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Headlines for Thursday, October 18, 2018

GOP Candidate for Kansas Governor Proposes Tougher Work Rules for Welfare Benefits

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Republican Kris Kobach promises to pursue tougher work requirements for recipients of food stamps, cash assistance and state health coverage if he's elected Kansas governor.  Kobach, the Kansas secretary of state, outlined a proposal Wednesday that builds on laws enacted in 2015 and 2016. Those laws require cash assistance and food stamp recipients to work at least 20 hours a week, be looking for work, or be enrolled in job training.  Kobach proposes to increase the work requirement to 30 hours a week for able-bodied adults without children. He wants to impose a 30-hour requirement in the Medicaid program providing health coverage for the needy.  He said such requirements will encourage people to work in a strong economy.  Democratic nominee Laura Kelly has sharply criticized the 2015 and 2016 laws.


Geary County Sheriff Arrested on Felony Theft Charge

JUNCTION CITY, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Bureau of Investigation says it has arrested the Geary County sheriff at his office. The agency said in a news release that 44-year-old Geary County Sheriff Anthony "Tony" Wolf was arrested Thursday morning. KBI says the sheriff was arrested for felony theft, for allegedly giving a county-owned firearm as a gift and for misusing public funds. He could not be reached for comment, and it is unclear whether he has a defense attorney yet. The charges stem from an investigation the KBI initiated in August. Dickinson County Attorney Andrea Purvis has been appointed special prosecutor in the case. Wolf was booked into the Geary County jail following his arrest and released on bond. The sheriff is on administrative leave.


Kobach Lawyer Seeks to Delay Release of Video in Kansas Case

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — An attorney for Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach is seeking to delay the release of a video of Kobach being questioned in a federal voting-rights lawsuit to avoid hurting his campaign for governor. A court filing late Wednesday by Sue Becker draws an explicit link between stopping the video's release and Kobach's campaign as the Republican nominee for governor, The Wichita Eagle report ed. Becker is general counsel for the secretary of state's office. The video was played during the trial of a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union against a state law requiring new voters to provide proof of their U.S. citizenship when registering. The video provides details about Kobach's private talks with President Donald Trump and members of Congress. U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson struck down the law in June as an unconstitutional restriction on voting rights. The transcript of the video already is public, but the ACLU and Kobach's office have been sparring over the potential release of the video itself. Becker's filing specifically asks that if Robinson decides to release the video, she delay her decision long enough for Kobach to seek a review by a higher court. Becker wrote that once the video is released, Kobach expects it to be released immediately to the media and "used in last-minute political commercials." Kobach is in a dead heat with Democratic nominee Laura Kelly, a veteran state senator from Topeka.

"The release of the videotape has nothing to do with this litigation; rather it is a transparent effort by a nakedly partisan and liberal organization to inject this lawsuit and the State's loss into the gubernatorial campaign," Becker wrote. Ahead of the GOP primary in August, the ACLU spent about $200,000 on mailers and phone calls to prospective voters comparing Kobach to Gov. Jeff Colyer in a negative light. While the ACLU said it wasn't endorsing any candidate, Kobach seized on its activities as support for Colyer — and made it an issue before winning a narrow victory. In previous court filings, the ACLU attorneys and others have said that they do not believe the tape is shielded from release.

"The Tape was entered into the record unsealed and played in open court in full view of the public," one filing said.


Faith Leaders Tell Candidates to Stop Vilifying Immigrants

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — More than 70 Kansas religious leaders and community activists are asking the state's political candidates to stop vilifying immigrants. The Kansas City Star reports that interfaith leaders signed an open letter to candidates saying that immigrants in the country legally and illegally are vital parts of communities and contribute to the economy. Organizers said the letter will be sent this week to scores of Democrats and Republicans seeking state and federal offices. The group did not single out particular candidates. Lead organizer Rev. Bobby L. Love, Sr., deflected questions about whether it's aimed at Kansas Secretary of State and gubernatorial candidate Kris Kobach. Kobach has made illegal immigration a key issue in his campaign after more than a decade of advocating action by states and local communities.


Democratic State House Candidate Cited Twice for Drunken Driving

LENEXA, Kan. (AP) — A Democrat running for a suburban Kansas City legislative seat has been cited twice for drunken driving.  The Kansas City Star reports that 28-year-old Brandon Woodard, of Lenexa, previously acknowledged being arrested in 2012 when he was a 22-year-old senior at the University of Kansas. Because Woodard was then vice president of the university's student senate, the student newspaper, the Daily Kansan, wrote about it.  The Star then asked him about it after he announced his candidacy for the 30th District seat in the Kansas House. Woodard says he wasn't trying to hide a second 2014 drunken driving arrest in Lawrence during that February interview, but felt under no obligation to volunteer it.  Woodard is running against Republican Wendy Bingesser for the seat being vacated by Republican Randy Powell.


2 Workers Acquitted of Lying in Water Park Death Probe

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Two Kansas water park maintenance workers were acquitted Thursday of impeding an investigation into the death of a 10-year-old boy who was decapitated while riding a waterslide in August 2016. David Hughes and John Zalsman were charged with obstruction of justice in connection to the death of Caleb Schwab, who was killed on the Verruckt slide at the Schlitterbahn water park in Kansas City. The raft Caleb was riding in went airborne, slamming him into a metal pole. Two women on the raft also were injured. Hughes and Zalsman were they are the first employees to stand trial in the case. Prosecutors alleged the two men failed to replace a brake mat that fell off the slide two weeks earlier but told investigators that the mat had only been on the slide during testing phases. Video evidence showed that the mat was used after the ride opened to customers in 2014, prosecutors said.

"This was not a mistake, this was intentional calculated conduct," said Adam Zentner, assistant Kansas Attorney General.

The Verruckt rafts made a 17-story drop at speeds of up to 70 mph, followed by a surge over the hump and a 50-foot (15-meter) descent to a finishing pool. Jurors were told the brake mat was supposed to slow the rafts as they reached the top of the hump. The defense said prosecutors didn't understand how the slide functioned and questioned the testimony of Jason Diaz, the Kansas Bureau of Investigation agent who interviewed the defendants. The defense also noted that another Schlitterbahn employee who made false statements to investigators wasn't charged.

"These are just two good old boys, they're hard working guys and because they're the only two adults in the room they get singled out and have to get charged ," said Scott Toth, defense attorney for Hughes, as he addressed jurors. Diaz said he didn't believe the other employee had intentionally misled him. Schlitterbahn has said officials have no reason to believe any employee obstructed justice. The most serious charges in Caleb's death have been filed against one of Schlitterbahn's owners, Jeff Henry, Verruckt designer John Schooley and general contractor Henry & Sons Constructions. Each is charged with second-degree murder, aggravated battery and aggravated endangerment of a child. Another employee is charged with involuntary manslaughter. They have all pleaded not guilty. The slide, which was billed as the world's tallest, was shut down after Caleb was killed.


Water Park 'Respects' Verdict in Waterslide Death

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) —  An attorney for one of two maintenance workers acquitted in the waterslide death of a 10-year-old Kansas boy says the prosecution was a mess and an overreach by the attorney general. David Hughes and John Zalsman were found not guilty Thursday of obstruction of justice in connection to the August 2016 death of Caleb Schwab. The boy died after hitting a metal pole while on the 17-story Verruckt waterslide at the Schlitterbahn water park in Kansas City, Kansas. Zalsman's attorney called the prosecution "sloppy" and accused the attorney general of overreaching in an attempt to push innocent men to turn on employees higher up in the company. The attorney general's office did not respond to a message seeking comment. Hughes and Zalsman were the first workers to go on trial. The park's co-owner and the ride's designer have pleaded not guilty to second-degree murder charges. Their trials have not been scheduled.

4:45 p.m.

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas water park where a 10-year-old boy was killed on a towering waterslide says it respects the decision of a jury that acquitted two maintenance workers who'd been accused of lying to investigators. Texas-based Schlitterbahn released the statement after jurors acquitted David Hughes and John Zalsman of obstruction of justice. It says company officials have "maintained our belief in the integrity of our staff and respect the process and decision by the jury." Hughes and Zalsman were the first workers to go on trial in the August 2016 death of Caleb Schwab. The boy died after hitting a metal pole while on the 17-story Verruckt waterslide at the Schlitterbahn water park in Kansas City. Prosecutors alleged the men lied about failing to replace a brake mat that fell off the slide two weeks earlier. The park's co-owner and the ride's designer have also been indicted. Caleb's father, state Representative Scott Schwab, had no immediate comment on the verdict.


Suspect in Custody in Hit-and-Run Crash that Hurt Boy

PAOLA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities have a suspect in custody in a hit-and-run crash that injured a 12-year-old boy in eastern Kansas.  Police in Paola said in a Facebook post that the crash happened Tuesday afternoon. The boy was taken to a hospital, but the extent of his injuries weren't immediately known.  The post said the sport utility vehicle that hit the child was leaking fluid as it left the scene. Police announced later in the day that the suspect was in custody. The suspect's name wasn't immediately released.  The investigation is ongoing.


1 of 2 Suspects in Car Wash Stabbing Death Pleads Guilty

LEE'S SUMMIT, Mo. (AP) — One of two teens accused in the stabbing death of a woman at a suburban Kansas City car wash has pleaded guilty.  WDAF-TV reports that Trevon Henry pleaded guilty Tuesday to first-degree murder and other charges in the death of 43-year-old Tanya Chamberlain. Prosecutors say Henry and Joshua Trigg attacked Chamberlain in November 2015 at the car wash in Lee's Summit and then stole her car. The boys were just 13 and 14 at the time of the attack, but were ordered to stand trial as adults.  Court documents say they were seen on surveillance video at the car wash and a nearby grocery store. A woman who recognized them called police two days later.  Sentencing for Henry is set for January 4. The case against Trigg is pending.


Man Suspected of Wounding Kansas Woman Arrested in Texas

PITTSBURG, Kan. (AP) — A suspect in a Kansas shooting that left a woman in critical condition has been arrested in an area south of Dallas.  The Pittsburg Morning Sun reports that the Hill County, Texas, Sheriff's Department arrested 34-year-old Eric James Cravey, of Pittsburg, around 3 am Wednesday. He's being held on an attempted murder warrant for allegedly shooting Vanessa Rae McWhirt Martin after an argument. She was found Saturday lying in the driveway of a vacant residence in Pittsburg suffering from an abdominal wound.  She was rushed to a Pittsburg hospital in critical condition and then transferred to the University of Kansas Hospital in Kansas City, Kansas.  Police in Pittsburg expressed thanks in a news release for the tips that led to Cravey's capture. He'll face extradition proceedings in coming days.


Floodwaters Recede in Kansas After Last Week's Deluge

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — Floodwaters are receding in Kansas after several creeks and rivers overflowed in the state.  The Hutchinson News reports that water levels on the Cow Creek and the Arkansas River in the Hutchinson area had shown a 2.5 foot drop Tuesday from their peaks last week. First responders need the levels to drop even further before the damages can be assessed.  Reno County Emergency Management listed 37 road closures on Thursday, but the dangerous situations that led to six water rescue calls last Thursday have diminished.  Last week, Governor Jeff Colyer has issued a state of disaster declaration, Amtrak rerouted some passengers on buses and some farmland was inundated. The flooding also claimed the life of 78-year-old Hazel Phillips, who was found dead Friday inside her car near Osawatomie.


Iconic Dodge City Moves Its Only Polling Site Outside Town

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Access to the ballot box in the November election will be more difficult for some people in the western Kansas town of Dodge City, where Hispanics now make up the bulk of its population of more than 27,000. This November, Dodge City's sole polling location has been moved outside city limits to a facility more than a mile from the nearest bus stop. An election official blames the last-minute move on road construction that blocked access to its usual location. Some local voters and the American Civil Liberties Union have long criticized the use of a lone Dodge City polling site to serve more than 13,000 voters even before its move just weeks before the midterm election. Nearly 60 percent of the city's population is Hispanic.


Ag Secretary Perdue to Speak Next Month at Kansas State

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Agricultural Secretary Sonny Perdue is speaking next month at Kansas State University.  Perdue's appearance is part of the Landon Lecture series. The series is named for former Kansas Gov. Alf Landon, who was the 1936 Republican nominee for president. The series was established in 1966 to bring in speakers to discuss issues facing business, politics and international relations.  Moran will talk about lessons in public service that he learned on the farm. The lecture is free and open to the public.


Authorities Looking for Escaped Kansas Inmate

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas authorities are looking for an inmate who escaped from a work crew in Topeka. The Shawnee County Department of Corrections says 27-year-old Brian Andrew Worrell ran away Wednesday on his first day with that crew. Major Tim Phelps. Worrell told the Topeka Capital-Journal that Worrell is not thought to be an active threat to any member of the public. Worrell was part of a community work crew was helping with code compliance work. Worrell ran away when the crew supervisor began taking photos of the work. The remaining inmates were then secured. He had been booked into the jail Sept. 20 on misdemeanor warrants charging him with theft and criminal damage to property and other charges.


Hyperloop Study Touts Interstate 70 Missouri Route

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A new study says the approximately 250-mile (400 kilometer) trip from Kansas City to St. Louis could be slashed to a half-hour's time, but an ultra-high-speed Hyperloop system across Missouri wouldn't come cheap. KMBC-TV reports that Kansas City-based Black and Veatch found in its analysis that the Hyperloop could run in the median or along the side of Interstate 70. The study was accepted Wednesday by Virgin Hyperloop One, a company working to develop the world's first Hyperloop system. Hyperloop technology involves a tubular track through which a train-like pod carries passengers at speeds up to 640 mph. It's not cheap. Some estimates have put the cost at $25 million to $27 million per mile, excluding land acquisition. Other cities across the world are contenders for the Hyperloop technology, too.


4-Year-Old Boy Shot, Wounded in Apparent Case of Road Rage

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A man and a woman have been arrested in the shooting of 4-year-old boy in an apparent road rage incident after one vehicle cut off another in a Kansas city. Wichita Police Chief Gordon Ramsay says the boy was shot in the stomach Wednesday evening and is in stable condition. The boy was one of six children inside a sport utility when someone in a silver Ford Mustang fired two shots just before 5 p.m. The Wichita Eagle reports that the Mustang took off after the shooting but was later stopped. Police said Thursday that a 21-year-old woman and 19-year-old man are in custody on suspicion of aggravated battery. Ramsay says there are, on average, three road rage incidents involving a gun every week in Wichita.


Prosecutor: Man Who Raped Kansas Deputy Had Attacked Others

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — Prosecutors say a man who kidnapped and raped a suburban Kansas City sheriff's deputy is a dangerous sexual predator who raped another woman while her toddler was in bed with her. The Kansas City Star reports that prosecutors made their case Wednesday for 23-year-old Brady Newman-Caddell to serve more time in prison than what's called for in Kansas sentencing guidelines. He and another man, William Luth, were convicted previously of abducting the deputy from outside the detention center in Olathe, Kansas, in October 2016 as she headed to work. She was released in the Missouri suburb of Lee's Summit. DNA from that case led to the man being charged in the rape of the mother in Independence, Missouri. Newman-Caddell will be sentenced Jan. 23. Luth is serving a 41-year sentence.


Lawyer: Evidence Shows Coaches Knew of NCAA Family Payouts

NEW YORK (AP) — A lawyer for a longtime Adidas employee urged jurors to use common sense to conclude college basketball coaches knew money was being paid to families to steer top players to their schools. Attorney Michael Schachter told jurors at a criminal trial's closings Thursday they could follow the evidence to conclude coaches at Louisville and Kansas encouraged payouts. A prosecutor later disagreed, saying coaches were not "running rampant." The jury is likely to start deliberations Monday in the trial of an aspiring sports agent and two men who worked on the behalf of shoemaker Adidas. Schachter, who represents James Gatto, an Adidas sports marketing manager, mocked the idea that coaches of the caliber of Bill Self at Kansas and Rick Pitino at Louisville didn't know what was going on.


Judge Delays Trial of County Commissioner in Kansas

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal judge has again delayed until next year the fraud trial of Sedgwick County Commissioner Michael O'Donnell.  U.S. District Judge Eric Melgren on Wednesday set a new trial date for January  29 in federal court in Wichita. It had been previously scheduled to begin November 13.  The judge granted an unopposed defense request for more time.  Prosecutors say O'Donnell of fraudulently obtained $10,500 from his campaign accounts for his personal use. An indictment charges him with 23 counts of wire fraud and two counts of money laundering.  The Wichita Republican was elected to the state Senate in 2012 for a term that ended in January 2017. He did not run for re-election and instead was elected to the Sedgwick County Commission. His term is set to expire in 2020.


Missouri Democratic Senator Calls for Investigation of Campaign Videos

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill's campaign manager is calling on her Republican rival's office to investigate videos of her campaign taken by a conservative group.  Campaign manager David Kirby on Wednesday said he wants Republican Attorney General Josh Hawley to recuse himself and appoint a special prosecutor to investigate alleged consumer-law violations related to the videos.  The videos were taken by Project Veritas, a conservative group that produces "sting" videos intended to embarrass liberal organizations and media outfits.  Videos show an unnamed man asking McCaskill campaign staffers about her positions on guns and other issues.  A request for comment to Project Veritas was not immediately returned Wednesday. Hawley tweeted that McCaskill should come forward if she has evidence of a crime or "stop politicizing the legal process."


Feds Credit License Plate Reader for Catching Kansas Robber

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Prosecutors are crediting data from a license plate reader for narrowing the search for the suspect in the robbery of a Walgreens store in Topeka.  The U.S. attorney's office said in a news release Wednesday that 42-year-old Bill Oliver Chavez of Topeka was charged with one count of robbing a commercial business. The indictment alleges he robbed the store on September 13.  Prosecutors say the suspect lifted his shirt at the store to show the cashier what appeared to be the butt of a gun. The cashier emptied the register.  Surveillance video showed the robber was driving a four-door Nissan Maxima with a sunroof. An investigator then used license plate reader data to search for similar cars and owners who fit the robber's description.


Kansas Nonprofit Says Wounded Dog Recovering from Surgery

MISSION, Kan. (AP) — A pit bull that survived being shot in the face in Missouri is recovering from surgery.  Unleashed Pet Rescue in Mission, Kansas, began caring for the dog, named Gloria, after she was found last week near Slater, Missouri.  The nonprofit's CEO, Danielle Reno, says in a Facebook post that the veterinarians who operated on her Tuesday suspect someone meant to shoot her between the eyes. Instead, it appears Gloria jerked her head upward, leaving her alive but with a massive cheek wound.  Gloria will need to undergo additional surgeries and will be staying in a foster home for at least the next couple of months as she recovers. Reno says she "continues to amaze everyone who meets her!"  Investigators in Missouri are following leads to find the shooter.


Ruling: Kansas Gun Law No Defense to Federal Firearm Charges

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — An appeals court on Tuesday upheld the firearms convictions against two Kansas men who mistakenly believed that a Kansas law can shield from federal prosecution anyone owning firearms made, sold and kept in the state.  The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Shane Cox and Jeremy Kettler's challenges to their federal convictions under the National Firearms Act.  The three-judge panel did not address the constitutionality of the state's Second Amendment Protection Act, which Kansas defended when intervening in the criminal case.  The state gun law says firearms, accessories and ammunition manufactured and kept within Kansas borders are exempt from federal gun control.  Cox was convicted of making and marketing unregistered firearms, and Kettler was convicted for possessing an unregistered gun silencer.  

The men challenged the constitutionality of the National Firearms Act, alleging it is an invalid exercise of congressional power and an invasion of the Second Amendment right to bear arms. They also challenged the lower court's ruling that their reliance on the state law provided no defense to the federal charges.  Separately, Kettler argued further that his prosecution resulted from the dispute between Kansas and the federal government over the Kansas law.  The appeals court panel rejected all the defense arguments in a 47-page decision. It concluded the federal gun law falls within Congress' power to tax. The court also noted that the men's reliance on the state mitigated their sentences, if not their guilt. It noted the district court took their mistaken reliance on the state law into consideration when it sentenced them to probation.  The appellate panel also rejected Kettler's request for relief for what he described as being "ensnared in a constitutional dispute" between Kansas and the federal government.

When Cox began selling his homemade firearms and silencers out of his military surplus store, he stamped "Made in Kansas" on them to assure buyers that a Kansas law would prevent federal prosecution of anyone owning firearms made, sold and kept in the state.  Cox, a Chanute resident, also gave customers copies of the Second Amendment Protection Act, which was passed by the Kansas Legislature in 2013 and signed by then-Governor Sam Brownback. Cox even collected sales taxes. His biggest-selling items were unregistered gun silencers, prosecutors have said. Kettler, who was one of Cox's customers, was so enthusiastic about the silencer that he posted a video on Facebook.


Banker Survey: Farmland Prices Expected to Drop in 10 States

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A new survey says farmland prices are expected to continue their decline in parts of 10 Plains and Western states. The latest Rural Mainstreet survey shows that on average, bank CEOs in the region estimated farmland prices declined by 4 percent over the past 12 months. They expect farmland prices to fall by another 3.2 percent over the next 12 months. Creighton University economist Ernie Goss says the survey also shows the farm sector is being weakened by negative impacts of tariffs and low agriculture commodity prices. The overall economic index for the region increased slightly to 54.3 from 51.5 in September. That score still suggests growth because it is above 50, while any score below 50 indicates a shrinking economy. Bankers from Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming were surveyed.


Study Finds Tornadoes Now Spinning up Farther East in U.S.

WASHINGTON (AP) — A new study finds that over the past few decades U.S. tornadoes have shifted — decreasing in Oklahoma, Texas and Kansas but spinning up more in states along the Mississippi River and farther east.  Scientists aren't quite certain why.  The study is in Wednesday's journal Climate and Atmospheric Science. It sees a slight decrease in tornado activity in the Great Plains, with the biggest drop in central and eastern Texas.  The study found it is increasing most in Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Tennessee, Wisconsin and parts of Ohio and Michigan. Lead author Victor Gensini of Northern Illinois University says the increases could be deadly because more people live in those states.  Even with the decline, Texas still gets the most tornadoes of any state.


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