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Headlines for Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Area news headlines from the Associated Press

Three Indicted in Wichita "Swatting" Incident

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) - Federal prosecutors have indicted two online gamers and a California man who are accused of making the hoax phone call that led police to fatally shoot an unarmed man in Wichita.  The indictment unsealed today (WED) charges the California man -- Tyler Barriss -- with conspiracy, cyberstalking and other crimes. 
Video gamers Casey Viner, of Ohio, and Shane Gaskill, of Wichita, face conspiracy, obstruction of justice and wire fraud charges.  Yesterday (TUE), a judge in Wichita found probable cause for Tyler Barriss, to stand trial on allegations he made the hoax call that led a police officer to fatally shoot an unarmed man.  The 25-year-old Barriss is accused of calling police from Los Angeles on December 28 to report a shooting and kidnapping at a home in Wichita.  But there was no shooting and no kidnapping.  Police stormed the address and an officer shot 28-year-old Andrew Finch at his front door because he thought Finch was reaching for a gun.  Prosecutors say Barriss engaged in "swatting."  That's the practice in which someone makes a false report to get emergency responders to show up at someone's address.  Wichita police officer Justin Rapp testified that he was assigned to provide cover for responding officers. Rapp says he fired one shot because he feared Finch was reaching for a firearm.  Barriss will be arraigned June 29.

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More than $8 Million Awarded to Victim of Cult in Human Trafficking Case

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — More than $8 million was awarded today (WED) to a woman who alleged that the spiritual leader of a cult forced her to work without pay for a decade.  U.S. District Judge Daniel Crabtree of Kansas wrote in the order that Royall Jenkins and his organization, The Value Creators, exploited Kendra Ross' vulnerability, "knowing that she was unfamiliar with the world outside the cult, had received no standard education, was constantly moved from place to place, and had no money." Ross alleged in the lawsuit that from the age of 11 until 2012, when she "gathered her courage and strength to escape," she was forced to work without pay in restaurants and as a maid, cook and childcare provider in Kansas City, Kansas; Atlanta; Dayton, Ohio; Newark, New Jersey; and New York City.

Judge Crabtree said Jenkins and his group, formerly known as the United Nation of Islam, controlled Ross' romantic relationships, imposed strict discipline and that she became "severely malnourished" because of the treatment she received. Crabtree said Ross was led to "believe that if she did not continue to work for them, she would suffer serious harm." She has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, according to her lawsuit.

No attorney is listed for Jenkins, and he doesn't have a listed phone number. Jenkins was a member of the Nation of Islam until 1978 when he formed the separate United Nation of Islam after he said that "angels and/or scientists" abducted him and escorted him through the galaxy on a spaceship and instructed him on how to govern earth. He established a small community of followers and business in economically depressed areas. The group, which taught that black males were superior to women and men of other races, changed its name to The Value Creators after Ross escaped.

Ross' attorney, Betsy Hutson, said her client, whose location is being kept confidential, is "thrilled" and described the judgment as a "powerful tool for the anti-trafficking movement." Hutson said that there were "no chains but an immense amount of psychological damage." Hutson said the "next big challenge" is to collect on the settlement but adds there is reason to believe that the group has "significant properties."

"This has been a really long process," Hutson said. "It is a result of a lot of years of hard work. We see that she has made incredible progress, coming out of this cult and facing her perpetrators."

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Kansas Justices Struggle with School Funding Fix

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Supreme Court justices who are skeptical that state lawmakers have sufficiently increased school funding this year are struggling with whether they have enough information to say exactly what's adequate.  Four of the court's seven members expressed doubts Tuesday about a new law approved this year that phases in a $548 million educating funding increase over five years. The court heard arguments from attorneys on whether the increase is adequate under the state constitution.  But skeptical Justice Dan Biles later suggested in questioning attorney Alan Rupe that the Supreme Court might have to order more fact-finding by a lower court about what funding would be adequate. Rupe represents four school districts suing the state.  Chief Justice Lawton Nuss also questioned whether the Supreme Court needs more information.

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Fire Official: Extent of University Library Damage Unknown

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — A fire official says he doesn't know the extent of damage at the main Kansas State University library where a blaze broke out.  Manhattan Assistant Fire Chief Mike Kaus says 70 firefighters from four agencies responded to the fire in the roof of the oldest part of the four-story building. The fire at Hale Library was contained by around 6 pm Tuesday but crews continued working to extinguish it.  The university said on its website that smoke was reported around 4 pm in the library, which had been undergoing repairs.  No injuries have been reported. The 400,000-square-foot building was evacuated, and the university said it will remain closed until further notice.  The library was built in the 1920s and underwent a massive remodel and addition in the 1990s.

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Suspect in Kansas 'Swatting' Case to Stand Trial

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A judge has found probable cause for a California man to stand trial on allegations he made a hoax call that led police to fatally shoot an unarmed man in Kansas.  Twenty-five-year-old Tyler Barriss is accused of calling police from Los Angeles on Dec. 28 to report a shooting and kidnapping at a home in Wichita, Kansas. Police stormed the address and an officer shot 28-year-old Andrew Finch at his front door.  Barriss faces charges of involuntary manslaughter, giving a false alarm and interference with a law enforcement officer.  Barriss engaged in "swatting," a practice in which someone makes a false report to get emergency responders to an address.  Wichita police officer Justin Rapp testified that he was assigned to provide cover for responding officers. Rapp says he fired one shot because he feared Finch was reaching for a firearm.  Barriss will be arraigned June 29.

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Schlitterbahn Critical of Kansas Audit of KCK Water Park

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Schlitterbahn is accusing the state Department of Labor of publishing "misleading and false information" about its Kansas water park by releasing an audit from a recent state inspection.  The state inspection last week found 11 alleged violations of amusement park regulations at the park in Kansas City, Kansas, where a 10-year-old boy died in 2016.  Spokeswoman Winter Prosapio said in an email that Schlitterbahn is addressing the bulk of the administrative and record-keeping issues raised in the department's report ahead of the Kansas park's scheduled seasonal opening Friday.  She also said Schlitterbahn will respond later this week with a letter "challenging the details" of the audit.  Prosapio also said the audit found no issues with rides' functioning.  The boy who died in 2016 was decapitated on a now-closed giant waterslide.

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2 Kansas, 1 Missourian Accused in "Rent-A-Vet" Scheme

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Federal prosecutors are alleging that two Topeka businessmen and another from the Kansas City area participated in a scheme to defraud the federal government by setting up companies to gain federal contracts meant for specific groups, such as disabled military veterans.
In a civil action filed in Kansas City, federal prosecutors allege the three men set up front companies in a fraud that cost the government about $352 million.  Those accused are Matthew Torgeson, former president of Torgeson Electric Co., and Matthew McPherson, president of McPherson Construction Inc., of Topeka. Also cited Is Kansas City-area businessman Patrick Michael Dingle.  The Topeka Capital-Journal reports the civil action asks that properties and bank accounts owned by the men and companies they set up be forfeited.

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Appeals Court Rejects Contempt Appeal as Premature

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A federal appeals court has dismissed the appeal filed by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach over the finding that he violated a court order to fully register some voters.  The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that Judge Julie Robinson's order holding Kobach in contempt is not yet final and therefore not immediately appealable.  An appeals panel agreed with the American Civil Liberties Union that the contempt appeal is premature because Robinson has not yet determined the amount of sanctions.  Kobach, a candidate for Kansas governor, was found in contempt in a lawsuit challenging a Kansas law requiring proof of citizenship to register to vote. Robinson ordered Kobach to pay for damages, including attorney fees.  Kobach was vice chairman of President Donald Trump's now-disbanded commission on election fraud.

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Robbery Suspect Shot by Wichita Liquor Store Manager

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police say a liquor store manager shot and wounded man allegedly tried to rob the store.  Police were called Tuesday to F&K Liquors in southeast Wichita after employees reported two men walked into the store, showed a gun and demanded money.  KAKE-TV reports the manager followed the men out of the store and fired several shots.  An 18-year-old suspect was hit in the leg and treated for non-life-threatening injuries.  Wichita police are looking for the second suspect.

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Woman Who Shot Kansas Abortion Doctor Moved to Halfway House

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — An anti-abortion activist who shot and wounded a Kansas abortion provider and firebombed clinics in Oregon and elsewhere has been released from prison to a halfway house to finish her sentence.  The Federal Correctional Institution in Waseca, Minnesota, confirmed Tuesday that Rachelle "Shelley" Shannon has been sent to a halfway house where she will complete a 20-year sentence stemming from two Oregon cases for arson and other crimes targeting abortion clinics. Her final release date is November 7.  Shannon has already completed an 11-year sentence for shooting Wichita abortion provider Dr. George Tiller in 1993. Tiller was killed by an anti-abortion extremist who admired Shannon in 2009.  Tiller's clinic was purchased by Trust Women. Its founder, Julie Burkhart, says Shannon's release raises concerns about the safety of clinic workers.

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Teacher Retires After 50 Years at Leavenworth High School

LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (AP) — A northeast Kansas science teacher is retiring after 50 years at the same high school.  The Leavenworth Times reports that 77-year-old Bob Hart arrived at Leavenworth High School in 1967, after teaching at other schools for three years. He intended to stay only a couple of years but "just kind of fell in love with Leavenworth."  He says his interest in coaching led him to teach. He says that "in order to be a good coach, you have to be a good teacher." And he says coaching sports that included football and track helped him become a decent teacher.  Hart says he will miss the students. He says that while the physical layout of the school changed over the years, the students are "about the same as when I started."

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Government Sues over Kansas City-area Teamsters Election

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The federal government is suing over the results of a Kansas City area-Teamsters union election.  The lawsuit filed by U.S. Secretary of Labor R. Alexander Acosta is seeking a new election to be conducted under federal supervision.  Local 41 President Ralph Stubbs and his slate of candidates won re-election in November over two rival slates, each of which protested the election.  The lawsuit raises concerns about how members' ballots were collected and a posting on the union's Facebook page that promoted Stubbs' candidacy.  The union didn't return a call Tuesday seeking comment. An investigation by the Teamsters' trial board found no evidence that the problems influenced the election.  The Kansas City Star reports the Labor Department brought only four similar lawsuits last year out of 87 election complaints.

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Missouri Governor Pulled over While Speeding, Not Ticketed

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — Missouri Governor Eric Greitens was pulled over last week while speeding but wasn't ticketed.  Greitens spokesman Parker Briden said in a statement Tuesday that police stopped Greitens on Friday in Truesdale, near the governor's home in the resort community of Innsbrook.  Briden says Greitens was driving 41 mph on a road with a speed limit of 55 mph that dropped to a 30 mph limit. Briden says it was a "friendly interaction" and the officer didn't ticket the governor.  Briden says Greitens was on an errand to pick up medicine at a pharmacy near his house.  Greitens faces trouble on several fronts. St. Louis prosecutors dropped a felony invasion-of-privacy charge against him last week, but he faces another charge that accuses him of misusing a charity donor list for his gubernatorial campaign. Lawmakers also are considering whether to impeach him.

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Kansas Renews Economic Partnership with Japan

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer says the state will renew its partnership with a group that strengthens economic ties between the state and Japan.  In 2012, then-Governor Sam Brownback dropped the state's membership in the Midwest U.S.-Japan Association, citing the $2,000 annual cost of membership.  Colyer met with association members in April and said this week that Kansas will rejoin the regional trade organization.  The Topeka Capital-Journal reports Japan has invested in 55 Kansas businesses with 10,000 employees. Colyer's office said Japan is Kansas' third-largest export market in 2017, totaling $980 million in commerce.  The Kansas Livestock Association and the Kansas Chamber of Commerce were among organizations supporting the decision to rejoin the association.

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Lawrence Bus Monitor Suspended After Pepper Spray Incident

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A school bus monitor for the Lawrence school district was suspended and ticketed for battery after allegedly using pepper spray on a student.  Lawrence police officer Drew Fennelly says the incident happened Friday afternoon on a bus that serves the Juvenile Detention Center.  The attendant, a 46-year-old woman, told police she used pepper spray to subdue a 17-year-old female who lunged at her in a threatening manner. However, Fennelly says security footage from the bus didn't show the student threatening the monitor.  The Lawrence Journal-World reports the 17-year-old and a 14-year-old girl were checked after the incident but were not taken to the hospital.  The bus monitor has been suspended pending the outcome of the municipal court case and a bus company review of the incident.

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