Court orders Montana resort founder freed from jail
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A federal appeals court has ordered the release of the founder of a Montana club for the ultra-rich who has spent the last 14 months in jail for contempt of court.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday granted Yellowstone Club founder Tim Blixseth’s emergency motion for release pending his appeal.
U.S. District Judge Sam Haddon jailed Blixseth in April 2015 for not revealing what happened to millions of dollars from the sale of a resort in Mexico during the Yellowstone Club’s bankruptcy proceedings.
Blixseth’s attorneys have said he has done everything he could to cooperate with the judge’s orders. Multiple appeals seeking his release had all been rejected until Wednesday.
Neither Blixseth’s attorney, Becky James, nor the attorney for the Yellowstone Club’s creditors immediately returned calls for comment.
Uber plans to begin operating in Montana in August
BOZEMAN, Mont. (AP) — The ride-hailing company Uber is set to launch its service across Montana next month.
Bozeman Daily Chronicle reports that a company representative says the August launch will kick off with a series of events in several Montana cities.
The Public Service Commission had given Uber permission to operate statewide in December. The approval came after the Legislature passed a law that made changes to the state’s motor carrier laws.
The eight-month delay in getting the service up and running in Montana was caused by a state investigation into whether Uber drivers would be classified as employees or independent contractors. The distinction helps determine worker’s rights, including entitlement to unemployment benefits.
The Uber representative says its drivers will operate as independent contractors.
Missoula County inmate death under investigation
MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — An investigation is underway into the death of a 57-year-old inmate at the Missoula County Detention Center that authorities have described as medically related.
The Missoula County Sheriff’s Office says Arthur Kenneth Halks was found unresponsive in his cell Sunday when jail officers were serving lunch. Officers and jail medical staff had performed CPR and tried other lifesaving efforts on Halks, but were unable to revive him.
He was taken to a hospital and pronounced dead.
Halks had been jailed after a May 3 arrest on an assault with a weapon charge.
His death is being investigated by the Missoula Police Department and a coroner from the Ravalli County Sheriff’s Office.
Evacuation warning lifted for wildfire near Hamilton
HAMILTON, Mont. (AP) — Aggressive firefighting tactics and more favorable weather have allowed crews to lift an evacuation warning for about 200 homes near a blaze southwest of Hamilton.
The evacuation alert near the 2.2-square-mile Observation Fire had been in place for 203 homes since June 28. Lightning sparked the fire, which was reported June 24 and is 30 percent contained.
Ravalli County Undersheriff Steve Holton said Wednesday it’s unlikely anyone will be forced from their home.
A cold front is expected to arrive this weekend and could drop up to a half an inch of precipitation on the fire, which crews hope to contain in the next three to five days.
Volkswagen settlement to affect 2,800 Montana car owners
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Montana Department of Justice officials say 2,818 Volkswagen and Audi owners in the state will benefit from a legal settlement over Volkswagen’s rigged emissions tests.
DOJ spokeswoman Anastasia Barnes says the owners of the affected diesel vehicles will receive a restitution payment of at least $5,100 and have the choice of selling back their cars or having them fixed at Volkswagen’s expense.
According to the settlement, which still must be approved by a judge, Montana also will receive $11.6 million in installments for environmental mitigation programs that are specified in the agreement.
The DOJ’s Office of Consumer Protection also will receive more than $2 million from the settlement.
In total, the German automaker has agreed to spend up to $15.3 billion to settle lawsuits that its diesel cars cheated on U.S. emissions tests.
East Helena company reaches agreement over Superfund site
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A manufacturer of copper and zinc products in East Helena has agreed to limit its use of a well that taps into lead- and arsenic-contaminated water beneath a Superfund site.
Allan Payne is an attorney for American Chemet Corp. He said Wednesday the company has already capped five wells and agreed to limit the use of another well to 7 gallons per minute as part of an agreement with the Environmental Protection Agency.
Payne says the water is used as a coolant in the manufacturing process of copper- and zinc-based chemicals and injected back into the ground.
Payne says the agreement releases American Chemet from any liability over the Superfund site that includes contamination from the decommissioned ASARCO lead smelter.
The agreement requires American Chemet to put up a $100,000 bond to guarantee the work.