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Headlines for Thursday, September 13, 2018

Report: Kansas Plans to Spend $4.6 Million on Election Security

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A new report shows Kansas plans to spend more than $4.6 million in election grants to tighten cyber-security, modernize voting equipment, audit elections and safeguard voter rolls. The U.S. Election Assistance Commission released on Thursday the Kansas plan for its share of the $380 million allocated by Congress to strengthen voting systems amid ongoing threats from Russia and others. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach told the commission that about half of its grant would be spent on cyber-security efforts at all levels of election administration. He said the state will supplement existing staff with outside experts. Nearly $1.07 million is slated to ensure every voting machine in Kansas has a paper audit trail. The remaining funds would be used to better secure the voter registration system and audit elections.

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Kobach's Claim About Wichita School Administrators Not True

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach's claim that a Wichita high school has a dozen assistant principals is not true but his campaign says he stands by his contention that Kansas schools have too many administrators.  Kobach made the statement Saturday during a debate between GOP governor's candidates at the Kansas State Fair. The Wichita Eagle reports Kobach spokeswoman Danedri Herbert said a state legislator told Kobach about the Wichita school.  After Wichita school officials objected, Herbert said the campaign checked and found that East High School and North High School in Wichita combined have a dozen principals and vice principals, which she says is "clearly excessive."  Mark Tallman, a lobbyist for the Kansas Association of School Boards, said he isn't aware of any school in the state with 12 assistant principals.

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Kansas Agency Accused of Not Investigating Sexual Misconduct

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A woman has filed a federal lawsuit accusing a Kansas agency of failing to properly investigate complaints that a high-ranking official offered her a job in exchange for sex and sent her a sexually explicit video of him. The Wichita Eagle reports that Jennifer Gill filed the lawsuit earlier this month against the Kansas Department of Aging and Disability Services. Gill worked for Equi-Venture Farms, which provides disability services. The lawsuit accuses Brandt Haehn of soliciting sex from Gill in exchange for a job in 2016 . Haehn was the department's commissioner of in-home and community services. He's no longer employed by the state. Gill alleges she reported Haehn's actions to the department last year, but the agency never conducted "a prompt and thorough investigation." The agency has declined to comment.

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Overstock.com Plans Distribution Center in Kansas City Area

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Overstock.com, an online retailer of surplus and new merchandise, plans to operate a large distribution center in Kansas City, Kansas, and employ more than 100 workers there. The Utah-based company leased 517,000 square feet at a vacant distribution center. The company says the center will allow it to reach 99 percent of its U.S. customers with two-day shipping. The Kansas City Star reports Overstock.com because another of several large online retailers that opened fulfillment and distribution centers in the Kansas City area in recent years. Amazon has two fulfillment centers in Edgerton and Kansas City, Kansas. Pharmacy retailer CVS has a distribution center in Kansas City, Missouri. Greg Kindle, president of the Wyandotte Economic Development Council, said the Overstock.com facility in KCK would pay better than average industry wages.

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Man Pleads Guilty to Skimming Bank Information from ATMs

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A 23-year-old Romanian man in the United States illegally pleaded guilty to placing skimming devices on Kansas City-area ATMs. The Kansas City Star reports the devices are used to illegally obtain PINs and debit card numbers from people who use the machines. They then transfer the numbers into gift cards. David Velcu pleaded guilty Thursday to possession of counterfeit or unauthorized access devices. He was arrested in April after police discovered the devices on ATMs at QuikTrips in Olathe, Kansas, and Riverside, Missouri. Federal prosecutors said investigators recovered 15 unauthorized access devices, and 78 "re-encoded" magnetic strip gift cards, when Velcu was arrested. Authorities said Velcu entered the U.S. from Mexico last year.

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University of Kansas Health System Given $66 Million Gift

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — The University of Kansas Health System has received a $66 million donation to be used for an inpatient care unit. Health System officials said Thursday the donation from the Sunderland Foundation is the largest gift ever received by the system. The gift completes a $100 million fundraising campaign for the new unit, which will allow its Blood and Marrow Transplant Program and its Divison of Hematologic Malignancies and Cellular Therapy to come together for patient care and research. The Sutherland Foundation helped start the campaign in 2014 with a $2 million gift. Charlie Sunderland has served on the Hospital Authority Board for many years and also chairs the Quality and Safety Committee.

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Kansas Chiropractor Charged with Raping Underage Patient

EMPORIA, Kan. (AP) — An Emporia chiropractor already facing two sexual battery charges is now charged with rape involving an underage female.  The Lyon County Attorney's office charged Eric Hawkins on Monday with raping a patient who was 15 or 16 at the time of the incident. Court documents allege the assault occurred between October 1 and November 30, 2015.  Hawkins was charged in August with two counts of sexual battery involving a 22-year-old and a 32-year-old patient. He is scheduled to appear in court on those charges Thursday.  The Emporia Gazette reports his chiropractor's license was suspended in July pending the outcome of the court cases.

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Olathe Mom Charged with Seeking Hit Man for Ex-Husband

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — An Olathe woman already charged with trying to kill her three children is now accused of seeking a hit man to kill her ex-husband.  Therese Irene Roever was charged Wednesday with a second attempted capital murder charge for plotting to have an unnamed person kill John Roever.  The Kansas City Star reports 37-year-old Therese Roever was charged in February with attempted capital murder for an alleged attempt on her children's lives. John Roever had residential custody of the children but they were visiting their mother when she and the children were found to have been drugged.  Court documents say doctors told investigators two of the children would have died if they had been found later.  Court documents containing details of the new allegations are not yet publicly available.

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Judge: Kansas Deputy's Demotion Not Due to Sex Orientation

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A judge has ruled that a Kansas sheriff's deputy was demoted because he couldn't succeed at the police academy and not because of alleged discrimination based on his sexual orientation.  U.S. District Judge Daniel Crabtree last month dismissed a lawsuit filed by Kyle Appleby, who alleged Douglas County Sheriff's Office employees discriminated against him, attacked his masculinity and called him a homophobic slur.  Appleby sued the Douglas County Commission last year alleging that sheriff's employees participated in "sex stereotyping." He said he has been openly gay at work since 2008.  Appleby was promoted in 2015 from a county corrections officer to sheriff's deputy. His promotion was contingent on completing training at the Lawrence Police Department academy. He was demoted after failing to complete the academy.  The lawsuit alleged employees made offensive comments about Appleby's masculinity, such as saying he had "drag queen eyebrows." Appleby also alleged his superiors' comments during training indicated that they thought he was "not sufficiently masculine to be a law enforcement officer," the Lawrence Journal-World reported.  Appleby's attorney and county officials declined to comment Tuesday.

Crabtree's ruling stated that the allegations may be true, but that the lawsuit doesn't prove how the comments factored into his demotion. The judge also said evidence gathered from depositions showed that Appleby failed to perform at the academy to a degree that was unusual among Lawrence law enforcement.  "Many of the officers testified that plaintiff's sexual orientation played no role in their reports, and several officers testified that they never even knew plaintiff is gay," Crabtree wrote. "Sheriff Ken McGovern based his decision on safety issues and his belief that plaintiff lacked the required skills to protect himself and others."  Appleby has worked at the sheriff's office since 2006 and is still employed as a corrections officer.

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Prison Accused of Discriminatory Treatment of Muslim Woman

LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (AP) — A civil rights group says staff at a privately run Kansas prison repeatedly have disparaged a Muslim woman for wearing a headscarf and ordered her to take it off before allowing her to leave her cell.  The Kansas City Star reports that the Washington-based Muslim Advocates raised concerns about the treatment of 49-year-old Valeriece Ealom in a letter to CoreCivic, the Tennessee-based company that operates the prison in Leavenworth. The letter, which was made public Wednesday, also was sent to the U.S. Marshals Service, which contracts with CoreCivic to house federal prisoners.  Ealom has been held at the facility since last November after federal prosecutors moved to revoke her parole in a drug case. She has sued over her treatment.  CoreCivic did not immediately respond to questions from The Star.

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Boy Survives After Skewer Pierces His Skull, Front to Back

HARRISONVILLE, Mo. (AP) — A 10-year-old Missouri boy is recovering after he was attacked by insects and tumbled from a tree, landing on a meat skewer that penetrated his skull from his face to the back of his head.  The Kansas City Star reports that doctors called Xavier Cunningham's survival "miraculous."  Xavier's harrowing experience began Saturday afternoon when yellow jackets attacked him in a tree house at his Harrisonville home. He fell to the ground and his mother ran to him when she heard screaming. His skull was pierced from front-to-back with half a foot of skewer still sticking out of his face.  The University of Kansas Health System's endovascular neurosurgery director, Koji Ebersole, says the skewer's removal Sunday wasn't easy, but that it missed Xavier's eye, brain, spinal cord and major blood vessels.

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Sunda, Elephant at Topeka Zoo, Euthanized

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Topeka Zoo officials say a 58-year-old elephant was euthanized after she couldn't get up for the second time this week.  Topeka spokeswoman Molly Hadfield says the elephant, Sunda, was euthanized Wednesday morning because of her deteriorating health and quality of life.  The Topeka Capita-Journal reports Sunda lived at the zoo for 52 years, longer than any other animal there.  On Monday, Topeka firefighters helped lift Sunda to her feet after she was unable to get up on her own. She was unable to stand again Wednesday morning.  Her health problems included a sore behind her ear that wouldn't heal, kidney issues and a mass in her reproductive system.  Hadfield says the median lifespan for elephants is about 46.9 years.

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Kansas Food Bank Expansion to Provide 1 Million More Meals

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Food Bank officials say an expanded Wichita warehouse will allow the organization to provide 1 million more meals across the state.  Debi Kreutzman, spokeswoman for the organization, says in a news release that the food bank is using more than $5 million raised in a capital campaign to build a 21,000-square-foot addition.  The addition will include a volunteer center, warehouse space and more freezer and cooler space.  Construction is expected to begin later this year and be completed in May.  The Wichita Eagle reports the new addition will allow the organization to increase the meals it serves from 12.3 million to more than 13.3 million, and fresh produce distribution is expected to double.  More than 700 partners distribute meals in 85 Kansas counties.

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Salina Woman Pleads in LSD-Fueled Knife Attack on a Stranger

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — A 19-year-old Salina woman has pleaded guilty to charges arising from an incident last year when she entered a stranger's home after using LSD and repeatedly stabbed him. The Salina Journal reports Amy Ramirez was accused of entering the Salina home of Travis Rathbun on Oct. 18 and stabbing him. Rathbun testified during an April hearing that he was awakened by a woman he didn't know who was demanding to know what he was doing in her house, and she stabbed him as he called police. Ramirez was originally charged with attempted first-degree murder but pleaded to attempted second-degree murder and a drug charge. The prosecution and defense agreed to recommend Ramirez receive consecutive sentences totaling about nine years. Ramirez also will have to register as a violent offender for 15 years.

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Feds: Kansas City Bank Tellers Replaced $100 Bills with $1 Bills

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Federal prosecutors say two Kansas City bank tellers replaced $100 and replaced them with $1 bills while stealing about $400,000 over at least five years. One of the tellers, 46-year-old Stacey Lyn Crail, pleaded guilty Wednesday to bank fraud. The Kansas City Star reports the other, unnamed teller worked together at the Central Bank of Kansas City because bank rules require at least two employees enter the bank's vault together. Prosecutors say that to cover their tracks, Crail and her accomplice falsified the balance sheets for their teller drawers. According to the charges, Crail and the accomplice took about $390,000 from 2012 until May 2017 before the thefts were discovered.

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Lawrence Student Enters Plea After Taking Handgun to School

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A Lawrence student pleaded no contest after bringing a loaded gun to school last year.  The student, who was 17 at the time, was charged as a juvenile in Douglas County District Court. He pleaded no contest Wednesday to criminal use of a weapon in juvenile court. As part of his plea agreement, a marijuana possession charge from the same incident was dropped.  The Lawrence Journal-World reports a school resource officer and a Lawrence police officer found the boy with a .22 Magnum pistol in his backpack at Lawrence Free State High School. Prosecutor Bryant Barton said officers searched the student's backpack after receiving a tip from another student.  Barton did not say where the boy obtained the gun.  His sentencing is scheduled for November 7.

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Maine Man Sentenced to Life in Prison for Kansas Murder

MINNEAPOLIS, Kan. (AP) — A 35-year-old Maine man was sentenced to life in prison for killing a Kansas man while on a cross-country trip. Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt said Robert Willard Colson, of Bucksport, Maine, was sentenced Thursday to life with no possibility of parole for 25 years. Colson was convicted in June for first-degree murder and three other charges in the August 2017 death of Matthew Miles Schoshke. Prosecutors say Colson shot Schoshke at his home in Tescott after Schoshke returned from work. Colson drove to California, where he was arrested while trying to escape from an Amtrak train after a passenger was stabbed. Prosecutors said Colson was on a bus trip from Maine to California when he missed his bus in Salina and walked until he stopped at Schoshke's home.

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States Urge Appeal Hearing in Case of Kennedy Cousin Michael Skakel

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Eleven states are asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear Connecticut's appeal in Kennedy cousin Michael Skakel's murder case and reinstate his conviction.  The states filed a friend-of-the-court brief on Monday. The court is deciding whether to take up the appeal.  The Connecticut Supreme Court in May vacated Skakel's conviction in the bludgeoning death of Martha Moxley in their wealthy Greenwich neighborhood in 1975, when they were teenagers. The 4-3 majority said Skakel's trial lawyer failed to contact an alibi witness.  Connecticut prosecutors argue the court didn't properly weigh the overall performance of Skakel's defense.  The states say a ruling in Connecticut's favor is needed to thwart excessive challenges of defense lawyers' performance.  The states are Alaska, Arizona, Indiana, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Nebraska, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas and Utah.

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