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Associated Press Montana News Summary
Friday, October 31st 2014 
Latest Montana news, sports, business and entertainment
CAMPAIGN FINANCE-MONTANA

Court won't block campaign laws before election

HELENA, Mont. (AP) A appellate court has rejected a request to block Montana campaign laws before Tuesday's election.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Thursday rejected Montanans for Community Development's emergency motion for an injunction that would have allowed certain tax-exempt groups to release campaign-related ads without disclosing their donors or spending.

The Billings-based group says the definitions in state law defining campaign contributions, expenditures and political committees are too vague and violate its free-speech rights.

They asked the appellate court for the injunction after being rejected twice by U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen. Attorneys for the group say it wanted to release ads before the election that mention candidates, without being labeled a political organization.

The court denied the injunction, but the lawsuit challenging the state laws is still pending.

ABSENTEE VOTING

Nearly 64 percent of absentee ballots returned

HELENA, Mont. (AP) Montana election officials have received completed absentee ballots from nearly 64 percent of the voters who received them.

Secretary of State spokeswoman Blair Fjeseth (FEE'-ess-et) says 155,533 out of the 243,495 requested absentee ballots had been turned in as of Thursday morning, five days before Tuesday's midterm elections.

The requested ballots represent more than a third of the state's 671,224 registered voters.

Strong absentee returns could boost the overall turnout.

Secretary of State Linda McCulloch tells Lee Newspapers of Montana that midterm elections usually mean lower turnouts than presidential elections. She says turnout this year will likely be comparable to 2010, when 56 percent of registered voters cast ballots.

Absentee ballot returns are highest so far in Golden Valley County and lowest in Petroleum County.

VETERANS' MEDICAL RECORDS

Veteran says VA mishandled medical records

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

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) A Glendive veteran has filed a complaint with the Veterans Health Administration after his request for authorization of medical services was answered with the paperwork belonging to another veteran.

Kip Braden tells The Billings Gazette that the paperwork included the Bozeman veteran's name, address, date of birth, Social Security number and his medical condition.

Braden says he doesn't know who might have received his paperwork, which contained the same information, and is concerned it could lead to identity theft.

Johnny Ginnity, interim director of the VA Montana Health Care System, said the error was under investigation. VA Montana Health Care spokesman Randy Martin says the woman responsible for the error has been moved out of that department and staff have been added to help prevent similar mistakes.

TRIBAL CORRUPTION

New indictments unsealed against ex-tribal leader

HELENA, Mont. (AP) A federal court has unsealed new theft and tax evasion charges against a former chairman of Montana's Chippewa Cree tribe.

Bruce Sunchild already planned to plead guilty to theft and bribery charges in an indictment filed this spring.

His change-of-plea hearing has been pushed back to Nov. 10. He will be arraigned on the new charges that same day.

The first of the new indictments was filed in August and unsealed on Oct. 20. It charges Sunchild with three counts of theft and alleges he told the Rocky Boy's Health Clinic director to cut him and another person checks of $12,500 each from the clinic board's funds.

The second indictment was filed Oct. 20 and unsealed on Wednesday. It alleges Sunchild filed false tax returns from 2009 through 2012.

WHITEFISH STABBING-SENTENCE

Woman gets deferred sentence in husband's death

(Information in the following story is from: KCFW-TV, http://www.kcfw.com)

KALISPELL, Mont. (AP) A Whitefish woman who pleaded guilty to negligent homicide in the stabbing death of her husband has been given a 10-year suspended prison sentence.

KECI-TV reports AnnMari Newton was sentenced Wednesday in District Court in Kalispell for the Nov. 25 stabbing of 37-year-old Chad Newton. He died at a Kalispell hospital on Dec. 29 after his family took him off life support.

Newton pleaded guilty in August.

Witnesses told investigators that the couple had previous violent arguments.

Defense attorney Sean Hinchey said AnnMari Newton stabbed her husband in self-defense.

SOMERS DOUBLE FATAL

2 men die in 3-vehicle crash near Somers

HELENA, Mont. (AP) Two Flathead County men died in a three-vehicle crash near Somers.

Montana Highway Patrol Trooper Rick Mehring says a 61-year-old Kalispell man was driving northbound on U.S. Highway 93 just before 9 a.m. Thursday when he struck a guardrail and then swerved into the southbound lane and into the path of a Jeep driven by a 73-year-old Somers man.

The Jeep went off the road while the pickup came to rest in the southbound lane. Both men died at the scene of the crash. Their names have not been released.

Mehring says a southbound vehicle traveling behind the Jeep was unable to avoid colliding with the pickup. The driver of the third vehicle wasn't injured.

A witness said the driver of the pickup was driving erratically before the crash.

PEPPER SPRAY ATTACK

Missoula man sentenced for pepper spraying woman

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

MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) A 67-year-old Missoula man who pleaded no contest to misdemeanor assault for using pepper spray on a dog and its owner at a recreation area near Missoula has been given a deferred sentence and a lecture from the judge.

The Missoulian reports Ronald Pagel was sentenced Wednesday by Justice of the Peace Karen Orzech. She ordered him to pay $935 in restitution and chastised him for traumatizing Shenandoah Roath and leaving her in the woods, blinded by the spray.

Pagel told investigators he was at Pattee Canyon Recreation Area last October when a golden retriever ran toward him. He said he has a fear of dogs, so he sprayed it with pepper spray.

During an argument over the spraying Roath said Pagel sprayed her. Pagel said the dog came at him again and he accidentally sprayed Roath when she pushed him.

GRAND CANYON-WOLF

Wolf-like animal seen roaming in northern Arizona

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) Wildlife officials are trying to determine whether an animal spotted roaming the far reaches of northern Arizona is a gray wolf.

Grand Canyon Superintendent Dave Uberuaga (oo-buh-RAH'-guh) says the park has received a couple of reports about an animal resembling a wolf.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said Thursday that the animal's feces will be collected and tested.

The two populations of wolves nearest to the Grand Canyon are in the Northern Rockies, and in portions of eastern Arizona and western New Mexico.

Wolves largely were exterminated early last century across the lower 48 states, except in the western Great Lakes. They've been absent from the Grand Canyon since the 1940s.

Wolves in the Northern Rockies have fuller bodies and less pointed ears than Mexican gray wolves in the Southwest.


Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Associated Press Montana News Summary
Thursday, October 30th 2014 
Latest Montana news, sports, business and entertainment
HUNTER CONFIDENTIALITY

Wildlife agency drops hunter confidentiality plan

HELENA, Mont. (AP) Montana wildlife officials are dropping a proposal to keep confidential the names of hunters and trappers who kill wildlife in Montana.

Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks had planned to introduce a bill in the 2015 legislative session that would make it illegal to disclose identifying information about hunters or trappers that take any kind of game animal, furbearer or other species under the department's management.

That information is now available under the state's right-to-know laws. Some hunters and trappers had claimed they were being harassed by people who had obtained the information.

FWP spokesman Ron Aasheim confirmed Wednesday the agency won't introduce the bill. Aasheim says the agency floated the idea but decided to pull back because it wasn't a high priority.

EXCHANGE STUDENT SHOT-BURGLARY

Man pleads guilty to role in garage burglary

MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) A Missoula man has pleaded guilty to his role in a garage burglary that preceded the fatal shooting of a German exchange student who broke into the same garage 10 days later apparently looking for alcohol.

Tristan Staber pleaded guilty Wednesday in District Court to conspiracy to commit burglary and conspiracy to commit criminal trespass for the April 17. Prosecutors said Staber acted as a lookout while a juvenile entered unlocked cars and garages. The juvenile allegedly took marijuana, a bong, wallets and an iPhone from Markus Kaarma's garage and vehicles.

Court records say Kaarma and his wife set up a surveillance camera in the garage to catch any future break-ins.

On April 27, Kaarma shot 17-year-old Diren Dede in his garage.

Kaarma has pleaded not guilty to deliberate homicide in Dede's death. His trial is scheduled for December.

SUBDIVISION WATER FIGHT

Mediation planned over water service dispute

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

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) The attorney for the town of Lodge Grass says a disagreement between the town and the Crow Tribe over water service to a subdivision is headed to mediation.

Ron Arneson tells The Billings Gazette that the state has agreed to hire a mediator. Arneson says a tribal court judge has issued a stay on a trial over the dispute that was scheduled to start on Thursday.

The town of Lodge Grass had been negotiating with the Crow Tribe for nearly a year over about $70,000 in unpaid water bills due from residents of a 96-home subdivision sitting on tribal land leased by the Crow Housing Authority.

The town shut off water service to the entire subdivision in September.

Mediation will seek to settle the past-due bill and prevent future conflicts.

BILLINGS ARSON-CHARGE

Woman charged with Billings apartment fire

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) A 25-year-old woman who police say sat on a park bench clutching a lighter and laughing as firefighters battled a blaze at the apartment building where she lived has made an initial court appearance on arson and criminal endangerment charges.

Jesse Elizabeth Root was charged Tuesday with setting the June 2 fire that caused $1 million in damages. No one was injured.

Justice of the Peace David Carter set Root's bail at $25,000. She is scheduled to enter a plea in District Court on Nov. 6.

Root was arrested the day of the fire and was taken to the hospital for a psychiatric evaluation. Court records say medical personnel overheard Root telling family members that she started the fire.

She was arrested in Portland, Oregon, earlier this month. It was not clear why she had been released from custody.

INMATE DEATH

Missoula County must pay $565K for inmate's death

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

MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) Missoula County must pay $565,500 in damages to the family of a woman who died of a seizure in the county jail in 2009.

The Missoulian reported Wednesday a district court jury ruled county officials were mostly responsible for the death of 31-year-old Heather Holly Wasson, who died of an alcohol withdrawal seizure about 36 hours after she was jailed.

Wasson was on probation for drug possession and forgery convictions when her probation officer told authorities he believed she had been drinking in violation of her release conditions. She was put in solitary confinement.

Cliff Edwards, an attorney for Wasson's estate, says Wasson had been drinking, was uncooperative and threatened to kill herself. She also answered questions about her substance use and potential for withdrawal problems.

Missoula County's risk manager says the county won't appeal.

THOMPSON FALLS FATAL

Man killed in crash near Thompson Falls ID'd

(Information in the following story is from: The Montana Standard, http://www.mtstandard.com)

BUTTE, Mont. (AP) Authorities have released the name of a 51-year-old man who was killed in a single-vehicle rollover crash near Thompson Falls.

The Montana Standard reports the Sanders County coroner identified the victim Wednesday as 51-year-old Ronald Cook, of Heron. Cook was most recently living in Heron but had a Butte address listed on his license.

He was westbound on Montana Highway 200 shortly before 2 a.m. Tuesday when his vehicle went off the road, rolled and hit a tree.

The Montana Highway Patrol says it was foggy and there were some wet spots on the road at the time of the crash. Speed also was a factor.

CHILD PORNOGRAPHY SENTENCES

11 men sentenced for online child porn group

HELENA, Mont. (AP) A Montana man who created an online bulletin board that allowed members to exchange child pornography is one of 11 men from eight states who were recently sentenced to between 15 and nearly 19 years in federal prison.

The men, including 48-year-old Paul Wencewicz of Polson, pleaded guilty in April to conspiracy to advertise child pornography.

Prosecutors say Wencewicz started the board in November 2009 after another group that he was a member of was shut down. Other members contributed to the design and operation of the board, which was a place for members to advertise, distribute, receive and access child pornography and comment on its content.

Prosecutors say the invitation-only board also gave the members a place where their sexually exploitive conduct was accepted.

The board was shut down in March 2012.

GRIZZLY WOUNDED

Grizzly bear wounded by hunter found dead

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

GREAT FALLS, Mont. (AP) State wildlife officials say a grizzly bear wounded by an elk hunter in the Badger-Two Medicine area southeast of Glacier National Park was found dead about 150 yards from where it was shot and about the same distance from a moose carcass.

Monday's shooting about two miles east of Marias Pass prompted the Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks to warn hunters in the area to keep their bear spray handy.

FWP grizzly bear management specialist Mike Madel told the Great Falls Tribune he believes the 15-year-old sow charged the hunter because she and her cubs were feeding on the moose carcass.

The dead bear was found on Tuesday. Madel says the sow's cubs were in good condition and officials decided to allow them to try to survive on their own rather than capturing them.

OTTER CREEK MINE

Arch revises Montana coal mine application

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) State regulators say Arch Coal Inc. has submitted a revised application for a major coal mine near the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation.

The St. Louis-based company applied to build the Otter Creek mine southeast of Ashland in 2012. Montana's Department of Environmental Quality found deficiencies in the company's application last year.

Arch responded to those concerns with additional documentation on Tuesday.

DEQ project manager Kristi Ponozzo says the agency has 120 days to review the material. After that, it will deem the application acceptable or ask for yet more documentation.

Once a final decision is made, it could take Arch years more to develop a mine. The company also needs a new rail line to ship the fuel out of Montana.


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