Anti-abortion group files federal lawsuit to stop state case
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — An anti-abortion group is asking a federal judge to prevent Montana’s commissioner of political practices from seeking penalties against it for mailings it sent during the 2012 Republican primary elections.
The National Pro-Life Alliance says in its lawsuit filed Tuesday the mailings it sent in the race between state Sen. Bruce Tutvedt and challenger Rollan Roberts II was protected issue advocacy.
Commissioner Jonathan Motl concluded the mailings were illegal and unreported campaign advocacy.
Motl’s findings against the National Pro-Life Alliance is one of about two dozen unsettled cases that have been consolidated in a series of placeholder lawsuits to prevent their expiration because of a four-year statute of limitations.
The anti-abortion group asks a federal judge to prohibit Montana from regulating political expression that does not expressly advocate for or against a candidate.
Montana lawyers argue to stay ruling on contribution limits
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A federal judge is considering a request by state attorneys to stay part of his ruling last week that invalidated campaign contribution limits approved by voters in 1994.
U.S. District Judge Charles Lovell peppered Montana Department of Justice lawyers with questions during a hearing Tuesday, but he did not make an immediate ruling.
Last week, Lovell ruled for the second time in four years that Montana’s campaign contribution limits are unconstitutional.
As a result, state officials reinstated contribution rules in place prior to the initiative. That means higher contribution limits for individuals and political action committees, but also that political parties can contribute unlimited amounts of money to campaigns.
State attorneys argue that lifting limits on parties could allow individuals and PACs to circumvent limits placed on them.
Billings employee pleads guilty to stealing $25,000 from job
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A former employee of a Billings-based beverage distributing company has admitted to stealing more than $25,000 from the company and lying about her income on tax returns.
The Billings Gazette reports that Kimberlee Dunn pleaded guilty in federal court Tuesday to wire fraud and tax evasion.
Prosecutors say Dunn stole as much as $179,000 from Briggs Distributing while she worked there as an office manager from 2010 to 2014.
Authorities were alerted to the fraudulent activity after a fellow employee told Dunn’s superiors she saw her applying a check to the wrong customer account.
Dunn said in court Monday she is ashamed by her actions.
She faces up to 20 years in prison when she’s sentenced in September.
Mother charged in connection with child’s death
KALISPELL, Mont. (AP) — The mother of a 2-year-old boy who was beaten and died in February 2015 is now charged in connection with his death.
The Daily Inter Lake reports 22-year-old Takara Juntunen was charged Monday with felony negligent homicide in the death of Forrest Groshelle. She also is charged with criminal possession of dangerous drugs. She did not enter a plea.
Prosecutors allege Juntunen negligently caused her son’s death by placing him in the care of 22-year-old Brandon Newberry, who she knew or should have known was using methamphetamine and was injuring the child. Prosecutors allege she didn’t seek medical care for her son, who had been throwing up in the days before his death. An autopsy found the boy was poisoned after suffering a lacerated small intestine.
Newberry is serving a 40-year sentence for mitigated deliberate homicide.
Instrument stolen from Missoula Symphony violinist is found
MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — A musician with the Missoula Symphony Orchestra says a violin that was stolen from her car has been returned.
University of Montana senior Sarah Harmsworth says the instrument and two bows altogether valued at about $8,000 had been sold to a pawn shop for $50.
Harmsworth, a principal second violinist for the Missoula Symphony Orchestra, tells The Missoulian she accidentally left her violin case in her car Friday night. By Saturday morning, the case was missing — along with Harmsworth’s handmade violin from Chinese maker Ming Jiang Zhu and two bows, one of which was a 1921 model made by noted craftsman Otto Hoyer.
Stephen Sethney, manager of Cash 1 Pawn, says some of his employees recognized the violin and case from a description Harmsworth posted online and that was shared on social media.
Hecla Mining to acquire Mines Management
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Hecla Mining Co. has reached a nearly $30 million deal to acquire Mines Management Inc., the owner of the Montanore Mine in northwestern Montana.
In the proposed merger, announced Tuesday, each outstanding common share of Spokane-based Mines Management will be exchanged for 0.2218 of a common share of Hecla, which is based in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.
Hecla officials say they will continue efforts to get the Montanore silver and copper mine near Libby into production.
The Forest Service has given its conditional approval, but other state and federal permits are needed. Last month, environmental groups filed a lawsuit arguing the Forest Service ignored studies that found the mine could drain groundwater supplies in the area.
Mines Management estimates the Montanore deposit contains 230 million ounces of silver and 2 billion pounds of copper.