Commission: Eliminate loophole in child sex abuse sentencing
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — The Commission on Sentencing is recommending lawmakers close a loophole in child sex abuse sentencing laws that allowed an eastern Montana man to be put on probation after pleading guilty to raping his 12-year-old daughter.
State prosecutor Dan Guzynski proposed Wednesday eliminating an exception to a mandatory minimum 25-year prison sentence for offenders convicted of rape, incest or sexual abuse if the victim is age 12 or younger.
Under the exception, if a psychosexual evaluation determines the offender can be treated in their community, and the sentence protects the victim and society, the offender can receive a lesser sentence. Guzynski argues it doesn’t make sense that a community could be safer with a child rapist there.
The recommendation was included in a bill being forwarded to the Legislature that makes proposed revisions to several sentencing laws.
Dinosaurs roar into Montana governor’s race with new ad
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Dinosaurs have become an issue in Montana’s race for governor with a renowned paleontologist who consulted with Steven Spielberg on the “Jurassic Park” movies criticizing the Republican candidate for his beliefs.
A new television ad features Jack Horner saying candidate Greg Gianforte supports using taxpayer money to fund “private schools that obscure the truth about dinosaurs and the age of the Earth.”
The former Montana State University paleontologist says he’s not attacking Gianforte’s religion but that children need to learn the truth.
Gianforte is in a tight race against Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock. Gianforte campaign spokesman Aaron Flint calls the ad silly and says Gianforte is a strong supporter of public schools.
Tax records show Gianforte’s foundation has donated $290,000 to a dinosaur museum that holds a biblical perspective that humans and dinosaurs coexisted.
Researchers: Limits on drilling not enough to protect bird
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Scientists say oil and gas development in the Western U.S. could continue to cause sage grouse numbers to decline despite limits on drilling meant to protect the struggling bird species.
Researchers from the U.S. Geological Survey and Colorado State University examined the effects of drilling on greater sage grouse over a 25-year period.
They found that populations of the chicken-sized bird dropped 14 percent annually in areas of Wyoming with at least 10 oil or gas wells per square mile.
Federal rules recently crafted to protect grouse across their 11-state range would allow that many wells or more in areas crucial to the birds’ long-term survival.
Wyoming sage grouse coordinator Tom Christiansen says limited energy development is expected in the grouse’s core habitat for the foreseeable future.
State attorney general to rule on Missoula’s new gun rules
MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — Montana’s attorney general will issue a legal opinion on a Missoula ordinance requiring background checks for private gun sales.
Montana Department of Justice spokesman John Barnes tells the Missoulian that the office received a formal request for an opinion on the measure from Austin Knudsen, Speaker of the Montana House of Representatives.
The Missoula ordinance takes effect in late October and will require the background checks for most private gun sales or trades.
Attorney General Tim Fox has three months to issue his legal opinion. It will have the force of law unless overruled by a state district court of the Montana Supreme Court.
Knudsen, a Republican, says Missoula’s new ordinance is in direct violation of state law as well as sections of the Montana and U.S. constitutions.
UM notifies students of on-campus sexual assault report
MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — The University of Montana has notified students of a reported sexual assault that occurred in a residence hall involving someone the victim knew.
Students were notified Tuesday night via email and text.
UM spokeswoman Paula Short says the university is working with local police as the case is investigated.
Federal law requires campus officials to notify students of significant emergency or dangerous situations. Short tells KGVO-AM that university officials decided to notify students about the reported assault to “raise their situational awareness” about their safety on campus.
Snow helps wrap up below-average wildfire season in US WestCHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — With measureable snowfall already dusting parts of the Rocky Mountains and Northwest, the 2016 wildfire season has wrapped up in much of the West.
Jessica Gardetto of the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho, says wildfires are still active only in the Southwest, especially Southern California. She says the West saw a below-average fire season overall, with about 7,500 square miles burned.
Gardetto says wet fall weather has tamped down the blazes.
Snow fell this week in several western states. It covered Old Faithful on Monday in Yellowstone National Park, where wildfires burned this summer. And about a foot of snow fell in western Wyoming at elevations as low as 7,000 feet.
Gardetto says fire officials at the center will soon start looking ahead to next year.