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Headlines for Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Kansas Lawmaker Disciplined by GOP Leader Becomes Democrat

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas lawmaker who was stripped of a committee leadership post after endorsing Democratic Governor-elect Laura Kelly's campaign has switched to the Democratic Party.  State Senator Barbara Bollier, of Mission Hills, said today (WED) that the Republican Party no longer represents her values. Bollier said she had been a registered Republican for nearly 43 years.  Her move makes the Senate's partisan split 29-10, with one independent.  In July, Senate President Susan Wagle removed Bollier as vice chairwoman of the Senate health committee after Bollier endorsed Kelly and a Democratic congressional candidate.  But Bollier said a key moment for her came in June when the Kansas GOP adopted a platform with what she sees as an anti-transgender provision. It declares, "We believe God created two genders, male and female."


Kansas Governor-Elect Slashes Inaugural "Gold Package" Prices

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor-elect Laura Kelly's inaugural committee on Wednesday slashed the prices of premium seating for her inaugural ball after facing questions about 10-person packages it was offering for $10,000, which is five times the legal limit for contributions. The Associated Press obtained an email in which the committee's chairwoman said the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission had "reversed" its approval of the committee's earlier plans. The commission's executive director cited "confusion" about a long-standing rule on how the limits on contributions to inaugural festivities applied to tickets for the traditional ball and dinner. The inaugural committee is now offering its "gold" package for $3,000, which gives the buyer a premium table with 10 seats and six tickets to a VIP reception with the new Democratic governor and Lt. Gov.-elect Lynn Rogers. Kansas governors rely on private funding to pay for such festivities and a 1994 law limits contributions by a single individual, business or group to $2,000. The ethics commission said in a 1994 legal opinion that when tickets are sold, the value of food, entertainment and other services are subtracted from the ticket price to determine the size of the contribution. Had the inaugural committee wanted to keep its $10,000 price, it would have had to value its food, entertainment, administrative costs and other services, such as security, at $800 per person.

"They've been reaching out very actively throughout the process and have worked with us pretty closely," said Mark Skoglund, the ethics commission's executive director. "I'm confident this is a good solution."

Kelly is due to be sworn in January 14 at a Statehouse ceremony and the ball will be held that evening, with a single ticket costing $100. The inaugural committee has said it is planning a VIP reception for the day before and a series of free community events and a day of service on Jan. 12. The inaugural committee announced its change in ticket-package-prices the day after the AP reported on its plan to offer a $10,000 package.


Kansas High Court: Officers Can Use Smell to Justify Search of Homes

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A divided Kansas Supreme Court has ruled that police can rely exclusively on their sense of smell to provide probable cause to do preliminary search of a home for drugs.  The ruling came in a case where Lawrence police entered a man's apartment to search after saying they detected a strong smell of raw marijuana. Lawrence Hubbard appealed his conviction on misdemeanor drug charges, arguing that the Lawrence officers could not justify the search without a search warrant based only on their ability to smell.  The state argued that probable the security sweep the officers conducted before getting a search warrant was appropriate to ensure no one inside Hubbard's apartment destroyed possible evidence in the case.  The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the court ruled Friday on a 4-3 vote.


Kansas Senators Support Bill to Overhaul Federal Sentencing

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Sens. Jerry Moran and Pat Roberts support a bill that would be the largest overhaul of federal sentencing laws in decades. The two Republicans reiterated their backing of the bipartisan measure Wednesday. President Donald Trump also supports it. Moran was among the measure's first sponsors and said it is sensible legislation to make drug sentences fairer, fight the opioid epidemic and promote programs that prevent repeat offending. Roberts is also a sponsor and said current mandatory federal sentences have "simply increased the prison population rather than deter crime." The bill would revise 1980s and '90s-era "tough on crime" laws to boost rehabilitation efforts for federal prisoners and give judges more discretion when sentencing nonviolent offenders. It would attempt to focus the toughest sentences on the most violent offenders.


Kansas Senator Jerry Moran Wants to Speed Vote on Yemen Resolution

WASHINGTON (AP) — Kansas Sen. Jerry Moran says he will support speeding up a vote on ending U.S. military involvement in a war led by Saudi Arabia in Yemen.  The Kansas City Star reports the Kansas Republican said Tuesday that he supports a procedural step to move a resolution ending U.S. involvement toward final passage. The procedural vote is Wednesday.  The resolution is rebuke to Saudi Arabia over its role in journalist Jamal Khashoggi's murder. It's also a rebuke to President Donald Trump's administration, which has made it clear that it does not want to torpedo the long-standing U.S.-Saudi relationship over the killing.  Moran said in a statement that passing the resolution should help force a diplomatic resolution to the war after nearly four years and ease the resulting humanitarian crisis.


Nebraska City Keeps Paying Kobach to Defend Immigration Rule

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — An eastern Nebraska city will continue paying former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach at least $10,000 a year to defend its immigration ordinance even though the last legal challenge to the rule ended in 2014. Fremont's City Council unanimously approved its annual agreement with Kobach on Tuesday. Since 2010, the city has paid the Republican, who lost his bid to become Kansas governor this fall, a total of $101,817.29. Kobach earned more than $800,000 in legal fees from several communities, including Fremont, for his immigration work over more than a decade. Fremont Mayor Scott Getzschman said the city wants to maintain its contract with Kobach, so he could defend the ordinance he wrote against new challenges and answer any enforcement questions that come up. The city of 26,000 people is about 35 miles northwest of Omaha. Fremont voters twice supported the rule that bans renting homes to immigrants living in the country illegally and requires employers to use a federal online system to check whether prospective employees are permitted to work in the U.S.

Kobach didn't immediately respond Wednesday to phone messages from The Associated Press, but he has previously defended his work for small cities as being part of a mission he believed in. In addition to helping communities such as Valley Park, Missouri and Fremont craft ordinances related to immigration, Kobach served on President Donald Trump's commission on combating voter fraud that was shut down after a bevy of lawsuits challenged it. In Kansas, Kobach championed a state law that had required proof of citizenship to register to vote. In June, a federal judge struck it down. Kobach hasn't said what he plans to do after he leaves office. Fremont's housing rule requires residents to apply for a $5 permit and swear they have legal permission to live in the country. Only applicants who say they aren't U.S. citizens are investigated. The rental permit rule took effect in 2014 after the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a challenge to it. The employment provisions, which were less controversial, took effect in 2012. Many larger employers, including major meatpacking plants just outside Fremont, were already using that federal E-Verify system before the ordinance was adopted.


Oklahoma Woman Arrested After Juvenile Found in Kansas

EUREKA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities have arrested the grandmother of a 17-year-old Oklahoma boy with special needs who was found alone near a southeast Kansas rest stop.  Rogers County, Oklahoma, authorities say 68-year-old Janie Gill was arrested in that county and booked into jail Monday on one count of child neglect. More charges are pending.  A custodian found the boy November 29 at a rest stop near Beaumont, Kansas. He had no identification and couldn't speak.  The Greenwood County, Kansas, sheriff's office later learned his identity and that he was from Oklahoma. He remains in protective custody.  Greenwood County has put a hold on Gill, pending the serving of an arrest warrant on suspicion of aggravated child endangerment and interference with law enforcement.  KAKE-TV reports the Greenwood authorities said Gill was the boy's grandmother.


Southeast Kansas Inmate Used Taser on Officers During Failed Escape

INDEPENDENCE, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a southeast Kansas jail inmate shocked corrections officers with a stun gun during a failed escape attempt.  The Montgomery County Sheriff's Office says 40-year-old Curtis Lee Harris, of Chanute, was being held on suspicion of failing to appear in court when he attempted to escape early Monday.  Harris is accused of using force to take a Taser from a corrections officer, who used pepper spray and radioed for backup. The sheriff's office says that when backup arrived, Harris fired the Taser, striking that officer. A third officer then used his Taser on Harris, causing Harris to fall.  But the sheriff's office says Harris still had the Taser and used it multiple times to shock the corrections officers before he was recaptured. The three officers suffered minor injuries.


Missouri Senators Demand Answers About Death of Veteran at Kansas City VA Hospital

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Both U.S. senators from Missouri are demanding answers about the death of a veteran after an apparent altercation at the Kansas City VA Medical Center.  The Kansas City Star reports that Senators Claire McCaskill and Roy Blunt sent a joint letter to U.S. Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie last week. They urged him to release any information that can be made public about the death in May of Dale Farhner of Kingston, Missouri.  The Kansas City VA Medical Center's spokesman said then that he couldn't release any information "due to privacy restrictions."  The Star responded by filing a records request, but the VA records manager said in July that the documents were being withheld because a VA law enforcement review was underway. The Star's appeal of the denial is pending.


Remains of Pearl Harbor Victim from Kansas Identified

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The remains of a 19-year-old Kansas man who was killed during the Japanese attack of Pearl Harbor have been identified.  The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Camillus O'Grady was killed on the battleship USS Oklahoma on Dec. 7, 1941. The Defense Department announced Monday that it had accounted for him, although the identification was made two years ago, using DNA and a dental analysis. The Navy seaman was from the Washington County town of Greenleaf.  The Department of Defense in 2015 ordered the disinterment of unknown victims from the Oklahoma, and began exhuming those remains for analysis. That resulted in the identification of O'Grady.


Appeal Rejected for Woman Who Stole $1.5 Million from 2 Kansas City Companies

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri woman who embezzled a combined $1.5 million from Black & Veatch and Garmin International has lost her appeal of an eight-year prison sentence.  The Kansas City Star reports that the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the appeal filed by Patricia Webb. The 46-year-old claimed the sentence handed down in U.S. District Court in Kansas City was unreasonable. It was a departure from federal sentencing guidelines, which called for a maximum sentence of six years and nine months.  Webb was convicted of stealing more than $1.2 million from Garmin International while working in the Olathe-based company's payroll department. After leaving Garmin, she was hired to a similar payroll position with Overland Park-based Black & Veatch, where she embezzled more than $300,000 from the company.


Kansas Man on Probation Charged with Posting Nude Photo

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — A 29-year-old Kansas man is charged with posting a nude photograph of a former intimate partner online just months after pleading guilty in a similar crime. The Kansas City Star reports Matthew David Delair, of Overland Park, was free on bond and scheduled to be sentenced next month after he pleaded guilty in August to three counts of breach of privacy for posting nude pictures of a woman online. Delair was arrested Tuesday and on Wednesday was charged with a new count of breach of privacy. Court records indicate the charge involves the same woman from the previous case. Delair's bond in the new case is $50,000. Johnson County records show Delair also is on probation in two indecent exposure cases involving four different victims in Olathe in 2017.


Southwest Kansas Man Arrested After Police Chase with 3 Children in Car

GARDEN CITY, Kan. (AP) — A 36-year-old Garden City man is facing serious charges after police say he fled in a vehicle with his three young children inside.  Officers who were called Monday night to a domestic dispute saw a vehicle driven by Billy Mondragon speeding away from the scene.  Police say during the chase, Mondragon drove toward a police vehicle, forcing the officer to swerve to avoid a collision. Mondragon's vehicle eventually rolled and came to a stop on its wheels.  The driver was arrested after trying to flee on foot.  The children — ages 2, 1 and 1½ months — were not properly restrained. They were treated for minor injuries and released.  Police are seeking three counts each of attempted second-degree murder and several other charges. Mondragon is being held on $250,000 bond.


Homeless Man Jailed in Wichita Shooting that Critically Wounded Man

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities have arrested a homeless registered sex offender in a shooting that critically injured another homeless man near a Wichita bike path.  The Wichita Eagle reports that 59-year-old man, Richard Fagan has been booked into jail on suspicion of attempted first-degree murder and criminal possession of a firearm in Tuesday's shooting. The Sedgwick County sheriff's office says Fagan had been staying at a homeless encampment, which is near the bike path, for about 1 ½ years. Police spent about two hours searching for him after the shooting.  Fagan has been in and out of Kansas prisons since the late 1980s. The crime that put him on the offender registry was a 1994 conviction for aggravated sexual battery of a 33-year-old woman in Wichita.


Lawrence School District Gets Grant to Boost Elementary School Reading

LAWRENCE, Kan. (KPR) — The Lawrence school district has received a $262,200 grant from the Kansas Department for Children and Families to fund the district’s participation in the Kansas Reading Roadmap.  The Reading Roadmap is a program started by former Governor Sam Brownback designed to promote better literacy among kindergarten through third-grade students.  Specifically, this grant will fund summer reading opportunities - as well as after-school programs that provide targeted reading practice and child care - at Kennedy, Pinckney and Schwegler elementary schools.  DCF Secretary Gina Meier-Hummel will formally announce the grant Thursday morning at Pinckney Elementary School.


Kansas Couple Accuses Store of Selling Fake Persian Rug

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A couple is accusing a Kansas City rug company of selling them a fake antique Persian rug. The Kansas City Star reports that Maranatha and David Christie filed a lawsuit against Knotty Rug Co. last week. The Johnson County couple says an appraiser told them the $28,000 Persian rug they purchased in December 2014 could've been altered to appear in older condition. The lawsuit also alleges the store misrepresented about 14 other rugs the couple purchased for more than $39,000 in September 2014. The lawsuit comes after the store agreed to buy back the Persian rug and two others for nearly $39,000. Owner Darrel Wingo says he stands by the rugs and their prices, adding that the couple didn't complain until years after the purchases.


Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill Says She Won't Run Again but Will Stay Active

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Missouri's outgoing Democratic Senator Claire McCaskill says she won't run for another office, but will remain active in politics.  The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Wednesday that although McCaskill says she'll never run again, she might help recruit or mentor Democratic candidates in Missouri.  She also warned that if more of her Senate colleagues don't speak up on Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation of Russian involvement in the 2016 election, they will face a "crisis."  McCaskill lost a bid for a third term to Republican state Attorney General Josh Hawley last month. On Thursday, she will give her final Senate floor speech before she leaves office in January.


Singer-Songwriter Jason Mraz Sings to Kansas Teenager in Hospital

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Singer-songwriter Jason Mraz has serenaded a Kansas high school senior who is hospitalized in St. Louis while awaiting a second double-lung transplant.  The Grammy Award winner stopped by the bedside of 18-year-old Madison Taliaferro, of Holton, on Sunday while he was in Missouri for a concert. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Mraz performed his hit songs "I'm Yours" and "Have It All." Taliaferro's mother, Desiree Taliaferro, shared videos on Facebook. She wrote in a post that nurses schemed to get Mraz to sing to her daughter because they "know she loves musicals and just overly enjoys singing."  Madison Taliaferro was born with cystic fibrosis and received a pair of lungs six years ago. The operation went well, but then her lung function fell suddenly from 48 percent to 22.5 percent.


Former KU Hospital Pharmacy Tech Sentenced to Probation for Stealing Drugs

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A 37-year-old former pharmacy technician at the University of Kansas Hospital was placed on probation for stealing drugs from the hospital.  Federal prosecutors say Heydon White, of Stillwell, admitted that he stole the painkiller fentanyl from cabinets at the hospital. He was responsible for stocking the computerized cabinets and removing expired medication for disposal.  Prosecutors say White was caught after an internal audit showed he handled a high number of intravenous bags containing the drug and saline.  White was also ordered Monday to pay $4,300 in restitution.  The Kansas Board of Pharmacy revoked White's license. Prosecutors said the board cited the theft of 483 bags of fentanyl.


New Prosecutor Named for Western Kansas County

GREAT BEND, Kan. (AP) — A new prosecutor has been picked for a western Kansas county where the former prosecutor decided to step down after the sheriff was acquitted of a misdemeanor.  The Great Bend Tribune reports that the Barton County Republican Committee unanimously appointed Levi Morris as the new county attorney Monday. Outgoing County Attorney Amy Mellor announced last month that she was resigning at year's end, saying Sheriff Brian Bellendir was acting like "a bully." She cited a letter from Bellendir starting his intention to try to have Mellor removed from office.  The defense said Bellendir slapped the suspect in a propane theft on the back of the head as someone would do a child. Bellendir says that was a mistake, but didn't rise to the level of mistreatment of a confined person.


Man Killed in Trash Truck Crash near Wichita

ANDOVER, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a man has been killed in a head-on collision with a trash truck near Wichita. The Wichita Eagle reports that the crash happened Wednesday morning just north of Andover and about 10 miles (about 16 kilometers) east of Wichita. Andover police Capt. Joseph Schroeder says the victim was headed westbound and the trash truck driver was going westbound when one of the vehicles crossed the centerline. The impact of the crash sent both vehicles into a ditch. The victim was partially ejected from the passenger vehicle and died at the scene. His name wasn't immediately released. Schroeder says he was in his mid-20s.


Man Hospitalized After Shooting Self in Head with Nail Gun

DERBY, Kan. (AP) — Sedgwick County authorities say a man is hospitalized in critical condition after he accidentally shot himself in the head with a nail gun. Sheriff's Lt. Tim Myers said on Wednesday the man walked from a home where he was working to get help from officers who were investigating a traffic accident. Myers says the man told sheriff's deputies and a Derby police officer that he was renovating a house when he fell off a ladder with the nail gun in his hands. When he landed, the nail gun hit him in the back of the head and the man inadvertently pulled the trigger. The Wichita Eagle reports after walking to get help, the man was taken to a Wichita hospital in critical condition.


Royals, Billy Hamilton Finalize $5.25 Million Contract

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Royals and speedy outfielder Billy Hamilton finalized a $5.25 million contract Tuesday that includes up to $1 million in performance bonuses and a mutual option for 2020.  The Royals hope that spacious Kauffman Stadium will allow Hamilton to better use his speed than the bandbox of Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati, where he spent his first six seasons with the Reds.  "Speed, athleticism, defensive ability. He brings a sense of trepidation when he steps on the field, not only as a defender but as an offensive player, too," manager Ned Yost said at the winter meetings in Las Vegas. "I've talked to a lot of Cincinnati people about him and they absolutely loved him. But we've been spoiled for years with Lorenzo Cain in center field, a tremendous defender in a big ballpark and having Billy roaming that ground from gap to gap out there."  Hamilton's deal, announced Tuesday, calls for a $4.25 million salary next year and a $7.5 million mutual option with a $1 million buyout He can earn $100,000 each for making 325 plate appearances and every additional 25 through 550.  The 28-year-old made his big league debut in 2013, then proceeded to have four consecutive seasons in which he stole at least 50 bases. That number dipped to 34 last season, when the switch-hitting Hamilton hit .236 with four homers and 29 RBIs as the Reds' everyday center fielder.  Hamilton's addition gives Yost more ability to move players around with a deep and versatile outfield.  The Royals are in the midst of a massive rebuilding project after going to back-to-back World Series and winning the championship in 2015. It appears part of that rebuild involves returning to the speed-and-defense style that first allowed the long-suffering organization to return to respectability.


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