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Rape trial ends in second hung jury

Jurors in a rape trial came to a deadlock once again after about four hours of deliberation.

This is is the second hung jury in the case of Dexter Robinson, 28, Manhattan, who was charged with rape, two counts of aggravated criminal sodomy and aggravated kidnapping.

Jurors indicated that even if they had more time to deliberate, they would not be able to come to unanimous decisions on each charge.

There is no exact limit to the number of times a defendant can be retried after a judge declares a mistrial, and retrials can continue until a conviction or plea is reached, or the state chooses not to pursue the case further.

The charges stem from a July 13, 2018, incident in which a woman said a man she didn’t recognize made her enter her friend’s apartment when she returned alone to grab belongings she left behind, asked for money and other items, and raped her.

She said while testifying that she did not fight back because she feared for her life and didn’t know what the man could do to her. During his testimony, Robinson admitted the two had sex but said the woman had sex with him in exchange for drugs. Robinson said he had briefly met her before the incident and the two conversed at the apartment beforehand.

A status hearing to set a new trial date is scheduled for 10 a.m. Dec. 2.

District to name new school Oliver Brown Elementary

USD 383 is planning to name a new Manhattan school Oliver Brown Elementary, after the plaintiff in the historic Brown v. Topeka Board of Education case.

The USD 383 school board will receive a recommendation for the name during its Wednesday meeting, according to a statement Friday evening from the district.

Oliver Brown is the namesake in the landmark Supreme Court case. Oliver Brown challenged the Topeka board on behalf of his daughter Linda. He said she was the being subject to a substandard education because she was required to attend a school for black students while there was another school in her neighborhood that she was unable to attend because of her race.

Brown v. Board was a major step toward ending segregation in Kansas, and it was one of the major cases used to overturn Plessy v. Ferguson, which established the “separate but equal” precedent.

The name represents “the district’s desire for diversity and recognizes a broken past of discrimination and segregation while highlighting the hope and protection of children of color who benefited from Mr. Brown’s bold action,” officials wrote in the statement. “At a time in our nation where racial tensions continue to be high and discrimination is not dead, the actions of Oliver Brown stand as a symbol of victory over slave-era policies and a reminder of the value of each and every student.”

Brown’s daughter Cheryl Brown Henderson, founding president of the Brown Foundation for Educational Equity, Excellence and Research, said she was pleased by the news.

“On behalf of my family, we are humbled by the Manhattan-Ogden USD 383 plan to name a new elementary school for our patriarch Oliver Leon Brown,” she said. “My father was born August 2, 1918 in Topeka. He garnered his place in history by accepting an invitation to join an assembly of parents who would become plaintiffs for the Topeka NAACP legal challenge to segregated public schools.”

According to the district’s statement, after the board approves the name of the school, the district will develop another community process to decide on the mascot and colors of the new school.

Nickolas Oatley / Staff photo by Nickolas Oatley  

Former K-State head football coach Bill Snyder is honored at halftime of the West Virginia game on Saturday at Bill Snyder Family Stadium. Snyder was honored for orchestrating the greatest turnaround in FBS history as part of a national celebration marking 150 years of college football.

Estabrook reflects on addiction, recovery in months following DUI

Incoming Manhattan city commissioner Aaron Estabrook said he’s learned a lot over the past seven months and is in a better place than he was earlier this year.

As The Mercury has reported, Estabrook was arrested in April for driving under the influence, his second such offense. The incident took place shortly after he declared his candidacy for city commission.

Estabrook, who was elected city commissioner Nov. 5 and sentenced just a week later, described the April DUI as a rock-bottom moment. But despite all the negative consequences, he said the incident ultimately helped him turn things around, and he hopes to use it to do something positive for others.

Since the day he received the DUI, Estabrook said he has not had a drink. He has attended Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and seen personal growth.

“I went to AA a couple of times, and I’ve gone and I know that everybody’s rock bottom was different,” Estabrook said. “For me, this was definitely a rock bottom because of the lapse in judgement. I was getting ready to plan our wedding and had been drinking. I was excited, but not making right choices.”

He married his wife Dantia on July 6. Estabrook also has two daughters.

Estabrook said his wife probably thinks the arrest was a good thing in a way, because it meant he wasn’t drinking anymore as they prepared for their wedding.

“It was one less thing we had to deal with,” he said.

Estabrook talked about the nature of his problem and how he’s handling it.

“We’ve had alcoholism in our family,” Estabrook said Thursday. “In part, I had been able to go long periods of time without drinking, but also my alcoholism isn’t the same as everybody else’s. If I have a couple of drinks, I’ll want to have a lot of drinks, so it’s not that I need to drink every day. It’s that stopping myself once I start is where the problem resides. I do have an issue. Just not drinking is my way to deal with it.”

He said he believes his addiction is at a “very low level.”

“I’m not having cravings or anything,” he said. “It’s more that I would drink socially and then go too far.”

It hasn’t been easy, he said. And he’s still facing his sentence, which is 48 hours in jail, followed by house arrest and community service. He said he expects to serve the jail time right after Thanksgiving.

Estabrook said the stigma around people with drinking problems can make it more difficult for them to seek treatment.

“It’s probably rightfully so, but that makes it harder for people to get help sometimes,” he said.

Because of that, Estabrook wants to be involved in getting the VA or other organizations to provide more support for veterans who are dealing with drinking problems.

“The vet center has different groups, but there wasn’t something like that just specifically for veterans and soldiers,” he said.

He said he is thankful for support from the community during his time of growth, and is looking forward to serving his constituents as a city commissioner in January.

“I was in a very low place,” he said. “Coming out of that now over eight months, getting myself into a position to be clean and sober and thankful for the things I do have, things that are around me, and now being able to serve our community — I’m very thankful.”

Growth industry
Highland Community College facility hopes to promote winery industry in Kansas

A new Highland Community College venture hopes to foster growth of grapes and business throughout Kansas.

Highland’s Wamego campus opened 456 Wineries last month. Part of the college’s viticulture (grape-growing) and enology (wine-making) programs, the winery incubator hopes to help grow the wine industry in the state, said Scott Kohl, director of the program.

“The idea here is they move in, pay rent, hopefully everything works out and they’re successful, they move out and start their own winery,” Kohl said.

The facility, 503 Miller Drive, Wamego, has a shared tasting room and space for six winemakers. One of those spaces is occupied by Highland. The first outside winery, Bodine Wine Co., held its grand opening this weekend. It also has a laboratory where winemakers can test things like sugar levels and and acid levels. Kohl said Highland received a grant from the USDA in 2016 to start 456 Wineries.

Each “bay” has three large tanks and two smaller ones. Kohl said that translates to around 500 cases of wine. Wineries have to bring in their own grapes and bottles, but they rent the space and equipment. Kohl said the opportunity to rent, rather than buy, lowers start-up costs, therefore making it easier for a new winery get rolling. After planting grapes, wineries don’t get their own harvest for around three years, delaying any profit they might make and making it even more difficult to get started.

“You’ve only spent a couple years’ rent instead of your life savings,” Kohl said.

Kohl said he imagines most clients will stay at 456 Wineries for two or three years and as many as five years before moving on. Highland staff are on hand to offer advice and help but the incubator clients stay independent.

“They’re their own business,” Kohl said. “We advise and help as much as we can, but it’s their own business.”

Bob and Joe Bodine, owners of Bodine Wine Co., worked on a family farm in Osage County and were looking for a way to diversify their crop. They became interested in wine making and took classes at Highland to learn the craft. Bob said having the resources, from equipment to advice from Highland’s winemaker, is helpful as their business gets rolling.

“That’s pretty invaluable,” Bob said. “It takes away a lot of the risk and fear.”

So far the Bodines have two wines for sale at 456 Wineries, a semi-sweet white and a rosé. Bob and Joe said their goals are to expand their product line to include more wines and possibly even cider, and ultimately open a permanent standalone location.

Bob said they’re looking forward to working with other wineries that might move into the building.

Kohl said he hopes those new, small wineries working closely together will help them grow. He said having more wineries in the state could also increase tourism for people who might be looking for something to do for an afternoon or for a day while traveling along I-70.

“We’re looking to help the wine industry statewide,” Kohl said.