ARCO counter-sues Montana residents in ongoing legal battle
BUTTE, Mont. (AP) — An oil company has counter-sued residents of Opportunity and Crackerville who are seeking further cleanup of a mine smelter site than is required by federal regulators.
The Montana Standard reports that the Atlantic Richfield Co. filed a federal lawsuit naming 97 residents, claiming their long legal fight for cleanup of smelter waste contamination will interfere with cleanup plans approved by the Environmental Protection Agency.
The residents filed a lawsuit against ARCO in 2008 claiming negligence, public nuisance, trespass, liability for an abnormally dangerous activity, constructive fraud, unjust enrichment, and wrongful occupation of real property. They sought damages for the cost of restoring their properties to their original uncontaminated state.
The Montana Supreme Court reinstated the claims in September and returned the case to court after ARCO sought summary judgment in 2013. ARCO argues federal law prohibits private claims that interfere with cleanup being done under EPA supervision.
Montana man charged in deaths over theft of silver bars
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A registered violent offender is charged with two counts of deliberate homicide for killing a man and his mother during a confrontation over the theft of 1,700 ounces of silver.
Powell County Attorney Lewis Smith filed charges against 53-year-old David Wayne Nelson in District Court on Tuesday.
Nelson is charged with killing Gregory Giannonatti and Beverly Giannonatti on Oct. 24 or 25 in the bathroom of Beverly Giannonatti’s deceased ex-husband’s house.
Prosecutors say Nelson told investigators Greg Giannonatti confronted him and he hit him in the face and then with a hammer. Nelson said he pushed Beverly Giannonatti down before strangling her with electrical wire.
Nelson is also charged with stealing the silver and obstructing justice by hiding the bodies and other evidence.
Sheriff Scott Howard said Nelson did not appear in court Tuesday.
Superior woman dies in rollover crash on Interstate 90
MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — Authorities say one woman has died after her vehicle rolled on Interstate 90 west of Tarkio in Mineral County.
The Missoulian reports that 67-year-old Ardella Hower, of Superior, had been heading east in the passing lane Tuesday when she crossed the median and her vehicle rolled over. Sheriff Tom Bauer says slush and ice on the highway may have caused her to lose control of her vehicle.
Hower, the only occupant in the vehicle, was taken to a hospital and later pronounced dead.
Billings driver who died in Laurel crash identified
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Officials have identified the Billings man who died in a two-vehicle crash south of Laurel that left three others in critical condition.
The Billings Gazette reports that 71-year-old Kent Homer Morgan had been driving a Dodge Caravan carrying six passengers on Highway 212 when a Toyota 4Runner crossed the center line and struck him head-on Monday morning. Morgan was pronounced dead at the scene.
Two women and an infant remain in critical condition. Two men and a 3-year-old have been treated at a hospital and released.
The Toyota driver, a 32-year-old Bridger man, sustained serious injuries.
Montana Highway Patrol Sgt. Craig Baum says the Toyota driver appears to have gotten into a road rage incident with another vehicle before colliding with the Caravan.
The crash remains under investigation.
Religion central to Gianforte’s life, but not his campaign
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Religion plays a central role in the life of Greg Gianforte, who is exploring a campaign for the Republican nomination for Montana governor.
But it’s a topic that the Bozeman entrepreneur and philanthropist declines to speak about at this stage.
Gianforte said Monday that the No. 1 issue for voters is jobs and wages and that’s what he is focused on.
Many voters view faith as a strong indicator of character. And while Gianforte has not broached religion as a campaign issue, he has used his entrepreneurial success to fund projects that share his beliefs.
Those projects include expansions of his nondenominational church and a Christian school, groups that lobby lawmakers and scholarships for K-12 students. Analysts say the contributions indicate what he stands for outside the tech world.
Man appeals homicide conviction in death of exchange student
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A Missoula man serving a 70-year prison sentence for shooting and killing a German exchange student in his garage is appealing his conviction, arguing jurors were not properly instructed about justifiable use of force and that pre-trial news coverage biased the jury.
Paul Ryan filed the appeal with the Montana Supreme Court on behalf of 31-year-old Markus Kaarma on Monday. Kaarma was convicted last December in the April 2014 death of 17-year-old Diren Dede. Kaarma was sentenced in February after District Judge Ed McLean denied a motion for a new trial.
Ryan argued McLean also was wrong in failing to remove a juror who said she was more inclined to believe law enforcement testimony, in allowing Kaarma’s girlfriend to testify that he had previously assaulted her and in allowing blood splatter testimony that the defense had not been told about.
Lawsuit challenges religious schools’ exclusion from program
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — An association of Christian schools and a Missoula family are challenging a Montana rule that excludes religious schools from a program created to provide scholarships for private-school students.
The Pacific Legal Foundation said Tuesday that it filed a federal lawsuit challenging a Revenue Department rule for implementing a tax credit of up to $150 for donations made to private schools or to innovating programs at public schools.
The rule, adopted on Dec. 15, bars religious schools from benefiting. It cites the Montana Constitution’s prohibition on appropriations to religious institutions.
The federal lawsuit filed Monday by the Association of Christian Schools International and by Kathy and Jerry Armstrong of Missoula, argues the regulation violates the U.S. Constitution’s guarantees of religious freedom and equal protection.
A state lawsuit challenging the rule was filed on Dec. 16.
Havre man denies child endangerment charge
HAVRE, Mont. (AP) — A 22-year-old Havre man has pleaded not guilty to charges that he injured his cousin’s 1-year-old daughter by backing his car over her this summer while under the influence of marijuana and then left the scene.
Riley Harwood pleaded not guilty Monday to criminal child endangerment, failure to give notice of an accident by quickest means and failure to give information and render aid. Prosecutors filed the child endangerment charge after a blood test indicated Harwood was under the influence of marijuana.
Prosecutors say the girl suffered cuts on her head and burns on her face and hip in the Aug. 18 accident. She was treated at a Seattle hospital.
Charging documents say police have video footage of the accident.
Pat Flaherty, Harwood’s attorney, said a trial is scheduled for early April.
Black Eagle ticket wins Montana Millionaire jackpot
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A Montana Millionaire ticket sold in Black Eagle won this year’s $1 million jackpot.
Montana Lottery officials say the ticket, No. 125495, was sold at the Pit Stop Tavern.
Two tickets won $100,000 prizes. Ticket No. 077928 was sold at Peres Food Basket in Great Falls while No. 083451 was sold at Berg Tire in Glendive.
Three $10,000 winners were drawn Wednesday, as well. No. 071515 was sold at Conoco on Your Way in Great Falls. The other winners were No. 074870 sold at a Town Pump in East Helena and No. 043964 sold at Safeway in Helena.
The two earlier $10,000 winners were No. 094857 sold at B&H Casino in Belgrade and No. 033685 sold at a Town Pump in Hamilton.
Another good breeding year for sage grouse in Wyoming
CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — A ground-dwelling bird that has been considered for protection as an endangered species had another good breeding year in the state with more of the birds than any other.
Sage grouse are brown, chicken-sized birds that live in the sagebrush. Abundant rain and snow in Wyoming last spring and summer helped to ensure abundant insects for sage grouse chicks to eat.
The Wyoming Game and Fish Department estimates each sage grouse hen produced an average of 1.7 chicks in Wyoming 2015. That’s about the same as last year and up from the 10-year average.
Biologists estimate sage grouse numbers by studying the wings of birds killed by hunters.
Federal officials announced in September that the greater sage grouse does not need protection as a threatened or endangered species.