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Regional Headlines for Friday, August 3, 2012


26 Charges Against Kansas Abortion Clinic Dismissed

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas judge has dismissed 26 misdemeanor charges against a Kansas City-area Planned Parenthood clinic, narrowing a criminal case over allegations it performed illegal late-term abortions. Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe confirmed Thursday night that District Judge Stephen Tatum signed an order earlier in the day at Howe's request. Tatum's action is noted in online court records, but without any details. Attorneys for the Planned Parenthood clinic in Overland Park had requested in March to have the same charges dismissed. The clinic's attorneys argued the charges — covering 13 abortions in 2003 — were filed beyond a two-year deadline for pursuing charges then in effect. Howe agreed. Howe's predecessor filed 117 charges in October 2007. Tatum dismissed 49 of them, including 23 felonies, in November. Thirty-two misdemeanors remain.

Drought Causing More Kansas Cities to Curb Water Use

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — About 40 Kansas cities are either requiring citizens to conserve water, or are considering doing so. The conservation effort comes as a drought continues to bake the state, prompting Governor Sam Brownback to place all of the state's 105 counties in the emergency drought stage. Ellsworth is one of the cities that has banned outdoor watering, starting this week. Ellsworth water superintendent Adam Larsen says the town of 3100 residents has used 15 million more gallons of water this year than at this time last year. Larsen says the city will consider buying water from Post Rock Rural Water District. The Salina Journal reports several cities, including Lawrence, Dodge City, Leawood, Emporia, Seneca and Topeka are asking residents to voluntarily conserve water.


Fired Juvenile Official Receiving State Pension

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A former official with the state's Juvenile Justice Authority who was fired in March is receiving a state pension, even though he didn't work for the state for the required 10 years. Dennis Casarona, former deputy commissioner of the authority, was fired in March over allegations of mismanagement and abuse at the authority's facility in Topeka. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports Casarona used an obscure interpretation of the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System to become eligible for a pension, even though he had not worked for the state for 10 years. An attorney for the Kansas Department of Administration says Casarona had no legal basis for his interpretation of the KPERS rules. Counsel A.J. Kotich says the issue should be referred to the Kansas Bureau of Investigation and Attorney General.

Wichita Police Uncover Alleged ID Theft Operation

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Wichita police say they've found evidence of a significant identity theft operation. Police Lieutenant Clark Wiemeyer says a Sedgwick County sheriff's deputy found a half-dozen fake IDs and numerous stolen checkbooks when after he stopped a car Wednesday. The 35-year-old driver was arrested on an outstanding warrant. The deputy contacted Wichita police after discovering fake IDs. Wiemeyer says thieves are stealing checkbooks or other forms of identification, then making fake IDs to use with the stolen checks. Investigators found paper for making fraudulent checks at the homes of the driver and a second person. Wiemeyer says the suspects worked hard to make their IDs look authentic, and were also printing fake checks. The Wichita Eagle reports no one has been arrested yet.

Water Leak Closes KU's Spencer Museum of Art

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — Officials at the University of Kansas say thousands of books have been damaged by a water leak at the Spencer Museum of Art. The Lawrence Journal-World reports a break in a water line sent water into the building's lower floors, which house the Murphy Art and Architecture Library. University spokesman Joe Monaco says there was no damage to the museum's artwork, which is displayed on the upper floors. Officials estimate 15,000 to 20,000 of the museum's 170,000 volumes were damaged. Students and staff worked Wednesday night and Thursday morning to box the books and load them onto trailers. They'll be taken to a Chicago facility for evaluation and repairs. The library remains closed indefinitely, while the museum will be closed at least through Monday.

Bond Reduced for Lawrence Mother Charged in Son's Opiate-Linked Death

LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A Lawrence woman charged with manslaughter after her 5-year-old son died when he allegedly swallowed opiates has had her bond reduced. A Douglas County judge on Thursday lowered 25-year-old Rebecca Lynne Wynne's bond from $25,000 to $15,000. Wynne was ordered to live with her father if she is able to get out of jail. Prosecutors last week charged Wynne with reckless involuntary manslaughter for the death of her son, Joseph Michael Beanblossom. She also faces two counts of aggravated child endangerment involving her two other children, ages 6 and 4. Prosecutors allege that Wynne stashed  illegal controlled substances in her house. The boy died in April after ingesting some pills. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that family members have defended Wynne, saying she would not intentionally harm her children.

Portrait Not Enough to Satisfy Kansas Voter ID Law

HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — His portrait hangs in the courthouse where he went to cast an advance ballot, but a former Kansas judge says that wasn't enough satisfy the state's new voter photo identification law. The Hutchinson News reports that retired Reno County District Judge Richard Rome was denied a primary election ballot last week because he didn't have photo identification with him. The 77-year-old former judge says he was stunned — especially because the three people at the polling table knew him. Rome says he recently renewed his driver's license and hadn't received a new, permanent license with a photo. But he had the old one in his car, and used it to get a ballot. Poll workers told the newspaper they're requiring photo ID from everyone, including the county's deputy elections officer.

Hawker Beechcraft Laying Off 170 at Little Rock

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Hawker Beechcraft is laying off 170 employees at its Little Rock aircraft finishing plant. The company on Thursday issued a letter giving the workers 60 days of notice, as required by federal law. The Wichita-based company says the layoff will affect both hourly and salaried workers. In November Hawker Beechcraft assured Little Rock employees that there was enough work at the plant so that layoffs would not be necessary, even though the company issued a layoff notice. In May, the Hawker Beechcraft filed for bankruptcy protection and in July agreed to sell the company to a Chinese firm for $1.8 billion. Demand for business jets has declined since the 2008 economic downturn. The company wouldn't comment about the Little Rock layoff.

Bedbugs Prompt Closure of Downtown Wichita Library

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The discovery of bedbugs has prompted the Wichita public library to close its main branch. A patron reported seeing an insect Wednesday in a chair at the library's downtown branch. An expert identified it as a bedbug. KWCH-TV reports the building was closed while personnel searched for more bedbugs. Library officials said as of Thursday afternoon, some were also found on chairs in two reading areas. Library director Cynthia Berner Harris says officials don't believe any library materials have been infested, but transfers from the central branch to other branches have been suspended. It's not known when the building will fully reopen. The lobby will be open Friday and Saturday for patrons to return materials and collect items on hold.

Sprint-Nextel Says SEC Probe Follows NY Tax Suit

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Overland Park-based Sprint-Nextel Corporation says it's cooperating with a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation into its collection and remittance of state and local sales taxes. The company's announcement follows a lawsuit being filed by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. Sprint says it recently received an SEC subpoena regarding tax collections and payments, including those in New York. The telecommunications company has asked a judge to dismiss the New York suit claiming $100 million in unpaid sales taxes and seeking triple damages. Schneiderman says Sprint should collect taxes on the full amount of monthly access fees for mobile calling plans, while it has withheld about 25 percent based on the theory it doesn't owe them on the interstate portion. Sprint says Thursday that the suit is without merit.

Salina Woman Gets Maximum Sentence for Coma-Inducing Attack

SALINA, Kan. (AP) — A north-central Kansas woman will spend four years in prison for an attack on a neighbor that put the victim in a three-week coma. The Salina Journal reports that 25-year-old Tiffany Byrd laid down on the courtroom floor and cried after receiving the maximum sentence Wednesday. Byrd had pleaded guilty to aggravated battery and was asking for probation. Byrd told the judge she prays every day for Trisha Cleveland, whose head she repeatedly pounded into the pavement outside an apartment building March 9th. Cleveland was left with permanent physical and cognitive injuries and requires 24-hour care from her parents. Investigators said Byrd believed the victim had made an anonymous report to police that she was hitting her children.


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