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Regional Headlines for Thursday, September 6, 2012




Justice Dept: Kansas Women's Prison Violates Inmates' Rights

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The U.S. Justice Department says the state women's prison in Kansas violates the civil rights of its inmates by failing to protect them from sexual misconduct and abuse by staff and other prisoners. The department said in a letter Thursday to Governor Sam Brownback that the problems have continued since it began investigating the Topeka Correctional Facility in April 2011. The letter outlined steps the prison and the Kansas Department of Corrections can take to resolve the issues. Those steps include additional training and investigations of all complaints of misconduct. But the letter also says that if the Justice Department isn't satisfied with the efforts at the prison facility by late October, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder could file a lawsuit. Department of Corrections spokesman Jeremy Barclay says it is reviewing the letter.

Kansas Summit Addresses Obesity Rate

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas health officials and policymakers gathered in Topeka are hearing that no single strategy will reduce obesity in the state and everyone will need to help make changes. The remarks were made Thursday at a summit on obesity, a meeting convened by the Governor's Council on Fitness. Governor Sam Brownback, Lieutenant Governor Jeff Colyer and Secretary of Health and Environment Robert Moser are among those taking part. Colyer and Moser are both physicians. A past director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's division of nutrition, physical activity and obesity says several strategies in multiple settings will help the United States reverse its obesity epidemic. More than 200 people were invited to the summit.


Insurance Commissioner Urges Health Reform Plans

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger says the state needs to decide soon what health benefits it would offer under federal health care reform. During a meeting with health care officials on Wednesday, Praeger says if Kansas doesn't pick its own plan for a health insurance exchange, the federal government will make the decision for the state. Under the federal Affordable Care Act, states have until September 30 to decide what benefits will be included in a health insurance exchange. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that Praeger says she will submit recommendations to Governor Sam Brownback, who has to decide by September 30. The governor is a vocal opponent of federal health care reform and has said he wants to see who wins the presidential election before making any decisions.


Nortonville Highways Reopen Following Wreck

NORTONVILLE, Kan. (AP) — Highways leading into Nortonville in northeast Kansas were closed for a portion of the day (THUR) following an accident that killed one person. The Kansas Department of Transportation says the accident happened Thursday morning when a semi-trailer truck hit a passenger vehicle in Atchison County. All lanes of northbound and southbound U.S. 59 from the Kansas 116 intersection to Nortonville were closed, along with the eastbound and westbound lanes of Kansas 116 from U.S. 159 highway north of Nortonville to Kansas 4. All were re-opened at approximately 2 pm (THUR). 


Veteran Kansas Court of Appeals Judge to Retire

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Court of Appeals Judge Christel Marquardt plans to retire in January after more than 17 years on the state's second-highest court. Marquardt turned 77 last month. Kansas law prohibits Court of Appeals judges from asking voters to retain them once they turn 75. The court said Thursday that Marquardt will step down January 2, just before her current four-year term expires. Marquardt waited until she was in her 30s and her four children were old enough for school to enter law school and start a career as a lawyer in the 1970s. Governor Bill Graves appointed her to the appellate court in 1995. Marquardt's retirement gives Governor Sam Brownback a second appointment to the 13-member court. A nominating commission will take applications until October 12.

UPDATE: Missouri Bishop Convicted for Failing to Report Priest

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A judge has found a Missouri bishop guilty of one misdemeanor count for failing to report suspected child abuse by a priest, and acquitted him on a second count. Robert Finn is the nation's highest-ranking Catholic official charged with shielding an abusive priest. He received two years of probation, but that sentence was suspended. The charges stem from the child pornography case of Rev. Shawn Ratigan, in which Finn and other church officials knew about photos on the priest's computer but didn't turn him in for six months. Ratigan pleaded guilty in August to child porn charges. Finn has argued he was not the diocese's mandated reporter under state law, saying that responsibility rested with the diocese's Vicar General.

Two Sought in Safe Heist at Wichita Mall

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Police in Wichita are looking for two suspects in a particularly brazen jewelry theft caught on surveillance video. KAKE-TV reports two men wheeled a dolly into the Towne West mall just after security guards unlocked the building around 7 am Thursday. Police say the men headed for a jewelry store kiosk and stole a safe the size of a small refrigerator from inside a locked cabinet. They loaded the safe onto the dolly and wheeled it back out of the mall. Investigators say the safe contained several thousand dollars' worth of jewelry. Nobody saw the suspects inside the mall, so police are looking at surveillance video hoping to identify the men.


KS Doctor Seeks Reinstatement of License

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — An attorney for a Kansas doctor sanctioned over her referrals of young patients for late-term abortions says a court battle she's started to regain her medical license is likely to be lengthy. Kelly Kauffman, an attorney representing Dr. Ann Kristin Neuhaus, said Thursday it's likely to take two years or more to settle the challenge filed by Neuhaus in Shawnee County District Court. Neuhaus hopes to overturn the State Board of Healing Arts decision in June to revoke her medical license. The board ratified an administrative judge's earlier finding that Neuhaus didn't perform adequate mental health exams on 11 young patients she referred in 2003 to the late George Tiller, the Wichita physician who performed late-term abortions. Neuhaus filed her court petition last month and strongly disputes the allegations.


State of Kansas, Police Officer Sued Over Car Crash

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Two people who were injured when a fleeing car struck their vehicle are suing a Capitol Police officer and the state of Kansas. Scott E. Bennett, of Topeka, and Shelby Montgomery, of Berryton, have filed separate lawsuits against the state and Capitol Police officer Patrick R. Saleh. Both are seeking more than $75,000 in damages. Topeka police says Robert R. Horton was driving a stolen car while fleeing police when he hit a truck carrying Bennett and Montgomery in August 2010. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports Bennett and Montgomery were both hospitalized. Horton was sentenced to Norton Correctional Facility for two counts of reckless aggravated battery. The Capitol Police is part of the Kansas Highway Patrol. A spokesman said patrol is working the attorney general's office to respond to the lawsuits.

Inspection Reveals TV, Sink in Pittsburg Sewer

Officials in a southeastern Kansas community think they know why someone threw a kitchen sink into a sewer line. Now, they'd like to know who did it. KOAM-TV reports that the sink, a TV and a microwave oven were discovered in a Pittsburg sewer this week during a routine inspection. Pittsburg utilities director John Bailey says the TV and microwave have been removed. But the sink is wedged so far into the line that the city may have to hire a private contractor for a major — and costly — excavation job. The sink has to be removed, since it's clogging the line and could cause a sewage backup. Officials believe someone wanting to get rid of the items simply lifted a manhole cover and threw them in.

Kansas Military School Seeks Dismissal of Lawsuit

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas military school is again asking a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit by families of 11 former cadets alleging physical abuse. Lawyers for St. John's Military School in Salina filed a motion Wednesday seeking dismissal of the lawsuit or an order putting the dispute into arbitration. The move is largely procedural since U.S. District Judge John Lungstrum denied a similar motion in June. The school says it renewed the request because four new cadets have since been added to the case and it wanted to preserve all legal issues for a potential appeal. St. John's has denied allegations that higher-ranking students were encouraged to discipline younger cadets, leading to abuse.


KC-Area's Confirmed Heat Death Count Grows to 10

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The total number of heat-related deaths in the Kansas City area has grown to 10. The Kansas City Health Department said Thursday the latest confirmed heat death is a man born in 1936. The Jackson County (Missouri) Medical Examiner is investigating one other death as possibly heat related. No other details were provided.

Roaming Alligator Captured

CALDWELL, Kan. (AP) — A 4-foot alligator that caused some concern while wandering through a small southern Kansas town is in police custody. Police in Caldwell caught the alligator Wednesday evening at a hardware store. The animal was seen wandering on main street earlier in the day. Because it escaped from a home about a block from an elementary school, students at the school were kept inside for recess. No one was injured. It was not immediately clear what would happen to the alligator now. Caldwell is about 60 miles southwest of Wichita.

Monument Rocks Land Auction Extended

ULYSSES, Kan. (AP) — Bids for the ranch that holds the historic Monument Rocks chalk formations have reached $8.5 million. Bidding for the 12,900-acre Pyramid Ranch in Gove County was scheduled to end August 28 but was extended for two weeks. The auction includes mineral rights. The ranch contains the Monument Rocks, which are a National Natural Monument. It also includes fossil finds and two graves of U.S. Cavalry soldiers; the rock formations were used as a navigational and territorial marker by pioneer expeditions and were a spiritual site for Native Americans. The Hays Daily News reports that as bidding resumed Tuesday, the top bid was $8.5 million -- more than double the top bid from a week ago. Mark Faulkner of Ulysses, whose is overseeing the telephone auction, said six people were bidding on the land but two dropped out.


Hawker Beechcraft Lawyers Bill Nearly $1.7 Million

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Bankruptcy lawyers for Hawker Beechcraft are seeking nearly $1.7 million in fees and expenses for their work in July. A court filing Wednesday shows the biggest portion of the legal fees were billed for what is called the strategic transaction asset sale, involving negotiations with a Chinese firm for the sale of Hawker's civilian operations. Lawyers billed 850 hours on sale matters, as part of a total of about 2,200 billed hours for the month of July. This is the third fee statement of New York-based Kirkland & Ellis LLP. The 239-page statement says the firm billed hours for 34 attorneys at rates ranging from $565 an hour to $1,045 an hour. It also billed for 368 hours for 16 paraprofessionals. The firm is also seeking $68,000 for expenses.


KC District Sets Up Hotline for Google Fiber Questions

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Public School District has set up a hotline to answer questions about a Google Fiber project. The hotline will operate from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday in advance of Sunday's deadline to sign up for the service. Neighborhood must meet pre-registration thresholds to qualify for service and get free Internet in their schools. The percentages vary based on neighborhoods' density and the difficulty of wiring them. But concerns have been raised because poorer areas are having a tougher time hitting Google's goals. The Kansas City district says in a news release that it isn't endorsing the project. But it adds that hotline volunteers will connect callers with people who can explain how the project could "support schools." The hotline number is 816-418-NEWS (6397).


Chinese Purchaser of KC-Based AMC Makes Donation to Schools

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The conglomerate that bought Kansas City-based cinema chain AMC Entertainment Holdings is donating more than $1.3 million to public schools. China's Dalian Wanda Group and AMC announced in a news release Thursday that the gift includes supplies and free movie screenings and tickets. It will benefit a dozen public high schools in Kansas City, Missouri and Kansas City, Kansas. Wanda chairman Wang Jianlin said in a statement that nothing is more important than the development and well-being of the world's children. Wanda said Tuesday it had closed on the acquisition of AMC, one of the largest movie theater chains in the U.S. The $2.6 billion deal is the largest takeover of a U.S. company by a Chinese firm. It also makes Wanda the world's largest owner of cinemas.


Chiefs Turn to D-III Player to Replace Hali 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Chiefs' replacement for one of the NFL's most feared pass rushers this Sunday will be an unheralded veteran linebacker out of tiny Wheaton College. It won't be the first time Andy Studebaker has started a game, but it'll surely be like none other: It's the season-opener against the Atlanta Falcons, and Studebaker will be taking the place of Tamba Hali, who is suspended for Week 1 for violating the league's substance-abuse policy. Studebaker knows that he can't be Hali, whose 12 sacks last season ranked second in the AFC. Studebaker isn't known for getting after the quarterback anyway. Instead, he's known for the grit and determination that not only allowed him to make an NFL roster out of college, but to remain in the NFL for more than 4 years.

Convicted Kansas Doctor, Wife Now Target Prosecutor in Appeal

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas doctor and his wife convicted in a moneymaking conspiracy linked to 68 overdose deaths are attacking a federal prosecutor's changing position now that the case has reached the appeals court. In a filing with the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, new lawyers for Stephen and Linda Schneider say the prosecutor is "debasing" justice by now claiming the couple had conflict-free attorneys at trial. The same prosecutor aggressively pursued the opposite stance in the lower court. At issue is the involvement of a national patient advocate in the case. The Haysville couple was convicted in 2010 of unlawfully prescribing drugs, health care fraud and money laundering. The U.S. attorney's office says it's reviewing the filings and would respond in court.

Theater Shooting Suspect Withdrew Application to Attend KU

DENVER (AP) — The man suspected of opening fire in a Colorado movie theater had applied to the University of Kansas graduate school but withdrew his application before the school decided whether to admit him. The university released James Eagan Holmes's application on Wednesday in response to open records requests filed by The Associated Press and other news outlets. Holmes applied to neuroscience programs at a half-dozen graduate schools and ended up at the University of Colorado, Denver. He withdrew at the end of his first year, about six weeks before the shootings. Many parts of Holmes's application to KU appear to be similar to those in his applications released by other schools. The July 20 shootings killed 12 and wounded 58. Holmes is charged with murder and attempted murder. He hasn't entered a plea.

Missouri Bishop Faces Bench Trial in Case Tied to Abuse

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri judge will try a misdemeanor case against the highest-ranking Catholic official in the U.S. to be charged with shielding an abusive priest, three weeks before it was scheduled to go to a jury trial. Bishop Robert Finn and the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph were supposed to stand trial starting September 24, but prosecutors announced Wednesday that the case would instead be heard Thursday. Both Finn and the diocese have pleaded not guilty to failure to report suspected child abuse to the state. Jackson County, Missouri prosecutors and attorneys for the bishop and diocese have negotiated a set of stipulated facts that will be presented to Judge John M. Torrence. A spokesman for the prosecutor's office says a verdict is expected by day's end.

**this story has been updated. Please see above. 


UPDATE: Judge Deliberates in Bench Trial of Missouri Bishop 

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Missouri judge is considering the criminal case against the highest-ranking Catholic official in the U.S. to be charged with shielding an abusive priest, three weeks before it was to go before a jury. Bishop Robert Finn and the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph are charged with two counts each of failing to report suspected child abuse to the state. Their trial was scheduled to start September 24. Finn faces a maximum penalty of a year in jail and a $1,000 fine on each count. The diocese could be fined up to $5,000 on each charge. Instead, a set of stipulated facts negotiated by both sides was presented Thursday to Judge John M. Torrence. He recessed the court until later in the afternoon, when he's expected to rule.

**this story has been updated. Please see above.


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