Headlines for Friday, April 17, 2015
Federal Grand Jury Indicts Kansas Man in Fort Riley Bomb Plot
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — A federal grand jury has handed down a three-count indictment charging a 20-year-old Kansas man with trying to carry out a suicide attack at Fort Riley. Prosecutors say John T. Booker Jr. of Topeka was arrested last Friday while trying to arm what he thought was a 1,000-pound bomb inside a van near the Army post an hour west of Topeka. On Thursday, a federal grand jury in Kansas City, Kansas, indicted Booker for attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction and other charges, including attempting to provide material support to the Islamic State group. Prosecutors say Booker told undercover FBI informants that he wanted to kill Americans and engage in violent jihad on behalf of the group.
Alleged Fort Riley Bomb Accomplice Released to Parents
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Topeka man charged as an accomplice in an alleged Fort Riley suicide bombing plot is being released to his parents' custody. A judge decided yesterday (THUR) to release Alexander Blair. That is expected to happen by Monday. Blair's attorney Christopher Joseph had argued that his client was not a flight risk because he had little money and no car, and said he had fully cooperated with the investigation. John T. Booker Jr. was arrested in an FBI sting operation Friday as he attempted to arm what he thought was a 1,000 pound bomb outside Fort Riley. Blair was arrested shortly thereafter and is charged with allegedly lending money to Booker as a part of a plan. Prosecutors allege he had full knowledge of the plot and didn't inform the authorities.
Kansas Authorizes $1 Billion in Bonds for Pension System
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback has signed a bill authorizing $1 billion in bonds to bolster the state's pension system for teachers and government workers. The bill that Brownback signed Wednesday will give the pension system an infusion of cash and narrow a gap in funding for pension benefits. The state expects to earn more from investing the new funds than it would pay on the bonds. But some lawmakers have expressed concerns that it could be risky and the votes to pass it in the Legislature were relatively close. Democratic Senator Laura Kelly from Topeka has said she believes the state made the move in order to lower its annual pension payments as it faces budget shortfalls of nearly $600 million in the fiscal year beginning July 1.
Board Delays Vote on Unlicensed Teachers in Some Districts
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Board of Education delayed a vote on a proposal to allow unlicensed teachers in six of the state's school districts. The board planned to vote on a proposal to permit unlicensed personnel to teach in six districts known as innovative districts, which operate under reduced state education regulations. The districts were created in 2013 to allow new approaches to education, mostly in rural areas that struggle to attract teachers. More than a dozen people spoke against the proposal Thursday. They argued the plan would lower professionalism in teaching and hurt students. Supporters say the changes would allow innovation in education. But they said they were getting more input from members of the Board of Regents and deans of colleges of educations before going forward with the proposal.
USDA: Bird Flu Outbreak Could be Devastating
ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — The U.S. Department of Agriculture's chief veterinary officer says the country's poultry industry may have to live with a deadly bird flu strain for several years and it could be devastating. Dr. John Clifford spoke Thursday in Minnesota, the state hit hardest by outbreaks that led to the deaths of over 2 million turkeys and chickens in the Midwest since early March. Clifford says that while new cases should drop close to zero once the weather warms up and kills off the H5N2 virus, there's "very likely" to be a resurgence this fall when the wild waterfowl that are natural carriers of avian influenza fly south for the winter. He says government and industry need to use the lull to learn and prepare.
Kansas Man Arrested in Connection with 2-Month-Old Son's Death
JETMORE, Kan. (AP) — A 30-year-old western Kansas man has been arrested in the death of his 2-month-old son. The Kansas Bureau of Investigation said in a news release that the Jetmore suspect was taken into custody yesterday (THUR) in Hodgeman County. The release said the suspect was booked into the Ford County Detention Center on charges of first-degree murder and felony child abuse. The man's son died last week at a Wichita hospital.
Kansas Supreme Court Considers Dispute over Wichita's Marijuana Ballot Issue
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The state's highest court has taken up the dispute over the legality of a new voter-approved ordinance in the state's largest city that lessens criminal penalties for marijuana possession. On Thursday, the Kansas Supreme Court ordered Wichita to respond by May 6 to arguments made by the Kansas attorney general seeking to nullify the ordinance because it conflicts with state law. The court also halted for now proceedings in Sedgwick County District Court that had also aimed to resolve the issue. Attorney General Derek Schmidt asked the Supreme Court to rule so that the ordinance's validity can be settled quickly. Wichita voters approved the measure on April 7 with 54 percent in favor. It imposes no more than a $50 fine for first-time possession of small amounts of pot.
Police: Man Posed as Undercover Officer, Tried to Sell Guns
SALINA, Kan. (AP) — A 24-year-old central Kansas man is accused of claiming to be an undercover police officer and trying to sell guns out of the trunk of his car. The Salina Journal reports the Salina man, who previously has been convicted of a felony, is accused of criminal possession of a firearm and impersonating a police officer. Police spokesman Captain Mike Sweeney says officers were sent to a sports bar around 3 pm Thursday because a man claiming to be an undercover officer was trying to sell three handguns from his car. Sweeney says the man left before officers arrived, but his car was located near an intersection around 4:40 pm and three guns were recovered.
Kansas Seeks Court Order to Block Quapaw Tribe Casino
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas has asked a federal court to temporarily block the Quapaw Tribe from expanding its Downstream Casino in Oklahoma into southeast Kansas. The request for a preliminary injunction filed Thursday contends the state will suffer irreparable harm if the tribe's casino goes forward. It notes the tribe has already moved in construction equipment. The state says it is considering proposals for a southeast gaming casino and the tribe's competition lowers the value of the state's facility. Kansas contends the tribe misled the state and Bureau of Indian Affairs. It challenges a National Indian Gaming Commission decision to allow gambling on Cherokee County land now being used as a parking lot. The tribe pulled out of a partnership with a proposed casino north of Pittsburg after the federal lawsuit was filed.
Agriculture Hall of Fame to Reopen with New Hopes
BONNER SPRINGS, Kan. (AP) — Like many farmers, the National Agricultural Center and Hall of Fame struggles to hold on from one year to the next. After being closed last year except for special events, the 50-year-old hall in Bonner Springs will reopen this weekend, thanks to a financial windfall, volunteers and a new executive director. Board president Clausie Smith says this will be a pivotal year for the center, which opened in 1965 and has struggled financially for years. He says the board will work on a strategic plan that will be the basis for a campaign to bring in new exhibits and increased programming. The Kansas City Star reports the sale of 5 acres last year allowed the organization to pay off some of its debts and provide cash sufficient to reopen.
NY Congressman Seeks to Halt Sale of Plum Island, Laboratory
MINEOLA, N.Y. (AP) — A New York congressman has introduced legislation to halt the planned sale of Plum Island. The island off the northeastern tip of Long Island is home to a government-run laboratory that studies infectious animal diseases. Congress voted in 2008 to close the research site and move its work to Manhattan, Kansas. The federal General Services Administration is required by law to sell the island. The Nature Conservancy recently estimated the appraised value of the island at $32.9 million. First-term Republican Representative Lee Zeldin said in a statement Friday that he is re-introducing legislation to rescind the 2008 vote. The bill previously was sponsored by his predecessor, Democrat Timothy Bishop. Environmental and conservation groups want to block the sale of the island and keep it as a nature preserve.
Kansas State Lab Reports Uptick in Rabies Cases
MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas State University laboratory that conducts rabies testing is reporting a spike in positive results. Diagnostician Rolan Davis says there were 28 positive rabies cases from January through March of this year, up from 10 positives for the same three months in 2014. The school said this week in a news release that 23 of the cases involve rabies in a skunk, the animal most associated with carrying the virus in Kansas. There also were three cases in cats, one in a bovine and one in a fox. Davis says the increase isn't a cause for alarm but urged people to be aware in case they come across an infected animal. Officials at the Kansas State Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory say vaccinating pets is the best protection against rabies.
Commission Questions Numbers in Kansas Casino Proposal
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Lottery Commission is giving Las Vegas billionaire Phil Ruffin more time to provide information about a proposed southeast Kansas casino. The Joplin Globe reports that the commission raised questions Wednesday about whether Ruffin is making the minimum investment required for a state-owned casino. The commission has put off making a decision on which of three proposals to back until April 24. Ruffin's proposal calls for a $78.5 million project at the former Camptown Greyhound Park in Frontenac. Questions have arisen about the value of the racetrack and land. The commission also heard proposals for Castle Rock Casino Resort, a $140 million casino that would be built in Cherokee County. The third proposal is a $62 million facility, Kansas Crossing Casino, which would be built south of Pittsburg.
Topeka Man Sentenced in Lawrence Homicide
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — A 30-year-old Topeka man will serve at least 20 years in prison for his role in the death of a Lawrence man last year. Archie Robinson was sentenced Thursday to life in prison with no chance of parole for 20 years in the March 2014 shooting death of 39-year-old Patrick Roberts. Prosecutors say Roberts was killed when Robinson and another man burst into his apartment to rob him of money and marijuana. Before he was sentenced, Robinson said he was innocent of the crime. His co-defendant, Dustin Walker, was found guilty in February of aggravated burglary, but the jury could not agree on the first-degree murder charge. His scheduled to be retried on that charge beginning May 4.
12 Hurt in Denver-Area Crash Involving 2 Bands' Tour Buses
AURORA, Colo. (AP) — Authorities say a dozen people were injured, including one seriously, after tour buses for two different bands were involved a chain-reaction crash on a foggy stretch of highway east of Denver. The Colorado State Patrol says a bus carrying crew members for the performer Twin Shadow rear-ended a tractor-trailer stopped on Interstate 70 Friday, seriously injuring 41-year-old bus driver John Crawford. Eleven of his passengers suffered minor to moderate injuries. Their bus then hit another truck and a tour bus carrying crew members of the country band Thompson Square. Both bands were headed to Denver for shows Friday night but were not traveling together. The crash came as a spring storm also brought rain and snow to Colorado and Wyoming, creating a range of dangerous driving conditions.
Appeals Court Upholds Convictions in KC Restaurant Arson
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A federal appeals court has upheld the convictions of three men who were involved in 2008 arson fire that destroyed an iconic Kansas City restaurant. The Kansas City Star reports that the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday rejected all of the claims by Rodney Anderson, Vincent Pisciotta and Mark Sorrentino. The three were convicted in 2012 of conspiracy, arson and using fire to commit a federal crime in the blaze that destroyed the Hereford House. Anderson, who was part owner of the restaurant, and Sorrentino were sentenced to 15 years in federal prison. Pisciotta was sentenced to 20 years. Prosecutors said Anderson was in debt and conspired with Pisciotta and Sorrentino to burn the restaurant and to get insurance money to rebuild.
Kansas Senator Pat Roberts's "Frozen" Ringtone Creates Quite a Stir in Hearing
WASHINGTON (AP) — Kansas Senator Pat Roberts is urging people to "let it go" after his cellphone filled a somber committee hearing room with the first few bars of a song from Disney's "Frozen." The Kansas City Star reports that the 78-year-old Kansas lawmaker was questioning Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Thursday when his phone went off. Vilsack tried in vain to repress a smile as an apologetic Roberts fumbled with his phone and quipped, "Just let it go." Twitter exploded, with the celebrity news focused TMZ and Roberts's 2014 primary opponent, Milton Wolf, among those offering snarky commentary. Wolf said he figured Roberts was "more like a Sleeping Beauty kinda guy." Roberts spokeswoman Sarah Little said in an email that the senator's "Frozen" ringtone is for his grandkids. He has five.
Civil Rights Bus Tours of Historic Topeka Sites Planned
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A rolling tour of Topeka's civil rights history is planned for next week. Buses will depart at 10 am and 1 pm on April 25 from the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site, which is housed in a former all-black Topeka school. It tells the story of the landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling that overturned segregated education. The tour route features the building that served as the first Kansas Capitol during most of the Civil War, the former segregated Buchanan School and the Ritchie House. John Ritchie was a passionate slavery opponent, and he'd hide runaways in a wooded area behind his home. Abolitionist John Brown visited the home in 1859 with escaped slaves. Historic re-enactors will be at the sites.
Man Wounded in Break-In Attempt Gets Invite from Homeowner
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A man wounded during an attempted home break-in has gotten an invitation to worship with the pastor who shot him. The Sedgwick County prosecutor's office said the pastor provides assistance to men with alcohol and drug addiction. During a sentencing hearing Friday, the pastor invited 30-year-old Corey Burgardt, of Wichita, to attend his church. Burgardt previously pleaded guilty to a felony count of criminal damage to property and a misdemeanor count of criminal trespass. Prosecutors said Burgardt tried to get into the pastor's home in November after a night of drinking. Prosecutors said the pastor fired a shot that grazed Burgardt's forehead. Besides an extended three year probationary period, Burgardt also was ordered to continue his current alcohol treatment program and pay $2,743 in restitution for the damage he caused.
"American Ninja Warrior" Show to Film in Kansas City
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The "American Ninja Warriors" TV show has arrived in Kansas City. The Kansas City Star reports that the first group of competitors will take on the show's obstacle course Friday night at the city's Union Station. The top 30 or so will move on to what's known as the city finals on Saturday night. The best of the batch will go to the finals in Las Vegas. Twenty-seven-year-old Donovan Metoyer, of Kansas City, is making a return appearance. He says he considers himself a "classy ninja," meaning he dresses up to run the course. Twenty-one-year-old Lars Hanson of Olathe, Kansas, runs summer athletic camps. The Kansas State University student says he's competing after some of the camp participants cajoled him into applying and helped him make his application video.
New Play to Debut at Constitution Hall in Lecompton
LECOMPTON, Kan. (AP) — The Kansas Historical Society says an acting troupe of history re-enactors plans to present the new play "John Brown: Widow Maker." The Lecompton Re-enactors plan to put on the new play about the fiery abolitionist at 2 pm May 3 at Constitution Hall State Historic Site. Amid fighting over whether the Kansas territory would enter the union as a free or slave state, Lecompton was the seat of government for several years. The acting troupe will portray Mahala Doyle and Louisa Jane Wilkinson. Both women lost family during the "Pottawatomie Massacre" in which Brown oversaw the killing of five pro-slavery supporters in May of 1856 in retaliation for a Lawrence attack. Brown and his second wife, Mary Brown, are also portrayed.
A's Butler Makes Return to Kauffman Stadium vs Royals
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Billy Butler woke up Friday morning and put on a royal blue shirt, just like he did for eight seasons while helping to turn around a moribund Kansas City Royals franchise. Only thing now is he plays for the Oakland Athletics. Unable to work out a new deal with the Royals, who declined his pricey option for this season, Butler found a willing suitor in Oakland. He signed a $30 million, three-year deal with the A's, not long after he helped Kansas City eliminate them in the American League playoffs. It all made for an awkward scene at Kauffman Stadium on Friday night. While three of his former teammates were awarded their Gold Gloves, Butler was receiving his AL championship ring in a ceremony before the start of a three-game series.
K-State Freshman Malek Harris Dismissed from Basketball Program
MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — Kansas State coach Bruce Weber has dismissed freshman forward Malek Harris from the team, the fifth underclassman who will not be returning to the Wildcats next season. Weber said Friday that Harris was unable to live up to expectations of the program. Harris joins sophomore guard Marcus Foster and freshman forward Tre Harris in getting kicked off the team, while sophomore guards Jevon Thomas and Nigel Johnson have transferred. Along with the graduation of Nino Williams and Thomas Gipson, the Wildcats will only have three returning players — Justin Edwards, Wesley Iwundu and Stephen Hurt — who played significant minutes during a tumultuous season that ended without a postseason tournament appearance. Kansas State finished 15-17, its first losing record since 2003.
KU to Play Canada in World University Games Tuneup
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The University of Kansas men's basketball team will play Team Canada in a pair of exhibition games at Sprint Center in June before heading to South Korea as Team USA for the World University Games. The Jayhawks, who will be allowed to use incoming recruits, will play the Canadian team on June 23 and June 26 in Kansas City. The tournament is scheduled for July 3-14. Kansas was selected by the U.S. International Sports Federation to represent the United States at the tournament. The exhibition games, just like those in the tournament, will use FIBA rules that include 10-minute quarters and a 24-second shot clock. The Jayhawks, bounced by Wichita State in the NCAA Tournament, will not have Kelly Oubre Jr. or Cliff Alexander, who have declared for the NBA draft after their freshmen seasons.
KU Guard Greene Has Surgery to Repair Torn Hip Labrum
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) — University of Kansas basketball guard Brannen Greene had surgery Thursday to repair a torn labrum in his hip, and the extensive recovery will cause him to miss the World University Games in July. The Jayhawks are serving as Team USA for the tournament in Gwangju, South Korea. Greene's surgery was performed by Dr. J.W. Thomas Byrd in Nashville, Tennessee. Greene will be on crutches for about eight weeks and will not return to the court for about five months. That still puts him on pace to be ready for his junior season. Greene started two of 35 games for KU last season, averaging 5.7 points. He shot 40.4 percent from beyond the arc, and went 5 for 5 from 3-point range while scoring a career-best 19 points in a 75-70 victory at Georgetown in December.