professor Confirmed as U.S. Attorney in Kansas 

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The state's solicitor general will become Kansas's top federal prosecutor. The U.S. Senate on Wednesday unanimously confirmed Stephen McAllister's nomination to be U.S. Attorney in Kansas. McAllister, a University of Kansas law professor, was dean of the university's law school from 2000 to 2005. He previously clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Justices Byron White and Clarence Thomas. He was nominated in September by President Donald Trump. U.S. Senators Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran, both Kansas Republicans, praised McAllister's nomination. McAllister will succeed acting U.S. Attorney Tom Beall, who was appointed in 2016.


Body Found in Missouri Identified as Missing O.P. Woman

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ Authorities have identified a woman's body found in Kansas City as that of missing 18-year-old from Overland Park.  They also say a person of interest in her disappearance killed himself.  Police say the body of Mikayla Norris, of Overland Park, was discovered Tuesday in a wooded area.  Meanwhile, Kareem McCoy-Lee's body was found behind a sporting goods store in suburban Liberty, Missouri.  Police are investigating the deaths as a possible murder suicide.  Police in Liberty say McCoy-Lee also fired shots earlier Tuesday at another woman while she was driving. She wasn't struck by bullets... but she did hit a tree.  Mikayla Norris was last seen Sunday leaving a barbecue restaurant where she worked.

Kansas Governor Still Touting Tax Cuts Repealed by Lawmakers

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Kansas Governor Sam Brownback argues as he prepares to leave office that his experiment in aggressive tax-cutting pioneered a national debate over helping small business owners.  He said during a year-end interview with The Associated Press that what Kansas did on taxes influenced Congress and other states even if his home-state lawmakers rolled back the cuts.  The conservative Republican governor predicted that other states will look at lowering personal income taxes for small business owners. He pointed to provisions of a GOP federal tax overhaul as a sign that the idea has taken root.  Brownback is awaiting U.S. Senate confirmation as ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom. Looking ahead, he said he believes religious liberty issues are more visible globally and "the time is right" to focus on them.


Residents Criticize Topeka After Fatal Police Shooting

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Topeka city officials heard from several residents frustrated with how the city, especially its police department, treats young black men. More than 150 people attended a public forum Wednesday to address city officials. Speakers included grieving mothers and young men who told stories of being racially profiled by officers. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports a main topic of discussion was the September shooting death of 30-year-old Dominique White by Topeka police officers. White's stepfather, Brock Wynne, told the crowd that his family is challenging the community to make White's death a catalyst for change in the city. City officials didn't speak at the gathering. Mayor-elect Michelle De La Isla said in an interview she hoped the city could discuss new ways to improve policing strategies.


Charges Filed in 2015 Fatal Drive-By Shooting of Young Girl

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Shawnee County authorities say a 21-year-old man has been charged with killing a 5-year-old girl in a drive-by shooting. Jessie Deshawn Hughes, of Topeka, was charged Thursday with one count of felony first-degree murder in the 2015 shooting death of 5-year-old Lily Coats-Nichols. He was also charged with criminal discharge of a firearm at an occupied vehicle. Hughes is being held in the Shawnee County jail in lieu of a $1 million bond. The girl died in July 2015. Police said she was riding in a car when someone drove by and fired shots at the vehicle. Lily was hit in the head. Two adults — including Lily's mother — also were traveling in the targeted vehicle.


Department of Homeland Security Suspending Bioterror Testing Near Kansas/Oklahoma Border

NEWKIRK, Okla. (AP) — The Department of Homeland Security is suspending plans to conduct bioterrorism drills near the Kansas-Oklahoma border over concerns about their impact on grounds Native American tribes consider sacred. Homeland Security spokesman John Verrico said in an email Thursday the tests were suspended over objections to them taking place at the Chilocco Indian Agricultural School. The school operated from the late 1800s until 1980 and was one of several federally run schools where the government tried to assimilate Native American children. Tribes said the agency wasn't protecting a site with religious and cultural significance. The tests involved release of inert materials to evaluate the ability of buildings to protect occupants from biological hazards. Verrico says the work remains important and the agency is looking for another location.


Ness County Sheriff Arrested in Perjury, Misconduct Case 

NESS CITY, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Bureau of Investigation says it arrested the Ness County Sheriff after an investigation into misconduct. The KBI announced Thursday that 47-year-old Sheriff Bryan Whipple, of Ness City, was arrested on charges of perjury, making false information, criminal distribution of firearms to a felon and official misconduct. The bureau said in a statement that the alleged crimes are believed to have happened in the last four years. Whipple made an initial appearance in Rush County District Court shortly after his arrest. The KBI's statement said no more information about the alleged misconduct would be released because the investigation is continuing.


Topeka Man Pleads Guilty to 2 Grisly Stabbing Deaths

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A 62-year-old Topeka man has admitted stabbing two men to death in September in Topeka. Maximo Campillo-Echevarria pleaded guilty Thursday to murder in the deaths of 61-year-old Thomas Paul O'Conner and 22-year-old Chance Christian Clark, who was dismembered. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports Campillo-Echevarria pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in the O'Conner death and second-degree murder in the Crank death. As part of the plea, arson and aggravated weapons charges were dismissed. Kansas Corrections records show Campillo-Echevarria was convicted of first-degree murder for a 1981 Shawnee County death and paroled in 2000. He returned to prison for 2004 convictions, including aggravated assault, but was paroled in 2015.


Congressional Leaders to Award Bob Dole Top Civilian Honor 

WASHINGTON (AP) — House and Senate leaders will present former Republican Senator Bob Dole with the nation's highest civilian honor to recognize his decades of service as a soldier, lawmaker and statesman. House Speaker Paul Ryan's office says Dole will receive the Congressional Gold Medal in a ceremony scheduled for January 17. Ryan, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi will take part in the event at the U.S. Capitol. Dole represented Kansas for 35 years, first in the House and then in the Senate. He was the GOP presidential nominee in 1996 and lost the election to Bill Clinton. Now 94, Dole suffered severe injuries during World War II and was awarded two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star.


University of Kansas Reconsidering Part of Its Tuition Plans

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The University of Kansas is cutting out-of-state tuition in an effort to attract high-achieving students, while sending more money to in-state students who need financial help. Chancellor Douglas Girod announced the plan Wednesday at a Kansas Board of Regents council meeting. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports Kansas will start granting tuition waivers to high-achieving out-of-state students. The hope is that will attract more students to offset the drop in tuition revenue. The scholarships that have been used to recruit out-of-state students will go toward in-state students with financial need. Girod said the university currently prices out-of-state students' tuition on their grades and test scores and then uses waivers and scholarships to fund the discount. He says the new plan would redirect up to a half a million dollars to in-state students.


Survey Suggests Economy Remains Slow in Rural Areas

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A new monthly survey of bankers suggests the economy remains weak in rural parts of 10 Plains and Western states, but it improved slightly. The overall economic index for the region grew to 47.8 in December from 44.7 in November, but any score below 50 suggests a shrinking economy in the months ahead. Creighton University economist Ernie Goss says low commodity prices and concerns about trade continue to weigh on the economy in rural areas. Bankers from Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming were surveyed.


Former Manhattan City Attorney Sentenced in Child Porn Case

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) - A former Manhattan city attorney has been sentenced to 17.5 years in prison on child pornography charges.  Federal prosecutors say 55-year-old Bill Raymond, of Andover, was sentenced this week in federal court in Wichita. Raymond pleaded guilty in August to three counts of transporting child pornography and one count of possessing child pornography.  Prosecutors say Raymond committed the crimes in Butler and Riley counties.  He was city attorney in Manhattan from 2012 until he was charged in the child porn case in 2015. Before moving to Manhattan he was an assistant county counselor in Sedgwick County.


Feds Reduce Fines in Case of Exploding Grain Elevator

ATCHISON, Kan. (AP) - The federal government has sharply reduced the fines facing a Kansas City-based company after a grain elevator explosion killed six people and injured two others in northeast Kansas.  A pending settlement would require Bartlett Grain Co. to pay $182,000 in fines, safety audits and improvements at its 20 grain handling facilities in six states.  The Occupational Safety and Health Administration had proposed $406,000 in fines after the October 2011 explosion in Atchison. The Kansas City Star reports the agreement must still be approved by an administrative law judge.  Kansas investigators previously determined the grain dust explosion was accidental. Federal investigators have declined to file any criminal charges.  OSHA said previously that the deaths could have been prevented had operators addressed known industry hazards.

Man Dies in Trench Collapse in Wichita Suburb

BEL AIRE, Kan. (AP) - Officials say a man who was working inside a trench when tons of dirt fell on him has died.  The collapse happened Wednesday morning in the Wichita suburb of Bel Aire.  Bel Aire Police Chief Darrell Atteberry said the man was at the bottom of the trench when between 16 and 20 tons of dirt shifted and fell on top of him.   Workers tried for hours to rescue the man, including digging with heavy equipment and their hands to reach him.  The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is on the scene investigating.  No further details were immediately released.


Prosecutors: Virginia Man Posed as Doctor, Treated Patients

A man who prosecutors say posed as a physician and treated patients in southeastern Virginia has been arrested in Kansas.  The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Virginia says in a news release that 30-year-old Vishal Patel of Glen Allen Was arrested Tuesday by Drug Enforcement Administration agents in Overland Park, Kansas.  According to an indictment, Patel has never been licensed to practice medicine in Virginia. Prosecutors say Patel stole identifying information of a licensed physician and obtained documents that fraudulently said Patel was a doctor.  The indictment says Patel used the fake documents to get a job at a health center in Newport News, Virginia. Prosecutors say Patel saw patients, conducted and ordered tests and exams, and prescribed medication.  Court documents don't list a lawyer for Patel.


Kansas State Hires Firm to Assist Boosting Enrollment

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) - Kansas State is hiring consultants to help it reverse declining enrollment.  The university said Tuesday it will pay Huron Consulting Services $550,000 to help the school reconsider its enrollment plan. Spokeswoman Jennifer Tidball says the national consulting firm's contract is for 16 weeks.  The Manhattan Mercury reports the effort will begin early next year. The project will be led by Provost April Mason and Vice President for Student Life Pat Bosco.  In October, the Kansas Board of Regents announced that Kansas State recorded the largest percentage drop in enrollment this fall of the state's six regents universities.  The university in Manhattan had 22,796 students this fall, a drop of 984, or 4.14 percent, from the previous fall.


Bystander Killed in Kansas City When Man's Plot Plot Against Ex-Girlfriend Fails

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A woman says her ex-boyfriend was attempting to kill her when he shot at her from a slain Kansas woman's car and then killed himself when the plot failed. The Kansas City Star reports that Bryanna Spencer says Kareem McCoy-Lee used the car of 18-year-old Mikayla Norris on Tuesday to chase her as she was driving to a job interview in Liberty, Missouri. Spencer escaped with the help of a worker who happened to be nearby and said Wednesday that she felt burdened by the knowledge that McCoy-Lee's plot against her claimed Norris's life. Police say McCoy-Lee's body was found later Tuesday in Liberty, while Norris' body was found in Kansas City, Missouri. The Overland Park, Kansas, woman was last seen alive Sunday leaving her job at a barbecue restaurant.


KU Renaming Football Stadium for Wealthy Donor

LAWRENCE, Kan (KPR) - The University of Kansas plans to rename its football stadium in honor of David Booth, a wealthy donor and KU alumnus.  Booth has pledged $50 million, over five years, toward stadium renovations.  Chancellor Douglas Girod made the announcement yesterday (WED).  The stadium will soon come to be called the David Booth Kansas Memorial Stadium.  Booth is also the man who purchased the orginal rules of basketball -- written by the game's inventor, James Naismith - which are on display at the DeBruce Center on the KU campus.


K-State's Bill Snyder - Will He Stay or Will He Go?

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) - Kansas State coach Bill Snyder remains undecided about his future, preferring to focus on preparing the Wildcats to play UCLA in the Cactus Bowl. Some reports have indicated the 78-year-old Snyder has already decided to return for his 27th season with the program. He says he is in the process of figuring that out.


Man Sentenced to Nearly 12 Years in Girlfriend's Killing

COLUMBUS, Kan. (AP) — A man has been sentenced to 11 years and nine months in prison for killing his girlfriend in southeast Kansas. The Joplin Globe reports that 46-year-old John Francis was sentenced Wednesday for second-degree murder and criminal possession of a firearm in the April shooting death of 29-year-old Kelly Glasgow at their Galena home. He originally was charged with first-degree murder and pleaded guilty to the reduced count last month through a plea agreement. Francis has several prior drug convictions and was on parole from the Missouri prison system at the time. He fled after the shooting but was captured several days later near the southwest Missouri town of Carterville, near where he had lived previously. Francis said at the plea hearing that he was "playing with guns" before the shooting.


Pro Racecar Driver Tucker Accused of Not Reporting Income

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Professional racecar driver Scott Tucker and his accountant have been indicted on federal charges of failing to report millions in income from a payday lending business that has been ruled fraudulent. The U.S. attorney's office in Kansas said Wednesday that Tucker, 55, of Leawood, is charged with filing a false return and the accountant, W. Brett Chapin, 46, of Shawnee, of aiding him. Tucker is accused of orchestrating a sham sale of a payday loan servicing company to the Miami Tribe for $120,000. The indictment says Tucker continued to control the business and a new lending operation, although others were listed as owners. The indictment says more than $117.5 million in payday lending income was not reported in 2009 and 2010 tax returns. Tucker, a former American Le Mans Series champion, used the payday lending money to fund the Level 5 Motorsports auto racing team. Two months ago, federal jurors in New York found Tucker and his former lawyer, Timothy Muir, guilty of preying on vulnerable borrowers through a $2 billion payday loan business that charged 700 percent interest or more. Tucker's lawyers argued that the terms of the loans were known to customers. That verdict followed a 2016 case in Nevada in which a federal judge ruled that Tucker and others deceived payday loan consumers and owed the Federal Trade Commission about $1.2 billion. Tucker and Muir face as long as 20 years in prison on the most serious charges in the New York case. Tucker's payday lending businesses included Ameriloan, Cash Advance, One Click Cash, Preferred Cash Loans, United Cash Loans, US FastCash, 500 FastCash, Advantage Cash Services and Star Cash Processing.


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