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Headlines for Thursday, November 21, 2019

 

Impeachment Intensifies Speculation About a Mike Pompeo Run for U.S. Senate in Kansas

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - A persistent buzz about Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stepping down to run for an open Senate seat in Kansas has built to a roar. It's happening as impeachment hearings into President Donald Trump have intensified scrutiny of the State Department. The top U.S. diplomat was in Brussels on Wednesday. He brushed off questions about the impeachment inquiry and dismissed speculation about how long he'll stay in Trump's administration. His trip came while lawmakers heard testimony from Ambassador Gordon Sondland that he kept Pompeo informed of efforts to pressure Ukraine into investigating former Vice President Joe Biden. Strain has set in between Trump and Pompeo and Republicans already have speculated for months that Pompeo might resign to run for the Senate in his home state.

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Kris Kobach's Brand Still Sells with Some Republicans in His Bid for a U.S. Senate Seat
 
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - Kris Kobach says he isn't fazed that fellow Republicans worry he's unpopular or too brash in pushing his hard-right views to keep Kansas' open U.S. Senate seat in GOP hands next year.  Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and others are so concerned that they've spent months urging ex-Kansas congressman Mike Pompeo to step down as U.S. secretary of state and run for the seat Republican Senator Pat Roberts is leaving. They want to keep Kobach from winning the August GOP primary.  But the former Kansas secretary of state isn't softening his rhetoric or putting less focus on the tough immigration policies that built his national profile. He's tripling down and deriding critics as "weak Republicans" seeking a "malleable" senator.  Kobach still appeals to conservatives. Speculation about Pompeo shows that Kobach remains a force.

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U.S. May Take Federal Execution Case to High Court; Kansas Inmate's Fate Hangs in the Balance

WASHINGTON (AP) — Attorney General William Barr tells The Associated Press he will take the Trump administration’s bid to restart federal executions after a 16-year hiatus to the Supreme Court if necessary. Barr’s comments came hours after a district court judge temporarily blocked the administration’s plans to start executions next month. The administration is appealing the decision, and Barr says he will take the case to the high court if Thursday’s ruling stands. He says the five inmates set to be executed are a small number of the 62 death row inmates. The first federal execution was set for December 9, with four others to quickly follow. The inmates argue that the government is circumventing proper methods in order to wrongly execute inmates quickly. One of those scheduled for execution is a Kansas man, Wesley Ira Purkey, who was convicted of killing a 16-year-old Kansas City girl. 

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Kansas City School District Falsified Attendance Data; Owes State Money

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ An investigation has found that the Kansas City School District falsified attendance data and will be forced to repay money to the state.  The Kansas City Star reports that the district released the findings publicly Wednesday after reporting them to state education officials earlier this month.  The investigation found that at least seven officials were involved in falsifying the data from 2013 to 2016, before Superintendent Mark Bedell was hired. Three of the employees are no longer with the district and the other four have been placed on paid administrative leave.  Because the state funds schools -- in part based on student attendance -- the manipulation led to the district being overpaid. The amount it will be required to pay back hasn't been determined.  Superintendent Bedell says steps have been taken to ensure it never happens again.

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Olathe Councilwoman Says She Won’t Resign over LGBTQ Flap

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas city councilwoman says she will not resign after an LGBTQ advocate accused her of complaining to his employer about his public support for a nondiscrimination ordinance. Olathe Councilwoman Karin Brownlee made the announcement during a council meeting that drew a standing-room-only crowd. Brett Hoedl, chairman of the Equality Kansas Metro Kansas City chapter, and others asked for Brownlee’s resignation. Hoedl said Brownlee’s actions would have a chilling effect on citizens speaking out on issues. Brownlee said she was at a social event when she had a casual conversation with a co-worker of Hoedl’s at Black & Veatch about his previous appearances before the council. She said she meant no harm. Olathe is considering passing a nondiscrimination ordinance that would include LGBTQ residents.  Hoedl and others say they plan to call for Brownlee's resignation at the council's next meeting Tuesday (11/26).

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4 Plead Guilty in $5.4 Million Meth Distribution Conspiracy in Kansas City

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Four people — including a mother and two of her children — have pleaded guilty in a $5.4 million conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine in northwest Missouri and northeast Kansas. Federal prosecutors say 67-year-old Linda Kay Ballard; her 27-year-old son, Eric Edward Ballard, both of Atchison; and her 35-year-old daughter, Charlsie Kim Harris, of Garden City, Missouri, pleaded guilty Wednesday. A fourth person, 48-year-old Anthony Dewayne Fifer, of Mexico, Missouri, also pleaded guilty to distributing meth from January 2015 to November 2017. The four defendants also pleaded guilty to participating in a money-laundering conspiracy. They are among nine defendants who have entered guilty pleas in in the case. The methamphetamine was distributed from Kansas City to the St. Joseph and the Atchison areas.

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Lawrence Woman Charged with Child Sex Crimes Pleads to Lesser Crimes, Gets Probation

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A Lawrence woman charged with sex crimes involving two young teenagers pleaded to lesser charges and was given two years of probation. Thirty-year-old Alisia Clark was originally charged with two felonies after she allegedly exposed herself, engaged in sexual conversation and groped a child who was 13 and another who was 14. The Lawrence Journal-World reports Cheek entered a plea deal that included dropping the two counts of aggravated battery. She was sentenced Wednesday. Court documents show both children told police the inappropriate actions happened when Cheek was drunk. Cheek’s attorney, Michael Clarke, told Judge Sally Pokorny on Wednesday that Cheek was now sober and he had no doubt she would successfully complete her probation. Cheek has an underlying one-year sentence if her probation is revoked.

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New Lawsuits Filed in Fatal Wichita Police Swatting Case

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Two new lawsuits have been filed in a hoax emergency call that led police in Wichita to fatally shoot a man at his home. Police killed Andrew Finch two years ago after receiving a “swatting” call meant to send SWAT teams to a nonexistent emergency. Tyler Barriss, of Los Angeles, is serving a 20-year prison sentence for making the call. A wrongful death lawsuit seeks more than $75,000 in damages on behalf of Finch’s two children.  A federal lawsuit filed by Finch’s mother and her boyfriend says four police officers violated their constitutional rights by detaining and arresting them after the shooting. The city’s law director, Jennifer Magana, hasn’t said if the city will represent the officers.

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Wichita Man Who Hog-Tied Sprint Employee, Stole Phones Is Sentenced

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita man who hog-tied a Sprint store clerk and stole dozens of smartphones has been sentenced to 3.5 years in prison. U.S. Attorney Stephen McAllister’s office said 26-year-old Camarin McPherson was sentenced Wednesday. He pleaded guilty in August to robbery after an April 25 holdup of a Sprint store in Wichita. Investigators say McPherson used a gun and tied up the clerk before stealing 54 Apple iPhones and 24 Samsung Galaxy phones worth more than $60,000. He also stole four LG Stylo 4 phones worth around $500 each. Another man who acted as a lookout and helped steal the phones, 26-year-old Xavier Lopez, is awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty in September to interference with commerce by means of robbery.

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Topeka Man Sentenced for Killing 2 Family Members

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A 41-year-old man who killed his estranged wife and her cousin has been sentenced to nearly 46 years in prison. District Attorney Mike Kagay announced Wednesday that Bradley Sportsman, of Hollenberg, was sentenced for the 2018 deaths of 28-year-old Lisa Sportsman and 17-year-old Jesse Polinskey. Police say the victims were stabbed and beaten to death. Sportsman pleaded guilty in October to two counts of second-degree murder. One of his co-defendants, Matthew Hutto, was sentenced to two consecutive life sentences with no chance of parole for 50 years, but he is seeking to withdraw his pleas. A third man, Richard Showalter, is scheduled for trial December 9 on two counts of first-degree murder and several other charges.

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Worker Killed in Industrial Accident in Southwest Wichita

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police say a 35-year-old man died after an accident at a construction equipment plant in southwest Wichita. Police spokesman Keven Wheeler says the man was injured early Wednesday when he was working on machinery at Case New Holland Construction. KAKE-TV reports the man was identified as Andrew Taylor. Wheeler says several co-workers tried to help Taylor, but he died later at a hospital. Additional information has not been released.

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Wichita Businessman Sentenced for Role in Gambling Probe

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita businessman has been sentenced to one year of supervised probation for his role in the transfer of betting information from illegal poker games. Johnny Steven was sentenced Wednesday after pleading guilty to being an accessory after the fact to the unlawful transmission of wagering information.  Steven also agreed to forfeit $97,600 in earnings from his gambling. The Wichita Eagle reports the case stems from an FBI investigation into illegal poker games played in Wichita. Steven's attorney, Kurt Kerns, said earlier Kerns was charged for not alerting authorities to a friend’s private poker game. Steven’s brother, Brandon Steven, is serving three years of probation for hiding gambling ledgers connected to the games. Daven Flax, who was conducting illegal private poker games, is serving two years of probation for gambling and making a false tax statement.

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Former Wichita Police Officer’s Certification Revoked

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A former Wichita police officer who exposed an undercover officer investigating illegal gambling has lost his law enforcement certification. The Wichita Eagle reports a state oversight board revoked the certification of Michael Zajkowski, who worked for the Wichita department from January 1991 to April 2017. He pleaded guilty in April to failing to report a felony. Prosecutors say he used police resources to determine that an undercover Wichita officer had infiltrated the illegal gambling and then gave that information to gambling organizers. He was not sentenced to any prison time or probation. Another former officer, Bruce Mackey, pleaded guilty to the same crime in August and also had his peace office certification revoked. Last month, retired Kansas Highway Patrol trooper Michael Frederiksen’s conviction for lying to the FBI was vacated because he had an ineffective attorney.

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Survey of Bankers Shows Rural Economy Growing in November

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A new survey of bankers suggests the economy continues growing in rural parts of 10 Plains and Western states, but the ongoing trade disputes continue to hurt the outlook for more growth. The Rural Mainstreet survey's overall index improved to 54.2 in November from October’s 51.4. Any score above 50 suggests a growing economy, while a score below 50 indicates a shrinking economy. Creighton University economist Ernie Goss, who oversees the survey, says bankers still have a weak outlook for the region because of the ongoing trade war with China. The confidence index for the region remained in negative territory at 44.4 in November even though it was higher than October’s 36.5. Bankers from Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming were surveyed.

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Sex Offender Charged in Wichita Abduction, Rape

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ A 58-year-old registered sex offender is facing five charges after he allegedly kidnapped a 15-year-old girl who was walking home from a Wichita grocery store and raped her. The charges against Anthony Craig Seymour, of Wichita include aggravated kidnapping and rape. The Wichita Eagle reports Seymour is accused of using a knife to force the girl into his car and raping her on Tuesday. He made his first court appearance Thursday. A witness to the abduction called 911. The girl jumped out of Seymour's car when she saw a police car in the neighborhood after the emergency call. Seymour is in the Sedgwick County Jail on $250,000 bond. His next court date is December 5. He previously served just over 15 years for raping a 14-year-old girl in 2003.

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Missouri Jail Escapee Captured in Makeshift Hut in Delaware

PRINCETON, Mo. (AP) _ Authorities say an inmate who escaped twice from a Missouri jail was captured more than 1,000 miles away in Delaware where he was living in a makeshift hut in a wooded area. The U.S. Marshals Service says in a news release that 27-year-old Drake Kately, of Kansas City, Missouri, was captured Tuesday near New Castle, Delaware. Kately escaped most recently in September from the jail in Mercer County, Missouri, after making a hole in his cell. He was being held there on multiple charges, including assault. The Marshals Service says that he was found hiding in a shelter created by placing foliage around a fallen tree after authorities spotted clothing hanging from a nearby tree branch. He is awaiting extradition to Missouri. His attorney, Melinda Troeger, didn't immediately return a phone message from The Associated Press. 

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