APNewsBreak: Brad Johnson announces candidacy for governor
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Montana Public Service Commission Chairman Brad Johnson says he’ll run for governor in the 2016 election.
The East Helena Republican tells The Associated Press he’ll seek to unseat incumbent Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock.
Johnson leads the state utilities commission. He served as Montana’s secretary of state from 2005 to 2009, and he has a master’s degree in agriculture with experience in business management.
Johnson wants to focus the state’s attention on agriculture research and cultivation. He says Montana cannot accept the decline of timber, mineral and coal development, and rely on technology and tourism to support the state’s economy.
Johnson began an exploratory gubernatorial campaign June 23, and he likely will face a wealthy primary opponent. Bozeman entrepreneur Greg Gianforte filed paperwork Aug. 17 to begin an exploratory campaign.
New child protection staff to be aides to caseworkers
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Montana won’t be increasing the number of caseworkers under the governor’s plan to improve the effectiveness and oversight of the state Division of Child and Family Services, but it will hire 33 assistants to help existing caseworkers.
Gov. Steve Bullock’s announcement Monday said the agency would hire “33 additional front line staff,” but was not more specific.
State officials didn’t clarify the issue until Wednesday when a reporter asked about the listings for 26 “social service technicians” found on the state jobs website.
DCFS administrator Sarah Corbally says the agency decided not to add more caseworker positions due to the number of vacancies. She says the agency hopes providing more support for caseworkers will improve the recruitment and retention of those positions.
The agency has 12 child protection specialist positions open.
Casper judge orders evaluation for Eaton in death case
CASPER, Wyo. (AP) — A state judge has ordered convicted murderer Dale Wayne Eaton to undergo a mental evaluation to determine if he’s competent to face a new hearing on whether he should face the death penalty.
District Judge Daniel Forgey of Casper on Wednesday ordered Eaton to be evaluated at state prison in Rawlins.
A federal judge last year overturned Eaton’s original death sentence in the 1988 murder of Lisa Kimmell of Billings, Montana, ruling he didn’t receive an adequate defense.
Eaton’s lawyers are appealing the federal judge’s ruling that the state could pursue the death penalty against him again.
Forgey on Wednesday denied a request from Eaton’s lawyers to delay his mental evaluation in the state case while the federal appeal is pending.
Commissioner dismisses complaint against Republican PAC
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Montana’s commissioner of political practices has dismissed a claim that a Republican political action committee illegally coordinated with Attorney General Tim Fox during his 2012 campaign.
Commissioner Jonathan Motl decided Wednesday that insufficient evidence exists to show Fox and the Republican State Leadership Committee were strategizing during the election season.
The committee spent more than $500,000 on television advertisements in Montana during the 2012 attorney general’s race.
Former Montana Democratic Party Executive Director Ted Dick filed a complaint with the commissioner’s office a week before the 2012 election that argued the committee should have reported those ads as campaign expenditures.
Motl rejects the assumption that a relationship between Fox and the Republican PAC implies the two were coordinating during the campaign.
State livestock department leaders resign
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Two leaders in the Montana Department of Livestock have resigned.
Montana Department of Livestock executive officer Christian Mackay (mah-KAY’) resigned Monday after the Board of Livestock met in a closed session to evaluate him.
Brands Enforcement Division Administrator John Grainger also resigned. Board chairman John Lehfeldt (LE’-felt) said Wednesday that Grainger felt compelled to follow Mackay.
Lehfeldt says Mackay’s resignation came after a long-term discussion on changing the direction of the department. He says Mackay decided he would be more comfortable elsewhere.
Mackay confirmed Wednesday the decision to resign was his, but he declined to answer additional questions. He had been the department’s executive officer for more than eight years.
Over the past year, the department has cut jobs and furloughed other workers in the face of a large budget shortfall.
Jury acquits man of deliberate homicide in vet’s 1996 death
(Eds: Updates with verdict. APNewsNow.)
(Information in the following story is from: Great Falls Tribune, http://www.greatfallstribune.com)
GREAT FALLS, Mont. (AP) — A jury has acquitted a man of killing of his ex-girlfriend’s boyfriend nearly two decades ago.
The Great Falls Tribune reports the jury deliberated for nearly eight hours Wednesday before finding Thomas Jaraczeski not guilty of deliberate homicide in the 1996 shooting death of Geraldine veterinarian Bryan Rein, who was dating Jaraczeski’s former girlfriend.
The state argued that Jaraczeski lied to law enforcement and stalked his girlfriend when she began dating Rein.
Jaraczeski was charged in 1998 with shooting Rein with Rein’s .357 Magnum, but the case was dropped when a judge ruled in a pre-trial hearing that evidence obtained by the use of a bloodhound could not be used against him.
He was arrested again in South Dakota in April 2014.
Yellowstone National Park names new chief ranger
YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, Wyo. (AP) — Yellowstone National Park has a new chief ranger.
Superintendent Dan Wenk announced Wednesday that Pete Webster is Yellowstone’s 17th chief ranger in the nearly 100 years the park has been managed by the National Park Service. Webster has been the deputy chief ranger since July 2014 and has intermittently shared the role of interim chief ranger for much of the past year.
He succeeds Tim Reid, who became the superintendent at Devils Tower National Monument last fall.
Over the past seven years, Webster has managed law enforcement, emergency services, fire, visitor management, dispatch and wilderness operations in his roles as the deputy chief ranger at Yellowstone, chief ranger at Denali National Park and Preserve and deputy chief ranger at Shenandoah National Park.
Man with homicide conviction walks away from prerelease
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A Forsyth man who was convicted in the November 2010 beating death of a man he believed had stolen marijuana and cash from him has walked away from a Billings pre-release center.
Department of Corrections spokeswoman Judy Beck says 32-year-old Mikel Knick was an inmate worker at Alpha House and escaped while on a staff supervised trip to Walmart on Tuesday.
Knick was sentenced to 24 years in prison in April 2011 for negligent homicide and the kidnapping of a woman he believed had stolen marijuana. He sought a reduced sentence after completing boot camp. Beck says Knick could not leave the pre-release center without supervision.
Knick is 6 feet tall, 230 pounds, is bald and has blue eyes. He has numerous tattoos including the word “sinner” on his neck.
Judge approves deal that tightens trapping to protect lynx
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A federal judge has approved an agreement in a lawsuit between wildlife activists and Montana officials that tightens state regulations to reduce the chances that threatened Canada lynx would accidentally be trapped.
Trappers who had intervened in the case opposed the settlement, but U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen said Tuesday their displeasure with the deal was not enough to sink it.
In July, Montana wildlife commissioners imposed the agreed-upon regulations that restrict the types of traps, snares and bait that can be used in special protection zones where lynx are believed to reside.
The medium-sized, snow-loving cats feed primarily on snowshoe hares and there is no reliable population estimate for the animals. They first gained federal protections as a threatened species in 2000.
Woman found in trunk of car is charged with stealing it
(Information in the following story is from: The Billings Gazette, http://www.billingsgazette.com)
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A 25-year-old Livingston woman has been found in the trunk of a car she is charged with stealing.
The Billings Gazette reports that police found the stolen car in Billings on Thursday. When the owner arrived to pick it up, she opened the trunk and jumped back, yelling for the police officer.
Police say a woman climbed out of the trunk while repeatedly saying that everything was OK. She told police she slept in the trunk instead of the back seat.
Court documents say a syringe in her purse tested positive for methamphetamine.
According to court records, the stolen car contained a pipe often used to smoke meth, credit cards and someone’s ID.
The woman was charged with theft and drug possession. Her next court date is Sept. 29.
Search continues for missing Kalispell bow hunter
BUTTE, Mont. (AP) — Dozens of people continued the search for a 53-year-old Kalispell man who failed to return from a bow hunting trip west of Wisdom, in southwestern Montana.
Robert Carter Jr. last contacted his wife on Sept. 16 and she reported him missing on Saturday afternoon. Deputies learned he had been hunting a few miles west of Big Hole Battlefield National Park. Searchers found his campsite and later his pickup truck.
Beaverhead County Sheriff Franklin Kluesner says an air and ground search began Sunday and continued Tuesday with about 65 people.
Carter’s wife, Barbara, said she appreciated that her husband’s co-workers at Plum Creek Timber Co. were allowed time off to join the search.
Carter is 6 feet, 2 inches tall and 185 pounds. He has gray eyes and gray-blond hair. He was last seen wearing camouflage gear.
Man convicted of growing marijuana guilty of tax evasion
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A Lincoln man who was convicted in August of growing more than 100 marijuana plants has pleaded guilty to tax evasion.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office says 61-year-old Dennis Peiker also pleaded guilty Wednesday to two counts of being a felon in possession of firearms. His conviction on two tax fraud charges in 1999 made it illegal for him to possess firearms.
As part of his guilty plea, Peiker agreed to pay nearly $410,000 in back taxes for the 2002 through 2009 tax years and not appeal his conviction in the marijuana case. Federal prosecutors agreed to recommend concurrent sentences.
Peiker’s sentencing in the marijuana case is set for Dec. 3 before U.S. District Judge Brian Morris in Great Falls. U.S. District Judge Charles Lovell scheduled an April 14 sentencing for the tax evasion and firearms matters.