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Associated Press Montana News Summary
Friday, November 28th 2014 
Latest Montana news, sports, business and entertainment

Helena looks to Forest Service land swap for water

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

HELENA, Mont. (AP) City officials in Helena are asking the U.S. Forest Service to consider trading land in mountain drainages which supply drinking water to the city.

The city proposes trading 217 acres of city land in three drainages for close to 400 acres located in one of those drainages located in Helena National Forest.

The Helena Independent Record reports most of the city's water comes from the Tenmile Creek drainage where the city owns and manages numerous control structures.

City officials say they've been discussing a land swap with the Forest Service for 10 years and expect the latest proposal to take at least five years to see through.


Alert faulted in Montana State rape investigation

(Information in the following story is from: Bozeman Daily Chronicle, http://www.bozemandailychronicle.com)

BOZEMAN, Mont. (AP) The Gallatin County attorney says a decision by Montana State University to send a campus-wide alert about two reported rapes might have interfered with the police investigation.

County Attorney Marty Lambert decided not to prosecute either rape alleged at two fraternities over the same weekend in September, 2013.

The allegations prompted Montana State to suspend recognition of both fraternities. The university lifted the suspensions but sanctioned the Sigma Chi and Pi Kappa Alpha chapters.

Lambert told Montana State University police in a letter Oct. 9 lack of physical evidence and doubt that sexual contact occurred were reasons he didn't prosecute one of the cases.

The Bozeman Chronicle reports Lambert also told police the campus-wide alert could have interfered with witness testimony or led to destruction or loss of evidence.


Montana woman gets prison for Medicaid fraud

MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) A respiratory therapist from northwest Montana has been sentenced to a year and a day in prison for defrauding Medicaid of over $1.4 million.

The U.S. Attorney's Office said 67-year-old Anna Sue Tope of Rexford, Montana overbilled Medicaid for medical supplies. She was also accused of filing tax returns that failed to report her correct income, resulting in a tax loss of over $200,000

Tope was vice-president of Eagle Calf Technical Corporation, which provides medical equipment and services on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation.

Authorities alleged that she furnished a patient with one type of relatively inexpensive catheter, then billed Medicaid for more than 108,000 more expensive catheters.

The case was investigated by Montana Medicaid, the Internal Revenue Service, the FBI and the U.S. Attorney's Office.


Livingston Civil Air Patrol seeks hangar space

(Information in the following story is from: Livingston Enterprise, http://www.livingstonenterprise.com)

LIVINGSTON, Mont. (AP) A new squadron of the Civil Air Patrol is looking for a place to park its plane indoors.

The Civil Air Patrol in Livingston is seeking donations to cover the $150 or so a month it will cost to rent a hangar for the single-engine plane.

Greg Brainerd and his 18-year-old daughter Heidi helped start the Livingston squadron last summer. The Civil Air Patrol squadron in Bozeman donated the 1984 Cessna 182 for them to fly.

The plane already has taken part in dozens of searches in southwestern Montana.

The Livingston Enterprise reports the plane currently is kept in Billings but Brainerd wants it closer to Livingston.

The U.S. Air Force covers maintenance and fuel costs for Civil Air Patrol aircraft but not the cost of hangar space.


Tester to ESPN: Air more FCS playoff games

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

HELENA, Mont. (AP) U.S. Sen. Jon Tester is calling on ESPN to expand its coverage of Football Championship Series playoff games, in particular those featuring the University of Montana and Montana State University.

Both teams enter the first round of the Division I playoffs this weekend. The Grizzlies host San Diego and the Bobcats host South Dakota State.

Watching the games in Montana won't be as easy as turning on ROOT Sports. The games only can be watched on ESPN3 or by purchasing access to ESPN's web coverage or GamePlan program.

This week, Tester asked ESPN President John Skipper in a letter to consider working with regional broadcasters or cable providers to put more Football Championship Series games on the air.

Attempts by the Missoulian to get comment from ESPN weren't successful.

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

Associated Press Montana News Summary
Thursday, November 27th 2014 

Man admits helping attempted rape suspect

BOZEMAN, Mont. (AP) A 30-year-old Belgrade man has acknowledged helping a suspect in an attempted rape flee Bozeman.

William Michael Smith pleaded guilty Wednesday to a misdemeanor charge of obstructing a peace officer for giving Kevin Briggs a ride from Bozeman to Missoula on Feb. 1, hours after he escaped from police who had arrested him in a rape case.

Smith has agreed to plead guilty to a drug charge in a plea agreement that reduced the obstruction charge from a felony. Prosecutors say they will recommend a six-month jail term when Smith is sentenced on Jan. 14.

Smith has been jailed since he was charged on April 23.

Briggs was arrested in Portland, Oregon on Feb. 21. He faces trial in February 2015 on several charges including attempted sexual intercourse without consent and two assault charges.


Body of Canadian found in Montana lake; 2 missing

CUT BANK, Mont. (AP) Authorities say the body of a Canadian man has been found in a northern Montana lake days after he and two other foreign visitors failed to return from a weekend fishing trip.

The Glacier County sheriff's office says the body of 63-year-old Kazuhiko Hayashizaki (kah-zoo-HEE'-koh hay-YAH'-shee-zah-kee) was recovered from Mission Lake on Tuesday.

Hayashizaki, another Canadian and a woman from Japan were reported missing Sunday. Officers found their vehicle at the lake on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation.

Officers say the three either went through the ice or were blown into open water Saturday when winds were gusting up to 55 mph. It's unclear if they were on a boat.

A dive team plans to resume searching Wednesday for 75-year-old Fuki Nishibayashi (FOO'-kee nish-uh-BY'-ashee) of Japan and 56-year-old Danny Heland of Canada.


Snowmobiler dies in southern Montana avalanche

LIVINGSTON, Mont. (AP) A snowmobiler has died in an avalanche near Cooke City in southern Montana.

Park County Undersheriff Scott Hamilton says authorities received a report of the slide in the Henderson Peak area at about 1:30 p.m. Wednesday. The snowmobiler, identified only as a 31-year-old man from North Dakota, was buried by about 8 feet of snow. His snowmobiling partner dug him out in about 20 minutes and began CPR, but the man died at the scene.

The snowmobilers were equipped with beacons and rescue equipment.

The Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center issued a backcountry avalanche warning Wednesday morning for the Bridger, Gallatin and Madison Ranges along with the Lionhead area outside West Yellowstone and the mountains around Cooke City.


Transient denies homicide charge

MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) A transient charged with beating, cutting and shooting another transient and throwing his body into the Clark Fork River in Missoula has pleaded not guilty to deliberate homicide.

Kevin Joseph Lino is charged with killing Berry "Jack" Gilbert at a transient camp on July 30 and throwing his body in the river, where it was found on Aug. 5. He entered his plea in District Court on Tuesday.

Charging documents allege another man knocked Gilbert to the ground and, along with Lino, carved gang symbols into his body. Witnesses said the two also stomped on Lino, who was eventually shot in the head.

Lino and his girlfriend left town. He was arrested in Shreveport, Louisiana, in late August and returned to Montana last month. He remains jailed with his bail set at $250,000.


Attorneys seek to clear former Crow tribe chairman

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) Civil rights attorneys say they hope to exonerate the Crow Indian Tribe's former chairman of a bribery conviction by obtaining unreleased emails from a federal judge reprimanded for sending racist correspondence.

Former Montana U.S. District Judge Richard Cebull sentenced Clifford Birdinground ("bird-in-ground") to three years in prison in 2003.

The 79-year-old Crow leader had pleaded guilty to taking kickbacks from a car dealership. When Birdinground sought to retract his plea and go to trial, Cebull rejected the request, a decision upheld on appeal.

Cebull resigned last year after an investigation into a racist email he sent involving President Barack Obama. A judicial committee determined he sent hundreds more inappropriate emails. Those have not been released.

Birdinground recently joined a legal petition to preserve Cebull's emails as potential evidence for future lawsuits.


Group: Facility for disabled botched rape report

HELENA, Mont. (AP) An advocacy group says staff at a Montana facility for the developmentally disabled didn't follow agency protocol or state law and allowed possible evidence to be destroyed after a resident reported being raped.

Disability Rights Montana says a female resident at the Montana Developmental Center in Boulder reported a male resident raped her Nov. 3.

The group says state investigators found staffers failed to adequately supervise the male resident. It also says staff members, including the facility superintendent, didn't immediately call police or take the accuser to the hospital for an exam after the rape was reported.

A janitor cleaned the bathroom where the rape reportedly happened.

State health department director Richard Opper says the agency, which oversees the center, is horrified by the allegations and will investigate why protocols weren't followed.


Man gets life sentence for sexual assault

HAMILTON, Mont. (AP) A Stevensville man who was discharged from the military and later spent 18 months in prison for sex crimes against young girls has been sentenced to life in prison for sexually assaulting a girl over a two-year period and soliciting a 13-year-old girl via text.

The Ravalli Republic reports District Judge Jeffrey Langton sentenced 38-year-old Chadwick Tree to two life terms during a Nov. 18 sentencing hearing. He will not be eligible for parole until he turns 98.

Tree was arrested in January after the mother of a 13-year-old Ravalli County girl saw some sexually charged texts from Tree to her daughter. Prosecutors say the mother posed as the girl in subsequent texts and Tree eventually sent an obscene photo of himself to the girl's phone.


Center issues avalanche warning in 3 ranges

BOZEMAN, Mont. (AP) The Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center has issued a backcountry avalanche warning for its whole advisory area.

The center said early Wednesday that the danger for a slide is high in the Bridger, Gallatin and Madison Ranges, the Lionhead area outside West Yellowstone and the mountains around Cooke City.

It cites heavy snowfall that's created instability and the potential for natural avalanches.

The center advises people not to travel in areas at risk for slides.

The warning lasts until 6:30 a.m. Friday.


Libby man dies in crash near Kila

KALISPELL, Mont. (AP) A 77-year-old man has died in a two-vehicle crash on icy U.S. Highway 2 southwest of Kalispell.

Flathead County officials say Roy Bumgarner of Libby was eastbound at 11 a.m. Wednesday when he lost control on the icy road and crossed into the path of a westbound pickup truck just west of Kila.

The Montana Highway Patrol says Bumgarner died at the scene. Three other people were taken to the hospital, but their conditions were not immediately available.


Montana woman dies in Wyoming crash

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

CASPER, Wyo. (AP) A Montana woman has died in a two-vehicle crash on icy Interstate 25 about 10 miles north of Casper.

The Wyoming Highway Patrol says 21-year-old Leah E. Bryan of Roundup was northbound at about 7:40 p.m. Tuesday when her sport utility vehicle lost traction in the snow and ice. The SUV spun clockwise, crossed the median and entered the southbound lanes, where it was struck by a tractor-trailer.

The patrol says Bryan was wearing her seatbelt, but suffered fatal injuries.

The Casper Star-Tribune reports the driver of the semi and a passenger in the sleeper berth were treated at Wyoming Medical Center in Casper and released.

Associated Press Montana News Summary
Wednesday, November 26th 2014 
Latest Montana news, sports, business and entertainment

Montana authorities take on coal industry sales

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) Montana authorities have told the state Supreme Court that coal sales between companies and their own affiliates are subject to manipulation and need to be treated differently than other sales.

Coal sales to affiliates have come under scrutiny as state and federal regulators investigate whether companies are underpaying taxes.

The state presented its concerns over the common industry practice during a Tuesday hearing in Helena.

The Department of Revenue says Wyoming-based Cloud Peak Energy owes $3.4 million after selling coal to affiliated companies at less-than-market prices.

The state says sales to affiliates need to be valued at the time the fuel changes hands not when a contract between related companies is signed.

Cloud Peak attorney Kyle Gray says the state's argument goes against Montana law and a 2000 Supreme Court ruling in a similar tax dispute.


Conservationists sue over federal coal program

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) Conservation groups have sued the government to force federal officials to undertake the first broad environmental review of the government's coal-leasing program in decades.

Friends of the Earth and the Western Organization of Resource Councils filed the lawsuit Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C.

It's being paid for by the philanthropic foundation of Microsoft founder Paul Allen.

Supporters of the lawsuit said there hasn't been a comprehensive review of the government's coal program since 1979. That's before climate-changing gases produced by burning coal emerged as a significant public concern.

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management has been reviewing its coal-leasing program since a government investigation last year revealed officials accepted below-market bids in some coal sales.

BLM spokesman Jeff Krauss declined to comment on Tuesday's lawsuit.


Board of Canvassers certifies election results

HELENA, Mont. (AP) The state Board of Canvassers has certified Montana's general election results.

Secretary of State Linda McCulloch says the board reviews official results from each county and verifies that they add up to the official statewide results.

McCulloch said Tuesday that two races are eligible for a recount if the apparent loser wants to put up a bond to pay for the estimated costs. Those races are Senate District 49 in Missoula County and House District 51 in Yellowstone County. A recount must be requested and the bond posted by Dec. 1.

The Board of Canvassers includes the auditor, superintendent of public instruction and attorney general. McCulloch serves as secretary of the board.


9th Circuit reinstates insurance fraud conviction

KALISPELL, Mont. (AP) The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has reinstated the conviction of a former Miss Montana who was charged with defrauding her homeowner's insurance while her Somers mansion was undergoing repairs due to wind and fire damage in 2008.

Christin Didier was convicted in April 2013 of mail fraud and conspiracy for collecting nearly $123,000 for temporary housing by saying she was renting a large home for $15,000 a month when she was actually living in a family-owned cabin.

U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy overturned the conviction in July 2013, saying there was no evidence that Chubb Corp. paid Didier any more money than she was due under her policy.

Federal prosecutors appealed. The 9th Circuit ruled Monday that the carrier was required to pay for a reasonable increase in Didier's living expenses and Didier misrepresented that she had increased expenses.


Billings man denies homicide, home invasion

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

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) A 28-year-old Billings man has denied charges that he shot a man to death and six weeks later beat and choked another man, breaking bones in his face.

The Billings Gazette reports Jonathan Michael Martinez pleaded not guilty Tuesday to deliberate homicide in the Oct. 2 death of 36-year-old David Vallie, whose body was found on the lawn in front of an apartment building.

Martinez also pleaded not guilty to aggravated burglary, aggravated assault and weapons charge for a Nov. 17 attack on a man he believed had stolen $300 from him.

Martinez was arrested on the homicide charge the next day at his mother's residence in Hardin.

Prosecutors have said they found a photo of the crime scene on a cellphone that was logged into Martinez's Facebook account.

District Judge Gregory Todd set bond at $500,000.


Brockton family pleads guilty to embezzlement

HELENA, Mont. (AP) A 59-year-old Brockton woman, her husband and two daughters have pleaded guilty to their roles in embezzling more than $132,500 from the town of Brockton on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation.

Desiree Lambert pleaded guilty Monday in U.S. District Court in Great Falls to fraud, embezzlement and aggravated identity theft. Her 66-year-old husband Bernard Lambert and adult daughters Kaycee and Kayla pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting Desiree's embezzlement.

Desiree Lambert was the business manager for the Town of Brockton. Prosecutors say in December 2012 Desiree Lambert began writing municipal checks payable to herself and family members and forged the mayor's signature on the checks. The money was used for gambling and to supplement the family's lifestyle.

U.S. District Judge Brian Morris scheduled sentencing for March 5.


3 missing after fishing trip to Montana lake

KALISPELL, Mont. (AP) Law enforcement officers in northern Montana are searching a lake for three people who were reported missing when they failed to return from a weekend fishing trip.

The Glacier County sheriff's office, Blackfeet Tribal law enforcement and other agencies are searching for two Canadian men and a Japanese woman after family members contacted the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Sunday to report they hadn't returned from a fishing trip to Montana.

Officers found their pickup truck at Mission Lake, south of U.S. Highway 2 between Browning and Cut Bank.

The sheriff's office says evidence at the scene indicates they may have fallen into the lake on Saturday.

The names of the missing are: 75-year-old Fuki Nishibayashi (FOO'-kee nish-uh-BY'-ashee) of Japan; 56-year-old Danny Heland of Canada and 63-year-old Kazuhiko Hayashizaki (kah-zoo-HEE'-koh hay-YAH'-shee-zah-kee), also of Canada.


Editor arrested at crash wants charges dropped

MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) A northwestern Montana newspaper editor who was arrested at the scene of a highway crash is asking a court to dismiss charges that he interfered with a crash investigation and resisted arrest, arguing he was a reporter covering the news.

Lake County prosecutors responded that they had probable cause to arrest Vincent Lovato Jr. on Oct. 1 after he ignored an order to move outside the area being investigated. Prosecutors say they have video and audio evidence of Lovato's refusal, resisting arrest and unleashed a string of profanity after he was taken into custody.

Lovato, editor of the Lake County Leader, has pleaded not guilty to obstructing a peace officer, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.

The Missoulian reports Justice of the Peace Joey Jayne has scheduled a Dec. 1 pretrial hearing.


Convicted murderer dies at Montana State Prison

DEER LODGE, Mont. (AP) A man convicted of shooting his brother to death in Missoula in 1980 has died at the Montana State Prison.

Prison spokeswoman Linda Moodry says 57-year-old Rory Johns was found unresponsive in his cell at 7:30 p.m. Monday. Prison medical staff responded and Johns was taken to the hospital in Deer Lodge, where he was later pronounced dead.

An autopsy is planned, but no foul play was suspected.

Johns was convicted of deliberate homicide in the December 1981 death of his brother, Larry Johns, at a residence in Missoula. Court records say Rory Johns had consumed about two six-packs of beer and taken several drugs including narcotic pain medication, muscle relaxants and anti-anxiety medication in the hours before shooting his brother with a semi-automatic rifle.


Yellowstone extends comment period on fee proposal

YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, Wyo. (AP) The National Park Service is giving the public more time to comment on proposed changes to Yellowstone National Park entrance and permit fees.

The new deadline for public comment is midnight Dec. 20. It was originally set for Dec. 5.

In addition, the agency is allowing individuals to submit comments online.

Yellowstone is proposing several changes to park entrance fees, which have remained the same since 2006.

The park is proposing to offer a 3-day Yellowstone pass for $30. A 7-day pass good for both Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks would increase from $25 to $50. An annual pass to Yellowstone would be $60.

Additionally, the park is proposing to institute a new fee for overnight backcountry permits.

Comments will not be accepted by fax or email.

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