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State to move clients out of Montana Developmental Center
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — State officials say they plan to move about 15 people out of the Montana Developmental Center in Boulder by October to help alleviate a staffing shortage at the facility.
Gov. Steve Bullock's budget director Dan Villa spoke Thursday to the committee overseeing the facility's closure. He says officials are talking with health care providers about moving some clients with developmental disabilities and mental health issues to their care.
Villa says federal grant money is available to help pay for group home placements made by the end of September for clients who are ready to move.
Filling vacant staff positions at the center has become more challenging since lawmakers passed a bill in April to move most of the 53 residents out by July 2017.
Highway closed, evacuations ordered near Montana wildfires
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Authorities say an approaching wildfire has forced the closure of an eight-mile stretch of U.S. Highway 2 and evacuations in the community of Essex near Glacier National Park.
The highway had been open to traffic guided by pilot cars as the fire burned about a half-mile away. Fire officials said Thursday the highway near Essex has now been closed as a precaution.
Earlier, Flathead County sheriff's deputies went door to door to about 100 residents' homes in and around Essex when the 1.7-square-mile fire reached a point that triggered a mandatory evacuation
A shelter has been set up at an elementary school in West Glacier.
Firefighters holding their own against giant blaze
CHELAN, Wash. (AP) — Officials say firefighters are holding their own against the largest wildfire on record in Washington state, even as rising temperatures and increased winds stoked the flames.
The National Weather Service had issued a red-flag warning Thursday for the fires near Okanogan, saying the weather conditions had the potential to spread the flames.
But fire spokesman Bernie Pineda says fire lines are holding and portions of the 450-square mile fire were actually burning back on itself because of winds.
The blazes have killed three firefighters and burned at least 40 homes and 40 outbuildings.
Aviation experts to review state's firefighting helicopters
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Aviation officials will be headed to Montana to see for themselves whether the state's firefighting helicopters should be used to attack blazes on federal lands.
The five modified Bell UH-1H helicopters have been barred from initial fire attacks in the state's national forests over concerns the buckets they use to scoop water are too large for the aircraft and could pose a safety risk.
State officials say they are frustrated the helicopters aren't being used on federal lands at a time when resources are scarce. They say the rebuilt helicopters have increased power that allows them to safely carry the 324-gallon buckets.
A joint statement Thursday by Gov. Steve Bullock and U.S. Agricultural Secretary Tom Vilsack says they've had productive conversations and federal aviation experts will travel to the state to review Montana's firefighting protocols.
Polygamists ask judge to strike down Montana's bigamy laws
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A Billings man is asking a federal judge to strike down Montana's bigamy laws so he can marry a second wife.
Nathan Collier, his legal wife Victoria and his common-law wife Christine filed a lawsuit Thursday in U.S. District Court in Billings. They cite the U.S. Supreme Court's recent ruling allowing gay marriage and reference biblical figures with multiple wives in their argument that the state is unconstitutionally preventing them from legitimizing their polygamous relationship.
Collier tells The Associated Press that he's fighting for his family's right to exist.
After the Supreme Court's gay marriage ruling, Yellowstone County officials denied Nathan and Christine Collier's request for a marriage license.
Nathan, Christine and Victoria Collier have been in their relationship since 2007. Combined, they have eight children from their and past relationships.
Montana judge moves lethal injection challenge to trial
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A constitutional challenge to Montana's execution methods is going to trial.
District Judge Jeffrey Sherlock of Helena ruled Thursday the Sept. 2 trial will focus on whether the sedative that Montana's lethal injection protocols call for would cause excruciating and terrifying death.
Montana's two death row inmates say the sedative pentobarbital does not adhere to a state law requiring an ultra fast-acting barbiturate be used in capital punishment.
The Montana Legislature has mandated but never defined what an ultra fast-acting drug is. In his order, Sherlock says lawmakers intended for the drug to take effect almost immediately.
Both sides are planning to present medical experts at trial.
The state's lethal injection methods were last changed in 2013 and have never been used to carry out an execution.
Third officer dismissed from Air Force in drug case
(Information in the following story is from: Great Falls Tribune, http://www.greatfallstribune.com)
GREAT FALLS, Mont. (AP) — A third Malmstrom base officer has been dismissed from the Air Force after pleading guilty to charges in a drug investigation.
The Great Falls Tribune reports 1st Lt. Lantz Balthazar pleaded guilty to using Ecstasy in a deal that dropped charges of cocaine distribution and illegal use of Pentedrone, commonly called bath salts.
The cases against Balthazar, 1st Lt. Michael Alonso and 2nd Lt. Nicole Dalmazzi arose as a result of a separate investigation into cheating on proficiency tests.
Capt. Kevin Boden represented Balthazar and said the defendant blames only himself. While prosecutors asked for an 8-month sentence, Boden said Balthazar didn't need to be locked up to think about his actions.
The pre-trial agreement says Balthazar will spend five months confinement on the base and forfeit future pay.
Helena man pleads not guilty in child's death
(Information in the following story is from: KTVH-TV, http://www.ktvh.com)
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A 25-year-old Helena man has pleaded not guilty to deliberate homicide in the death of his girlfriend's 2-year-old daughter.
KTVH-TV reports the trial for Coleton Coburn was scheduled for Jan. 25.
Coburn was arrested on July 12 after the girl was taken to the hospital in Helena with critical injuries suffered while she was in Coburn's care. He was charged with deliberate homicide after the girl died on July 13.
An autopsy found Persephone Nielsen died of head injuries that caused bleeding in her brain.
Coburn also pleaded not guilty Wednesday to charges of obstructing a peace officer and marijuana possession. He remains jailed with his bail set at $200,000.
CLINIC RAIDED-DOCTOR CHARGED
Doctor charged in death of 2 patients
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A southwestern Montana doctor has been arrested on suspicion of overprescribing pain medication, leading to the deaths of two patients and dangerous overdoses to nine others.
Ravalli County Attorney Thorin Geist says Chris Arthur Christensen was arrested Thursday in Florence. He was jailed with his bond set at $200,000 and was scheduled to make an initial court appearance on Friday.
Christensen faces two counts of negligent homicide, nine counts of criminal endangerment and 388 felony counts of criminal distribution of dangerous drugs.
Christensen's Big Creek Family Medicine Clinic in Florence was raided in April 2014 and Christensen's license was suspended. The state agreed to issue him a probationary license in May 2015 if he agreed to acknowledge some wrongdoing and work under the supervision of another physician.
Montana man pleads not guilty to fatal drunken-driving crash
(Information in the following story is from: Flathead Beacon, http://www.flatheadbeacon.com)
KALISPELL, Mont. (AP) — A 23-year-old Montana man accused in a drunken-driving crash that killed a Nebraska physician has pleaded not guilty to a vehicular homicide charge.
The Flathead Beacon reports that Matthew Michael Hollo pleaded not guilty to the charge Thursday in Flathead County District Court and is expected to go on trial in February.
Prosecutors allege Hollo was intoxicated on June 6 when he drove his pickup truck head-on into the sport-utility vehicle driven by 68-year-old cardiologist Timothy Fangman of Omaha, Nebraska. The crash happened north of Columbia Falls.
Charging documents say Hollo's blood-alcohol level after the crash was 0.143 percent, above the legal limit of 0.08 percent.
Hollo faces 30 years in prison if convicted.
FEDERAL WATER RULE-INJUNCTION
Judge blocks new federal rule on jurisdiction of waterways
BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — A federal judge in North Dakota has blocked a new rule that would give the federal government jurisdiction over some state waters.
U.S. District Judge Ralph Erickson of North Dakota issued a temporary injunction Thursday against the Obama administration rule. The rule gives the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers authority to protect some streams, tributaries and wetlands under the Clean Water Act.
Thirteen states led by North Dakota asked Erickson to suspend guidelines they say are unnecessary and infringe on state sovereignty. The federal government says the new rule clarifies ambiguity in the law and makes it easier for the states to manage some waterways.
The other states involved are Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Idaho, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, Nevada, South Dakota and Wyoming.
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