Headlines for Friday, July 10, 2015
Kansas Judge Threatens to Challenge Judicial Funding Bill
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas district court judge says he is prepared to challenge the constitutionality of this year's judicial budget bill if his lawsuit against last year's budget bill is successful and lawmakers move to nullify all judicial branch funding. The Lawrence Journal-World reports lawyers representing 30th Judicial District Chief Judge Larry Solomon filed a brief on Wednesday declaring a "nonseverability" clause added to this year's funding bill threatens the judiciary's independence. Solomon previously filed a suit challenging part of last year's funding bill that stripped the Kansas Supreme Court of its power to appoint chief judges in local courts. In response, the Legislature added a clause that says if Solomon wins his case, all funding for the judicial branch for the next two years becomes "null and void."
Report Raises Estimate of Kansas Winter Wheat Production
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The latest government forecast is painting a more optimistic estimate of the size of the Kansas winter wheat crop now that harvest is nearly completed. The National Agricultural Statistics Service reported Friday that it expects this year's wheat production to be 334.4 million bushels in Kansas. That is up from the 314.5 million bushels it had forecast just last month. If realized, this year's Kansas winter wheat will be a vast improvement over last year's drought-plagued crop of 246.4 million bushels. The agency also revised downward by 3 percent its total U.S. winter wheat production forecast, which is now expected to be 1.46 billion bushels. Its U.S. forecast for hard red winter wheat, the type most commonly grown in Kansas, is down 2 percent to 866 million bushels.
Man Pleads Guilty in Fatal Shooting of Topeka Officer
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A 31-year-old man has pleaded guilty to capital murder in the death of a Topeka police officer. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports Ross Preston Lane pleaded guilty Friday in the September 2014 death of police Corporal Jason Harwood. Harwood was shot three times during a routine traffic stop. Harwood was wearing a bulletproof vest but was hit in the neck and abdomen. During a hearing Friday in Shawnee County District Court, Lane also pleaded guilty to felony possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and possession of a stolen firearm. His sentencing is set for July 24. Another defendant, Randy Ridens, is accused of giving Lane a ride out of Topeka after the shooting. He's charged with obstructing apprehension of Lane and possession of a stolen motorcycle.
Young Topeka Drive-By Shooting Victim Dies, Donates Organs
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ The grandmother of a Kansas girl who was shot while riding in a car says the 5-year-old has died after surgery to remove her organs. Debra Nichols told The Topeka Capital-Journal that Lily Nichols died Thursday afternoon at a Topeka hospital. The girl had been on life support since being shot late Monday night in Topeka. Police say she was in a child seat in the vehicle when she was struck by a bullet during a drive-by shooting. Police have made no arrests in the case and are asking for anyone with information to come forward. Earlier this week they released photos of two men who investigators say may know something about the shooting. The girl's death marks the city's fifth homicide this year.
Democratic Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders to Speak in KC
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is scheduled to speak at an upcoming convention in Kansas City. The National Council of La Raza says the Vermont senator will speak Monday morning to an NCLR town hall forum. Hillary Rodham Clinton and former Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley are also scheduled to speak at the convention.
Hearing Delayed for Kansas Teen Linked to Fatal Fire
HUTCHINSON, Kan. (AP) — A pretrial date has been delayed for a 15-year-old central Kansas boy ordered to stand trial as an adult in the fire-related deaths of his mother and sister. Samuel Vonachen has pleaded not guilty to two counts of premeditated first-degree murder, attempted first-degree murder of his father and aggravated arson. Authorities allege Vonachen used gasoline to ignite his family's two-story Hutchinson home in September 2013, killing 11-year-old sister Audrey Vonachen and their mother, 47-year-old Karla Jo Vonachen. His father escaped the burning residence.The Hutchinson News reports that a pretrial hearing was scheduled for Friday, but was pushed back to August 14 because Vonachen is getting a new lawyer. Vonachen is scheduled to stand trial September 21.
Bethany College Placed on Probation by Accrediting Commission
LINDSBORG, Kan. (AP) _ A small liberal arts college in Lindsborg has received a more severe sanction from the Higher Learning Commission than had been recommended earlier this year. The Salina Journal reports Bethany College, which has been running deficits for the past eight years, has been placed on probation by the commission. The commission, which provides accreditation to colleges across the nation, has given the college until November 2016 to document a resolution of its financial issues. A team from the commission visited the school in November 2014 and recommended in February that the college be placed "on notice,'' which is the commission's lowest level of sanction. Interim president Robert Vogel, who met with Lindsborg community members Thursday, said the commission's decision "was more of a blow than we anticipated.''
Earthquake Measuring 2.8 on Richter Scale Hits Kansas
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — An earthquake measuring 2.8 on the Richter Scale hit south-central Kansas overnight. The Wichita Eagle reports that the quake, which struck about midnight Thursday, was the closest earthquake to Wichita. The quake was reported less than a mile southeast of Cheney, which is about 30 miles west of Wichita. No damage was reported. The U.S. Geological Survey says the earthquake's epicenter was about three miles deep.
Kansas Army Forts Face Troop Reductions
Kansas Governor Sam Brownback says the cuts could have been much worse. The state faces only modest cuts from the Army's plans to reduce its active-duty troops over the next two years, losing fewer than 700 soldiers - most of those at Fort Riley. State officials say the relatively small cuts show both army bases remain crucial to the military. Fort Riley will lose 615 active-duty troops, or 4 percent of the 15,400 there. Fort Leavenworth will lose 60 troops out of about 2,500. The army annunced the cuts yesterday (THUR).
Kansas Governor: Gay Marriage Executive Order Narrow
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ Kansas Governor Sam Brownback's chief spokeswoman says his recent executive order on same-sex marriage does not apply to local governments. Brownback spokeswoman Eileen Hawley issued a statement Thursday in response to criticism from a gay rights leader. The order this week protects clergy, churches and religious groups that refuse to participate in same-sex weddings or provide goods, services or accommodations for them. The order says state agencies and political subdivisions shall not punish them for acting on their opposition to gay marriage. Equality Kansas Executive Director Tom Witt said cities, counties, school districts and other local governments fall under the definition of political subdivisions. An American Civil Liberties Union attorney agreed. But Hawley said the order applies only to agencies and subdivisions over which the governor has legal authority.
Sex Offender Admits Taping Women at JCCC Restrooms
OLATHE, Kan. (AP) _ A 39-year-old registered sex offender from Lenexa has admitted videotaping women in restrooms at Johnson County Community College. The Kansas City Star reports that the man -- Saysavat Bounyadeth -- pleaded guilty in Johnson County District Court yesterday (THUR) to three felony counts of breach of privacy. Prosecutors say the defendant has a history of lewd behavior.
University of Kansas Set to Respond to Sex Assault Task Force Recommendations
LAWRENCE, Kan. (AP) _ University of Kansas Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little says her administration will respond this fall to recommendations from a sexual assault task force. The panel formed last fall has made nearly 30 recommendations, including requiring all freshmen to live in residence halls.
Security Cameras Part of Kansas Wildlife Exhibit Upgrades
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — Officials at the Kansas Wildlife Exhibit at Central Riverside Park say video surveillance cameras will be a part of upcoming exhibit upgrades following animal breakouts. The Wichita Eagle reports the Friends of the Kansas Wildlife Exhibit, a local nonprofit, met with Wichita Parks Foundation officials Thursday to discuss fundraising plans. Great Plains Nature Center director and exhibit overseer Jim Mason said recent incidents have made it clear that video surveillance is necessary. In the past three months, a beaver and a bobcat have escaped from the exhibit. Officials say vandals used wire cutters to slice a gap in the bobcat's cage. It was later found in shrubbery near its cage. Mason said part of a $100,000 donation from the Pamela J. Edward Pet Trust will be used to install the security cameras and other upgrades.
Lawsuit Seeks Documents in Death of 4-Year-Old Kansas Boy
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) _ An attorney suing a state agency in federal court over the death of a 4-year-old northeast Kansas boy has also filed a state lawsuit seeking documents in the case. Attorney Michaela Shelton argues that the Department of Children and Families didn't produce all the records she requested. Shelton's seeking information on Mekhi Boone, who died in 2013. His father, Lee Davis IV, is serving nearly 20 years for second-degree murder. Shelton represents the child's mother, Naomi Boone, who filed a federal lawsuit alleging the child was improperly placed with Davis.
Panel Approves D.C. Memorial for Kansan Dwight Eisenhower
WASHINGTON (AP) _ A planning panel in the nation's capital has given final approval to design plans for an Eisenhower Memorial. Yesterday's (THUR) 9-1 vote was the second federal approval after the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts approved the design in June. So far, $63 million has been appropriated by Congress to build the memorial but some lawmakers want to block any further funding.
Royals Beat Rays 8-to-3; Sweep 4-Game Series
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ Lorenzo Cain and Salvador Perez hit two-run homers as the Kansas City Royals beat the Tampa Bay Rays 8-to-3 yesterday (THUR) to complete a four-game sweep. The Royals scored at least seven runs in every game of their first four-game sweep since September 2008. Meanwhile, the Royals have placed outfielder Alex Gordon on the disabled list with a strained groin. He could be out for as long as two months.
Royals' Moustakas, Cardinals' Martinez Win Final Fan Vote
NEW YORK (AP) — Kansas City Royals third baseman Mike Moustakas and St. Louis Cardinals right-hander Carlos Martinez are going to the All-Star Game as winners of the final fan vote. Moustakas becomes the seventh Royals player set to participate in Tuesday's Mid-Summer Classic in Cincinnati. He beat out Minnesota's Brian Dozier, Tigers outfielder Yoenis Cespedes and Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts for the last American League spot. Yankees outfielder Brett Gardner was in the final five, but he replaced Moustakas's injured teammate Alex Gordon on the roster Wednesday. Martinez surged ahead of Reds pitcher Johnny Cueto late in the voting to become the sixth Cardinals player to make the NL roster. Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw, Colorado shortstop Troy Tulowitzki and Mets closer Jeurys Familia were also in contention.