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Headlines for Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Rep. Watkins Says "Not Much There" in Mueller Report

OSKALOOSA, Kan. (AP) — Republican U.S. Rep. Steve Watkins says he is "very concerned" about the integrity of elections but wasn't impressed with former Special Counsel Robert Mueller's probe. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that Watkins, in his first term representing much of eastern Kansas, met with voters Tuesday in Oskaloosa. He says fewer than 1% of constituents who contacted his House office mentioned the Mueller report. He said that "There doesn't appear to be much there." Watkins says building a wall on the U.S. border with Mexico would slow the influx of immigrants entering the country illegally and drug trafficking. He recently visited the border to observe enforcement activities and said he didn't see inhumane treatment of detainees. Democratic lawmakers who recently toured detention stations for migrants along the Texas border described jam-packed, fetid holding areas.


Wyandotte County Official Guilty of Battery Against Employee

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A Wyandotte County government official has resigned after being found guilty of misdemeanor battery against a female employee. A jury on Tuesday convicted Dennis Laughlin of grabbing Maddie Waldeck in May 2018 and pushing her against a wall during what had been a "light-hearted" conversation with colleagues after work. He resigned Tuesday after the jury verdict. KCUR reports Laughlin was General Services Director for the Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kansas. He was Waldeck's boss. Laughlin faces up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. He will be sentenced in late August. The Unified Government said in a statement that an earlier investigation came to a different conclusion than the jury.


Lawrence Developer Convicted of Illegal Asbestos Disposal

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A Lawrence developer has been convicted of illegally disposing of roofing material containing asbestos while remodeling a country club.  The Lawrence Journal-World reports that jurors deliberated about two hours before finding Thomas Fritzel guilty of three federal charges related to the failure to properly handle the debris.  Asbestos was used for decades as insulation and as a fire-resistant material. But it can cause lung diseases, cancer and other health problems.  Federal prosecutors said that Fritzel was aware that the Alvamar Country Club contained asbestos and didn't follow state disposal requirements. Defense attorney Edward Novak maintained that Fritzel took appropriate steps to dispose of the asbestos.  Fritzel faces up to seven years in prison and a fine of up to $500,000.


Former K-State Researcher Sent to Prison for Shooting and Wounding Manhattan Police Officer

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — A 38-year-old former university researcher has been sentenced to prison for trying to shoot a Manhattan police officer.  Riley County police said Mark Harrison, of Manhattan, was sentenced Monday to four years and two months in prison. He previously pleaded no contest to attempted voluntary manslaughter in the shooting of police Sgt. Pat Tiede.  The charges stem from a three-hour standoff with police in February 2018 during which Harrison fired 33 times. One of the bullets hit Tiede, who recovered at a hospital. He has returned to the police force.  The Wichita Eagle reports Harrison was previously convicted of criminal damage to property arising from a domestic dispute that led to the standoff. Harrison was a researcher in the mechanical and nuclear engineering department at Kansas State University.


Audit Criticizes Lack of Transparency in Jobs Creation Fund at Kansas Commerce Department

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Auditors say a Kansas fund designed to create jobs sometimes awards funds to groups that aren't clearly related to economic development.  The state Department of Commerce controls the Kansas Job Creation Fund. In an audit released Monday, auditors reported the agency had no written policies to guide how the funds are awarded.  The Wichita Eagle reports the commerce department required some companies to produce jobs and other measurable activity in order to receive funds but didn't have the same requirements for others.  The agency has provided 71 awards totaling $25.7 million during the past five years. The fund receives about $3.5 million annually from state income taxes.  Commerce Secretary David Toland said in a letter to auditors that the program needs to be flexible to help the businesses it serves.


Ex-Kansas Football Player Pleads Not Guilty in Assault Case

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A former University of Kansas football player has pleaded not guilty to allegations that he choked a woman and pointed a shotgun in her face.  Nineteen-year-old Kenny Evel Bastida waived his right to a preliminary hearing Tuesday and pleaded not guilty to aggravated assault and aggravated battery and two misdemeanors, criminal damage to property and possession of marijuana.  The Lawrence Journal-World reports a woman told university police that Bastida assaulted her May 15 at Stouffer Place Apartments on campus. She said he then loaded a shell into a shotgun and pointed at her face.  KU Athletics officials say Bastida, a linebacker from Pompano Beach, Florida, was no longer with the football team a month before the alleged attack but didn't say why.  His trial is scheduled for November 6.


Wichita Man Admits Threatening to Kill, Rape Members of Anti-Abortion Group

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita man has pleaded guilty to threatening workers of the anti-abortion group Operation Rescue.  The Wichita Eagle reports that 22-year-old Christopher Thompson entered a plea Monday in which he admitted making the threats in three phone calls to Operation Rescue on August 14.  Thompson was originally indicted on four counts of transmitting threats through interstate communication.  Prosecutors say he threatened in phone calls and voicemails to kill and rape Operation Rescue employees, murder their family members, sexually assault their daughters and that the devil was going to rape them.  Operation Rescue is a national anti-abortion organization headquartered in Wichita.  Sentencing is set for September 15. Thompson faces up to 20 years in federal prison and a fine of up to $250,000.


Kansas Man Sentenced for Pretending to Be FBI Agent

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A 36-year-old southern Kansas man who pretended to be an FBI agent to get out of a traffic ticket has been sentenced to a year of probation. U.S. Attorney Stephen McAllister said Jarrod Andra, of Milan, must also pay a $1,000 fine. He had previously pleaded guilty to impersonating an agent. Andra was stopped for speeding in Sumner County in November 2018. In his plea, he admitted that he claimed to be a special agent with the FBI and presented a Sumner County sheriff's deputy with what appeared to be an FBI identification card with his photo.


Wichita State Settles With Pregnant Professor over Job Offer

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita State University has paid $50,000 to an Ohio professor who said she lost a job offer after she revealed she was pregnant. Evangeline Heiliger sued the university in December after the school withdrew a job offer for an assistant professor of women's studies. She said the offer was rescinded after she told Center of Women's Studies director Chinyere Okafor that she was expecting a baby. The Wichita Eagle reports Heiliger was a visiting professor at Oberlin College in Ohio when she applied for the Wichita State job in 2017. She says after she told Okafor about her pregnancy, then-department head Ron Matson notified her she had been removed from consideration. Wichita State University counsel David Moses has said an administrative agency investigation found the university didn't violate any laws.


Saline County Sheriff: Unidentified Woman Found Dead in Creek in 1986 Exhumed

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities have exhumed a woman's remains that were found more than 30 years ago in a shallow creek near Salina.  The Saline County sheriff's office says the reason for unearthing her remains on Monday was to obtain a DNA sample that might help law enforcement identify her. The woman, who has been nicknamed "Miss Molly," was found face down in January 1986 in Mulberry Creek near Interstate 70.  KAKE-TV reports that the woman sustained injuries consistent with being beaten on the right side of her head and was either tossed or pushed over the bridge railing and fell 30 feet into the shallow creek where she drowned.  An autopsy suggested that she had recently given birth. She was 5-foot-5-inches and weighed about 125 pounds.


Death of Man Found Near KCK Cemetery Investigated as Suspicious

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Authorities are investigating the death of a man whose body was found behind a Kansas City, Kansas, cemetery as suspicious.  KSHB-TV reports that police say officers responded around 2:30 pm Monday and found the body in a wooded area.  Police provided no information about the identity of the man. Police say his was severely decomposed so an autopsy will be needed to determine a cause of death.


Police: 10-Year-Old Takes Mom's Car to Go to McDonald's

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City police say a 10-year-old girl who took her mother's SUV because she wanted breakfast got lost and collided with another vehicle. Police said in a news release the girl's mother was asleep Wednesday when the girl took the vehicle because she wanted food. The girl drove "a couple miles" but got lost and eventually collided with another vehicle that was going in the opposite direction. Police said the child was taken to a hospital with minor bumps and bruises. The driver of the other car wasn't hurt. The two vehicles both were heavily damaged. An electrical utility box and a stop sign were also damaged.


Kansas City Lawmaker Resigns to Serve on City Council

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Kansas City Democratic Rep. Brandon Ellington has officially stepped down from the Missouri House. Ellington submitted his letter of resignation Wednesday. He's leaving to serve on the Kansas City Council. Voters first elected Ellington to the Missouri House in 2011. He would have been barred by term limits from seeking re-election to the Legislature beginning in 2020. Much of Ellington's work as a lawmaker focused on revamping the state's criminal justice system, promoting economic development and advocating for equal rights. But, like most Democrats, he faced challenges in advancing his proposals in the Republican-led Legislature. In his resignation letter to Gov. Mike Parson, Ellington wrote that he's looking forward to continuing to serve as a voice for the voiceless.


Man Shot by Wichita Police Charged with Making Criminal Threat

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A 26-year-old man shot by Wichita police in July is charged with making a criminal threat.  The Wichita Eagle reports Christian Joel Washington was charged last week with criminal threat and violating a protection order.  Police have said Washington displayed "aggressiveness" toward an officer before he was shot on July 14. They say the officer thought Washington had a gun but it was later determined that he was holding a pouch with a metal piece.  The confrontation occurred when officers responded to a woman's call saying her son was causing a domestic disturbance.  Washington was shot once in the abdomen and was hospitalized before he was booked into jail.  In court documents, Washington said he was homeless and unemployed. He is being held in the Sedgwick County Jail.


Judge Dismisses Lawmaker's Lawsuit Against Former KC Star Columnist

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — A judge has thrown out a defamation lawsuit filed by Kansas Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning against former Kansas City Star columnist Steve Rose.  KCUR Radio reports that Johnson County District Court Judge Paul Gurney ruled that Denning had not established the falsehood of the views against Medicaid expansion that Rose attributed to the Overland Park Republican in a January column.  Gurney also said Denning had not shown a likelihood that he would prevail before a jury.  Denning alleged Rose attributed statements to him that he hadn't made. Rose said Denning made the comments, but at a time earlier than his column indicated.  Denning said he's disappointed in the ruling and that Rose misled readers. Rose resigned after Denning complained about the column.


1 Kansas Woman Dead, 1 Seriously Injured in ATV Crash

CUMMINGS, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Highway Patrol says a 19-year-old woman died and another person was seriously injured when an all-terrain vehicle carrying four people crashed.  The patrol says Jentri Lynn Fowler, of Cummings, died after the crash Monday evening three mile southwest of Cummings in Atchison County.  The patrol says the ATV's driver lost control of the vehicle, which went into a ditch and overturned several times.  An 18-year-old passenger in the ATV was seriously injured. One other passenger suffered minor injuries and another was uninjured.  None of the four people on the ATV was wearing a safety restraint.


Man Sentenced After Stealing Nearly $400,000 in Property from Wichita Home

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A 37-year-old man who stole nearly $400,000 in property from a Wichita home has been sentenced to nearly 3½ years in prison.  Investigators say Samuel Haley took antique jewelry, a Civil War-era revolver and other property from an eastern Wichita home in April 2017.  The Wichita Eagle reports Haley was arrested after a man he contacted about the jewelry called police.  A detective posed as a potential buyer and arrested Haley at a Wichita hotel. Court records say some of the jewelry was found in Haley's backpack and more was in a storage facility.  Police returned most of the stolen items to their owners.  Haley pleaded no contest in April to burglary and felony theft. He was sentenced Monday and ordered to pay about $71,000 in restitution.


Planned Parenthood and ACLU Sue Missouri over Abortion Law

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union are suing the state of Missouri to stop a law that bans abortions beyond the eighth week of pregnancy from taking effect August 28.  The organizations allege in the federal lawsuit filed Tuesday that the abortion bill signed in May by Missouri Governor Mike Parson that does not include exceptions in cases of rape or incest is part of an "unrelenting campaign to deny patients the health care they seek and to which they are entitled."  The lawsuit says the law will harm plaintiffs and their patients by seriously restricting their access to re-viability abortion care.  Parson's spokeswoman, Kelli jones, said the office had no immediate comment on the lawsuit. Attorney General Eric Schmitt's office didn't immediately return a phone call.


National Glass Museum in Wellington Closes Temporarily

WELLINGTON, Kan. (AP) — The National Glass Museum in Wellington is temporarily closed after the front of the building collapsed.  The front of the museum and most of the front brick facade collapsed overnight Friday.  KAKE-TV reports the collapse is blamed on heavy rains during the year. The landlord hopes to rebuild and reopen the museum by the end of September.  Pam Meyer, president of the National Depress Glass Association, said the building had been leaning for some time. She said the group plans to stay in Wellington.  The museum displays American-made glassware from the Great Depression era.  None of the museum pieces were damaged.


Property Owners in Northwest Missouri Sue to Stop Proposed Cattle Farm Expansion

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. (AP) — Property owners near a cattle farm in northwest Missouri are suing to stop a major expansion of the operation.  A lawsuit filed Tuesday by 141 property owners contends the Valley Oaks Steak Co.'s farm already has brought noise, odors and pests to the area near Lone Jack, about 25 miles east of Kansas City.  The lawsuit contends the problems will only get worse if Valley Oaks' proposal to expand from fewer than 999 cattle to 6,999 cattle is granted.  The landowners and Powell Gardens, a botanical garden about 3 miles from Valley Oaks, have opposed the expansion. In January, a Jackson County judge granted a preliminary injunction that put the expansion plans on hold.  Valley Oaks officials have said the operation will be among the most environmentally friendly concentrated animal feeding operations in the country.


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