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Headlines for Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Gamers Plead Not Guilty in 'Swatting' Death; Prohibited from Playing Games Pending Trial

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) —  Two gamers whose online dispute over a video game allegedly led to a swatting call that resulted in police fatally shooting a Wichita, Kansas, man were prohibited from any online gaming while they are free on bond. U.S. Magistrate Judge Kenneth Gale imposed that added restriction Wednesday at the request of prosecutors. The government did not seek their detention. Eighteen-year-old Casey Viner, of North College Hill, Ohio, and 19-year-old Shane Gaskill, of Wichita, quietly answered not guilty at their arraignment on charges of conspiracy to obstruct justice, wire fraud and other counts. Gaskill showed up in court dressed in a black tie and shirt and Viner wore a black suit with a blue shirt and gray tie. The two gamers will be living with their parents pending trial, and the judge also forbade them from keeping firearms in the household. He made an exception to the gun restriction for Viner's father, who is a law enforcement officer.
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2:30 p.m.

Two gamers whose online dispute over a video game allegedly led to a swatting call that resulted in police fatally shooting a Wichita, Kansas, man have pleaded not guilty.Eighteen-year-old Casey Viner, of North College Hill, Ohio, and 19-year-old Shane Gaskill, of Wichita, pleaded not guilty Wednesday to conspiracy to obstruct justice, wire fraud and other counts.Prosecutors allege Vinter asked 25-year-old Tyler Barriss of Los Angeles to "swat" Gaskill. Police went to a Wichita home in response to the call and shot Andrew Finch, who was not involved in the dispute. Gaskill and Viner were released on a $10,000 bond.
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12:30 p.m.
Two online gamers will be making their first appearances in federal court for their alleged roles in hoax calls that led a Kansas police officer to fatally shoot an unarmed man in a case of "swatting" that drew national attention. An indictment charges 18-year-old Casey Viner of North College Hill, Ohio, with conspiracy to make false reports after he allegedly became upset while playing Call of Duty: WWII online and asked 25-year-old Tyler Barriss of Los Angeles to "swat" 19-year-old Shane Gaskill in Wichita. Viner and Gaskill face federal conspiracy, obstruction of justice and wire fraud charges. Barriss is being prosecuted first in Sedgwick County District Court on related state charges of involuntary manslaughter, giving a false alarm and interference with a law enforcement officer.

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Kansas Officials Ask Yoder to Seek End of Family Separations

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Dozens of elected officials in Rep. Kevin Yoder's congressional district in Kansas are pushing him to demand an end to the forced separation of families caught crossing the U.S. border illegally. Democratic state Rep. Jarrod Ousley of Merriam and Republican state Rep. Linda Gallagher of Lenexa delivered a letter Wednesday to Yoder's office in Overland Park. The letter urged Yoder to demand that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security stop separating families. The GOP congressman is chairman of a House Appropriations homeland security subcommittee. Yoder said in a statement that he is "heartbroken" by the separations and is working to find a solution. Most of the more than 60 people who signed the letter are state lawmakers or local officials in the 3rd Congressional District in the Kansas City area.

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Fire Extinguished at Biofuels Plant in Western Kansas

MINNEOLA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say crews have extinguished a fire at a biofuels plant in western Kansas. The Clark County Sheriff's Office said in a Facebook post that the blaze at the EGE plant near Minneola was put out by 6 p.m. Tuesday. The fire began burning around noon at the plant about 150 miles west of Wichita. No injuries were reported, but residents of a few homes near the plant were urged to evacuate because of the smoke. The Kansas Department of Agriculture says the plant manufactures additives that are designed to keep fertilizer from drifting into the air and also might work with ethanol. EGE Products thanked the first responders in a Facebook post and said appropriate authorities have been notified. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

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Woman Who Killed Kansas Toddler Sentenced to Nearly 27 Years

OLATHE, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas woman who beat her fiance's 2-year-old daughter to death has been sentenced to nearly 27 years in prison.  Lindsey Thomasson of Gardner was sentenced Tuesday to 26 years and eight months in prison for the death of 2-year-old Presley Porting.  The girl was found unresponsive in the family's home in February 2017.  Assistant District Attorney Jason Covington said in April that Presley died from blunt force trauma to the head, which she suffered while Thomasson was babysitting her.  Doctors testified that Presley could have been saved if she received immediate medical attention. Instead, the evidence showed Thomasson tried to cover up the crime by putting makeup on the girl to conceal bruises.

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Businessman Gets 10 Years in Prison for Payday Loan Scam

NEW YORK (AP) — A businessman who ran a $220 million predatory payday lending operation that cheated over a half million people nationwide has been sentenced to 10 years in prison.  Richard Moseley Sr., of Kansas City, Missouri, was sentenced Tuesday by U.S. District Judge Edgardo Ramos in New York.  Prosecutors say Moseley's loan company exploited over 600,000 of the most financially vulnerable people in the country. His company had been charging interest rates as high as 700 percent or more using deceptive practices.  Moseley had been convicted last November of racketeering, fraud and identity theft. He ran the company between 2004 and 2014.  The 73-year-old must also forfeit $49 million.  Moseley says he felt shame about the harm he had caused so many people.  A prosecutor says Moseley was "enormously greedy" and "arrogant."

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Services for Wichita Boy Who Was Found Dead to be Public

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A celebration of life for a 5-year-old Wichita boy whose body was found months after he disappeared will be open to the public.  The family of Lucas Hernandez said Monday the memorial service will be June 30 at 1 p.m. at Wichita State's Eugene Hughes Metropolitan Complex.  Emily Glass, the girlfriend of Lucas' father, reported him missing in February from their home, touching off weeks of searches that drew national attention. His body was found May 24 under a bridge in a nearby county.  The funeral announcement says the family wanted to offer all those touched by Lucas' short life and his death the chance to say goodbye.  Glass wasn't charged in the boy's death. She was found dead on Friday in what police said appeared to be a suicide.

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17-Year-Old Arrested in McPherson Man's Shooting Death

MCPHERSON, Kan. (AP) — McPherson Police Chief Robert McClarty says a 17-year-old boy has been arrested in the shooting death of a man whose body was found this week in a mobile home park. McClarty says the boy was arrested Tuesday afternoon. His name was not released. The news release says the suspect was arrested on charges of first-degree murder, burglary, theft and possession of stolen property in the shooting death of a 22-year-old Jordan Krell, of Canton. The suspect was booked into a juvenile detention center. Canton's body was found Monday lying in an empty lot at the mobile home park after McPherson police received a call about shots being fired. McClarty says the investigation is continuing.

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Kansas Officer Dies in Motorcycle Crash; Pedestrian Charged

CONCORDIA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a Kansas police officer died when his motorcycle crashed into another vehicle that had slowed to avoid a pedestrian walking on the highway. The pedestrian was later arrested and faces charges of second-degree murder and pedestrian under the influence. The Concordia Blade-Empire reports 48-year-old Concordia officer Marc Henry was killed Monday afternoon on Highway 81 in Ottawa County. Kansas Highway Patrol Lt. Roy Henry says several cars slowed to avoid the man walking along the highway when Henry hit one of them from behind. Before joining the Concordia department in 2012, Henry worked for Clay Center police and the Clay County Sheriff's Office. He also was a member of the National Guard in the Army and the Marine Corps. Henry will be buried Friday with full military honors.

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Deadly Police Chase in Missouri Similar to 2014 Fatal Pursuit

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. (AP) — A recent Independence police chase that left four dead occurred along the same street as a pursuit that killed a man four years ago.  Many law enforcement agencies nationwide restrict dangerous car chases to situations involving a violent felony or public safety threat.  The Kansas City Star reports that the Independence Police Department has a different policy, permitting officers to pursue vehicles whenever they see fit.  Police say they were pursuing a reported stolen vehicle June 1 when the high-speed chase into Kansas City led to a crash that killed bystanders. The 2014 wreck that killed one and injured two others was the result of an Independence officer pursuing a speeding vehicle.  The department recently said officers use discretion when deciding whether to pursue a fleeing vehicle.

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Kansas Man Accused of Driving Teens to Club Skips Sentencing

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas man convicted of trying to sexually exploit two teenage girls has skipped his sentencing hearing and remains missing.  Daelin Williams was convicted earlier this year of two counts of attempted sexual exploitation of a child after pleading no contest. The 25-year-old is accused of driving two 17-year-old girls to Lawrence and encouraging them to strip at an adult club in January 2017.  The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Williams registered as a sex offender as required, but he didn't attend his April 27 sentencing. Judge Peggy Kittel ordered a bench warrant for his arrest, which remained active as of Friday.  Williams posted his initial $50,000 cash bond and was released from jail less than a week after being arrested in April 2017.

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Kansas Governor Candidates Court Business Crowd

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Kris Kobach says he has no plans to moderate his sometimes brash style if he wins the GOP nomination for governor.  Kobach made his comments Monday night during a gathering of nearly all Republican and Democratic candidates for governor and independent Greg Orman. The event in Lawrence was organized by the Kansas Chamber of Commerce and featured each candidate answering questions in separate 10-minute sessions.  The Wichita Eagle reports Kobach told the crowd people who want a governor who will try to make everyone happy and say what people want to hear shouldn't vote for him.  Other issues discussed at the session included a possible constitutional amendment to give the Legislature authority over spending on public schools and immigration policies.

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Spilled Potatoes Close Section of Kansas Interstate

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — A 6-mile stretch of Interstate 70 in eastern Kansas closed for nearly six hours and workers picked up a semi-trailer load of potatoes.  The Kansas Highway Patrol says the potatoes were dumped Tuesday morning in Saline County near Solomon when the driver hit a bridge rail, separating the truck and trailer. The trailer landed in a ditch and the truck caught fire. The load of potatoes spilled, covering the road.  The patrol says the driver of the truck was not hurt and no other injuries were reported.  The highway was closed until early Tuesday afternoon while the potatoes were retrieved.  KWCH reports Trooper Levi Fleming says the main concern was deer coming into the area to eat the potatoes, which could lead to other accidents.

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Man Arrested, Suspected of Slapping Police Horse in Wichita

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Authorities say a man has been arrested after slapping a mounted police horse during a Wichita festival.  The Wichita Eagle reports that the 36-year-old man was been booked into jail on suspicion of battery of a police animal. Police officer Charley Davidson says the horse wasn't hurt when it was struck Saturday evening as Riverfest was winding down and crowds were leaving.  Only one other person was arrested at the festival. That arrest was for a minor in possession of alcohol and obstruction.

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Officer Pleads Not Guilty to Wounding Wichita Girl

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A former Wichita police officer who wounded a 9-year-old girl when he fired at her family's dog has pleaded not guilty to aggravated battery. Dexter Betts entered the plea Wednesday. Prosecutors say Betts shot at a Wichita family's miniature English bull Terrier twice on December 30. Officers went to the family's home when the girl's mother reported her husband was threatening to hurt himself. The Wichita Eagle reports Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett says the girl was sitting on the floor next to the dog when it moved and Betts fired twice. The family's attorney says the dog only went up to the officer and barked. The girl and dog were not seriously injured. Betts was fired from the department less than a month after the shooting.

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Anti-Immigrant Vandalism Found on Historic Irish Storefront

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The owners of a historic Irish landmark in Kansas City say they are shocked that someone spray-painted anti-immigrant graffiti on the store last weekend.  Vandals spray-painted "Immigrants Not Welcome" on a wall at Browne's Irish Marketplace, which is an Irish deli, grocery and retail shop.  The Kansas City Star reports the store was founded in 1887 by Irish immigrants and has been recognized by the Irish government as the oldest Irish building in North America.  Co-owner Kerry Browne says the graffiti was discovered Monday and the owners have reported it to police.  Browne says she has been comforted by an outpouring of support from customers. She says she's also received calls from the Irish Heritage Center in Chicago and a call from within the Irish government in Dublin.

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New Wichita Program Could Help Offset Costs of Job Training

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Wichita organization wants to help offset some costs to encourage more people to get up and move to the area for jobs.  The Wichita Eagle reports that the Wichita Community Foundation announced its partnership Monday with WSU Tech to create Wichita Promise MOVE. The program will pay housing, transportation and other expenses for students who want to move to Wichita to train for certain high-demand jobs.  The foundation plans to invest $1 million to create the Talent Ecosystem Fund. The fund will invest in workforce issues, talent development and lifelong learning.  The initiative comes three years after the foundation hired analyst James Chung to look at Wichita's strengths, problems and potential. Chung said Monday the city must fundamentally change its approach to growth, otherwise Wichita's decades-long stagnation will continue.

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St. Luke's to Use $25 Million for Spine Care, New Rehab Center

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City hospital network plans to use $25 million in donations to expand spine care offerings and establish a new rehab center in the area. The Kansas City Star reports that St. Luke's Health System will invest the donation by the Marion and Henry Bloch Family Foundation over the next five years. St. Luke's officials say the funds will help establish a "Spine Center of Excellence" at St. Luke's Marion Bloch Neuroscience Institute in Kansas City, Missouri. Officials say the spine center will include more clinical care options and allow for additional research. The donation will also help open a rehabilitation center next year at St. Luke's South Hospital in Overland Park, Kansas. The center will use robotic technology to help people recover from spinal injuries and other conditions.

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Camp Minden Explosives Case: Last Defendant to Change Plea

The last defendant has told a judge he'll change his plea from "not guilty" in a case involving a huge explosion at Louisiana National Guard-owned site. Judge Elizabeth E. Foote has scheduled a change-of-plea hearing Thursday afternoon for William Terry Wright, according to an electronic minute entry made Wednesday. Wright was vice president of operations at Explo Systems, which had an Army contract to "demilitarize" M6 artillery propellant. Defense attorney Donald E. Hathaway Jr. was not immediately available for comment. 

State police began investigating Explo after a 2012 explosion that shattered windows 4 miles (6.4 kilometers) away. The company went bankrupt in 2013, leaving thousands of tons of potentially explosive M6 at Camp Minden. Prosecutors had said they'd show that Wright also committed acts similar to those he's accused of in Louisiana while he was vice president of a Kansas company, Slurry Explosives Corp., from 2000-2002. Slurry Explosives pleaded guilty in 2006 to storing 1,685 tons (1,530 metric tons) of explosives and blasting agents when it had a permit to store a total of 45 tons (41 metric tons). Under a plea agreement, no individuals were charged and the company pleaded guilty to one charge in a bill of information.

Explo co-owner David Alan Smith of Winchester, Kentucky, and three company officials have pleaded guilty, agreeing to testify for prosecutors. The second co-owner, David Fincher of Burns, Tennessee, died June 2, two days before he, Wright and Charles Ferris Callihan were scheduled for trial. The trial was postponed a week, and put off again after Callihan, director of support technology, pleaded guilty Friday to a reduced charge that was not in the original indictment. As vice president, Wright oversaw day-to-day demilitarization operations at Explo, and also sought buyers for the recovered M6 and smokeless igniter, according to the indictment. He was indicted on one count of conspiracy, 23 of making false statements and six of wire fraud. The conspiracy count alleges he and others caused improper and unsafe storage of M6 and hazardous waste, obstructed federal inspections, and faked forms from purported buyers. The false statement counts allege he and others faked 23 forms certifying purchases of about 9,100 tons of M6; the wire fraud charges involve six emails sending those forms. 

Smith had been indicted on more charges than Fincher and Wright but pleaded guilty in December to one count each of conspiracy and making false statements. His potential restitution total was given as $35.4 million. That included $8.7 million in contract losses plus cleanup costs after an October 2012 explosion at Camp Minden, Acting U.S. Attorney Alexander Van Hook said in a statement at the time. Smith is scheduled for sentencing July 31. Callihan, Kenneth Lampkin, the company's program manager, and inventory control officer Lionel Koons are scheduled for sentencing August 30.

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