Headlines for Friday, April 10, 2015
Kansas Man Accused of Plotting Suicide Bomb Attack Appears in Court
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A 20-year-old Kansas man accused of planning a suicide attack at Fort Riley has waived his right to a detention hearing, meaning he'll remain jailed on federal charges. Federal prosecutors say John Booker Jr., of Topeka, was arrested Friday while trying to arm what he thought was a 1,000-pound bomb near the Kansas military base. Prosecutors say he told an FBI informant that he wanted to kill Americans and engage in violent jihad on behalf of the Islamic State group. The soft-spoken Booker made his first court appearance later Friday in Topeka. He answered basic questions and corrected the spelling of his alias, Muhammad Abdullah Hassan. Prosecutors say they'll take the case to a grand jury next week. His public defender, Kirk Redmond, declined comment after the brief hearing.
Dad: Glad No One Hurt After Son Arrested at Military Base
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The father of a 20-year-old man accused of planning a suicide attack at Fort Riley says he's glad authorities arrested his son and no one was hurt. Federal prosecutors say John Booker Jr. was arrested Friday while trying to arm what he thought was a 1,000-pound bomb near the Kansas military base. He's being held on federal charges. His father, John Booker Sr., told The Associated Press that his son moved out of the family's Topeka home after high-school graduation. He's spoken to him four times in the last year. He says he and his wife are Christian, and he doesn't know whether his son is Muslim. The elder Booker says he's an Army veteran and he did everything a father should do. He says once children turn 18, "parents have no control."
Uber Intensifies Campaign for Kansas Governor to Veto Taxi Bill
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Ride-hailing company Uber is increasing its lobbying efforts to persuade Republican Governor Sam Brownback to veto a bill Uber says will force it to leave the state. The bill would increase the insurance requirements for Uber drivers and force them to undergo background checks through the Kansas Bureau of Investigation. Uber connects drivers and riders through a mobile app. The company has arranged for a truck with a sign saying, "SB 117 Destroys Kansas Jobs" to circle downtown Topeka since the bill passed the Legislature. Uber's Kansas general manager Will McCollum said the company also is working to schedule a meeting with the governor. But legislators say Uber's threat to leave the state is a bluff, and that it wants changes to the bill that would push out its competition.
Week of Healing Marks Anniversary of Kansas Jewish Center Shootings
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The families of three people gunned down at Jewish sites in a Kansas City suburb are urging people to join in a week of activities designed to promote harmony, understanding and diversity. The event, called SevenDays-Make A Ripple, Change the World, began Tuesday and will culminate Monday, the anniversary of the day William Corporon, and his 14-year-old grandson, Reat Underwood, were shot to death at the Jewish Community Center in Overland Park, Kansas, and 53-year-old Terri LaManno, was killed at the Village Shalom retirement home. Frazier Glenn Miller of Missouri is charged with capital murder in their deaths. Mindy Corporon, whose father and son died, says organizers were determined to honor their loved ones with positive events designed to draw people together.
Inspection Had Discovered No Safety Issues at Ice Cream Plant Within Days of Listeria Outbreak
DALLAS (AP) — Days after a foodborne illness was linked to Blue Bell ice cream products, an inspection of an Oklahoma plant later tied to the infection praised the facility for having no violations and doing a "great" job. But an official with the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry said Thursday that inspectors had no reason to check for listeria during the routine March 18th review. Stan Stromberg, director of the department's food safety division, said no problems were detected and the facility didn't have a history of issues linked to the illness. He says his agency wasn't notified until March 22nd that listeria was connected to the now-closed plant. The inspection report obtained by The Associated Press commends the facility for having no violations, noting "Great Job!" Keep it up!"
Man Found Guilty in Salina Stabbing Death
SALINA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas man has been found guilty of voluntary manslaughter in the stabbing death of another man at a Salina bar. Saline County jurors on Thursday returned the verdict against Douglas Aldrich after his second trial for stabbing 36-year-old Jerry Bird in February 2003 outside the Red Kitten Bar. Prosecutors said Bird told Aldrich to leave the bar after he became combative. Aldrich contended he stabbed Bird in self-defense. Aldrich was convicted of second-degree murder and sentenced to 51½ years in prison in 2003. That conviction was set aside in 2012 after complaints about his attorney's effectiveness. The Salina Journal reports under state sentencing guidelines, the new conviction is likely to cut decades off the time Aldrich will remain in prison. Sentencing was set for April 24.
Judge Refuses to Toss Out Charges in Suicide Bomb Plot Case
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A judge has once again refused to dismiss charges against a man accused of a suicide bomb plot at a Wichita airport just because the explosives used in the undercover sting were fake. Terry Loewen was arrested in December 2013 when the former avionics technician allegedly tried to bring a van filled with inert explosives onto the tarmac at Mid-Continent Airport. He is charged with attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction, attempting to use an explosive device to damage property and attempting to give material support to al-Qaida U.S. District Judge Monti Belot on Thursday denied a motion to reconsider his decision refusing to toss out the bomb-related charges. Defense attorneys argued that because the explosives were inert their client could not have committed the crimes. Belot disagreed.
Sprint to Pay $15.5M to Settle Case Over Federal Wiretapping Costs
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Sprint Communications has agreed to pay $15.5 million to settle a lawsuit alleging the telephone carrier overcharged the U.S. government to collect and deliver information gathered under court-ordered wiretaps. The settlement announced late Thursday revolves around a dispute about how Sprint Communications Inc. billed the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration and several other federal agencies for its wiretapping expenses. The government alleged that Sprint had included its financing costs and other items that didn't qualify for reimbursement under Federal Communications Commission regulations. The lawsuit, filed in San Francisco federal court 13 months ago, had alleged the Sprint had inflated its wiretapping costs by 58 percent from 2007 to 2010, resulting in false expense claims totaling $21 million. Sprint, which is based in Overland Park, Kansas, had denied the allegations.
Man Gets Life in Prison for Great Bend Homicide
GREAT BEND, Kan. (AP) — A central Kansas man will serve at least 25 years in prison for the shooting death of a Great Bend man. A Barton County judge on Thursday sentenced 33-year-old Jeffrey Wade Chapman of Pawnee Rock to life in prison with no parole for 25 years in the November 2011 death of 25-year-old Damon Galyardt. Chapman was found guilty in February of first-degree murder. Prosecutors argued that Chapman killed Galyardt because of the way he was treating a mutual friend. Chapman claimed he shot Galyardt in self-defense. Chapman's case drew attention in 2013 when he asked for permission to cover or remove a tattoo of the mirrored image of the word "murder" on his neck. He was allowed to wear a turtleneck during the trial.
Kansas AG Asks State Supreme Court to Nullify Wichita Pot Ordinance
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt is asking the state's highest court to invalidate a new, voter-approved ordinance in Wichita lessening criminal penalties for possessing small amounts of marijuana. Schmidt filed a petition Thursday with the Kansas Supreme Court. He warned city officials last month that the ordinance would conflict with state law and said it could not be enforced. His action came a day after the city filed a lawsuit in Sedgwick County District Court, asking for a ruling on whether the ordinance is valid. Voters approved the measure Tuesday. The ordinance imposes no more than a $50 fine for first-time possession of a small amount of pot. State law deems it a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a $2,500 fine.
2 Charged with Killing Kansas City, Kansas, Woman in 1997
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Two 34-year-old men have been accused in the death of a 33-year-old Kansas City, Kansas, woman 17 years ago. Wyandotte County District Attorney Jerome filed charges Thursday against Jason Lanell Rucker of Kansas City, Kansas, and Torry Mashone Johnson, currently incarcerated in the Crossroads Correctional Center in Cameron, Missouri. The two were charged in the Juvenile Division of Wyandotte County District Court with first-degree murder in the October 1997 death of Vicky Ernst inside her home. Rucker was 17 and Johnson was 16 at the time of Ernst's death. Gorman says the charges came after police followed up on newly developed leads. Johnson is being held in Wyandotte County jail on $1 million bond. Neither man had obtained an attorney Thursday afternoon.
Fort Leavenworth to Hold Exercise on Chemical Spill Response
FORT LEAVENWORTH, Kan. (AP) — Fort Leavenworth is holding a disaster response exercise April 14. The Army post announced Thursday that it will conduct a full-scale training exercise for soldiers stationed there simulating a response to a train derailment. The drill will evaluate the base's readiness to respond to a derailment that causes a dangerous chemical spill. It will also test the Army's standard operating procedures in response to such an incident. The fort said in a statement that the exercise will have minimal impact on daily activities at the facility. About 6,000 military personnel are stationed at Fort Leavenworth. It is the oldest continuously operating regular army base west of the Mississippi River. It also houses the Army Combined Arms Center, a leadership training academy for both military and civilian students.
Lindenwood University Names New President
SAINT CHARLES, Mo. (AP) — Leaders of Lindenwood University have selected Michael D. Shonrock as its new president. Shonrock is currently president of Emporia State University in Kansas and will replace James D. Evans, who's retiring this summer. Shonrock is expected to start at Lindenwood in June. Shonrock holds a Ph.D. in higher education administration from the University of Kansas. He also has a master's degree in college student personnel from Western Illinois University and a degree in community college administration from Pittsburg State University.
Bird Flu Confirmed at 4 More Minnesota Turkey Farms
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — State and federal authorities have confirmed outbreaks of bird flu at four more turkey farms in Minnesota, raising the number of farms affected in the state to 13. The U.S. Department of Agriculture says the new cases are in Cottonwood, Lyon, Watonwan and Stearns counties. The farms housed a combined 189,000 turkeys; those not killed by the virus will be euthanized to prevent the disease from spreading. Once those birds have been euthanized, the 13 affected Minnesota farms will have lost 872,000 turkeys. Since the outbreak was first confirmed in early March, farms in Minnesota, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Missouri, Kansas and Arkansas have lost more than 1 million birds. Officials stress the risk to public health is low and that there's no danger to the food supply.
Kansas City, Kansas Approves National Center for Soccer
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Plans for a new national education and training soccer center in Kansas City, Kansas, have scored a goal. The city's government on Thursday gave final approval for construction of the center, with plans for it to be the home base for U.S. Soccer and its national teams. The Kansas City Star reports the $62 million center would be built on 174 acres near the home of Sporting Kansas City. The center will be funded mostly by sales tax revenue bonds. It is expected to be completed sometime in 2017. U.S. Soccer has already signed a 20-year lease to be the primary tenant of the center.
Former KU Librarian Leaves School a Cool Million
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A former librarian has left the University of Kansas library a $1 million gift. The university says Alexandria Mason left the estate gift to the Kansas Endowment from her retirement account. The money will establish the Ann Hyde Fellowship for Medieval and Early Modern British and European Manuscripts.
Wells Fargo Announces Grants to help KC Neighborhoods
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Eight Kansas City charities will share in $500,000 in grants from Wells Fargo. The company announced Thursday that the money will go to programs that provide workforce training and help homeless and at-risk families find homes. The nonprofits benefiting are Catholic Charities of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Guadalupe Centers Inc., Kansas Children's Service League, ReEngage, ReStart, Sheffield Place, the Women's Employment Network and the Greater Kansas City Housing Information Center. The donations are part of a Wells Fargo program that has invested $242 million nationally to communities that were hit hard by the housing crisis. Of the 32 communities that have benefited, $6.65 million has gone to Kansas City.
Hunt Underway in Wichita for Missing Beaver
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A search is underway in Wichita for a missing beaver. The Wichita Eagle reports that the beaver, named Chapa, broke out of his cage in the Kansas Wildlife Exhibit at Central Riverside Park in Wichita. He has been missing since the early morning hours of Tuesday. Animal display attendant Connie Storrie has searched miles of the Little Arkansas River for the little orphan she helped rescue three years. He was injured when he was found in one of the muddy pools of Chisholm Creek Park. She describes the beaver as "very shy." She worries about how he will fare in the wild about being coddled for three years on a diet of apples, carrots and sweet potatoes.
Colorado Councilwoman's Kansas City Building Boarded Up
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) — One of two apartment buildings owned by a Colorado Springs city councilwoman in Kansas City has been boarded up by officials there. Kansas City inspector Marja Nolan told The Gazette of Colorado Springs that Helen Collins's building was closed Wednesday because it did not have water for more than four months and because she owed more than $7,000 in unpaid water bills and other fines. There was also no property manager. Collins didn't return a call from the newspaper seeking comment on the closure. Collins survived a recall election this week and is facing an ethics investigation over a real estate deal with former state lawmaker Douglas Bruce. Complaints from Kansas City residents about the condition of her property got attention during the recall campaign.