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Prison Over Politics

Disgraced former Jackson County politician John Carnes is making a comeback. Sort of.

On February 3, at a ceremony held in the Independence courtroom of Jackson County Judge Vernon Scoville, Carnes regained his license to practice law. Among a group of about 50 people who watched the one-time eastern Jackson County political boss rejoin the legal fraternity were County Legislator Dennis Waits, developer Ken McClain and state Rep. Paul LeVota. Not a bad showing for a guy once marched out of a courthouse in handcuffs.

Carnes, 50, a former Independence councilman and Jackson County legislator, was disbarred after pleading guilty in 1989 to federal charges of bribery and bank fraud. Carnes admitted to slipping two grand to an Independence councilman to buy support for a zoning matter. He served two years at the minimum-security camp at the U.S. Penitentiary in Leavenworth, then spent two months at a halfway house before being paroled in August 1991.

At the swearing in, Carnes choked up as he thanked his supporters. In a show of contrition, he said, "I'll be the first to say it was my own fault." But Carnes couldn't keep from lashing out at his tormenters. He suggested that former Independence Mayor Barbara Potts, who cooperated with investigators, belonged in the "rat hall of fame." Carnes' comments drew a gentle reprimand from Judge Scoville. "Be nice, John," he warned.

Carnes, a Democrat, said he did not intend to run for office again. "I've already served my term," he said. "I'd rather serve another term in the penitentiary."

In a sentiment neatly summarizing the true spirit of Jackson County politics, he said, "I'm going to have to live to be 136 years old to get back at all the people."

Demons Torment Kansans

First we learned that Wichita pastor Michael Clark believes BTK serial killer Dennis Rader is possessed ("The Exorcist?" January 26). It turns out that Clark is not the only puritan on the plains, gripping the pulpit against the forces of evil. A psychologist employed by the state of Kansas suggests that homosexuality and holistic health practices are possible signs of demon possession.

Larned State Hospital psychologist Rex Rosenberg posted on the Internet a survey he says can help determine if a patient is possessed by demons. In addition to inquiring about poltergeists and foaming at the mouth, Rosenberg's demon checklist asks subjects about the divinity of Jesus of Nazareth, irregular heartbeats, and the practice of yoga.

Judging by the survey, Rosenberg suspects that anyone who's not a Christian fundamentalist is the devil's bitch. What's strange is that Rosenberg also happens to be a professional clinician employed by the state.

Until recently, Rosenberg evaluated sex offenders in order to determine if they should be committed to Kansas' sexual-predator treatment program. In a story about the demon survey last fall, The Lawrence Journal-World said the percentage of offenders labeled as predators "skyrocketed" after Rosenberg became the program's chief evaluator in 2001.

In 2003, Rosenberg stopped performing evaluations while the state investigated whether the demon survey affected his work or damaged his credibility. Rosenberg told the Journal-World that his benching reflected a "bigoted, intolerant, anti-Christian approach." After their investigation, Larned administrators declared Rosenberg's professional judgment sound and reinstated him. They did so notwithstanding his interest in, say, question No. 55 on his survey, which deals with evil female spirits called succubae who copulate with sleeping men.

The inquiry began after a researcher working for Olathe defense lawyer Bob Thomas discovered the survey when he Googled Rosenberg's name. Asked if he thinks that Rosenberg's beliefs influence his work, Thomas pauses, then says, "It's hard to imagine that they didn't."

Rosenberg recently stopped performing evaluations on sexual offenders. A Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services spokesman says Rosenberg quit the work because he's nearing retirement. But, perhaps as a service to health professionals everywhere, his Web site still includes a link to the survey.

Reached for comment, Rosenberg declined to explain question No. 78, which suggests a link between demonic possession and compulsive masturbation. "I could explain myself and have explained myself repeatedly, and those who are going to understand it will, and those who aren't going to understand it won't," he said. "I just really have a problem with the intolerance and bigotry and anti-Christian attitudes that are expressed."

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