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Associated Press Montana News Summary
Sunday, August 31st 2014 
Latest Montana news, sports, business and entertainment

Mountain lion cubs rescued in Montana fire

MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) Firefighters in western Montana rescued two mountain lion cubs hiding under a burning log.

Bitterroot National Forest spokesman Tod McKay told the Missoulian that a crew fighting a blaze in the Sapphire Mountains was digging a fire line Friday when they heard noises coming from under the log.

The fire prevented the crew from reaching the log, so they called in a helicopter that dropped 600 gallons of water.

McKay says the soaked cubs came out when the flames were extinguished. He estimated they were just a few weeks old.

McKay says Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks took custody of the cubs. Crews did not see any other mountain lions in the area of the 48-acre fire they are battling about 9 miles east of Florence.


Convicted horse breeder begins sentence

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) A Billings horse breeder has begun a 120-day animal-cruelty conviction sentence after the Montana Supreme Court rejected his appeal.

Yellowstone County Attorney Scott Twito says 72-year-old James Leachman turned himself in at the county's detention center Friday.

Leachman operated a horse breeding business before the U.S. Farm Services Administration foreclosed on the property in 2010. Leachman still kept more than 400 horses on the property after it was sold.

Investigators discovered five horses, some malnourished, with tight plastic bands that had caused severe leg injuries. Two died and two were euthanized.

The Billings Gazette reports Leachman was sentenced to five years in jail with all but 120 days suspended.

Leachman has asked a judge to allow him to serve his sentence at his home for health and other reasons.


Montana students to be tested on Common Core

HELENA, Mont. (AP) Montana students for the first time will take a test linked to the Common Core standards this school year.

Office of Public Instruction Superintendent Denise Juneau says education officials conducted field tests using the exam, called the Smarter Balanced Assessment, last spring.

Juneau says some schools are behind in curriculum development, teacher training and acquiring textbooks or other equipment to teach to the new standards. But, she says, the state is well situated to implement the standards.

The 2013 Legislature rejected proposals to allocate money for training and equipment.

State Sen. Roger Webb has requested that legislation be drafted for the 2015 session that would bar any funding for the standards.

Common Core standards emphasize critical thinking and state the reading and math skills students should grasp at grade levels.


Pickup truck driver dies in collision with train

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) Authorities say a 78-year-old Huntley man died when the pickup truck he was driving collided with a train.

The Montana Highway Patrol says the man was driving near Hysham Friday morning when he was distracted by another vehicle.

The Billings Gazette reports the driver froze and stopped his truck on the tracks when he saw the train approaching.

The train was unable to stop.

The highway patrol says the crash is under investigation.


Attorney general asked to intervene in access case

BOZEMAN, Mont. (AP) An advocacy group is asking Montana's attorney general to intervene after Madison County leaders took no action to improve access to the Ruby River following a state Supreme Court decision.

The Public Land/Water Access Association won its case against landowner James Cox Kennedy in January after 10 years of litigation over blocked access to the river.

The Supreme Court ruled the public could use easements the county needs to maintain and repair the road and bridge to reach the river, leaving it to the county to decide what is "reasonably necessary and convenient."

But the Bozeman Daily Chronicle reports county leaders say they need little or no room on either side of Seyler Lane for maintenance. Without that additional room, fishermen can't access the river without trespassing on Kennedy's property.


WorldMontana to move headquarters to Helena

HELENA, Mont. (AP) A nonprofit organization that promotes international exchanges and foreign leaders' visits to Montana is moving its headquarters from Bozeman to Helena.

The Independent Record reports WorldMontana announced recently it will relocate from Montana State University to Carroll College.

Carroll President Tom Evans says most foreign delegations visiting Montana travel to Helena to meet with government officials, so it makes sense for WorldMontana to be based in the capital city.

The headquarters will be housed in Carroll's new Artaza Center for Excellence in Global Education.

WorldMontana was founded in 1987. Its website says it participates in the U.S. State Department's International Visitor Leadership Program and hosts about 150 international leaders per year.


Elk rut begins in Yellowstone National Park

YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, Wyo. (AP) Visitors are being asked to be cautious as the elk rut begins in Yellowstone National Park.

Park spokesman Al Nash says bull elk are much more aggressive toward people and vehicles this time of year, and visitors should keep a safe distance from the animals and look around corners before exiting buildings or walking around blind spots.

Several vehicles are damaged by elk every year, and people are occasionally charged and injured.

Nash says park staff and volunteers are patrolling areas like Mammoth Hot Springs when elk are present. Visitors should stay at least 25 yards away from most large animals in the park and at least 100 yards away from bears and wolves.


Yellowstone officials: Worker died by suicide

YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, Wyo. (AP) Officials investigating the death of a Yellowstone National Park employee say the woman died by suicide.

Park officials say the body of the 21-year-old woman from Twin Bridges, Montana, was found Tuesday. She was a park concession employee who had missed shifts at work and failed to meet a family member on Monday afternoon.

Her body was found in the Old Faithful Lodge area.

Yellowstone officials released a statement Friday saying an autopsy determined the cause of death was suicide.


Billings man convicted of fracturing child's skull

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) A jury has convicted a 24-year-old Billings man of aggravated assault for fracturing the skull of his girlfriend's 2-year-old daughter.

Stephen Edward Santillan faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. A sentencing date has not been set.

The Billings Gazette reports it took a jury more than three hours Thursday night to find Santillan guilty.

Santillan was babysitting the girl and his son in July 2013 when the girl was injured. Santillan initially claimed she was injured when his 22-month-old son hit her in the head with a toy car.

He testified Thursday that he does not know how she was injured.

The injury caused bleeding on her brain and the child had other signs of abuse, including bruises, a blister and a bite mark.


Flooding hits Hi-Line, may affect crops

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) Flooding has damaged bridges and blocked and washed out roads along Montana's Hi-Line.

The Billings Gazette reports storms dropped 4 to 8 inches of rain from Glasgow to Malta between Aug. 21 and Aug. 25.

Rivers spilled over their banks, onto roads and into basements.

National Weather Service meteorologist Tanja Fransen says the situation is gradually improving, though some areas are still under water.

She says the Milk River at Nashua was flowing at five times the previous record for this time of year.

Fransen says the biggest impact could be on crops. Up to 90 percent of Montana's wheat crop had not been harvested before the storms and flooding.

Officials say no homes were lost and no injuries reported.

Associated Press Montana News Summary
Saturday, August 30th 2014 
AP-MT--Right Now/1562
Latest Montana news, sports, business and entertainment


Former school admin. gets probation for thefts

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) A former administrator in the Billings school district has been sentenced to six years of probation after pleading guilty to stealing electronics and selling them at pawn shops.

The Billings Gazette reports District Judge Ingrid Gustafson gave Dulce Fate Whitford a six-year deferred sentence for one count of felony theft by common scheme. If she meets the conditions of the sentence, including paying $16,600 in restitution, the felony can be cleared from her record.

Whitford pleaded guilty in May to stealing laptops, tablets and other technology equipment from the district between June 2012 and November 2013. Prosecutors say she used the proceeds to gamble.

Public defender Edward Werner said Whitford was having financial problems partly due to a family illness.

As director of Indian Education for All, Whitford was paid $94,092 annually.


Leader of Bakken drug ring gets 20 years prison

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) A Montana judge has sentenced the leader of an interstate drug ring to 20 years in prison for his role in a trafficking operation that stretched from western Washington to the Bakken oil fields of the Northern Plains.

In a sentencing hearing Friday, U.S. District Judge Susan Watters described Robert Farrell Armstrong as a long-time criminal and a danger to society.

In a deal with prosecutors, the Moses Lake, Washington, man pleaded guilty in January to a single count of possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute.

Watters said Armstrong preyed upon addicts in the Montana-North Dakota oil patch to build up a network of dealers and armed enforcers.

Authorities say the drug ring moved as much as a pound of meth a week before it was busted up last year.


3rd tourist cited for flying drone in Yellowstone

YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, Wyo. (AP) For the third time this summer, Yellowstone National Park rangers have cited a tourist for illegally flying a drone in the park.

Park officials said Friday that Donald Criswell of Molalla, Oregon, flew an unmanned aircraft over Midway Geyser Basin and near bison on Aug. 19.

In early August, rangers charged Theodorus Van Vliet of the Netherlands after his drone allegedly crashed into Grand Prismatic Spring. Andreas Meissner of Germany is accused of flying a drone that crashed into Yellowstone Lake on July 17. He was charged earlier this week.

The Jackson Hole News & Guide reports Grand Teton National Park has had at least one drone citation.

Rangers say a man crashed a drone into a tree in late June, possibly while trying to get aerial photos of wildlife.


Labor report: Jobs outlook good through 2015

HELENA, Mont. (AP) State officials say Montana ranks in the top five states for employment growth, but it faces slower growth in the future as an aging workforce retires.

The Department of Labor and Industry's Labor Day report released Friday shows that since the start of 2014, about 12,000 jobs have been added in the state. Montana Labor and Industry Commissioner Pam Bucy says that number puts the state on pace for record-breaking employment growth this year.

The report also says the unemployment rate has dropped steadily since 2010. Currently at 4.6 percent, it's the 11th lowest in the nation.

Businesses will need to make investments so workers can increase their productivity, the report says, in order to counteract worker shortages and slower job growth after 2015.


MSU-Northern names interim chancellor

HAVRE, Mont. (AP) The dean of the College of Technical Sciences at Montana State University-Northern will serve as interim chancellor after the resignation of Chancellor James Limbaugh.

MSU President Waded Cruzado said Friday that Greg Kegel is a natural choice for a leadership position, and will serve in the post for the "foreseeable future."

Kegel began working at Northern in 1982 as a professor of industrial technology and design drafting. He was named a dean in 2001. He has worked to expand Northern's technical programs, including introducing internships with national and international businesses and helped secure more than $5 million to build Northern's Applied Technology Center.

Kegel says he's humbled and honored to be asked to lead Northern.

Limbaugh resigned effective Friday, saying controversy over several issues on campus and in the community had become a distraction.


Albertsons breach involved 3 states

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) A data breach that was reported at some Albertsons stores in early August impacted all the company's grocery stores in Washington, Idaho and Montana.

KHQ-TV of Spokane reported Friday that fraud investigators determined that all the company's stores in the three states were vulnerable to the breach.

Albertsons has said the breach involved customers who shopped in its stores between June 22 and July 17 this year.

Investigators say the information stolen includes debit and credit card information. They recommend looking through your credit card or bank statements to note any suspicious purchases.

KHQ says there is no evidence that the stolen information has been used.


State to halt hunt this weekend

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) The state Department of Fish and Wildlife will suspend its hunt for three more members of the Huckleberry wolf pack for the Labor Day weekend.

Hunters contracted by the state for the past week have been trying to kill a total of four members of the pack in order to protect a herd of 1,800 sheep the wolves have been preying upon. One wolf was shot and killed by a hunter in a helicopter on Aug. 22.

The state says at least 24 sheep have been killed in eight confirmed wolf attacks on the herd in southern Stevens County since Aug. 14.

Officials for DFW say they have suspended efforts to hunt or trap the wolves in order to avoid conflicts with Labor Day recreationists and grouse hunters.


Billings man charged with raping man in alley

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) A 32-year-old Billings man is charged with luring another man into a downtown alley and raping him.

The Billings Gazette reports Waylon Jace Iron was arrested Wednesday night and made an initial appearance in Justice Court Thursday on a charge of sexual intercourse without consent. Justice of the Peace Pedro Hernandez set his bail at $50,000.

Iron's public defender's request for a lower bond was denied.

Charging documents allege Iron told the man he was a Bureau of Indian Affairs officer and offered to take him to an apartment for beer. The man told police Iron pulled him into a dumpster enclosure and after he refused Iron's advances, Iron raped him. The man said he was able to get away when Iron passed out.

Iron denied knowing the victim or having any physical contact with him.


Residents sue over non-discrimination ordinance

BOZEMAN, Mont. (AP) Five Bozeman residents are suing the city, the mayor and city commissioners arguing the city did not have the legal authority to enact an ordinance that prohibits discrimination based on a person's sexual orientation or gender identity.

The complaint, filed in District Court, asks the court to declare the non-discrimination ordinance invalid. In June, Bozeman became the fourth Montana city to pass a similar ordinance banning discrimination in the workplace, housing and public accommodations.

Deputy Mayor Carson Taylor, who is named in the lawsuit, said he doesn't think the decision was illegal.

Both sides say the court's ruling will have implications for similar laws in Missoula, Helena and Butte.


SW Idaho man pleads guilty to attempted kidnapping

BOISE, Idaho (AP) A 37-year-old southwest Idaho man police say carjacked a vehicle in Nampa and briefly escaped custody while being brought back to Idaho from Montana has entered guilty pleas.

Rodney Lee Seiber pleaded guilty Thursday in Fourth District Court to attempted kidnapping and escape.

He was arrested on Sept. 25 in Montana near Garryowen in southeastern Montana.

He briefly escaped when a private security company's transport vehicle in October stopped to let him use the restroom along Interstate 84 southeast of Boise.

He tried to carjack a vehicle by brandishing a knife at the woman inside, but she drove away.

The guilty pleas stemmed from that escape attempt. He's scheduled to be sentenced in October.

Seiber still faces a charge from the reported carjacking in Nampa.


Student missing on way to Montana died in crash

BOISE, Idaho (AP) A California man who went missing while traveling from his summer job in Idaho to the University of Montana died in a car crash northeast of Boise.

Custer County Coroner Vicki Armbruster says 21-year-old Lucius Robbi of Orleans, California, died on Aug. 19 of blunt force trauma that happened when his car went off Highway 21 and down a 60-foot embankment.

A private helicopter hired to join the widespread search for Robbi spotted the tip of a kayak in the trees near the Stanley Lake turnoff on Thursday.

Robbi left Horseshoe Bend on Aug. 19 to travel to Missoula, Montana, to attend classes at UM. He was reported missing when he didn't arrive for orientation on Aug. 20.

The Idaho State Police is investigating the cause of the crash.

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