Headlines for Friday, November 13, 2015
Kansas Legislators Get 8.5 Percent Raise in Daily Expenses Allowance
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas lawmakers automatically are getting an 8.5 percent raise in their per diem allowance. The Wichita Eagle reports the raise is because of a state law that increased lawmakers' daily "subsistence payments" by more than 28 percent through the past seven years. The Legislature set it up in 2008 so members' per diem rises with a federal allowance. The per diem payments are the set amount lawmakers get to pay their living expenses each day they work in Topeka. As of October 1, the per diem amount is $140 a day, up from $129. The allowance payments are in addition to the state lawmakers' base salary of $88.66 a day when they attend session and committee meetings.
University of Kansas Chancellor Announces Plans to Address Racism
University of Kansas Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little says the school in Lawrence plans to begin sharing information next week on how it will move forward to address racism and discrimination. She said in a message posted Friday on the university's website: "I see you. I hear you. You matter." The message comes in the wake of the unrest at the University of Missouri this week and after a forum that Gray-Little moderated on Wednesday, where a group calling itself Rock Chalk Invisible Hawk presented its demands. Their demands included hiring a director for the Office of Multicultural Affairs, mandatory inclusion training for students and faculty, increased diversity in hiring, counselors to address mental issues and creation of an independent "Multicultural Student Government." The group also seeks a ban on concealed weapons on campus.
Kansas Group: Budget Shift Will Cut Childhood Program Funds
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — An advocacy group says a budget adjustment that took $9 million from the Kansas Children's Initiatives Fund will mean a cut in money promised to 20 children's programs. The Kansas City Star reports that a review by Kansas Action for Children says the budget adjustment will cost early childhood grant programs about 6.5 percent in funding for fiscal year 2016 and about 3 percent in fiscal year 2017. Eileen Hawley, spokeswoman for Governor Sam Brownback, said the budget adjustment would not alter grant funding. According to Hawley, this is a one-time adjustment that should not result in a reduction in grant funding or the services delivered through them. Shannon Cotsoradis, president and CEO of Kansas Action for Children, said in a statement that the programs produce some of the most impressive early childhood outcomes in Kansas, and they are being sacrificed.
AP Interview: Kansas Governor Wants Guantanamo Plans Dropped
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas Governor Sam Brownback says President Barack Obama should abandon efforts to move prisoners from Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to U.S. soil. Brownback told The Associated Press during an exclusive interview Friday that moving suspected terrorists will compromise American security. The White House is expected to release a report soon assessing potential sites for housing the prisoners that include Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. The Republican governor said he believes surveying potential sites is illegal under federal law, violating language in defense spending measures against using federal dollars to assist in transferring detainees. Brownback said he's asking the state attorney general's office to consider a lawsuit. The governor also said he believes moving detainees to Fort Leavenworth would harm the international reputation of the Army's command college for military officers.
Lawmakers in Favor of Medicaid Removed from Health Committee
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Three Republicans who support Medicaid expansion have been removed from a Kansas House committee that oversees health care issues. The Wichita Eagle reports that House Speaker Ray Merrick removed Representative Barbara Bollier of Mission Hills, a retired physician; Representative Susan Concannon, a Beloit Republican and committee vice chair with a background in rural health; and Representative Don Hill, an Emporia Republican and a pharmacist. Merrick said in a statement that Kansas citizens oppose an expansion of the health care program. The chair of the committee, Representative Dan Hawkins, a Wichita Republican, said he had not been informed of the committee changes ahead of the decision. Bollier says she is saddened that three of the most knowledgeable people on health care issues have been removed. Kansas is one of 20 states that have not expanded Medicaid under the federal Affordable Care Act.
Man Sentenced for Role in Wounding of Sedgwick County Deputy
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Gardner man who took part in a 2013 chase and shootout that injured a sheriff's deputy has been sentenced to more than 35 years in prison. The Wichita Eagle reports that 38-year-old Jason Perez has been ordered to serve the term for about a dozen felony crimes he and his then-girlfriend committed on March 11, 2013. Among his convictions is the attempted first-degree murder of Sedgwick County sheriff's deputy Lucas Powell. Powell was injured when he confronted the couple during a traffic stop on I-135 near Potwin. The incident ended in an exchange of gunfire. Perez's girlfriend, Clara Crosser, is serving a more than 20-year prison sentence. She fired the shot that hit Powell. The sentence was handed down Thursday by a Butler County judge.
Judge Dismisses Most Charges Against Wichita Developers
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A Sedgwick County judge has dismissed most of the securities charges against two former Wichita developers. The Wichita Eagle reports that Sedgwick County District Judge Ben Burgess on Thursday dismissed all but five of the remaining 54 felony fraud counts against former Wichita developers David Lundberg and Michael Elzufon. The ruling came at the conclusion of a preliminary hearing that began Monday. Some of the counts were dropped earlier this week. The Kansas securities commissioner accused the men of selling unregistered securities pertaining to investment projects Wichita between 2005 and 2012. The defense argued in part that the securities commission didn't have jurisdiction in the case. Apart from a possible appeal by the state, the next step would be for the remaining five counts to come before the court again.
Kansas City Memorial Dedicated to Those Killed in 1981 Hotel Skywalk Collapse
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A memorial has been dedicated in Kansas City to the 114 people killed 34 years ago in one of the nation's worst structural disasters. Two-hundred people from around the country turned out Thursday to view the 24-foot sculpture entitled "Sending Loves" The names of those killed in the 1981 skywalks collapse at Kansas City's former Hyatt Regency Hotel are etched in the memorial. The collapse occurred during a dance that drew about 1,500 people to the hotel. Shortly after 7 pm, the fourth-floor skywalk gave way, falling on a second-floor skywalk. Then both dropped about 45 feet into the crowded lobby. Besides the 114 people killed, more than 200 were injured. The memorial also honors the rescuers who rushed to the scene to cut people out of the twisted metal.
Federal Judge Leaves Deportation Fight to Immigration Court
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — A judge has made it easier for a man to fight deportation after prosecutors say he posed for decades in the U.S. as his dead infant brother to escape child support obligations and other legal difficulties in Canada. U.S. District Judge J. Thomas Marten on Thursday sentenced Leslie Lyle Camick to 364 days for obstruction of justice — just a day shy of the one-year sentence prosecutors wanted to make his crime an aggravated felony leading to immediate deportation. He has been in custody for 27 months. Camick was convicted in 2014 of identity theft, fraud and other charges. An appeals court in September overturned most convictions for lack of sufficient evidence, ordering resentencing for the remaining obstruction count. It found that Camick sued the victim as retaliation, after Camick's indictment.
Government Opposing Manning's Request to Grow Long Hair
WASHINGTON (AP) — Government officials are opposing imprisoned national security leaker Chelsea Manning's request to grow out her hair. The transgender former Army intelligence made the request as part of a lawsuit in federal court in Washington. The lawsuit says that gender-appropriate grooming is part of the recognized treatment for gender dysphoria, Manning's sense of being a woman in a man's body. The Kansas military prison where Manning is being held began giving her hormone therapy in February, but officials have refused to allow her to wear her hair longer than 2 inches. In court papers filed Thursday, the government argued Manning's federal lawsuit should be dismissed, saying her claims belong in a military court. Manning, formerly Bradley Manning, is serving 35 years for sending classified documents to the WikiLeaks website.
Arson Suspect in Fatal Kansas City Fire Asks for Lower Bond
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The suspect in a fire that killed two Kansas City firefighters is asking for a reduction in her $2 million cash bond. The Kansas City Star reports lawyers for Thu Hong Nguyen made the request Thursday in Jackson County (Missouri) Court. The judge set a December 3rd bond reduction hearing. Nguyen owned a nail salon in a building that caught fire October 12th. Firefighters Larry Leggio and John Mesh died while fighting the fire, which court documents indicate stated in a storage room of her business. Nguyen has pleaded not guilty to two counts of second-degree murder and one count of first-degree arson. One of her attorneys, Bill Shull, said Nguyen has a health issue that has caused her to fall twice in custody and suffer convulsions and seizures.
Kansas Woman Admits Embezzling $471K from Employer
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas woman has pleaded guilty to charges accusing her of embezzling about $471,000 from her employer. The office of the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Missouri said in a release that Kimberly Joyce Padgett of Osawatomie, Kansas, pleaded guilty Thursday to five counts of wire fraud. The prosecutor's office says Padgett admitted embezzling about $471,000 from Reliant Financial Services in Kansas City, Missouri. Among her duties at the company were paying bills and preparing paychecks. She's accused of writing $350,000 in checks to herself and using a company credit card to pay for such things as clothing, jewelry and hotels. She faces up to 20 years in federal prison without parole, as well as fines.
Wichita Business Owner Pleads to Prostitution Charge
WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The owner of a Wichita massage business has pleaded guilty to a federal prostitution charge. The office of the U.S. Attorney for Kansas says Ping Liu pleaded guilty Thursday to attempted coercion and enticement to prostitution. The prosecutor's office says she admitted arranging for a woman posing as a job applicant to come to Wichita to work at her massage business and that the job included providing sexual services to customers. The prosecutor's office says she also admitted to offering to perform sexual services for undercover Wichita police officer who were posing as customers at her business. She faces up to 20 years in prison when she's sentenced in January.
Kansas City Man Faces Several Charges in Attacks
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — A Kansas City man faces several charges accusing him of separate attacks on women beginning in 2013. The Kansas City Star reports that 29-year-old Tajuan L. Barnes is charged with 14 felony counts, including rape, attempted rape, kidnapping, sexual abuse and robbery. He was arrested and charged in October and is being held in the Jackson County (Missouri) jail on $500,000. Authorities say he's accused in four incidents beginning on April 24, 2013, when a woman told police a man threatened her with a gun and forced her into sex acts. He's also accused of attacking a woman in a Kansas City apartment building in 2014 and of two other attacks on women this year. A lawyer listed as representing Barnes didn't immediately respond to a call seeking comment Friday.
Kansas City Convention Hotel Proposal Won't Go to Voters
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Council has decided that citizen petitions seeking a public vote on a proposed convention hotel won't go to voters. The Kansas City Star reportsthat the council on Thursday voted against putting the petition before voters largely because the petition undermines already signed, binding contracts with the developers of the planned 800-room, $311 million Hyatt hotel. Dan Coffey, spokesman for Citizens for Responsible Government, which gathered more than 1,700 signatures to force a public vote on the downtown convention hotel, says his group will have to meet soon and discuss how to respond to the council's decision. Mike Burke, an attorney for the developers, says the project remains in some doubt until the petition issue is put to rest.
Missouri Teacher Awaits Sentencing for Having Sex with Teen
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ A former northwest Missouri junior high school teacher is facing up to 11 years in prison for having sexual contact with a 14-year-old student in his algebra class. The Kansas City Star reports that 28-year-old Rhett Rigby of Oak Grove pleaded guilty November 2 in Clay County (Missouri) Circuit Court to second-degree statutory rape and sexual contact with a student on public school property. Prosecutors charged Rigby in June 2013 with 10 sex crimes for incidents alleged to have happened between October 1, 2012, and May 15, 2013. They say some of the acts happened at the child's home and in Rigby's locked classroom at Kearney Junior High School. Prosecutors say the two sent each other nude photographs of themselves taken on their cellphones. Rigby is to be sentenced January 8.
Teenager Charged in Shooting Murder of Former Classmate
EXCELSIOR SPRINGS, Mo. (AP) — An Excelsior Springs teenager has been charged in connection with the fatal shooting of a former classmate in North Kansas City last month. The Kansas City Star reports that a Clay County (Missouri) grand jury indicted Tristian A. Wilton on Tuesday. He's charged with second-degree murder and attempted robbery in the death of 18-year-old Tyler Eddington of Kansas City. Eddington was found shot in a McDonald's restaurant parking lot October 14. He was pronounced dead at a hospital. The second-degree felony murder charge covers defendants who may not have pulled a trigger but were involved in a crime that resulted in a homicide. Wilton is being held at Clay County jail with a bond set at $1 million. Wilton and Eddington graduated from Excelsior Springs High School this year.