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Saturday, February 28th 2015
Associated Press Montana News Summary
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Latest Montana news, sports, business and entertainment


2 adults, 2 students hurt when science experiment goes wrong

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

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Two adults and two students suffered minor injuries in an explosion during a science experiment at an elementary school in Billings.

Schools Superintendent Terry Bouck wrote in an email to the school board that a Rocky Mountain College instructor and two graduate students were showing a group of Sandstone Elementary students the experiment Friday afternoon when a glass container exploded.

No harmful chemicals were involved, but flying glass shards injured two students, the instructor and one of the graduate students.

Sandstone Principal Mark Venner tells The Billings Gazette the instructor and two of the students were taken to a hospital. Details about their injuries have not been released.


State re-evaluating its findings in sexual abuse case

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — State health officials are rescinding a finding that no sexual abuse occurred in a January incident between two clients at the Montana Developmental Center.

The officials said Friday they will hire an outside expert to re-examine the case.

A client at the center in Boulder reported he had been sexually abused on Jan. 28. The state Department of Justice investigated and determined that abuse occurred.

It said two staff members were negligent for inadequate supervision.

The Department of Public Health and Human Services disagreed with the abuse finding — only to announce on Friday that it was reversing that stand.


Legislative session midpoint: Substantial work remains

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — With the 90-day legislative session half over, perhaps the most significant bill signed by Gov. Steve Bullock is one to fund K-12 education.

Major bills making their way through the Legislature include a proposed water settlement on the Flathead Reservation and one campaign finance reform bill.

Meanwhile, Medicaid expansion remains up in the air, Republicans have made numerous cuts to the governor's budget proposal, and his infrastructure bill has been chopped into many smaller pieces.

Republican Senate President Debby Barrett says she's pleased with her chamber passing more than 70 bills unanimously, saying bipartisanship is alive and well in the Senate.

Democratic House Minority Leader Chuck Hunter says he expects a tougher second half as they get to the substantial issues.


Native American tribes converge to discuss pot legalization

TULALIP, Wash. (AP) — Tribal representatives from around the country are converging in Washington state to discuss the risks and rewards of marijuana legalization.

Tribes have been wrestling with the issue since the U.S. Justice Department announced in December that it wouldn't stand in their way if they want to approve pot for medical or recreational use. The agency said tribes must follow the same law enforcement priorities laid out for states that legalize the drug.

Representatives of dozens of tribes are attending a conference at the Tulalip Indian Tribe's resort and casino north of Seattle.

Topics under discussion include the big business potential for pot, as well as concerns about substance abuse on reservations and the potential creation of a tribal cannabis association.


Former president of tribal college charged with tax fraud

GREAT FALLS, Mont. (AP) — The former president of Stone Child College and her husband have denied federal income tax fraud charges.

Federal prosecutors allege Melody and Frank Henry failed to file their 2009 income taxes despite receiving a combined $195,000 in income. It also alleges they fraudulently claimed business losses and expenses averaging $173,000 over each of the next three tax years.

Both pleaded not guilty on Monday to failing to file a tax return and three counts of filing a fraudulent return. Trial is set for April 27.

The Henrys' attorney, Terryl Matt of Cut Bank, did not immediately return a phone message from The Associated Press seeking comment.

The couple were acquitted on Feb. 20 of charges they conspired to use federal money to award construction contracts on the Rocky Boy's Indian Reservation in exchange for $242,000 in kickbacks.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Friday, February 27th 2015
Associated Press Montana News Summary
Latest Montana news, sports, business and entertainment

Senate endorses campaign finance reform bill

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Montana senators have endorsed a measure that would require more disclosure surrounding campaign donations.

The Senate endorsed the measure 28-22 on second-reading Thursday. It would need to pass a third reading before going to the House.

Republican Sen. Duane Ankney's Senate Bill 289, which is backed by Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock, would require corporations to disclose political contributions favoring or opposing candidates and ballot issues in Montana.

The proposal also would require that the attribution "paid for by" be included on political ads in the state.

Opponents say definitions and provisions in the proposal are overly broad.

The U.S. Supreme Court's Citizens United decision in 2010 freed corporations and labor unions to spend as much as they want in political elections.

SB 289 is one of four campaign-finance measures backed this session by Ankney and Bullock.


Governor's veto likely for bill lowering income taxes

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Montana's Democratic governor is likely to veto an advancing Republican plan to cut income taxes.

The Republican-controlled Legislature is one vote away from sending House Bill 166, amended in the Senate earlier this week, to the governor's office.

Republican Rep. Keith Regier's proposal would cut all income tax brackets by 0.2 percent, up from 0.1 percent in its original form.

A spokesman for Gov. Steve Bullock says the plan is fiscally irresponsible and that the governor will not support such legislation.

Democratic lawmakers say a tax cut ahead of a revenue projection is premature and a political attempt to vilify the governor.

Regier has argued that larger income tax cuts were successful in 2003. Those cuts came with sales tax increases, which are not included in Regier's bill.


Bill easing penalty for guns at school dies in House

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Montana representatives have twice voted down a proposal to give school boards more discretion on the expulsion of students found with guns at school.

Representatives failed Rep. Carl Glimm's House Bill 320 by 50-50 votes on Tuesday and again Thursday.

The bill would have tweaked the state's implementation of the federal Guns-Free Schools Act, which requires school boards to expel any student who brings a gun to school.

Young hunters would have been protected under the proposal, like the 16-year-old Columbia Falls student who was immediately suspended after forgetting her hunting rifle in her trunk in 2010.

Republican Reps. David Moore and Clayton Fiscus, formerly against the bill, voted in favor of it the second time around. Republican Reps. Bruce Meyers and Kenneth Holmlund, changed their earlier "yes" votes to "no."


Ginnity named director of VA Montana Health Care

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — John Ginnity, who served as acting director of VA Montana Health Care for eight months, has been named the permanent director.

U.S. Sen. Jon Tester said Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald told him about the appointment Thursday.

The announcement came three days after Ginnity was removed as acting director because he had exceeded the federal time limit for holding an "acting" position.

Before being named acting director, Ginnity served as the health care system's associate director.

Tester says the main priority is to reopen the acute mental health care wing of the psychiatric hospital at Fort Harrison. The VA announced a temporary closure of the eight-bed wing on Feb. 10 due to lack of staffing.

Ginnity says two mental health providers retired and a third left for another job.


Supreme Court: Smoking shelters violate clean indoor air act

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — The Montana Supreme Court has overturned a lower court ruling that allowed Great Falls casino owners to circumvent the Clean Indoor Air Act by building a separate shack with permanent vents for its smoking customers.

Tuesday's ruling came in the Cascade City-County Board of Health's appeal of District Judge Greg Pinski's decision. In November 2013, Pinski found the wording of several laws coupled with the health board's acknowledgement that the shelters were "partially open to the outside air," negated the board's argument that the shelters were "places of work" where smoking is disallowed under the Montana Clean Indoor Air Act.

The Supreme Court found that the board was wrong to say the shelters were partially open and also found that they were places of work, thus subjecting them to the no-smoking law.


Butte woman pleads guilty in drug conspiracy

(Information in the following story is from: Great Falls Tribune, http://www.greatfallstribune.com)

GREAT FALLS, Mont. (AP) — A 29-year-old woman who fled the Anaconda hospital last summer after she and her newborn tested positive for methamphetamine has pleaded guilty to federal drug charges in a case investigators said brought the drug from Los Angeles for distribution in Great Falls, Havre and Butte.

The Great Falls Tribune reports Michelle Renee Yallup pleaded guilty Tuesday to conspiracy to possess methamphetamine with intent to distribute, conspiracy involving a firearm and drug trafficking and conspiracy to commit money laundering. The meth conspiracy charge calls for a 10-year minimum prison sentence.

Prosecutors agreed to dismiss five other charges when District Judge Brian Morris sentences Yallup on May 28.

Prosecutors alleged Yallup was one of 20 people involved the conspiracy that operated between the winter of 2013 and September 2014.


Evergreen man denies charges in child's death

KALISPELL, Mont. (AP) — A 21-year-old Evergreen man has pleaded not guilty to deliberate homicide in the death of his girlfriend's 2-year-old son.

Brandon Lee Walter Newberry entered his plea Thursday in District Court. Trial is set for April 27.

Charging documents say Forrest Groshelle died Feb. 17 of a laceration of the small intestine after being hit multiple times in the stomach.

The boy's mother told deputies that Newberry had been watching Forrest while she worked. She said he had been vomiting since Feb. 12.

On Monday, District Judge Ted Lympus granted a defense request for a gag order preventing prosecutors and law enforcement officers from talking about the case.

On Wednesday, Flathead County authorities said the tires on a Jeep belonging to Newberry had been slashed and the vehicle spray-painted.


Victim found after Hardin hotel fire identified

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

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Big Horn County officials have released the name of a 26-year-old Busby woman who was found dead after a fire was reported in her Hardin hotel room.

Deputy Coroner Robbie Seykora tells The Billings Gazette that Allison Highwolf's body was found at about midnight Monday.

Seykora says an autopsy was being conducted and the results were not immediately available. The State Fire Marshal and the sheriff's office are still investigating the cause of the fire.


Columbia Falls woman pleads guilty to vehicular assault

(Information in the following story is from: Flathead Beacon, http://www.flatheadbeacon.com)

KALISPELL, Mont. (AP) — A Columbia Falls woman has pleaded guilty to hitting a pedestrian while driving drunk.

The Flathead Beacon reports Susan Pajnich pleaded guilty Thursday to felony negligent vehicular assault.

Prosecutors say Pajnich was driving a rental truck in Columbia Falls on Aug. 23 when she hit a woman who had stopped in the road to help an injured cat. The victim suffered a serious head injury.

Pajnich left the scene, but police found her at her residence. Court records say Pajnich's blood-alcohol level was 0.28, more than three times the limit at which a person is considered legally intoxicated.

Prosecutors said they would ask that Pajnich be committed to the Department of Corrections for 10 years with seven suspended when she is sentenced on May 7. The defense plans to ask for a probationary sentence.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Thursday, February 26th 2015
Associated Press Montana News Summary
Latest Montana news, sports, business and entertainment

House endorses bill that would ban bullying in schools

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Montana has moved one step closer to joining every other state in the country in making anti-bullying policy law under a bill endorsed by the House.

House Bill 284, sponsored by Democratic Rep. Kimberly Dudik of Missoula, passed on second reading by a vote of 74-26 Wednesday.

The bill would define bullying, ban it in public schools and require public school districts to adopt their own policies addressing the issue. The bill has also been amended to give it more teeth as one lawmaker said, allowing parents and students the ability to bring action in court against a bully.

The measure would explicitly define bullying as any repeated harassment, hazing or threatening online or in person.

If it passes third reading, the bill will go to the Senate for consideration.


Senate gives initial OK to Flathead water agreement

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Montana senators have given initial approval to a proposed water-use agreement on the Flathead Reservation.

After two hours of discussion, senators voted 31-19 in favor of Senate Bill 262.

Ten Republicans voted with the Senate's 21 Democrats in supporting the measure, which was presented by Republican Sen. Chas Vincent of Libby.

Three amendments were proposed and voted down after Vincent said any changes to the proposal itself would nullify the negotiation, which began in part decades ago.

Republican Sen. Bob Keenan, whose district includes Flathead Lake, said he is concerned that the compact could allow the lake's water level to drop below current summer requirements for recreation like boating.

The bill is expected to receive a final vote in the Senate on Thursday.


Man with history of car chases gets 7 years for gun thefts

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

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A man who stole eight guns from a Big Timber business and led police on a car chase the day after he was arrested for another chase in Wyoming will spend about seven years in federal prison.

The Billings Gazette reports 57-year-old Guy Parenteau was sentenced Wednesday and ordered to pay $5,195 in restitution. He previously pleaded guilty to being a felon in possession of firearms.

Prosecutors say Parenteau broke into the store Sept. 14, 2013, and stole the firearms. He was arrested in Gardiner later that day after leading officers on a chase that exceeded 100 mph.

The day before the break-in, Parenteau was arrested in Sheridan, Wyoming. Prosecutors say he stole tires from a local shop, then jumped the curb in his vehicle and drove off at more than 100 mph.


Effort to acquire Nebraska land for pipeline remain on hold

OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — The company trying to build a pipeline to carry Canadian oil south to the Gulf Coast says its efforts to force Nebraska landowners to agree to the project remain on hold because of several pending lawsuits.

Earlier this month, a Holt County judge blocked TransCanada's eminent domain efforts there. Company spokesman Mark Cooper says TransCanada will agree to a similar order in York County at a hearing Thursday.

Cooper says TransCanada plans to ask judges in seven other Nebraska counties to delay action on its other eminent domain cases until the lawsuits are resolved.

The proposed pipeline needs presidential approval before it could be built across Montana, South Dakota and Nebraska to connect with existing pipelines. It would carry more than 800,000 barrels of crude oil a day.


Aluminum plant owner opposes Superfund listing

(Information in the following story is from: Flathead Beacon, http://www.flatheadbeacon.com)

KALISPELL, Mont. (AP) — The multi-national company that owns the shuttered Columbia Falls Aluminum Co. plant opposes the plant's listing on the Superfund program's National Priorities List, arguing it would slow cleanup and hinder redevelopment of the 120-acre site.

CFAC's former external affairs manager Haley Beaudry said Glencore is committed to developing a plan to remediate pollution using a private contractor. He said federal oversight would unnecessarily slow the cleanup process.

The Flathead Beacon reports the Environmental Protection Agency has said the site qualifies for Superfund listing, but the agency wanted public input.

Both Gov. Steve Bullock and U.S. Sen. Jon Tester support the listing for the plant, which closed in 2009.

An EPA study found cyanide, arsenic, lead and fluoride in the groundwater in and around the plant that closed in 2009.


Idaho man sentenced for attacking Missoula women

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

MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — A 28-year-old man who pleaded guilty to attacking two Missoula women last summer has been sentenced to 15 years in prison.

The Missoulian reports District Judge Karen Townsend sentenced William Ashley Sandel II on Tuesday to 30 years in prison with 15 suspended for felony aggravated assault, along with concurrent six-month sentences for two misdemeanor counts of sexual assault.

Prosecutors say the Idaho man had been in Montana for less than a week when he attacked a woman while she jogged on July 5. Several days later, he choked a woman and wrestled her to the ground. Sandel told prosecutors both attacks were sexually motivated.

The first woman testified that she now feels like she has to watch her back.

Sandel apologized, saying he was drunk and stupid at the time of the attacks.


Montana man pleads guilty to killing grandmother with chair

MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — A Montana man has pleaded guilty but mentally ill to beating his grandmother to death with a chair in December 2013, shortly after he was released from the state psychiatric hospital.

Tyler Dan Perry entered his plea to deliberate homicide Tuesday under a deal with prosecutors.

Deputy Missoula County Attorney Jason Marks says the plea agreement calls for a 60-year commitment to the psychiatric hospital when Perry is sentenced on May 12.

Prosecutors charged the 25-year-old Perry with killing his 72-year-old grandmother, Carol Perry, while she was lying on the couch watching television.

Court records say Tyler Perry told investigators his grandmother had a "third eye" and that "everybody knew we had to bash her over the head."


Supreme Court upholds restitution in kidnapping case

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — The Montana Supreme Court has rejected a Glasgow man's arguments that he should not have to pay restitution for his kidnapping victim's mental health counseling because it is being paid for by state-assisted programs.

The court, in a 5-0 ruling Tuesday, found that Richard Joseph Jenkins should be held responsible for $18,000 in potential counseling costs for Connie Sharp.

Jenkins was convicted in April 2012 of kidnapping, assault with a weapon and intimidation for cutting Sharp with a knife, burning her with cigarettes, tying her up and threatening to throw her into the river if she refused to drive him to Kalispell.

Sharp was able to escape in Havre.

The court ruled that when Jenkins starts paying restitution, the state programs that covered Sharp's counseling costs can seek to recover that money from Sharp.


Woman, pit bull dog attack Highway Patrol trooper

MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — Montana Highway Patrol troopers used a stun gun on a pit bull and a Washington state woman after the dog bit an officer in the face during a weekend traffic stop.

Iola Johnston made an initial appearance in Justice Court Tuesday on charges of assault on a peace officer and resisting arrest. Her bail was set at $30,000.

Court records say Trooper Dell Aman and Sgt. Derek Brown arrested Erik Wilkins on outstanding warrants during a traffic stop Sunday and then removed weapons and drug paraphernalia from his van. Officers say his passenger, Johnston, swiped at Brown with a hunting knife.

While Aman was handcuffing Johnston, the pit bull bit his face. Court records say Brown used his stun gun on the dog.

The pit bull then attacked Brown as he tried to handcuff Johnston.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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