Jan. 10 Montana News Briefs

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Montana delegation tries again on Little Shell recognition

GREAT FALLS (AP) — Montana’s congressional delegation has re-introduced legislation that would grant federal recognition to the state’s Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians. The Great Falls Tribune reports Republican Rep. Greg Gianforte introduced a new bill and called on lawmakers Wednesday to pass the Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians Act. Democratic Sen. Jon Tester and Republican Sen. Steve Daines reintroduced the same legislation in the Senate on Tuesday. Last year, the U.S. House passed a bill that would have set aside a small amount of land for the tribe and make its members eligible for government benefits. However, Utah Sen. Mike Lee blocked the legislation in the Senate. The Little Shell Tribe has around 5,400 enrolled members and has been recognized by the state of Montana since 2000.

More charges filed against doctor accused of sexual assault

BUTTE (AP) — Prosecutors have filed additional felony charges against a longtime Butte physician who is accused of sexually assaulting female patients. The Montana Standard reports Dr. Patrick McGree has been charged with three additional counts of sexual intercourse without consent. He has not yet been arraigned on the additional charges. He previously pleaded not guilty to counts of sexual intercourse without consent, sexual assault and sexual servitude. The sexual servitude count reflects the allegation that McGree used prescription medications for coercion. Prosecutors filed the additional charges after interviewing three more women who say he sexually assaulted them in his office. His attorney John Smith did not return the newspaper’s phone message left Wednesday. McGree has practiced in Butte for more than 30 years. His trial is scheduled for mid-April.

Judge denies Montana’s request to toss Green Party lawsuit

HELENA (AP) — A magistrate judge has denied Montana Secretary of State Corey Stapleton’s request to throw out a ballot-access lawsuit by the Montana Green Party and its supporters. U.S. Magistrate Judge John Johnston rejected Stapleton’s motion to dismiss and ordered a December bench trial in the case after a court hearing on Tuesday. The Green Party alleges that Montana’s qualification requirements for minor political parties are unconstitutionally burdensome. The lawsuit was filed after a state judge last year removed the Green Party from the 2018 election ballot. More than double the required 5,000 voters signed a petition to put the party on the ballot, but the party fell short of gathering valid signatures from at least 38 state House Districts. Green Party officials are seeking to strike down Montana’s minor party qualification requirements and place them on the ballot.

Mountain lions seen near rural Montana school bus stop

FLORENCE (AP) — Mountain lions have been sighted near a school bus stop used by a rural Montana school district. The Ravalli Republic reports that Florence-Carlton School District said officials received a report of three mountain lions near the area where the bus turns around west of Florence on Tuesday morning. Florence-Carlton Elementary Principal Chrissy Hulla said the school was made aware of the lion sighting after a parent sent a photograph of one of the lions to a teacher. As soon as Hulla learned about the sighting, she sent a message to parents to make them aware of the situation. Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks officials are asking residents to immediately report any more lion sightings in the area. Florence is located south of Missoula.

Conservative groups, ACLU support driver’s license bill

HELENA (AP) — Groups from both sides of the political spectrum support an effort to repeal a Montana law that requires judges to suspend a person’s driver’s license for nonpayment of fines and court fees. Republican Rep. Casey Knudsen of Malta is sponsoring the legislation. He said Wednesday the current law makes it difficult for people to get to work so they could pay their fines. Driving without a license can be punished with jail time. ACLU of Montana policy director SK Rossi says the law criminalizes poverty and wastes court and law enforcement time. Supporters say courts suspend the driver’s license of about 10,000 Montanans each year for failure to pay fines. Americans for Prosperity state director David Herbst acknowledged his organization may not always agree with the ACLU, but it supports this criminal justice change.

Montana child rape suspect says he can’t be tried

BILLINGS (AP) — The attorney for a 58-year-old Montana man has told the U.S. Supreme Court that its earlier rulings prevent him from being tried in a 1987 child rape case. The Billings Gazette reports that Ronald Dwight Tipton was previously charged with raping an 8-year-old in her home more than 30 years ago, but the charges were ordered dismissed by the Montana Supreme Court. Attorney General Tim Fox has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to intervene by revisiting an earlier ruling that he says prevents the state from bringing sex offenders to justice in cold cases. But in a response filed Wednesday, Tipton’s attorney, Michael Kimberly, said the high court shouldn’t intervene in the case and noted that its earlier ruling has only hindered states in a “sliver-thin range of cases.”