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Headlines for Thursday, November 1, 2018

UPDATE: Judge Rules Additional Polling Site Not in Public Interest

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) —  A federal judge says it is not in the public interest to order a western Kansas county to open another polling site in Dodge City just days before the election. U.S. District Judge Daniel Crabtree said in a written ruling Thursday evening that the request from the American Civil Liberties Union for an order to open a second polling would likely cause more voter confusion than it might cure. He notes the city has offered for the past 20 years only one polling location for its 13,000 registered voters. But he says that while another location might mitigate concerns about long lines during certain times, the plaintiffs have had 20 years to present that claim. Crabtree wrote he was troubled by Ford County Clerk Deborah Cox's reaction to an ACLU that she forwarded to the Secretary of State's office with the comment "LOL."

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) —  A federal judge has not ruled on whether a western Kansas county elections official must open a second polling site for Dodge City after moving the only site to a new location outside of town. U.S. District Judge Daniel Crabtree had a hearing Thursday on a request from the American Civil Liberties Union for an order directing Ford County Clerk Deborah Cox to open both the old and new polling sites Tuesday. The ACLU contends the move makes it more difficult for the city's mostly Hispanic population to vote. Cox testified that she moved the polling place because of a planned construction project at the old site that has yet to start. The two sites are nearly 4 miles apart. Crabtree said he would rule soon.

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - The county clerk who moved the only polling site in Dodge City to a facility outside the city limits says it is not possible to add a second polling place for the upcoming election. U.S. District Judge Daniel Crabtree will hear arguments today (THUR) on the American Civil Liberties Union's request for an order forcing Ford County Clerk Deborah Cox to open a place in town where people can vote on November 6. The southwest Kansas city has only one polling site to service 13,000 voters. For nearly two decades, that sole location was at the civic center in the mostly white part of town. The county last month moved it outside the city limits to a facility more than a mile from the nearest bus stop. The ACLU lawsuit contends moving the only polling site outside the city makes it more difficult for the mostly Hispanic population to vote because they tend to have less access to transportation and less flexible work schedules. Cox says she had to move the polling site because of construction. U.S. Attorney Stephen McAllister has notified a federal judge that his office in Kansas plans to send a monitor to Dodge City to observe voting in the November election.


Water Park Co-Owner Faces New Charges, Including for Drugs

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — The co-owner of a Kansas City, Kansas water park who is accused in the death of a 10-year-old boy has been charged with drug possession and hiring someone for sex. Court documents show Schlitterbahn co-owner Jeffery Henry was charged with intent to distribute meth, hiring someone to perform sexual acts, and possession of drug paraphernalia. Henry surrendered to authorities in Johnson County and was released on $100,000 bond.  He is already facing second-degree murder and other charges in the August 2016 death of Caleb Schwab. Henry is accused of rushing into service the 17-story Verruckt waterslide — which was billed as the world's largest — that Caleb was riding when he was killed. Henry is among several people charged in the tragedy . Deconstruction of the slide began Tuesday.


Kobach Echoes Trump on Birthright Citizenship Issue

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) -  Kansas gubernatorial candidate Republican Kris Kobach is echoing President Donald Trump's assertion that Trump can deny U.S. citizenship to babies born to parents living in the country illegally. Kobach's comments Wednesday in a Fox News television interview intensified a focus on immigration in the final days of a close governor's race. Kobach is the Kansas secretary of state and one of Trump's major political allies in the state. He also has made pursuing tough state measures against illegal immigration a cornerstone of his campaign for governor. In backing Trump on whether the president can end birthright citizenship without amending the U.S. Constitution, Kobach broke with some fellow Republicans including U.S House Speaker Paul Ryan. Many legal experts see the issue as long-settled and clearly in violation of the Constitution's 14th Amendment.

Lawsuit: 2 Men Died at Kansas Plant from Superheated Steam

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Two employees were killed when an elevator filled with superheated, "flesh-boiling" steam at a Westar Energy plant in Kansas this summer, according to a federal lawsuit. The lawsuit was filed Wednesday on behalf of the children of Damien Burchett, who died June 3 alongside Jesse Henson at a plant near Topeka. The family is suing three companies that manufactured and maintained the turbine and valve. Westar is not named in the lawsuit. The lawsuit also challenges a $250,000 state limit on compensation for survivors of people who die in on-the-job accidents, The Wichita Eagle reported. After a three-month shutdown for routine maintenance, two of three steam turbines went back online without incident, but a third turbine didn't have full power, according to the lawsuit. Burchett, of Overbrook, and Henson, of Manhattan, took an elevator to investigate a loss of steam at a safety relief valve, which is supposed to vent steam outside the plant if the pressure gets too high.

"Upon the elevator door opening on the 14th floor, (the men were) engulfed in flesh-boiling steam that had filled the room," the lawsuit said. "(Burchett) was exposed to the steam release and suffered severe burns that caused him to endure a horrific death."

Investigators determined the steam relief valve had either been ripped apart or failed altogether, allowing the steam to fill the room, according to the lawsuit. The lawsuit names Team Industrial Services, which did the maintenance work; Emerson Electric Co., the manufacturer of the steam valve; and Siemens, which built the turbines. Representatives of the three companies did not immediately return requests for comment on Thursday. Kansas law exempts employers from legal action, leaving workers' compensation insurance as the sole remedy, said John Carmichael, an attorney and member of the state House Judiciary Committee. That immunity doesn't extend to subcontractors or the manufacturers of equipment, Carmichael said. State law also prohibits state courts from awarding more than $250,000 for damages such as suffering and loss of companionship, which are not easily quantifiable. The lawsuit contends that law violates constitutional guarantees of equal protection, separation of powers, right to jury trials, taking private property without just compensation, due process and free and open access to the courts.


2 Correctional Officers Hurt Responding to Fight at El Dorado

EL DORADO, Kan. (AP) — Kansas prison officials say two correctional officers were injured while responding to a fight between inmates at El Dorado Correctional Facility. Corrections department spokesman Samir Arif says the fight occurred last Friday, October 26th. He said the officers were treated on-site and their injuries were not life-threatening. The names of the officers weren't released. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the corrections department didn't release information about the fight, including whether any inmates were injured and whether any weapons were involved.


3 Hutchinson Police Employees Fired, 1 Suspended

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — Three Hutchinson police department employees have been fired after a traffic stop involving an off-duty officer. Chief Jeffrey Hooper said Wednesday another employee was suspended, one was exonerated and action is pending against a sixth person. Hooper wouldn't identify the employees, except to say one of those fired was 30-year employee Capt. Troy Hoover. The Hutchinson News reports officer Anna Ruzhanovska was stopped in February after 911 received several complaints about an erratic driver. She was not tested for sobriety and an officer drove her home when she complained of a medical issue. City Manager John Deardoff says he was told the day after the stop that all police procedures were followed but he learned later that wasn't true. Hooper was not police chief when the incident happened.


Kansas Judge Revokes Probation for Former Immigration Agent

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge has revoked the probation for a former agent with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement who sent a Wichita television news anchor sensitive law enforcement material. A court document filed Wednesday shows former agent Andrew J. Pleviak violated terms of his supervised release by having unauthorized contact with a former employee of the Department of Homeland Security. He must now serve 12 months in prison. Pleviak had been sentenced in May to time served and a year of supervised release for exceeding authorized access to a government computer. The government says Pleviak went to the home of his former supervisor on Sept. 9 and banged on the door, but left before a sheriff's deputy arrived. His defense attorney says he has mental health issues.


Kansas Man Pleads Guilty to Using Customers' Credit Cards

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — The longtime owner of a barbecue restaurant pleaded guilty to using customers' credit cards to fund spending sprees. Matthew Sander, owner of Smokin' Joe's Bar-B-Q in Olathe, pleaded guilty Thursday to seven counts of identity theft, four counts of theft and one count of criminal use of a credit card. The Kansas City Star reports a plea agreement calls for Sander to serve a year in prison and make full restitution. Assistant District Attorney Alex Scott said two of the cases Sander pleaded guilty to involved him using credit cards customers had inadvertently left behind at the restaurant. In a third case, Sander stole a woman's purse from her seat at a restaurant bar in Overland Park and used her debit card. He will be sentenced January 9.


Wichita Woman Sentenced in Death of 2-Month-Old Son

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A 39-year-old Wichita woman who was drunk when one of her infant twin sons died will to stay in jail but could be released in January. Christy Rollings was sentenced Wednesday in the death of her son, Patrick Kempton. Police say she and her husband, Kyle Kempton, had been drinking for days at a hotel before she found the boy unresponsive in bed. The Wichita Eagle reports Sedgwick County District Judge Joe Kisner ordered Rollings to serve two years for four misdemeanor counts of child endangerment. He said he would consider putting her on probation if she continues drug and alcohol addiction treatment. He also said he would put Rollings on probation for one felony count of involuntary manslaughter. Kyle Kempton has pleaded not guilty to involuntary manslaughter and child endangerment.


Kansas Senate Committee Approves 3 Regents Appointments

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas Senate committee has approved three appointments to the Kansas Board of Regents. Governor Jeff Colyer appointed former Representative Mark Hutton, a Republican from Wichita, and former state Senator Allen Schmidt, a Democrat from Hays as new members to the board. He also reappointed former Representative Bill Feuerborn, a Democrat from Garnett. The appointments must next be confirmed by the full Senate when it meets in January. However, they can begin serving immediately while they await confirmation. The Senate Confirmation Oversight Committee approved the appointments Wednesday. If confirmed by the full Senate, the three new members would serve until June 30, 2022.


Prosecutors Allege Child Porn Found on Justin Rey's Phone

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — Johnson County prosecutors say child pornography was found on the phone of a man accused of dismembering his wife's body last year. The Kansas City Star reports prosecutors filed a motion Thursday seeking court permission to add three counts of sexual exploitation of a child to previous charges against 36-year-old Justin Rey. Rey testified in September that he cut up is wife's body in a Lenexa storage unit. He has said she died at a Missouri hotel in October 2017. Rey is scheduled to go on trial Monday on charges of child endangerment and contributing to a child's misconduct. He also faces charges in Missouri but is not charged in his wife's death. In Thursday's motion, prosecutors say police found the child pornography while searching Rey's phone last month at his request.


Atchison Officer Involved in Shooting with Resident

ATCHISON, Kan. (AP) — An Atchison homeowner was wounded when he was involved in a gunfight with a police officer. Atchison Police Chief Mike Wilson said the officer was not injured during the confrontation Wednesday. Wilson says the officer responded to a call to help utility crews when a homeowner confronted the officer. Wilson says the man shot at the officer, who returned fire. The man's condition was not immediately available. Details about what prompted the police call and the confrontation have not been released. The Kansas Bureau of Investigation is investigating the shooting.


Children of Northwest Missouri House Candidate Oppose Father's Campaign

LIBERTY, Mo. (AP) - The son and daughter of a Missouri House candidate are urging voters not to elect him. Emily and Andy West say their father, 64-year-old Steve West, is racist, homophobic and opposes Jews and Muslims. West gained attention after winning the GOP primary in August for a northwest Missouri House seat by nearly 25 points over three other candidates. Missouri Republican leaders quickly distanced themselves from West after word spread that he often publicly espoused racism and other bigoted views. Andy West says his father's ideology is pure hatred and electing him to the Legislature would legitimize his views. The elder West says that he doesn't judge people by race or color but does object to some ideologies on principle.


Two Arrested in Kansas in Apparent Interstate ATM Theft Ring

NEWTON, Kan. (AP) — Newton police have arrested two people suspected of stealing from ATMs in what authorities say is an interstate theft ring. Police arrested 44-year-old Alexandru Ion-Florin and 22-year-old Maria Bacelan Saturday after several thefts at Newton's Citizens State Bank locations. A total of $22,600 was taken in six cases. Newton officials said Wednesday that police departments have received reports in recent weeks about ATM thefts in Colorado and western Kansas. The thieves reportedly are using special cards that prompt the ATMs to dispense money without PIN numbers. Both of Newton's Citizens State Bank branches were hit several times. The suspects were arrested and booked into the Harvey County Jail. They are believed to be from Romania and are being held for the Immigration and Customs Enforcement.


Pfizer Looking for Hundreds of Workers for McPherson Plant

MCPHERSON, Kan. (AP) — Pfizer Inc. is looking for hundreds more employees for its plant in the Kansas town of McPherson, where it already employs about 2,000 people. The company, which manufactures injectable medicines, is scouring the state for 350 more workers because of increased demand for its product. A 3.3 percent unemployment rate in Kansas is making it more challenging to find new workers for a variety of positions, including production supervisors, project managers, and microbiologists. Pfizer has held well-attended job fairs in Wichita and Salina and expects recruitment to stretch into next year. The plant annually produces 125 millions of units of medicine for ailments including high blood pressure, infections and pain relief. Since 2015, Pfizer has invested $350 million in the plant in McPherson, which has a population of just over 13,200. Many of the open positions don't require a scientific or medical education because the investment has brought new, more automated equipment to the plant.


Man Charged in Crash That Killed Wichita Officer and Son

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita man has been charged in a crash that killed an off-duty Wichita police officer and his son. Sedgwick County sheriff's Lieutenant Tim Myers said in a news release that 35-year-old James Neal Dalrymple, of Valley Center, was charged Wednesday with two counts of involuntary manslaughter and failing to yield the right of way. The crash on April 27 killed 37-year-old Stacey Woodson, and his 9-year-old son, Braedon. Woodson was a 16-year Wichita police veteran who worked in the motorcycle unit. Authorities have said the motorcycle the Woodsons were on collided with a pickup truck that pulled in front of them. Stacey Woodson died at the scene and his son died later at the hospital.


Sprint Releases Fiscal 2Q Earnings Snapshot

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — Sprint Corp. on Wednesday reported fiscal second-quarter net income of $196 million, after reporting a loss in the same period a year earlier. The Overland Park, Kansas-based company said it had net income of 5 cents per share. The results beat Wall Street expectations. The average estimate of 13 analysts surveyed by Zacks Investment Research was for a loss of 1 cent per share. The wireless carrier posted revenue of $8.43 billion in the period. Twelve analysts surveyed by Zacks expected $7.98 billion. Sprint shares have decreased nearly 3 percent since the beginning of the year. The stock has decreased 18 percent in the last 12 months.

Report: Midwest Economy Expands Despite Tariff Concerns

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — The economy expanded in nine Midwestern and Plains states last month despite mounting concerns about tariffs and trade skirmishes, according to a report released Thursday. The Mid-America Business Conditions Index slumped to 54.9 in October, from 57.5 in September , the report said. The October reading was the lowest since January 2017, but it also was the 23rd month in a row that the index has remained above growth neutral 50.0. "The regional economy continues to expand at a healthy pace," said Creighton University economist Ernie Goss, who oversees the survey. "However, as in recent months, shortages of skilled workers remain an impediment to even stronger growth. Furthermore, supply managers are reporting mounting negative impacts from tariffs and trade skirmishes," he said. Trade restrictions, expanding tariffs and rising short-term interest rates are likely to slow regional growth in the months ahead, Goss said. The survey results are compiled into a collection of indexes ranging from zero to 100. Survey organizers say any score above 50 suggests growth. A score below that suggests decline. The survey covers Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma and South Dakota. Survey results cast a shadow on the October employment index, which dropped to 52.2 from 56.2 in September and 58.5 in August. Economic optimism, as reflected by the October index, plummeted to a still strong 59.6 from September's 68.0.


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