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Wednesday, October 26th 2016
Associated Press Montana News
Latest Montana news, sports, business and entertainment at 3:20 a.m. MDT

9 more tribes seek NV voting sites; $117K in legal expenses

RENO, Nev. (AP) — The state of Nevada and two counties could end up paying well over $100,000 in legal expenses as they continue to wage a legal battle with two tribes over alleged violations of the U.S. Voting Rights Act.

A federal judge ordered Washoe and Mineral counties earlier this month to establish new early voting and Election Day voting sites on two Paiute reservations after concluding Native Americans were being denied equal access to the polls.

Nine additional tribes followed with a similar request last week in federal court in Reno.

Lawyers for the Pyramid Lake and Walker River Paiute tribes also filed a request for $117,000 in lawyer fees and expenses incurred to date.

That's 10 times as much as the tribes said it would have cost to comply with their lawsuit in the first place.


Glacier National Park plans for major construction projects

(Information from: Missoulian, http://www.missoulian.com)

MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — Construction is underway in Glacier National Park now that the busy tourist season has winded down.

The Missoulian reports that the park's current projects include a new bridge being built over Avalanche Creek and the rehabilitation of the St. Mary Entrance Station on the park's east side.

The final phase of rehabilitation for the park's 50-mile Going-to-the-Sun Road is scheduled to start next spring. The project will focus on repairing the first 14 miles at the West Entrance, which welcomes the most people to the park each year.

The Many Glacier Hotel is also set to get some improvements next spring. Park spokeswoman Lauren Alley says a new double-helix staircase will be installed in the 101-year-old hotel to replace an original staircase that was removed decades ago.



Kennewick child rape suspect flees court ahead of verdict

(Information from: Tri-City Herald, http://www.tri-cityherald.com)

TRI-CITIES, Wash. (AP) — A judge has issued a nationwide arrest warrant for a 79-year-old Montana man who fled from court in Kennewick just before a jury found him guilty of raping a young boy for several years.

The Tri-City Herald reports that William George Nicol left the Benton County Justice Center on Friday during a court recess. He was later convicted of child rape and child molestation charges.

Court documents say the boy told a relative in 2015 he had been sexually abused by Nicol.

Nicol denied the allegations in court, saying the boy was lying.

The Plains, Montana man had been out of custody after posting $10,000 bail during trial. He reportedly told his attorney he was going to use the restroom before he left court and didn't return.



Former state employee files wrongful discharge lawsuit

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A former auditor for the Montana's health department has filed a wrongful discharge lawsuit against the state.

Carol Bondy alleges that she was fired last year in retaliation for reporting the apparent misuse of state and federal funds by agencies receiving grants or contracts.

Bondy says when Department of Public Health and Human Services officials failed to act on her concerns, she reported them to the federal government.

DPHHS officials declined to comment on the lawsuit, which was filed Oct. 18.

Agency spokesman Jon Ebelt noted, however, that an unemployment benefits hearing determined Bondy was fired for misconduct.

The hearing found Bondy knew that another employee had emailed data containing childcare providers' personal information to a state legislator without authorization.

The hearing also found Bondy refused a request for information from her supervisor.

Both employees were fired.


National group spends $528K to defeat brain research measure

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — The National Education Association is spending $528,000 to defeat a ballot initiative in Montana's election Nov. 8.

Campaign finance reports released this week show the national group made two contributions totaling more than a half-million dollars to a ballot committee called Montanans for Fiscal Responsibility.

The committee was formed to defeat Initiative 181, which would authorize the state to issue $200 million in bonds over the next decade for research into brain injuries and illnesses.

NEA officials did not return queries for comment. Eric Feaver, the head of the state's largest labor union, the MEA-MFT, says he solicited the contribution from the national group.

Feaver says tying up that much money in state bonds would threaten passage of a state infrastructure bill.

Initiative proponent Randy Gray says the concerns of the opponents are misplaced.


Helena woman sues Interior Department over sexual assault

KALISPELL, Mont. (AP) — A Helena woman who was sexually assaulted by a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employee while on a work trip says she has been subject to retaliation and harassment.

The woman filed a federal lawsuit on Oct. 18 against the Department of Interior, former co-worker Lawrence Lockard of Bigfork and Interior Secretary Sally Jewell.

Lockard and two co-workers were in Glacier National Park for a SCUBA diving trip at Quartz Lake in September 2015. The woman said she awakened in a cabin to find Lockard in bed with her.

He was sentenced to six months in prison for abusive sexual contact.

The woman said Lockard's actions caused her to suffer post-traumatic stress disorder. The lawsuit says the agency allowed Lockard to retire without consequences and failed to protect her from retaliation by co-workers.

USFWS public affairs officer Gavin Shire declined to comment Tuesday.

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

Tuesday, October 25th 2016
Associated Press Montana News
Latest Montana news, sports, business and entertainment at 3:20 a.m. MDT

GOP candidate sinks $5.1M into Montana governor's race

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Bozeman businessman Greg Gianforte has now spent more than $5.1 million of his own money to fuel his campaign against Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock.

According to the latest campaign finance reports filed Monday, the Republican cut his campaign two $1 million checks over the last month. Individual donors contributed another $238,000 to him between Sept. 27 and Oct. 17.

Bullock took in more than $313,000 during the same period. His biggest donations topped $10,000 apiece from four union political-action committees and a lawyers' PAC.

Bullock's campaign says it has received more than $3 million in contributions in total.

The Democratic Governors Association is the largest outside group spending money to influence the governor's race. It has now funneled $3.35 million into the race through the Good Jobs Montana PAC.


Another woman says a police officer sexually assaulted her

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A second woman is accusing a former Helena police officer of sexually assaulting her while she worked as a confidential informant.

A new lawsuit alleges Lloyd Matthew Thompson began grooming the girl when she was still in high school and assaulted her after she became an informant for the Missouri River Drug Task Force in 2012.

The woman alleges Thompson falsely informed her she was facing at least 10 years in prison for two felony charges and that she could help herself by becoming an informant.

Another lawsuit filed in June alleges Thompson repeatedly sexually assaulted another female informant. Neither complaint has been served on the officer, the city of Helena or Lewis and Clark County.

Helena City Attorney Thomas Jodoin said Monday the alleged conduct is outside the scope of Thompson's duties as a police officer.


Washington shot, killed in Montana after 700-mile journey

(Information from: The Spokesman-Review, http://www.spokesman.com)

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — Wildlife officials say a gray wolf that left its pack in northeastern Washington trekked 700 miles across Idaho and Canada before being shot in central Montana last month.

The Spokesman-Review reports the Washington Fish and Wildlife Department captured the male wolf in February and fitted it with a GPS tracking collar.

The wolf, which originated in the Huckleberry Pack, started wandering into Idaho in June. It then headed into British Columbia, where it crossed Lake Koocanusa before traveling southeast into Montana in July.

The wolf's journey came to an end in Judith Gap, Montana on Sept. 29 after it was killed by a federal wildlife officer, who had responded to a report of a wolf attacking sheep.

Wolves are protected by state endangered species rules in eastern Washington but can be hunted and trapped in Montana and Idaho.



Amber Alert canceled for 6-year-old Spokane Valley girl

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — Authorities have canceled an Amber Alert for a 6-year-old girl in Spokane Valley.

Multiple news outlets reported Monday afternoon that Danika Packard was found safe in Spokane.

The Spokane Valley Sheriff's Office says Danika was believed to be with her mother, 35-year-old Tracy Packard.

Tracy was last seen driving a maroon 4-door, 2002 Buick LeSabre on Interstate 90 East at noon Monday.

The incident was reported to deputies Monday after Danika's school called her father and informed him Tracy pulled Danika out of school.

He was told Tracy was acting odd and stated she was pulling Danika from school to "go be with the Lord."


Libby man denies killing estranged girlfriend

(Information from: Flathead Beacon, http://www.flatheadbeacon.com)

KALISPELL, Mont. (AP) — A 42-year-old Libby man charged with killing his estranged girlfriend has pleaded not guilty to deliberate homicide.

The Flathead Beacon reports Trevor Joseph Mercier entered his plea Monday in District Court. Prosecutors allege Mercier killed 30-year-old Sheena Devine something during the night of Oct. 5 at her residence in Libby.

Charging documents say Mercier told investigators he went to Devine's house to throw rocks at her car windows, but she came out to confront him. He said he put her in a "sleeper hold," causing her to lose consciousness. He said she was breathing and snoring when he left the house.

The Western News reports investigators found a petition for an order of protection against Mercier on Devine's kitchen table. Mercier had been convicted of partner or family member assault against Devine in February.



Missoula man denies sex trafficking charges

(Information from: The Billings Gazette, http://www.billingsgazette.com)

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A 34-year-old Missoula man with a previous state conviction for promoting prostitution has denied federal charges that allege he forced two women into sex trafficking.

The Billings Gazette reports Terrance Tyrell Edwards pleaded not guilty Monday to two counts of sex trafficking by force, fraud or coercion; three counts of transportation of a minor with intent to engage in prostitution and one count of obstructing a sex trafficking investigation. He remains jailed without bond.

Edwards was arrested in Billings on Sept. 21 after a woman called police with the phone Edwards had apparently given her for customer calls.

Prosecutors allege Edwards had lured two women into sex trafficking and had just returned to Billings with three teenage girls from the Midwest when he was arrested.


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

Monday, October 24th 2016
Associated Press Montana News
Latest Montana news, sports, business and entertainment at 3:20 a.m. MDT

$24M gift pushes UM to raise money for new forestry building

(Information from: Missoulian, http://www.missoulian.com)

MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — The University of Montana plans to raise money for a new building for its College of Forestry and Conservation after receiving a record $24 million pledge.

The Missoulian reports the donation from Bill and Carolyn Franke and their children was announced earlier this month. The money is going to the College of Forestry and Conservation and the Global Leadership Initiative.

The university will work to acquire funding for a new building as part of the agreement outlining the terms of the donation.

UM President Royce Engstrom says the plans "will be a long-term discussion." He says it's too early to identify possible funding sources, location and timing for the project.

The board of regents will discuss the donation and renaming the forestry school after Franke at a November meeting.



Montana State University raises over $300 million

(Information from: Bozeman Daily Chronicle, http://www.bozemandailychronicle.com)

BOZEMAN, Mont. (AP) — Montana State University has brought in $308 million to hit a fundraising goal two years earlier than planned.

The Bozeman Daily Chronicle reports the money will be spent on scholarships, classrooms and other projects.

The university set out to have $300 million raised by the 125th anniversary of the school's founding in 2018.

MSU Alumni Foundation president and CEO Chris Murray said this was the biggest fundraising campaign ever in Montana.

He said the foundation will continue to raise funds for the next two years.



Land transfer would resolve 127-year-old debt

(Information from: The Billings Gazette, http://www.billingsgazette.com)

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Montana and the Bureau of Land Management are working to resolve a 127-year-old debt.

The Billings Gazette reports about 10,000 acres would be transferred from the bureau to the state and grazing fees for ranchers could increase by 500 percent.

A Montana Stockgrowers Association official said lessees will not lose permits, but will pay more for longer state leases.

The bureau owes Montana $4.1 million for land covered in the Enabling Act of 1889 that was already slated for national parks or reservations.

State officials gave the bureau its prioritized list of land requests to resolve what remains of the debt by a target date in July 2017.

Ranchers who could be impacted have been notified.

People can provide input during hearings in November.



Meat market accepts big game meat donations

(Information from: KULR-TV, http://www.kulr8.com)

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A Billings meat market has accepted big game donations to give to organizations for more than 20 years.

KULR-TV reports 4th Avenue Meat Market sends donated meat to Billings Food Bank and the Wounded Warrior Project.

Owner Kevin Harrell said the market gets about 100 wild game every hunting season.

He said it's nice to provide meals to the many needy families out there.

The market asks for a small monetary donation that goes toward processing costs.

Deer and elk hunting season started Oct. 22.



Father sentenced to 1,503 years in prison in daughter's rape

(Information from: The Fresno Bee, http://www.fresnobee.com)

FRESNO, Calif. (AP) — A 41-year-old Fresno man has been sentenced to 1,503 years in prison for raping his teenage daughter over a four-year period.

The Fresno Bee reports the man was sentenced Friday to the longest-known prison sentence in Fresno Superior Court history.

The Associated Press is not naming the man to avoid identifying his daughter. The AP does not name sexual abuse victims.

A jury in September found him guilty of 186 felony counts of sexual assault, including dozens of counts of rape of a minor.

Prosecutors say the victim was raped two to three times a week from May 2009 to May 2013, when the girl got the courage to leave.

Judge Edward Sarkisian Jr. noted that Lopez had never shown remorse and has blamed his daughter for his predicament.



Montana judge sparks outrage with no prison time for incest

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A judge's decision not to order prison time for a Montana man who raped his 12-year-old daughter has sparked national outrage and a call to close the loophole in state law that allowed for the lenient sentence.

Montana, like many others states, requires a minimum sentence of 25 years in prison for anyone convicted of rape, incest or sexual abuse of a child 12 or younger.

But the state law also allows judges to dole out far less punishment if an evaluator determines that ordering sex offender treatment outside prison will rehabilitate the offender and protect the victim and society.

District Judge John McKeon ordered the father to spend 60 days in jail and suspended a 30-year prison sentence.

A commission studying Montana's sentencing laws is recommending the legislature eliminate the loophole that allowed for the lesser punishment in this case.

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

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