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Sunday, December 21st 2014
Associated Press Montana News Summary
Latest Montana news, sports, business and entertainment

President Obama signs Montana wilderness law

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

MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — President Barack Obama has signed wilderness legislation that preserves large areas of land in the North Fork of the Flathead and on the Rocky Mountain Front.

Democratic Sen. Jon Tester of Montana hailed the legislation as a victory both for Montana and for bipartisanship.

The Missoulian reports that Obama signed the measure shortly after Tester met with wild land advocates in the North Fork to celebrate their success.

The measures were added as riders to the National Defense Authorization Act. Tester and Sen. John Walsh worked with Senator-elect Steve Daines to include the wilderness designations and six other Montana lands bills in a broader lands package.


Police: man rammed motorists after failed burglary

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

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Police say a Billings man trying to flee an attempted burglary in an SUV drove into two other vehicles, injuring two people.

The Billings Gazette reports that 47-year-old Marshall Edward Sarratt made an initial appearance in Yellowstone County Justice Court on Friday.

Sarratt is charged with five felony counts of criminal endangerment, felony criminal mischief, felony DUI and three misdemeanors.

Justice of the Peace David Carter set bond for Sarratt at $60,000.

Deputy Yellowstone County Attorney Paul Chaon says Sarratt has five prior DUIs, two of them felonies. Chaon says Sarratt has 14 felony convictions dating to 1987 for offenses including theft, assault, escape, robbery and illegal firearm possession.


Jury convicts Helena man of rape and kidnapping

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

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A Helena Valley man faces a possible life sentence after his conviction on charges of raping and kidnapping a 13-year-old girl.

The Helena Independent Record reports that a jury on Friday night found 37-year-old David Gary Burton guilty of aggravated kidnapping and sexual intercourse without consent. The jury acquitted him on a charge or burglary.

Prosecutors said Burton took the girl from her home in the Scratchgravel Hills in December 2011.

The jury of six men and six women deliberated for nearly two hours after hearing four days of testimony before District Judge Kathy Seeley.

Burton could face life in prison when he's sentenced March 13.


Settlement awards Vann's employees $7.3 million

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

MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — As many as 200 former employees of Vann's will split $7.3 million under a settlement agreement in a lawsuit against former corporate officers.

The Missoulian reports that the notice of settlement of the employees' lawsuit was filed in federal court in Missoula on Friday.

Employees had alleged that they lost $9.2 million due to gross mismanagement of the retail appliance store by former CEO George Manlove and former CFO Paul Nisbet.

According to the court, the terms of the settlement were mistakenly filed in an open exhibit along with the settlement. The court later sealed the document. The newspaper reports it was not immediately able to reach lawyers in the case.

Vann's filed for bankruptcy in 2012 and is now defunct.

Friday, December 19th 2014
Associated Press Montana News Summary
Latest Montana news, sports, business and entertainment

Slain German teen's parents testify about ordeal

MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — The parents of a 17-year-old German exchange student who was shot to death by a Montana man say their dreams are broken.

Celal and Gulcin Dede (DAY'-Day) testified Thursday about the impact of their son Diren's death.

A judge will consider their comments when sentencing Markus Kaarma, who was convicted of deliberate homicide Wednesday in the teen's killing.

Celal Dede says his family no long has plans for the future and that he and his wife have been unable to work. He says their lives have been turned upside down since their son died.

Kaarma shot Diren Dede in the early hours of April 27 after being alerted to an intruder by motion sensors. Witnesses testified Kaarma fired four shotgun blasts at Dede, who was unarmed.


Judge orders ex-billionaire jailed for contempt

BUTTE, Mont. (AP) — A judge has ordered Tim Blixseth jailed after the onetime billionaire and embattled real estate mogul failed to comply with an order to pay $13.8 million to a luxury Montana resort's creditors.

At a hearing Thursday, U.S. District Judge Sam Haddon ordered the Yellowstone Club founder held until he can come up with an accounting for the money.

Blixseth's attorney Michael Ferrigno says he's unsure how long that will take because his client says many of the documents are in Mexico.

Haddon last year found Blixseth in contempt of court for selling a property in Mexico in defiance of another judge's instructions.

Blixseth delayed potential sanctions with an unsuccessful appeal.

He is blamed in the Yellowstone Club's 2008 bankruptcy. The resort's creditors want him incarcerated for not abiding the payment order.


Dog injures Wyoming man in accidental shooting

(Information in the following story is from: The Sheridan (Wyo.) Press, http://www.thesheridanpress.com/)

SHERIDAN, Wyo. (AP) — Police in northern Wyoming say a rifle discharged after a dog apparently stepped on it, injuring a 46-year-old man.

Johnson County Sheriff Steve Kozisek (KAHS'-eh-sec) says the bullet struck Richard L. Fipps, of Sheridan, in the arm on Monday.

The injury is not life-threatening but Fipps is being treated in a hospital in Billings, Montana.

Kozisek told The Sheridan Press that Fipps and two others were in a remote area trying to move a vehicle that had become stuck. Fipps was standing beside his truck when he told his dog to move from the front seat to the back seat.

The sheriff says a rifle was on the back seat and it discharged toward Fipps.


Advocates seek grizzly re-introductions

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — An advocacy group has petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to reintroduce grizzly bears into the Selway-Bitterroot area of Idaho and Montana.

The Center for Biological Diversity said Thursday that it hopes to revive a stalled recovery plan for the animals that was finalized in 2000.

The group says having bears in the Selway-Bitterroot would help connect grizzlies in Yellowstone National Park with other populations of the animals in Montana and Idaho. It says the 16-million-acre area could support 300 to 600 bears.

An earlier petition from the group called for grizzly recovery across a seven-state area that included the Selway-Bitterroot. Center for Biological Diversity attorney Andrea Santarsiere says the group is considering legal action after that petition was denied in September.


Chippewa Cree must pay up front for pipeline

GREAT FALLS, Mont. (AP) — A federal investigator says the Chippewa Cree Tribe is being required to pay up front for work on a 50-mile water pipeline after tribal officials and companies were convicted on corruption charges related to the project.

Joe Waller is the resident agent in charge of the U.S. Interior Department's Office of Inspector General.

He said Wednesday the Bureau of Reclamation typically would release money annually for federally-funded projects such as the pipeline on Montana's Rocky Boy's Indian Reservation. That changed in recent months in response to the corruption convictions on the reservation.

Waller says the tribe, through the Chippewa Cree Construction Corporation, is now required to submit invoices and receipts for pipeline costs. Only after those are validated do federal officials release money to cover the costs.


Corvallis company fined for workplace fatality

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

MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — A Corvallis asphalt company and its owner must pay $20,000 in fines and restitution for the 2012 death of an employee.

Martin Romano and MR Asphalt Inc. reached parallel plea agreements that were accepted Monday by Magistrate Judge Jeremiah Lynch in U.S. District Court in Missoula.

Romano was sentenced to three years unsupervised probation. He and MR Asphalt were each ordered to share equally $7,500 in fines and $12,500 in restitution to the widow of William Irby Jr.

Irby, of Corvallis, died Sept. 13, 2012, in a fall from an asphalt tank.

The Missoulian reports that a subsequent investigation found 16 health and safety violations at the plant and that Romano attempted to cover up violations.

The company was also ordered to implement various safety measures.


Former student sentenced for student aid fraud

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

GREAT FALLS, Mont. (AP) — A 24-year-old former University of Great Falls student will spend six months in federal prison for fraudulently obtaining federal student financial aid.

U.S. District Judge Brian Morris on Wednesday also sentenced Brenden James Leischner to five years of probation and ordered him to pay about $82,200 restitution to the U.S. Department of Education.

The Billings Gazette reported that Leischner pleaded guilty earlier to misdemeanor federal student aid fraud as part of a plea agreement.

Leischner's parents, Mark and Tammy Leischner, of Laurel, have pleaded guilty to multiple felonies stemming from a separate large corruption investigation involving the Chippewa Cree Tribe on the Rocky Boy's Reservation. The couple is to be sentenced in March.


Charter to hire 100 new workers in Billings

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

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Charter Communications has announced plans to hire 100 new employees in Billings.

Company officials said Wednesday that the new jobs will be primarily in sales and customer retention.

Wages would start at about $35,000 a year, depending on experience, and include training, benefits, incentive pay and free cable and Internet service.

The Billings Gazette reports that Charter has about 425 employees in Billings and a call center that handles 120,000 calls daily as the area's largest cable and Internet service provider. The company has 700 employees in Montana.

St. Louis-based Charter is one of the nation's largest cable, Internet and phone service providers.

Charter officials said Billings is a growing market where employees are needed.


Great Falls fatal victim identified

GREAT FALLS, Mont. (AP) — The man who died in a single-vehicle rollover on Interstate 15 in Great Falls has been identified as 24-year-old Benjamin Thomas Ronnau.

The Montana Highway Patrol says the victim was from Great Falls.

The patrol says the crash occurred about 4 a.m. Wednesday when a vehicle traveling on the overpass apparently went out of control and landed on the interstate.

The accident remains under investigation.


Wyoming agency talks helping build coal docks

(Information in the following story is from: Casper (Wyo.) Star-Tribune, http://www.trib.com)

CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — The executive director of the Wyoming Infrastructure Authority says Wyoming could help finance the construction of a coal export dock in the Pacific Northwest.

Loyd Drain said he had a "serious" conversation with an unidentified party in the past six months about the possibility of financing a coal port.

The Casper Star-Tribune reports that drain's comments come as state lawmakers ready a bill that would boost the authority's borrowing authority to $3 billion and allow the agency to work on projects outside Wyoming.

Coal companies mining in the Powder River Basin see docks in the Northwest as potential bridges to ship coal to Asia.

But there has been considerable opposition in the Northwest because of mostly fears about the environment.

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