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THE LATEST REGIONAL NEWS

Bonner Man Acquitted in Online Sex Sting
MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) - A 36-year-old Bonner man has been acquitted of a charge alleging he responded to an online ad placed by undercover officers offering sex with a 12-year-old girl.

The Missoulian reports jurors reached the verdict on Sept. 11 in the child sexual abuse case against Chad Lee Briggs.

Briggs said the initial ad didn't explicitly say anything about an underage girl and he contacted the ad's author on Dec. 17 out of concern. He said when they posted the age of the girl he flagged it for removal from Craigslist.

Briggs said he later figured out his girlfriend, Jenna Davis, was communicating with the undercover detective and setting up an encounter. Davis also was charged in the sting.

Briggs says Child Protective Services took his daughter away and he lost his job, house, truck and dog.

(Copyright 2014 New Media Broadcasters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
Dog's Death Leads to DUI, Assault Charges
BUTTE, Mont. (AP) - The death of a dog on an Anaconda street ended with an assault charge for the dog's owner and a DUI charge for the man who reportedly struck the animal.

Police Chief Tim Barkell tells The Montana Standard the dog's owner reported that 48-year-old Tony Marry had driven by and struck and killed the dog on Saturday. When Marry returned later, the dog's owner jumped on the side of the vehicle and punched Marry several times through the window.

Officers smelled alcohol on Marry and arrested him for DUI. The dog's owner, 43-year-old Jeff Carney, faces a misdemeanor assault charge.

Barkell says no charges were filed related to the dog's death because it's not known of Marry knew he hit the dog or intended to and because the dog was in the street without a leash.

(Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
New MSU Fundraiser Begins Work
BOZEMAN, Mont. (AP) - The new president and CEO of the Montana State University Alumni Foundation says he'll be traveling over the next few months to meet MSU alumni as he seeks to build on the momentum of recent record-breaking donations.

Chris Murray came to MSU after eight years at the University of Idaho, where he managed a successful $225 million capital campaign. He tells the Bozeman Daily Chronicle he fell in love with Bozeman and was impressed with the leadership of MSU President Waded Cruzado.

The Alumni Foundation received $23.8 million in donations in Fiscal Year 2014 and has $208 million in assets.

MSU's recent alumni donations include $25 million from Jake Jabs for a business building and a $50 million pledge from Norm Asbjornson for an innovation center in the College of Engineering.

Murray promises "tons of spectacular announcements" in the future.

(Copyright 2014 New Media Broadcasters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
VA Psychologist Reprimanded Over Evaluation
HELENA, Mont. (AP) - A Department of Veterans Affairs psychologist whose evaluation minimized the disabling effects of a veteran's brain injury has been publicly reprimanded by the Montana Board of Psychologists for practicing outside the scope of his expertise.

The board's Sept. 4 ruling, first reported by the Great Falls Tribune, also prohibits Dr. Robert Bateen from performing neuropsychological evaluations without additional training.

Capt. Charles Gatlin suffered a traumatic brain injury in Iraq in September 2006. An August 2009 evaluation by a neuropsychologist indicated Gatlin's cognitive and motor deficits were likely stable and he was retired from the Army with a 70 percent disability rating used to determine benefits.

Two years later, Bateen's less-thorough evaluation in Montana resulted in a 10 percent disability rating.

Gatlin's wife, Ariana Del Negro, says the ruling means others can appeal VA decisions to state medical boards if they don't feel a doctor met the standard of care.

(Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
1 Debate Set in US House and US Senate Races
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.

(Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
Bill Would Rename Billings VA Clinic
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) - A bill before Congress would rename the Billings VA Clinic the "Bear Root Department of Veterans Affairs Clinic."

Bear root is an herb found in the Rocky Mountains that's long been used for its healing powers and in Native American ceremonies.

Sen. Jon Tester said he introduced the legislation Monday after the name was selected by a committee appointed by Montana's three-member congressional delegation.

The clinic serves veterans from eastern Montana and northern Wyoming. An expansion completed in the spring offers specialty care or which veterans previously had to drive to Fort Harrison.

(Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
Billings Man Charged with Assaulting 4 Women
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.

(Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
Fort Collins Police Officer Charged with Stalking
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.

(Copyright 2014 New Media Broadcasters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
Idaho Man Dies After Montana Motorcycle Crash
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.

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

(Copyright 2014 New Media Broadcasters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
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. 12 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 Friday hearing in the case is scheduled in Colorado.

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

(Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
Man Injured in Billings Shooting, Suspect Sought
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) - A 22-year-old Billings man was shot several times with a small-caliber handgun and police are searching for a suspect and the weapon.

Sgt. Pat Curry says the gunshots were reported at 12:41 a.m. Tuesday and soon after, officers received a medical call. The victim had been shot four to six times in his back, torso and arm. Officers did not believe the injuries were life-threatening.

Police say the victim did not cooperate with investigating officers.

Sgt. Matt Brewer says a .38-caliber handgun and a knife were found in the area where the shooting occurred, but it likely wasn't the gun used to shoot the victim.

(Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
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 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
Report Released on Plane Crash Near Great Falls
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.

(Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
Woman Files Lawsuit Over Jail Rape
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.

(Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)
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Expanded hourly updates are delivered at the top of each hour at 6, 7, 8 and 9 a.m. and every afternoon at 4 and 5 p.m. Headline news, breaking stories and updates available all other hours. "Montana at Noon" is a more in-depth review of the news starting daily at 12:15 p.m. daily.

Residents of North Central Montana have long recognized the quality and timeliness of our newscasts. Additional recognition of our news at the national, regional and state level comes from the Associated Press, Society for Professional Journalists, the Greater Montana Foundation and the Radio and Television News Director Association's prestigious Edward R. Murrow award.
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