June 12 Montana News Briefs

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Fight over proposed water plant continues on several fronts

KALISPELL (AP) — A three-year fight over a proposed water bottling plant near Kalispell continues on several fronts. Most recently, a state judge ruled a June 2018 ballot initiative that sought to block the plant by expanding an agricultural zoning district to include the plant site was legal. Separately, owners of Montana Artesian Water Co. are appealing to the Montana Supreme Court a district court judge’s decision to void a state permit that would have allowed the plant to use as much water per year as could fill 350 Olympic-sized swimming pools. Montana Artesian spokesman Darryl James says the company is operating under an exemption that allows the annual use of enough water to fill five competition pools. Opponents question the conclusion by the Department of Natural Resources and Conservation determination that the plant would have no adverse effect on nearby water rights.

3 men charged in Montana shooting over drug deal

BILLINGS (AP) — Three men face charges of assault with a weapon for their alleged roles in a shooting during a confrontation over a drug deal at a residence in Shepherd, a community northeast of Billings. All three suspects remain jailed with bail amounts ranging from $75,000 to $132,000. Gregory Allen Johnson, James Armstrong Higgins and Kelly Ray Dolman have not yet entered pleas. Court records say Johnson told investigators that he and two others had gone to the residence to confront a 22-year-old man about an earlier drug deal. The Billings Gazette reports the 22-year-old, a 15-year-old boy and Higgins were injured in the shootout early on June 3.

Montana’s Missing Indigenous Persons Task Force meets

HELENA (AP) — A new task force is beginning its work to identify jurisdictional barriers that limit cooperation among local, state, federal and tribal agencies in reporting and searching for missing Native Americans. The Missing Indigenous Persons Task Force also will award a grant to a tribal college to create a database of missing Native Americans. Hollie Mackey is a Northern Cheyenne who is an associate professor at the University of Oklahoma. She led the discussion during Tuesday’s meeting in Helena, saying such a coordinated effort is a new undertaking. The task force will study the disproportionate rate at which Native American women and children go missing and ways various law enforcement agencies can work together to find them. The task force will report back to lawmakers in September 2020 with policy suggestions.

Missoula man pleads guilty to shooting 2 during robbery

MISSOULA (AP) — A man has pleaded guilty to two counts of attempted deliberate homicide for shooting two people during a March 2018 convenience store robbery in Missoula. The Missoulian reports 19-year-old Chase James Munson also pleaded guilty Tuesday to robbery, criminal mischief and felony theft for stealing a vehicle. Munson’s sentencing is set for July 22. Munson told District Judge Karen Townsend he entered the store while under the influence of drugs intending to rob it and panicked. A customer was shot in the head and a clerk was shot in the shoulder. Both victims survived the shooting. Munson’s co-defendant, Ivory Brien, was given a 10-year deferred sentence for conspiracy to commit robbery and misdemeanor assault for using pepper spray on both victims.

Pence visits Montana, Wyoming to talk about drugs, tour park

BILLINGS (AP) — Vice President Mike Pence is scheduled to visit Montana and Wyoming beginning Wednesday to talk about efforts to combat illegal drugs and tour Yellowstone National Park. The vice president’s two-day trip also includes a private fundraiser at a business in Billings for Montana Republican U.S. Sen. Steve Daines, who is up for re-election next year. Pence is to meet with law enforcement officials and drug treatment providers Wednesday at RiverStone Health Clinic in Billings before delivering remarks about the administration’s efforts against drugs. On Thursday, he plans to visit Yellowstone National Park with Interior Secretary David Bernhardt. The visit is aimed at building support for the administration’s proposal to rebuild national park system infrastructure using money generated through government oil and gas lease sales.

Former tribal police officer admits theft from youth program

BILLNGS (AP) — A former Montana tribal police officer has confessed to stealing $40,000 from a youth diversion program. The Billings Gazette reported Tuesday that 44-year-old Willard Wilson White III pleaded guilty Monday to wire fraud and income tax evasion. A plea deal reached with prosecutors requires White to pay the full amount in restitution to the Fort Peck Tribes in northeast Montana. Authorities say White approached the Fort Peck Law and Justice Committee in July 2015 with a proposal for a program to help Assiniboine and Sioux tribal youth avoid incarceration. Authorities say that within a month White spent all of the program’s funds on himself without providing any services.