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Thursday, August 28th 2014
Associated Press Montana News Summary

Latest Montana news, sports, business and entertainment

Author, state seek ruling on rape case records

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Attorneys for author Jon Krakauer and the Montana University System are asking a judge to decide whether the state should release documents on how the commissioner of higher education handled a rape case against the University of Montana quarterback.

Krakauer attorney Mike Meloy told District Judge Kathy Seeley Wednesday the documents are for a book Krakauer is writing about sexual assaults at the university.

Records released in a federal court case detailed the proceedings against a student, later identified as quarterback Jordan Johnson. Meloy says a university court found the student had raped another student and recommended expulsion.

Meloy says the accused student appealed to Commissioner Clayton Christianson, but the record ends there.

Johnson was not expelled.

Christianson attorney Viv Hammill says the state could lose federal funding if it releases records without a student's consent.


Judge rejects Senate leader's conspiracy claims

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A Helena judge has dismissed claims by the Montana Senate majority leader that the governor, a state senator and two commissioners of political practices were conspiring to drive him out of office.

District Judge Jeffrey Sherlock Tuesday also rejected Bozeman Republican Art Wittich's accusations of misconduct and abuse of process against Commissioner Jonathan Motl for bringing a civil action against Wittich for campaign law violations.

Motl's lawsuit asks Sherlock to uphold the commissioner's findings that Wittich coordinated with and took illegal corporate contributions from the conservative group Western Tradition Partnership.

If Sherlock agrees with Motl's findings, Wittich could be removed from office.

Wittich filed counterclaims against Motl, saying the commissioner's ulterior motive is to remove Wittich.

Wittich also claimed Gov. Steve Bullock, Republican Sen. Bruce Tutvedt of Kalispell and Motl's predecessor, Jim Murry, conspired against him.


Yellowstone National Park employee found dead

YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, Wyo. (AP) — Law enforcement at Yellowstone National Park is investigating the death a woman who worked there.

Park officials say 21-year-old Kassandra "Kassie" Wieferich was found dead Tuesday night in the Old Faithful Lodge area.

Officials started searching for Wieferich, a park concession employee from Twin Bridges, Montana, on Tuesday after she missed shifts at work and failed to meet a family member on Monday afternoon.

The Park Service didn't announce the discovery of her body until Wednesday to allow notification of her family.

National Park Service park rangers and special agents are investigating her death.


Havre businessman pleads guilty in corruption case

GREAT FALLS, Mont. (AP) — A Havre businessman has pleaded guilty to his role in a conspiracy that defrauded the Chippewa Cree Tribe and funneled money to several others involved, including former state legislator Tony Belcourt.

Shad James Huston pleaded guilty Monday to theft from an Indian tribal organization, failure to file currency transaction reports and bribery of a tribal official. U.S. District Judge Brian Morris scheduled sentencing for Nov. 24.

Huston acknowledged one of his businesses received $120,000 from the tribe in October 2011 for $4,000 worth of road work.

He also acknowledged failing to report a transaction of more than $10,000 at another business and to paying $25,000 to benefit tribal business committee chairman Bruce Sunchild.

Federal prosecutors said they could prove additional theft, that Huston failed to report 19 transactions and spent $57,800 to benefit three tribal members.


Former Guardsman pleads guilty to sex crimes

(Information in the following story is from: Independent Record, http://www.helenair.com)

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A former Montana Army National Guard soldier who fled the country to avoid trial has pleaded guilty to sexual abuse of children and bail jumping.

The Independent Record reports Jeffrey Lane Wenzel entered his plea Tuesday in District Court in Helena as part of an agreement that calls for him to be sentenced to eight years in prison. Sentencing is set for Oct. 23.

Prosecutors alleged Wenzel enticed a girl under the age of 16 to show him her breasts with the promise that he would buy her a car.

Wenzel was charged in June 2012. Shortly before his trial was to begin in January 2013 he fled the country. He was arrested in Spain in September 2013 after the owner of a bar where he had been working became suspicious of his ever-changing stories.


Judge: Murder suspect likely to be committed

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A federal judge says a man accused in a 2011 triple murder on Montana's Crow Indian Reservation is likely to be committed to a psychiatric institution after he was found incompetent to stand trial.

Wednesday's incompetency ruling from U.S. District Judge Susan Watters came after a government psychologist testified that 25-year-old defendant Sheldon Bernard Chase suffers from a combination of schizophrenia and depression.

Authorities say Chase shot his grandmother, cousin and the cousin's boyfriend in October 2011, near Lodge Grass.

He's been held since January 2013 at a Bureau of Prisons psychiatric hospital in Springfield, Missouri. Prison psychologist Elizabeth Tyner says attempts to involuntarily medicate Chase to restore his mental health were unsuccessful.

First degree murder charges against Chase would remain in place if he were committed.


Alert issued for 14-year-old believed kidnapped

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Montana Department of Justice officials have issued an Amber alert for a 14-year-old girl they believe was kidnapped near Lame Deer.

State officials say Mariah Eileen Akeen was in the passenger seat of a pickup truck without license plates that was stopped at 2 a.m. Wednesday.

Officers were arresting the driver when another passenger, 19-year-old Zachary Whiteman, jumped into the driver's seat and left with Akeen still inside.

Officials say Whiteman may have driven to the Ashland area.

Akeen is described as a 5-foot-4 Native American with black hair and eyes and weighing 146 pounds. Whiteman is 6 feet, 4 inches and weighs 260 pounds.

They were last seen in a tan 2004 Ford F150 pickup truck.


Woman who left hospital denies forgery charge

ANACONDA, Mont. (AP) — A 29-year-old woman who fled the Anaconda hospital after she and her newborn tested positive for methamphetamine has pleaded not guilty to a forgery charge that alleges she checked into the hospital using her sister's name.

Michelle Yallup entered her plea in District Court on Wednesday and was ordered held on $30,000 bond. Her public defender asked for a bond reduction hearing to be held later.

Yallup gave birth to her son on June 17. Prosecutors say she left the hospital against medical advice that night and was on the run for five weeks before her capture in Willard, Utah on July 21. Utah officials decided not to pursue charges including child abuse and possession of marijuana.

Yallup has not yet been charged with any harm to her child in Montana.

The hospital bill was $13,338.


Former Wall Street Journal reporter assaulted

(Information in the following story is from: Missoulian, http://www.missoulian.com)

MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — Police in Missoula are searching for a man suspected of assaulting a former Wall Street Journal and Missoulian reporter, likely costing the 70-year-old man the sight in his left eye.

Les Gapay tells the Missoulian he was assaulted Sunday in the parking lot of a Walmart, where he was staying in his pickup for the night.

Gapay says as he was leaving the store he was approached by two intoxicated men, one of whom punched him in the chest. He says a third man hit him in the eye at least five times.

Gapay's eye surgeon told him his chance of seeing again is about 5 percent.

The first two men were arrested and face misdemeanor charges. Officers have a warrant to arrest 30-year-old Sean Marceau for felony aggravated assault.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Wednesday, August 27th 2014
Associated Press Montana News Summary

Latest Montana news, sports, business and entertainment

Judge won't move trial in exchange shooting death

(Information in the following story is from: KECI-TV, http://www.keci.com)

MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — A District Court judge in Missoula has denied a motion to move out of Missoula County the trial of a man charged with shooting a German exchange student in his garage in April.

KECI-TV reports District Judge Ed McLean ruled Markus Kaarma failed to show that news reports about the death of 18-year-old Diren Dede were inflammatory or that they served to create a public backlash to the extent that Kaarma might not receive a fair trial.

McLean's ruling, issued last week, says any potential jurors who could not set aside their opinions can be identified and challenged during jury questioning.

Kaarma has pleaded not guilty to deliberate homicide in the death of Dede, who was in Kaarma's garage during an apparent burglary attempt.

Kaarma's trial is set for December.


Experts: CSKT compact based on reasonable science

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A legislative working group says the scientific modeling used in the state's water-rights compact with the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes is "reasonable."

The CSKT Compact Technical Working Group approved a 100-page report to that effect Tuesday after months of reviewing scientific and technical information on which the compact is based.

The Legislature's Water Policy Interim Committee asked for expert review after the compact presented to the 2013 Legislature was rejected. The committee could use the report to present a compact during the 2015 Legislative session. The 2015 session is the final chance for lawmakers to approve the compact.

Who controls water flowing on or through the reservation and how much goes to farmers, ranchers and others through the Flathead Indian Irrigation Project has been at the core of the dispute.


Mother charged with obstructing homicide probe

(Information in the following story is from: The Billings Gazette, http://www.billingsgazette.com)

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — The mother of a Billings man charged with killing a neighbor over a long-running dispute is charged with lying to investigators and hiding a bullet in her shoe while detectives searched her residence six days after the shooting.

The Billings Gazette reports 66-year-old Darlene Johnson Durand pleaded not guilty to perjury and tampering with evidence during a District Court hearing Monday. District Judge G. Todd Baugh allowed her to remain free without bond.

Durand's son, 43-year-old Patrick Neiss, pleaded not guilty on Aug. 14 to the March 8, 2013, shooting death of his neighbor, Frank "Trey" Greene III.

Neiss has previous federal convictions on drug and weapons charges and was not allowed to possess firearms.

Prosecutors allege Durand lied by saying there had been no weapons at her residence after her son was released from prison in 2008.


Livestock Department faces $400K budget shortfall

(Information in the following story is from: Bozeman Daily Chronicle, http://www.bozemandailychronicle.com)

BOZEMAN, Mont. (AP) — The Montana Board of Livestock has approved plans to leave a dozen jobs unfilled, increase fees and ask the state for more money to avoid a potential $400,000 budget shortfall.

The Bozeman Daily Chronicle reports the board approved the changes Monday so the Livestock Department could meet a Friday deadline for submitting a balanced budget.

DOL executive director Christian McKay says the cost of the department's animal health programs and enforcing livestock laws was $177,000 more than the per-capita fees collected, while the agency was $233,000 short of being able to afford a pay increase approved by the legislature.

The board voted to increase lab fees, fees for brand inspection and those charged based on the number of animals a rancher has, while also asking the state for another $850,000 to support its lab.


Woman charged with kidnapping; man left for dead

(Information in the following story is from: Missoulian, http://www.missoulian.com)

MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — Bail was set at $500,000 for a woman charged with the kidnapping and robbery of a man who was beaten, shot and left for dead near Interstate 90 east of Missoula.

The Missoulian reports 34-year-old Katherine Evans gave a Georgia address when she appeared in Justice Court in Missoula on Monday. She did not enter a plea.

Evans' alleged accomplice, Troy Anthony Miller, is charged with robbery and attempted deliberate homicide in the July 16 shooting. Miller and Evans were arrested five days later in Seattle.

The victim told police he had asked Miller and Evans for a ride from a motel to downtown Missoula. He said they continued east of Missoula and turned off the highway onto a back road where they accused him of stealing money and drugs.


Stevensville man charged in gun threat

(Information in the following story is from: Ravalli Republic, http://www.ravallirepublic.com)

HAMILTON, Mont. (AP) — A 41-year-old Stevensville man faces charges alleging he threatened several people with a gun, fired a shot near a house and, according to his 6-year-old daughter, threw the gun out of the car while they drove over a bridge.

The Ravalli Republic reports Timothy D. Strickland was charged with three felony counts of assault with a weapon along with criminal endangerment and tampering with evidence. His misdemeanor charges include endangering the welfare of a child. Justice of the Peace James Bailey set bail at $50,000 on Monday. Strickland did not enter a plea.

Charging documents allege Strickland sped by a house in Florence Sunday evening and someone there yelled at him. Witnesses say he stopped, pulled into the driveway and made some threats before pointing a gun at people and firing a shot as he drove away.


Man dies after being hit by train in Miles City

(Information in the following story is from: Miles City Star, http://www.milescitystar.com)

MILES CITY, Mont. (AP) — A 50-year-old Miles City man has been killed at a train crossing in the city.

Custer County Sheriff Tony Harbaugh tells the Miles City Star that authorities received a call at about 6 a.m. Sunday from someone reporting it appeared there was a body on the railroad tracks.

The coroner declared George Kuper dead at the scene.

Harbaugh says officials are waiting for more autopsy results to determine what happened.


Kalispell Walmart employee falls off ladder, dies

KALISPELL, Mont. (AP) — The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration is investigating after an employee at the Kalispell Walmart fell from a ladder and died.

OSHA Area Director Jeff Funke tells KTMF-TV the worker was on a very tall ladder retrieving merchandise when he fell on Friday. Witnesses believe the man was unconscious for about 20 minutes before he was found.

He later died of his injuries. The man's name hasn't been released.

Funke says Walmart followed protocol by reporting the fall. He says the store has been cooperating with the investigation.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Tuesday, August 26th 2014
Associated Press Montana News Summary

Latest Montana news, sports, business and entertainment

Half of sex offenders don't have tier designation

(Information in the following story is from: The Billings Gazette, http://www.billingsgazette.com)

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — More than half of all sexual offenders registered in Montana don't have a designation that indicates how likely they are to re-offend and sets requirements for checking in with authorities.

A review by The Billings Gazette found 59 percent of sex offenders registered in May and June and 58 percent of those registered in August didn't have a tier designation.

Since 1997, convicted sexual offenders are supposed to be given a tier 1, 2 or 3 designation, identifying them from least to most likely to re-offend. Out-of-state offenders and those convicted before 1997 are treated as though they're tier 1 offenders.

The 2013 Legislature passed a bill that gave District Court judges the authority to assign a tier level to an offender after sentencing. Since then, 200 offenders have been evaluated and assigned tier levels.


Only 1 candidate debate set before election day

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — With more than two months to go before the general election, the only confirmed U.S. House and Senate candidate debates will be on Oct. 4 in Bozeman.

Montana Television Network News Director John Stepanek said Monday he expects the major party candidates to participate. The debates will be broadcast statewide.

The debates were on hold after Democratic Sen. John Walsh withdrew his candidacy. Officials say his replacement, Amanda Curtis, and her opponent, GOP Rep. Steve Daines, will participate.

In the U.S. House race, Republican candidate Ryan Zinke declined to participate in debates in Billings and Great Falls due to scheduling conflicts.

Billings Gazette Editor Darrell Ehrlick says Zinke's Democratic opponent, John Lewis, will receive a full hour of air time on Sept. 29.


1 sentenced, 1 pleas in Bakken drug cases

(Information in the following story is from: The Billings Gazette, http://www.billingsgazette.com)

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A 37-year-old Big Timber man has been sentenced to nearly six years in federal prison for his role in a drug trafficking case that brought potent methamphetamine from Washington state to the Bakken oil fields.

The Billings Gazette reports Lloyd Leon Westervelt was sentenced Thursday by U.S. District Judge Susan Watters. He was arrested with almost a half-pound of nearly pure meth in his car along with several loaded guns.

Meanwhile, 25-year-old Dennis James Latka of Sidney pleaded guilty Thursday to possession with intent to distribute. He faces sentencing on Dec. 3.

Court records say Latka confessed to getting about two ounces of meth each week from ringleader Robert "Dr. Bob" Armstrong during a four-month period beginning in October 2012.

About a dozen people were arrested in the case. Armstrong is scheduled to be sentenced on Friday.


Child escapes injury after 3-story fall

(Information in the following story is from: The Montana Standard, http://www.mtstandard.com)

BUTTE, Mont. (AP) — A 1-year-old girl escaped injury after falling out of a third-story apartment window in Butte and landing in the grass below.

Butte-Silver Bow Undersheriff George Skuletich told The Montana Standard that the girl was on a bed below the window when she heard a dog bark Friday evening. The girl got up to look at the dog, leaned up against a screened window and the screen popped out, causing her to fall.

Skuletich says the girl was crying but alert and conscious when first responders arrived. She was taken to the hospital for assessment and released that night.

He says the girl was very lucky because she narrowly missed the side of the brick building.

Skuletich says no charges will be filed.


Hunter hired by Washington state kills 1 wolf

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — A wolf has been killed by a hunter hired by Washington, a state where the animals have been regaining a foothold in recent years after being hunted to extinction in the early 1900s.

The state Department of Fish and Wildlife said hunters were back out Monday and three more wolves in the Huckleberry Pack could be killed to protect sheep in rural southern Stevens County.

The agency says wolves from the Huckleberry Pack this month have killed 22 sheep and injured three more, despite preventive measures.

Environmental groups oppose the hunt.

Wolves began moving back into the state in the early 2000s from Idaho and Canada, and are protected under state and federal law. The state exterminated an entire pack of wolves to protect a herd of cattle in 2012.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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