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Montana News - AP

US senator to ask Congress to suspend coal sales

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A U.S. senator says he'll ask fellow lawmakers to halt further coal sales on federal lands in the West after a senior administration official declined to suspend the troubled government program.

Sen. Ed Markey said Tuesday the Interior Department is moving too slowly on promised reforms. The Massachusetts Democrat has said undervalued coal sales might have cost taxpayers $200 million or more.

Government investigators earlier this year found a widespread lack of competition in coal lease sales. Markey wants companies to pay a fair price for the right to mine.

In a letter first reported by The Boston Globe, U.S. Bureau of Land Management Director Neil Kornze agreed reforms are needed. But he says a suspension of sales is not necessary while the changes are being considered.


Justices seek to uphold partisan endorsement ban

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Six of the seven Montana Supreme Court justices have asked a federal judge to uphold a rule that prevents judicial candidates from pursuing or accepting partisan endorsements.

Lee Newspapers of Montana reported former Justice William Leaphart filed the friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of Chief Justice Mike McGrath and Justices Jim Rice, Michael Wheat, Patricia Cotter, Beth Baker and James Jeremiah Shea. Justice Laurie McKinnon is not part of the action.

The brief was filed in response to a federal lawsuit filed last month by Sanders County justice of the peace candidate Mark French. He sued to challenge the partisan endorsements rule in the state's Code of Judicial Conduct. He said he intends to seek the endorsement of the Sanders County Republican Central Committee, which is led by his wife.


Man arrested in Colorado in 1999 Montana death

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Authorities say a 46-year-old man has been arrested in Colorado and charged with homicide in the 1999 drowning death of his wife in southeastern Montana.

The Montana Department of Justice said Tuesday that Brian David Laird was arrested on Sept. 11 in Fort Collins by agents from the FBI and Montana Division of Criminal Investigation.

Court documents show Laird is charged with deliberate homicide in the July 31, 1999 death of 28-year-old Kathryn Laird in Big Horn County. The victim's body was found in the Afterbay Reservoir of Yellowtail Dam a day after she had been reported missing.

Brian Laird's bail has been set at $500,000 while he awaits extradition to Montana. A Thursday hearing in the case is scheduled in Colorado.

It could not immediately be determined if Laird had an attorney.


Report released on plane crash near Great Falls

(Information in the following story is from: Great Falls Tribune,

GREAT FALLS, Mont. (AP) — Investigators say a small plane that crashed southeast of Great Falls, killing one person and injuring three others, hit a group of trees as the pilot approached a ridge.

The Great Falls Tribune reported Tuesday that a preliminary finding by the National Transportation Safety Board notes the pilot "attempted to climb over the ridge, but the airplane wouldn't climb." The pilot, 55-year-old Christopher Wilsey, turned the airplane toward the valley before it struck the trees and crashed.

Authorities say 67-year-old Susan Majerus, of Great Falls, died of burns suffered in an intense fire after the plane crashed Sept. 2.

The crash injured Wilsey; Majerus' husband, 68-year-old Robert Majerus; and 11-year-old Rachel Lukasik. All three suffered burns.

The Cessna 177 took off from Great Falls International Airport and crashed in the Little Belt Mountains.


Fort Collins police officer charged with stalking

(Information in the following story is from: Fort Collins Coloradoan,

FORT COLLINS, Colo. (AP) — A Fort Collins police officer was arrested and fired after investigators say he used agency resources to stalk a woman.

The Coloradoan reports 29-year-old Jarett Branson was fired Tuesday after he was charged with stalking, criminal trespass and official misconduct.

Police say a Fort Collins woman reported "inappropriate behavior" by Branson, telling investigators he contacted her multiple times at work and home while he was on duty. Branson allegedly used police resources to find out where the woman worked and lived in an effort to start a relationship with her.

Branson worked as a police officer in Butte, Montana, before being hired in Fort Collins in January.

The Montana Standard reports that in 2011, he received the department's award for helping victims of domestic and sexual abuse.


Billings man charged with assaulting 4 women

(Information in the following story is from: The Billings Gazette,

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A Billings man is charged with assaulting four women in five instances over the past six months, causing injuries that required medical care and left one woman hospitalized for six days with a brain injury and a collapsed lung.

The Billings Gazette reports 29-year-old Todd Michael Johnson faces eight felony assault charges. His bail is set at $250,000, he has been appointed a public defender and he is scheduled to enter pleas later this month.

Prosecutors allege Johnson assaulted a 23-year-old woman over a period of four days in April; punched and choked a 24-year-old woman; punched another woman in the face, knocking her unconscious; beat and pistol whipped a woman, and assaulted his April victim again on Sept. 14. She was able to get away by stabbing him.


Slaying suspect to be extradited to Montana

(Information in the following story is from: Missoulian,

MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — A transient accused of torturing and fatally shooting a man in Missoula is expected to be extradited to Montana this week to face charges.

The Missoulian reports 27-year-old Kevin Joseph Lino was arrested in Shreveport, Louisiana, in August for the July 30 death of 36-year-old Gilbert Barry. Lino is expected to appear in court by Friday on charges of deliberate homicide and unlawful flight to avoid prosecution.

Prosecutors say Barry was beaten and gang symbols were cut into his skin. Lino is accused of urinating on the man and shooting him in the head at an encampment under a Missoula bridge.

Barry's body was then dumped into the Clark Fork River.


1 debate set in US House and US Senate races

(Information in the following story is from: The Billings Gazette,

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Montana's U.S. Senate candidates have agreed to a debate next month in Billings.

The Billings Gazette reports the one-hour debate between Democrat Amanda Curtis and Republican Steve Daines will be held at 6 p.m. on Oct. 20 at Montana State University Billings' Petro Theater. It is scheduled to be broadcast by Montana Television Network stations and Yellowstone Public Radio. MSUB and the Gazette also are sponsors.

The state's major party U.S. House candidates — Democrat John Lewis and Republican Ryan Zinke — earlier agreed to an Oct. 4 debate in Bozeman. The hour-long debate also is scheduled to start at 6 p.m. and will be aired on MTN stations.

A forum with Lewis will be held in Billings on Sept. 29. Zinke was invited but has said he will not participate.


Woman files lawsuit over jail rape

(Information in the following story is from: Great Falls Tribune,

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A former inmate at the Jefferson County jail in Boulder alleges the county created circumstances that "allowed its staff to rape the inmates in their custody."

The Great Falls Tribune reports the woman filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Helena on Monday. She is seeking unspecified money damages.

The lawsuit alleges former part-time jailer Rodney Mortimore raped the woman while her cellmate was asleep after taking a sedative.

Attorney Amy Burns of Helena said the woman didn't report the attack because she didn't know how long she would be in jail before being transferred to a court-ordered substance abuse treatment program.

Mortimore has pleaded not guilty to seven counts of sexual intercourse without consent. Prosecutors said he bribed three inmates with cigarettes in exchange for sexual favors.


Idaho man dies after Montana motorcycle crash

(Information in the following story is from: The Billings Gazette,

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A 66-year-old man from Lewiston, Idaho, has died of injuries suffered in a weekend motorcycle crash in Montana.

The Montana Highway Patrol tells The Billings Gazette the man died at a Missoula hospital on Monday.

The patrol says the man was injured at about 10 a.m. Sunday when his westbound motorcycle struck a guardrail and then a cement divider on Interstate 90 near Deer Lodge.

He was taken to the hospital in Deer Lodge and then flown to St. Patrick Hospital in Missoula. Officials say he was wearing a helmet. His name hasn't been released.

The patrol is still investigating the crash.


Man injured, van fell off jack during tire change

GREAT FALLS, Mont. (AP) — A man was injured after a minivan fell off a jack during a roadside tire change on Interstate 15 northwest of Great Falls.

Vaughn Fire Chief Jason McAllister says a woman with the man flagged down a passing motorist at about 8:30 p.m. The motorist used a jack from his vehicle to lift the minivan and then dragged the man out from under the vehicle.

McAllister says emergency responders performed CPR and the man was talking to rescuers prior to being taken to Benefis Health System in Great Falls.

Meanwhile, a 10-year-old Helena boy who was injured when a sport utility vehicle slipped off a jack and landed on his head and chest on Saturday was hospitalized in serious but stable condition in Seattle. A family Facebook page included a post from his father saying the boy's breathing tube was removed on Monday

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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