Topekan Acquitted in Bankruptcy Fraud Case
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A federal jury in Topeka has acquitted a local real-estate developer of all 114 federal charges against him. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that 65-year-old Kent Douglas Lindemuth was found not guilty of the counts Friday. Lindemuth had been accused of hiding scores of handguns that could have been counted as assets in a bankruptcy case and lying under oath about it. He had been charged with more than 100 counts of bankruptcy fraud tied to the handguns, two counts tied to the purchase of two cars and two more counts tied to concealing a bank account. He also faced a perjury count and six money laundering counts. Lindemuth's attorney, William Skepnek, said Friday that jury recognized that Lindemuth "did not commit any crimes."
Wichita Shooting Leaves One Dead, One Injured, One Arrested
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Police in Wichita say one man is dead, another injured and a suspect is behind bars in an early morning shooting. Police say officers were called to a home for a report of a shooting around 12:45 a.m. Saturday. Arriving officers found a 31-year-old man in the street with two gunshot wounds to a leg. Upon arriving at the home, officers reported seeing a 21-year-old man leave the house with a handgun and arrested him. Inside the home, officers found a 44-year-old man with multiple gunshot wounds who was pronounced dead. The 31-year-old man was treated at an area hospital. The 21-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of first degree murder and related counts. Police have not yet released the names of the victims or the suspect.
KU Settles Title IX Lawsuit for $395,000
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — The University of Kansas paid out a total of $395,000 to settle lawsuits by two former rowers who said the school didn't respond properly to their reports of being sexually assaulted on campus. The Kansas City Star reports that the university admits no liability in agreeing to pay former rower Daisy Tackett $245,000 and former rower Sarah McClure $150,000. Tackett reported a Kansas football player raped her in 2014 and McClure alleged she was assaulted by the same man a year later. The women claimed the school violated Title IX because officials should have anticipated a heightened risk of sexual assaults at the apartments where football players live. The Associated Press generally doesn't identify victims of alleged sexual assault, but Tackett and McClure have said they want their names used.
Kansas Lawmakers to Revisit Constitutional Amendment on School Funding
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Supreme Court's latest order to legislators to boost spending on public schools has Republicans talking again about amending the state constitution to curb the courts' power. Moves to amend the constitution have become nearly automatic for conservative Republicans over the past dozen years as the state has lost school funding lawsuits. The proposals have failed to attract the two-thirds majorities in the GOP-controlled Legislature to get on the ballot for a statewide vote. So this effort doesn't look to be any different. Democrats are all but certain to vote together against any proposed amendment. Conservative Republicans need the votes of GOP moderates to get the two-thirds majorities to put a proposal on the ballot. And GOP moderates say they are skeptical of proposed amendments.
ACLU Calls for Kansas School Board to End Ban on Complaints
SHAWNEE, Kan. (AP) — The American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas has called for a school district in the Kansas City area to eliminate a policy prohibiting public complaints about individuals at board meetings. The Kansas City Star reports that the ACLU sent a letter to the Shawnee Mission School Board December 6th saying a policy approved last month violates constitutional rights to free speech. The school board requires speakers participating in the open forum section of school board meetings to present information in a "positive" and "constructive way." The policy says complaints against individual school board members or individual employees are considered inappropriate for the open forum. ACLU official Doug Bonney says the First Amendment and case law gives individuals the right to express "sometimes unpleasantly sharp attacks on government and public officials."
Area Lawmakers Affirm Support for New Kansas Prison
LANSING, Kan. (AP) — Two Kansas House Democrats are reaffirming their support for a plan from Republican Governor Sam Brownback's administration to build a new prison in Lansing. Representatives Debbie Deere of Lansing and Jeff Pittman of nearby Leavenworth said building a new prison is important for the state's security. The new prison for 2,400 inmates would replace the state's oldest and largest one in Lansing. The Department of Corrections plans to have Nashville, Tennessee-based private-prison operator CoreCivic build the new prison. The state would pay for the two-year, $170 million project by leasing it from CoreCivic for 20 years before owning it. CoreCivic would handle upkeep, but the state would staff and run the prison. Other Democrats have criticized the lease-purchase arrangement as potentially more expensive than using bonds to finance the project.
Kansas Elections Candidate Calls on Rival to Quit GOP Post
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Republican candidate for Kansas secretary of state says one of his rivals should step down as state GOP chairman. The Kansas City Star reports that state Representative Scott Schwab of Olathe is calling out fellow candidate Kelly Arnold. Schwab says Arnold is compromising his integrity by running for the state's top elections job while serving as party leader. Schwab notes that the GOP's rules call for the party to remain neutral in contested primaries. Arnold said he won't leave his party post. Arnold notes that he was elected by fellow Republicans and the position is unpaid. Kansas House Elections Committee Chairman Keith Esau of Olathe also is seeking the Republican nomination for secretary of state next year. Incumbent Republican Secretary of State Kris Kobach is running for governor.
Rural Kansas Jurors Sought in Garden City Bomb Case
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Three men accused of plotting to bomb an apartment complex housing Somali refugees have asked a federal judge to pull prospective jurors from rural Kansas because they are twice as likely to have voted for President Donald Trump. A defense motion filed Friday argues plans to issue summons only to citizens in the more urban counties closest to the federal courthouse is a discriminatory practice that excludes rural and conservative jurors. The trial begins March 19th in Wichita. Gavin Wright, Patrick Stein and Curtis Allen are charged with conspiring to detonate the day after the 2016 election truck bombs at a mosque and apartment complex in the meatpacking town of Garden City. They have pleaded not guilty.
Man Pleads Guilty to Killing Newton Woman, Daughter
NEWTON, Kan. (AP) — A homeless man who killed a Kansas woman and her 4-year-old daughter pleaded guilty to capital murder but will not face the death penalty. Twenty-year-old Keith Hawkins will serve life in prison without parole after entering the plea Friday. He admitted killing 24-year-old Alyssa Runyon and her daughter, Zaylynn Paz, in August at their duplex in Newton, Kansas. Investigators have said Runyon apparently was strangled and her daughter was stabbed. Hawkins, who was homeless, was visiting Runyon. He was arrested in Texas in August. Harvey County Attorney David Yoder said the victims' families agreed to the plea deal. The Wichita Eagle reports Hawkins was a sex offender but his prior conviction was not placed on the public offender registry.
Wichita Man Sentenced to Life for Killing Girlfriend
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A 29-year-old Wichita man has been sentenced to life in prison for killing his girlfriend and setting her house on fire. Dane Wright will serve at least 29 years in prison for the death of 36-year-old Reyona Caldwell. Her body was found June 2nd in the basement of her burning home.Wright pleaded guilty last month to first-degree murder, aggravated burglary, aggravated arson and three counts of child endangerment. A coroner determined Wright died from head trauma, smoke inhalation and burns, a coroner determined. Law enforcement issued an Amber Alert for Caldwell's three children after her body was found. They were later found in a south Wichita motel room. Wright told police he left the kids there to use methamphetamine and visit a casino.
Worker Dies from Wichita Spirit Plant Injury
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Spirit AeroSystems says an employee who was injured in an accident November 3rd at its Wichita plant has died. Spirit officials confirmed the death of Sammy Barnett in a statement Friday. A spokesman for a federal agency investigating the accident told The Wichita Eagle that Barnett was crushed when a load shifted and fell while an aircraft part was being lifted by an overhead crane. An investigation is ongoing and Spirit said in its statement that it will use any findings from the investigation to improve its procedures. Scott Allen, spokesman for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, said the agency is interviewing witnesses to the accident and company officials, as well as looking at equipment used when the accident occurred. OSHA has six months to complete its investigation.
No Charges Filed Against Ellis County Deputy in Fatal Shooting
HAYS, Kan. (AP) — The Ellis County Attorney's Office says an officer involved in a fatal shooting in November 2016 will not face any charges. Police have not released the name of the man who was killed after a police chase that began early Nov. 8 when Hays police tried to stop a vehicle that was driving recklessly. An Ellis County sheriff's deputy joined the chase, which ended when the driver lost control and crashed in a field. Authorities have said the suspect confronted the deputy and eventually went for his gun. The suspect was hit with a stun gun, knocking him and the officer to the ground. When the suspect tried to grab the gun, the deputy fired several times. The suspect died at the scene.
City, County Officials Oppose Lid on Kansas Property Taxes
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Local officials say new limits on the ability to raise property tax revenues from one year to the next are hamstringing Kansas cities and counties as they attempt to cover rising health insurance costs for their employees. The Lawrence Journal-World reports that officials representing local governments voiced their concerns about the new law to an interim legislative committee Thursday. The law is commonly known as a property tax lid because it generally caps how much of an increase in property tax revenue cities and counties can levy from year to year at the rate of inflation, unless they get voter approval. Opponents say cities throughout Kansas are facing increased costs for things like employee health insurance, and that the tax lid prevents them from keeping up with such costs.
Kansas on Track to Launch Delayed Driver's License System
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Officials with the Kansas Department of Revenue say a driver's license computer program rife with delays and complications is on track to launch next month. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports that the second phase of the department's computer system replacement is expected to go live January 2nd. The program will replace part of a decades-old system used to issue drivers' licenses, identification cards and commercial licenses, and process motor vehicle titles and registrations. The project was supposed to replace the old systems in 2011 and 2012. But the first phase replacing the title and registration system launched nearly a year late. The second phase of the system that issues licenses still isn't online nearly six years after its initial targeted launch date. State auditors will release another review of the program next week.
Tattoos May Help Identity of Woman Found in Kansas Lake
INDEPENDENCE, Kan. (AP) — Authorities are investigating the death of a woman found floating in a southeast Kansas lake as a homicide. The Montgomery County Sheriff's Office said in Facebook post that hunters found the woman Thursday about a quarter-mile south of a boat ramp at the Card Creek camping area east of Independence. Paramedics loaded her into a boat and took her to a hospital, where she was pronounced dead. Authorities identified her Friday as 33-year-old Cindy "Pinky" Ann Eason, of Miami, Oklahoma.