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Saturday, February 13th 2016
Associated Press Montana News
Latest Montana news, sports, business and entertainment

Mine developer says partial approval is enough

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Developers of a $500 million silver and copper mine beneath a wilderness area near the Montana-Idaho border say the conditional approval granted to the project is sufficient for it to proceed.

State and federal regulators on Friday released long-awaited decisions on the Montanore mine near Libby, Montana. They say Mines Management, Inc. can proceed with a $30 million mining evaluation, but must demonstrate the mine won't drain overlying creeks in the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness.

Mines Management chairman Glenn Dobbs says the company plans to move forward and will present the findings from its evaluation to regulators.

Dobbs last month said investors might shy away if the project didn't get full approval. But he now says the company will be able to finance the mine based on Friday's decisions.


Shareholders approve merger of Weyerhaeuser, Plum Creek

SEATTLE (AP) — Shareholders have approved the merger of timber companies Weyerhaeuser and Plum Creek. The votes at separate meetings in the Seattle area on Friday move the companies toward becoming one of the world's biggest timberland and forest products companies.

The Flathead Beacon reports about 70 percent of Plum Creek shareholders voted in favor of the merger agreement at a meeting in Seattle. The company is based in Columbia Falls, Montana.

A company announcement said the vote at a meeting in Federal Way, Washington, counted more than 98 percent of the Weyerhaeuser shareholders in favor of the proposal.

The company will keep the Weyerhaeuser name and have more than 13 million acres of timberland.

Plum Creek common stockholders will receive 1.60 Weyerhaeuser common shares for each share of Plum Creek common stock.

The merger is expected to become effective before the end of the first quarter of 2016.


Montana Chief Justice reflects on first term

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — When Montana Chief Justice Mike McGrath arrived on the high court nearly eight years ago, cases were piled high on court dockets. Some cases were taking more than year to be decided, he recalled.

His first campaign was about clearing the backlog that kept dockets from being adjudicated expediently.

As he campaigns for a second eight-year term, McGrath says he has kept his pledge to bring greater efficiency to the court.

Three seats on the state's seven-member high court, including McGrath's, are up for election during the June 7 primary. Runoffs, if necessary, will be held during the November general election.

With one month to go before the March 14 election filing deadline, it doesn't appear McGrath will have a challenger.


1 dead after being pulled from Billings house fire

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

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Fire officials say a man who was rescued from a house fire in Billings has died.

The Yellowstone County coroner's office tells The Billings Gazette (http://bit.ly/20ZWdkK) that 58-year-old Judd Patrick Roby died of smoke and soot inhalation about three hours after he was pulled out of the house.

Fire crews had responded to a report of smoke coming out of the basement of the house at about 1 p.m. Thursday. Roby lived in the basement apartment.

The fire, estimated to have caused $80,000 in damage, is believed to have started from a space heater.


Livestock board paid executive officer $204K to resign

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — The state reached a $204,000 settlement agreement with the former executive director of the Department of Livestock and paid him just over $105,000 four days after he resigned in September.

Current executive director Mike Honeycutt confirmed Friday that the state agreed to pay former executive director Christian Mackay his salary for two years — a total of $168,520.

Mackay also received $7,000 per month for three months to help transition the department to interim executive director Marty Ziluski and a nearly $15,000 payout for his unused personal leave.

The transparency in government website shows a $105,260 payment to Mackay on Sept. 25. Honeycutt said Mackay will receive the rest of the money next year.

The Livestock Department faced a nearly $300,000 budget deficit in December 2014. It laid off five workers and reduced the hours of others.


County attorney moves to dismiss negligent homicide charge

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

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — The Stillwater County attorney has filed a motion to dismiss a negligent homicide charge filed in the July 2013 death of an Absarokee man.

County Attorney Nancy Rhode said she could not find a witness who could positively say defendant Michael Thomas Holtz was driving his car when it struck and killed 27-year-old Forest Dana in an alley.

Attorney Cammi Woodward told The Billings Gazette that an private investigator uncovered evidence indicating it was highly improbable Holtz was driving the car when Dana was struck.

Prosecutors said Dana's DNA was found on Holtz's car.

District Judge Blair Jones had not yet signed the motion. Rhode reserved the right to re-file the charge if new evidence is discovered.

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Friday, February 12th 2016
Associated Press Montana News
Latest Montana news, sports, business and entertainment

Jury rules against Montana woman's wrongful-birth lawsuit

BOZEMAN, Mont. (AP) — A Montana jury has ruled against a woman who sought millions of dollars from health care providers that she said failed to diagnose her unborn daughter's cystic fibrosis.

Kerrie Evans of Gardiner testified that she would have had an abortion if she had known her daughter, who is now 5 years old, would be born with the genetic disease that affects a person's lungs and pancreas. Her lawsuit initially sought $14.5 million in damages. But during closing statements Thursday, Evans' attorneys asked for just under $2.4 million.

Jurors deliberated for about two hours before finding that nurse practitioner Peggy Scanson of Livingston and Dr. William Peters of Bozeman did not depart from the standard of care in their prenatal treatment of Evans.


Hung jury in case of man who shot home intruder

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

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A Lewis and Clark County jury was unable to reach a verdict in the case of a Helena man charged with shooting and killing a home intruder.

The Independent Record reports jurors deliberated for more than nine hours Wednesday and Thursday before telling District Judge Kathy Seeley that they could not reach a unanimous verdict on whether James George Stiffler was justified in shooting and killing Henry Thomas Johnson in May 2013 or if he committed deliberate homicide.

Prosecutors said evidence indicated Johnson was shot in the back as he fled the home, but Stiffler says he shot Johnson as he moved toward him threateningly and that he feared for his life.

A status hearing is set for Feb. 25 to determine if prosecutors will re-try the case.


Browning disincorporation vote fails

BROWNING, Mont. (AP) — The aldermen in Browning voted 2-1 to begin disincorporating the town, but the vote failed because they needed three "yes" votes.

Lee Newspapers of Montana reports one alderman did not attend Wednesday's meeting. If there had been a tie vote, Mayor Willie Morris would have broken it in favor of disincorporation and residents would have been asked to vote on the matter.

Alderman Terry Bremner said the town has no money and no way to bring in revenue.

The town blames its financial difficulties on the Blackfeet Tribe and a dispute over management of a water system. The tribe says the town owes it money and it is responsible for its own poor fiscal management.

Under state law, a town can also be disincorporated if its governing body ceases to exist or fails to function for two years.


APNewsBreak: Report says EPA knew mine spill was possible

DENVER (AP) — A U.S. House probe of a mine waste accident in Colorado that fouled rivers in three Western states has found further evidence that government workers knew a spill from the gold mine was possible.

A U.S. Environmental Protection agency official in charge of the site at the time of the August accident said in an email that he "personally knew" the plugged, inactive mine could contain large volumes of water.

The email from Hays Griswold was provided to The Associated Press by the House Natural Resources Committee.

An EPA cleanup crew triggered the spill during excavation work at the mine's entrance, unleashing a 3-million-gallon deluge that contaminated rivers in Colorado, New Mexico and Utah.

An Interior Department investigation pinned responsibility on the EPA for not checking to see if the mine held pressurized water.


20 wolves killed in northern Idaho to boost elk population

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — The Idaho Department of Fish and Game says 20 wolves have been killed in the Clearwater Region in northern Idaho to bolster elk populations in the area.

The agency in a statement Wednesday says the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wildlife Services killed the wolves using a helicopter starting last week, and the wolf-control action has ended.

Defenders of Wildlife revealed the aerial shooting of wolves last week and decried it as based on anti-wolf politics and not sound science.

An Idaho board in charge of killing wolves declined on Monday to tell lawmakers how many wolves it had killed in 2016 or how much it cost.

Officials say they didn't want to provide details while the wolf-control program was operating in northern Idaho.


1 dead after being pulled from Billings house fire

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

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Fire officials say a person who was rescued from a house fire in Billings has died.

The Billings Gazette reports that the victim, who has not yet been identified, was pronounced dead hours after the Thursday fire.

Fire crews had responded to the home after a person reported smoke coming from the basement of the one-story residence.

Firefighters pulled one person from the home and began administering CPR. The victim was then taken to a hospital and pronounced dead.

Fire crews were able to extinguish the blaze shortly after they arrived.

Fire Chief Paul Dextras says there was no one else in the basement.

The fire, estimated to have caused $80,000 in damage, is believed to have started from a space heater.


Elk hunting reduction approved for northern Yellowstone herd

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

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Wildlife officials are placing restrictions on elk hunting north of the Yellowstone National Park border near Gardiner for the next two years.

The Billings Gazette reports that the Fish and Wildlife Commission's approved rules that will allow a brow-tine bull harvest with a general tag during the archery season and the first three weeks of the rifle season. The final two weeks of the rifle season would be open to mature bull hunting for permit holders. Only 50 permits will be issued.

The goal of the Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks recommendation is to count 10 or more brow-tined bulls per 100 cows for two consecutive years within Hunting District 313 near Gardiner. The last time that count was made was in 2002.


Wyoming man charged with animal cruelty arrested in Oregon

(Information in the following story is from: Powell (Wyo.) Tribune, http://www.powelltribune.com)

POWELL, Wyo. (AP) — Park County authorities say a man facing animal cruelty charges after several dead animals were found on his northwestern Wyoming property has been arrested in Oregon.

The Powell Tribune reports 39-year-old Michael Wood, of Clark, was arrested in Oregon City Tuesday. He is facing charges in connection with the death of seven horses and three dogs and the malnourishment of six other horses.

Wood was initially arrested on charges only related to the horses and pleaded not guilty Jan. 18. He was released from jail after his mother posted the $7,500 bail.

After further investigation, authorities filed three additional counts against Wood related to the dogs.

Wood has said he couldn't afford to care for the animals and that he had tried to get rid of them.

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Thursday, February 11th 2016
Associated Press Montana News
Latest Montana news, sports, business and entertainment

Court's stay on EPA rules gives governor temporary reprieve

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — The U.S. Supreme Court's decision to temporarily freeze the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan gives Montana Gov. Steve Bullock some breathing room as he campaigns for a second term.

The high court's stay allows the Democrat's re-election campaign to avoid — for now — the thicket of political thorns growing out of the debate over the future of Montana's coal industry and power generation.

While Bullock likely won't have to face a decision before the election on emissions cuts that was being ordered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the future of the state's coal industry will likely remain a key issue in the governor's race.

His likely GOP challenger, Greg Gianforte, says he will continue hammering at Bullock for what he calls a lack of leadership over the state's energy policy.


Candidates barred from targeting public workers' emails

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — The commissioner of political practices says Montana candidates aren't allowed to deliberately distribute campaign material to public employees' email addresses.

The decision amounts to a new rule by Commissioner Jonathan Motl. It was included in his Wednesday dismissal of a campaign complaint filed against Republican gubernatorial candidate Greg Gianforte.

Gianforte's campaign used work addresses included in a Montana Association of Counties directory to send a message to county officials across Montana asking them to join his team.

Motl ruled that the deliberate, systemic use of public employees' work addresses for campaigning amounts to coercion under Montana law.

The ruling draws a distinction between campaigns targeting public workers' addresses and those that send limited or accidental mailings to them.

Motl dismissed the complaint against Gianforte because that distinction had not been made prior to Wednesday's ruling.


Data shows mild flu season in Montana so far

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

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Montana health officials say flu-related hospitalizations are down 95 percent from the same period last year.

The Billings Gazette reports that the flu season began in October and will end around June 1. According to the Montana Department of Health and Human Services, this season saw only 22 hospitalizations as of February 9. Last season there were 441 hospitalizations in the same time period.

Across Montana, there have been only two flu-related deaths so far. There were 24 during the last season.

There are also new testing rules from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control that could play a role in the number of flu cases reported.

Despite the lower numbers, health officials say people should still take precautions against the disease.


Former Vann's CFO named co-defendant in conspiracy case

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

MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — After refusing a plea agreement, the former chief financial officer of Vann's Inc. has been named a co-defendant in the federal case against former CEO George Leslie Manlove.

The Missoulian reports that Paul Lyn Nisbet on Tuesday pleaded not guilty to 221 felonies in U.S. District Court, the same charges filed against Manlove. Prosecutors say Nisbet and Manlove conspired to defraud the electronics and appliance chain for their own gain, causing it to file for bankruptcy.

Nisbet had been charged with a single count of conspiracy as part of a plea agreement, but he pleaded not guilty to that charge Jan. 12.

Manlove has pleaded not guilty to the charges. Both Manlove and Nisbet have been released on their own recognizance. A trial has been scheduled for March 21.


Man sentenced for leaving the scene of pedestrian collision

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

BOZEMAN, Mont. (AP) — A 31-year-old Bozeman man has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for leaving the scene of a collision in which a pedestrian was severely injured.

The Bozeman Daily Chronicle reports Jerry Dickson was sentenced Tuesday by District Judge Holly Brown. He pleaded guilty in December to leaving the scene and evidence tampering.

Prosecutors alleged Dickson also repaired the damage to the vehicle and lied to the vehicle's owner about what happened.

Chief Deputy Gallatin County Attorney Eric Kitzmiller noted that surveillance footage from a nearby business showed that Dickson's vehicle stopped for 17 seconds after the July 2015 collision before he drove away.

Defense attorney Annie DeWolf sought a suspended sentence.

Judge Brown noted Dickson was on probation for a 2012 drug conviction at the time of the collision.


Man pleads guilty in death of girlfriend's 2-year-old son

KALISPELL, Mont. (AP) — A 22-year-old Evergreen man has entered a guilty plea in the death of his girlfriend's 2-year-old son.

Brandon Newberry entered an Alford plea Wednesday to mitigated deliberate homicide. In exchange, prosecutors will recommend a 40-year prison term when he is sentenced on April 19.

Under an Alford plea, a defendant does not admit guilt but acknowledges prosecutors have enough evidence to gain a conviction.

An autopsy found Forrest died from a laceration of the small intestine that poisoned him.

Attorneys said Wednesday that Newberry had undiagnosed mental health issues, including impulse control disorder, at the time of the boy's death. Prosecutors said he could not fully appreciate the needs of a toddler and was ill-equipped to be the boy's primary caregiver while his girlfriend, Takara Juntunen, was at work.


Man arrested after 12-hour standoff charged with assault

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

BOZEMAN, Mont. (AP) — A Bozeman man involved in a 12-hour standoff with police has been charged with assault with a weapon.

The Bozeman Daily Chronicle reports bail was set at $250,000 for 26-year-old Wesley Brockmeyer-Barnhart during an initial appearance in Justice Court Wednesday.

Charging documents say one of Brockmeyer-Barnhart's housemates called police Tuesday to report that Brockmeyer-Barnhart had fired a shot at him and his girlfriend after they left the house.

Another roommate said the suspect had argued with a third roommate about a dirty microwave at about 4:30 a.m. Tuesday. Prosecutors say he used an axe to break the woman's bedroom door and ordered her and her boyfriend to leave at gunpoint.

Deputy Gallatin County Attorney Jesse Bushnell note that Brockmeyer-Barnhart threatened to kill law enforcement officers during the standoff that ended at about 4:30 p.m. Tuesday.


Bill to bar Wyoming wardens from wolf, grizzly cases fails

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — A Wyoming legislative committee has defeated a bill to bar state game managers from investigating or prosecuting people for killing wolves and grizzly bears as long as the animals remain federally protected.

Sponsor Sen. Larry Hicks, a Baggs Republican, Wednesday told a House committee that Wyoming isn't obligated to enforce provisions of the federal Endangered Species Act. Grizzly bears and wolves are both federally protected species.

Opponents of the bill said it could interfere with efforts to delist Wyoming wolves and grizzlies.

Brian Nesvik is chief warden of the Wyoming Game and Fish Department.

Nesvik told lawmakers the department quit handling law enforcement investigations related to wolves after a federal judge reinstated federal protections for them in Wyoming in 2014. The state cooperates with federal officials on grizzly cases.


Missoula school student data breach included alumni records

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

MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — Missoula County Public Schools says a data breach that affected more than 1,100 students also included private information on alumni and deceased students.

The Missoulian reports the district initially said Hellgate High School students' information had been compromised after an assistant principal included the information in a December email to parents. Superintendent Mark Thane said in a Jan. 18 letter that information on former Hellgate students had also been released.

Staff charged with informing those affected by the data breach found that about 200 people weren't registered as current students. They also sent letters to at least two former students who have died.

Thane says the data dated back to the 2012-13 school year.

The email included an attached document containing students' academic, medical, disciplinary and criminal information.


Pedestrian killed by truck near Pryor identified

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

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — The Big Horn County Coroner's Office has identified a pedestrian who was struck and killed by a pickup truck near Pryor.

The Billings Gazette reports that 44-year-old Dione J. Bell Rock Sr. was hit Monday by a Ford F-150. The results of an autopsy detailing the cause of death haven't been released.

The Montana Highway Patrol says the 59-year-old woman driving the pickup was uninjured in the collision. Two children were also in the vehicle and escaped without injury.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs continues to investigate the incident.

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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