Leader in California-to-Montana meth ring sentenced
GREAT FALLS, Mont. (AP) — A judge has sentenced the 20th and final defendant in a drug ring that prosecutors say flooded central Montana with high-grade methamphetamine from California.
U.S. District Judge Brian Morris sentenced 29-year-old Joshua Alberto Rodriguez of Los Angeles Thursday to 22 1/2 years in prison after Rodriguez made a plea deal with prosecutors.
Rodriguez pleaded guilty to conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine, conspiracy involving firearm and drug trafficking crime and conspiracy to commit money laundering.
Prosecutors recommended a sentence of more than 26 years in prison. Rodriguez’s lawyer asked the judge for a 20-year sentence.
They say Rodriguez was a leader in the drug ring, making at least 13 trips to Montana last year, carrying at least 2 pounds of methamphetamine each time.
Rodriguez says he was a middleman.
Man sentenced for Kalispell abortion clinic break-in
KALISPELL, Mont. (AP) — A judge has ordered a Columbia Falls man to spend five years in prison for breaking into a Kalispell abortion clinic and causing hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage.
District Judge Ted O. Lympus on Thursday sentenced 25-year-old Zachary Klundt to 20 years with 15 years suspended. Klundt pleaded guilty in April to burglary, theft and criminal mischief for the 2014 break-in at All Families Healthcare.
The clinic was the only one in the Flathead Valley that provided abortions. Owner Susan Cahill has not reopened the clinic since the break-in.
Lympus ordered Klundt to pay Cahill and the building’s owner $669,000.
Klundt described himself as “pro-life” at his April hearing, but told Cahill that what he did does not reflect his values.
Wildfire danger persists despite spring rain, experts say
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Montana weather experts say a wet spell this spring helped mitigate what could have been a destructive summer for crops, but it hasn’t eased the high threat of wildfire.
A state drought committee concluded Thursday that snowpack melted a month ahead of schedule and exacerbated the slight drought conditions persisting in western Montana.
State Fire Coordinator Harold Gemmell says he’s particularly concerned about the northwestern corner of the state.
That region received just 20 percent of its typical snowpack this year, and Kalispell experienced its driest May on record. Gemmell says those are bad signs of what’s to come.
Montana is experiencing minor conditions compared with the historic drought affecting California and surrounding western states.
Montana congressman’s sister faces drug paraphernalia charge
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — The younger sister of Montana U.S. Rep. Ryan Zinke was arrested after officers found methamphetamine in a vehicle during a northeastern Montana traffic stop.
Dahra L. Zinke of Kalispell was arrested Monday. She appeared before Justice of the Peace Penny Hendrickson in Culbertson on charges of possession of drug paraphernalia and endangering the welfare of a child in the car. She posted a $1,170 bond.
Hendrickson said Thursday that Dahra Zinke requested a public defender. Her next hearing won’t be set until she has an attorney. The Associated Press could not locate a phone number for Zinke to seek comment.
The driver — 19-year-old Nicodemus A. Kupka of Watford City, North Dakota — was charged with criminal possession of methamphetamine.
Rep. Zinke told The Billings Gazette he was keeping Dahra and her family in his prayers.
Daines proposes placing Jeannette Rankin on $10 bill
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — U.S. Sen. Steve Daines is proposing to place the image of the first woman elected to Congress on the new $10 bill.
The U.S. Treasury Department announced it will redesign the $10 bill in 2020 to feature a woman. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew is taking suggestions this summer on who that should be.
The decision is now the Treasury Department’s, but Daines introduced legislation Thursday that would change the Federal Reserve Act to require Jeannette Rankin of Montana to be that woman.
Daines says Rankin left a lasting mark on the nation’s democratic process and is an example of America’s legacy of service.
Rankin was first elected in 1916 and again in 1940. She voted against the U.S. entering both World War I and World War II.
Common Core test maker responds to botched exam in 3 states
LAS VEGAS (AP) — The test maker behind Common Core assessments in Nevada, Montana and North Dakota has denied a breach of contract accusation after computer problems forced a halt to the online exams in April.
Widespread technical problems with Measured Progress could mean the states won’t meet the testing mandate tied to millions of dollars in federal funding.
Nevada said the company breached its vendor contract because a fix was never found.
Measured Progress said 37 percent of Nevada students and 76 percent of Montana students completed the online test.
A total of 88 percent of North Dakota students completed either the online or paper tests.
The federal testing mandate requires at least 95 percent of students to participate. State officials say it’s unclear what counts as participation and if they will meet the mandate.
Man arrested in death of girlfriend
(Information in the following story is from: Bozeman Daily Chronicle, http://www.bozemandailychronicle.com)
BOZEMAN, Mont. (AP) — A Bozeman man has been arrested on suspicion of felony negligent homicide in the April death of his girlfriend.
The Bozeman Daily Chronicle reports 31-year-old David William Hughes was booked into the Gallatin County jail late Wednesday.
A $250,000 warrant for Hughes’ arrest was issued Tuesday. An initial court date has not been set.
Charging documents allege Hughes struck and killed 28-year-old Kerri Ann McKinney with his pickup after an argument in Big Sky on April 13. She died of head injuries.
Court records say Hughes told investigators that McKinney was trying to get into his truck as he drove away and when he looked in his rear-view mirror, he saw her lying in the road.
Judge rejects plea agreement in Polson hammer attack
(Information in the following story is from: KERR-AM, http://www.750kerr.com/)
POLSON, Mont. (AP) — A state judge has rejected a plea agreement in the case of a 36-year-old man who acknowledged mistakenly killing his father-in-law by hitting him in the head with a claw hammer in March 2014.
Desmond Mackay was charged with deliberate homicide in the death of 67-year-old John Barrows. Prosecutors reached a plea agreement in April that called for a 40-year prison sentence for mitigated deliberate homicide.
KERR-AM in Polson reports District Judge Kim Christopher wanted to know how they agreed on the reduced charge. Both sides said Mackay suffered emotional distress and a mental defect due to ongoing bullying by his brother-in-law Jesse Waugh, who was the intended target.
Christopher said Thursday that those issues should be determined by a jury and she withdrew Mackay’s guilty plea. A trial date has not been set.