Ice jams cause Yellowstone River flooding
(Information from: The Billings Gazette, http://www.billingsgazette.com)
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Yellowstone County officials say residents near Laurel have been evacuated from their homes because of flooding.
County disaster and emergency services coordinator Duane Winslow says Byam Road was closed Friday due to flooding from the Yellowstone River.
Resident Travis Berumen tells the Billings Gazette there is 4 feet of water in his basement.
The flooding is from ice jams in the river. The National Weather Service has issued flood warnings and advisories for much of the central and southwestern parts of Montana.
Warm temperatures and freezing rain this week have made for treacherous conditions as heavy snowfall from February melts. The conditions have caused avalanches and flooded roadways.
The weather service says the flooding threat will continue into the weekend.
Blackfeet consultant convicted of bankruptcy fraud
GREAT FALLS, Mont. (AP) — The U.S. attorney's office says a consultant accused in a scheme to defraud a Blackfeet program for troubled youth has been found guilty of bankruptcy fraud.
Gary Conti had faced multiple criminal counts in his federal trial this week in Great Falls. The jury found Conti guilty Friday of bankruptcy fraud but could not reach a decision on the other 27 counts in the indictment.
U.S. District Judge Brian Morris declared a mistrial on the other charges, and federal prosecutors say they will ask the court to set a date to try Conti again.
Prosecutors allege the retired Oklahoma State University professor kicked back more than $230,000 he received from the federally funded Po'Ka Project to accounts controlled by the program's leaders.
Sentencing for Conti is set for June 20.
OFFICER INVOLVED SHOOTING
Ravalli County deputy kills man
HAMILTON, Mont. (AP) — A Ravalli County sheriff's deputy shot and killed a man at a residence southeast of Hamilton.
The state Department of Justice says the man was apparently distraught over problems he was having with his girlfriend and pointed a weapon at the officer.
The department's Division of Criminal Investigation issued a statement Friday saying the 47-year-old man's mother called the sheriff's non-emergency number at 7:39 p.m. Thursday to report her son was having problems with his girlfriend at his residence.
The man then called the sheriff's office about 8 p.m. asking for a deputy to come to his house. At 8:21 p.m., the man called 911 and began talking about problems he was having with his girlfriend, who was no longer at the residence.
A deputy who arrived shortly before 8:30 p.m. found the man was angry and agitated.
The deputy told Division of Criminal Investigation officers that the man walked toward a weapon in the room. The Department of Justice reports the deputy said he told the man not to pick it up, but the man ignored the deputy's instruction, picked it up and pointed it at the deputy.
The department says that's when the deputy shot the man, killing him.
The deputy was placed on paid administrative leave while the case is investigated. He was not injured.
The victim's name was not released.
Montana regents OK plan for MSU engineering school
GREAT FALLS, Mont. (AP) — The Montana Board of Regents have approved Montana State University's plans to spend the first part of a $50 million gift from a private donor to plan and design a new College of Engineering building.
The regents voted unanimously Thursday to allow MSU to spend up to $5 million from the donation by Norm Asbjornson, the founder and president of heating and air conditioning manufacturer Aaon Inc.
Asbjornson says he donated the money to provide more space for the college and help engineering students collaborate with people in other fields. He graduated from the school in 1960 with a degree in mechanical engineering.
The board is considering $128 million in construction projects and deferred maintenance, including a $10 million private donation to build a new Montana Museum of Art and Culture at the University of Montana.
The Missoula school also wants $10 million in state funding to renovate its science building, and another $10 million to build an addition to its music building.
YELLOWSTONE BISON SLAUGHTER
Yellowstone: Bison slaughters done for the season
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Yellowstone National Park administrators say shipments of wild bison to slaughter are done for the winter after almost 600 animals were removed under a population reduction program.
Federal and state officials say that 258 migrating bison were captured and transferred for slaughter. At least 264 have been killed by hunters and 60 placed in an animal contraception experiment.
The removals were part of an ongoing effort to reduce Yellowstone's bison herds to about 3,000 animals under an agreement with Montana.
Wildlife advocates contend the capture and slaughter program is unnecessary, citing research that says Yellowstone could support far more bison than the 4,600 counted last summer.
Ranchers outside the park have a low tolerance for the animals because of concerns about bison spreading disease and edging out cattle for grass.
State releases call made before senator's arrest
HELENA, Mont. (AP) — State Sen. Jason Priest's estranged wife feared her husband would turn violent when she picked up their young daughter last month, prompting her boyfriend to call for police assistance.
The call was made Feb. 1, soon before an encounter outside the Red Lodge Republican's home that led to criminal charges accusing Priest of shoving his wife, breaking her boyfriend's rib and throwing the 4-year-old girl.
Priest has denied the charges.
Anna Priest's boyfriend, Jon Trapp, told Red Lodge police Officer Matthew Grieshop that Priest's daughter had called her mother in tears, saying her father had cursed at her. Anna Priest and Trapp were at a bar having a drink.
Trapp told the officer that Priest then got on the line and cursed at his wife, telling her to pick up her daughter.
Trapp expressed concern that Priest's rage might turn violent if he and Anna Priest showed up to collect the girl.
The recording and a transcript of Trapp's call was obtained by The Associated Press through a public records request to the state Department of Justice, which is leading the investigation.
Priest has pleaded not guilty to partner or family member assault, felony assault, misdemeanor assault and resisting arrest. If convicted, he could face up to five years in prison.
MONTANA AVALANCHE SURVIVOR
Boy buried by avalanche tried to bite his way out
NEW YORK (AP) — An 8-year-old western Montana boy who spent about an hour buried in the snow after a deadly avalanche roared into his backyard says he tried to "lick and bite" his way out before becoming tired and falling asleep.
Phoenix Scoles-Coburn, of Missoula, told "Today" show host Matt Lauer on Friday that he doesn't remember the moment the Feb. 28 snow slide hit him.
He says he looked back and saw a tree wobbling, so he ran. The next thing he knew, he was in the snow.
Phoenix's mother, Erin Scoles, says dozens of residents responded quickly with shovels and avalanche probes, but it took an hour to find the boy.
Phoenix suffered a laceration to his spleen and was hospitalized for two days.
The avalanche also buried a husband and wife. They also eventually were rescued, but the woman died in a hospital two days later.
COAL LEASING DEFERRED
Wyoming coal sale hiatus takes hold in weak market
CHEYENNE, Wyo. (AP) — Diminished demand for coal to generate electricity effectively has achieved an environmentalist goal of suspending sales of federal coal reserves in Wyoming's Powder River Basin.
No federal reserves in the basin have sold since June 2012 and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management doesn't expect to sell more until at soonest 2015.
The basin's massive mines aren't running short on reserves but coal companies also have had little enthusiasm lately for acquiring more reserves.
Luke Popovich with the National Mining Association says companies want to see a global economic rebound that would boost coal demand worldwide.
The BLM's Wyoming State Office has granted companies' requests to postpone three recent coal lease sales. Meanwhile, environmentalists have asked the BLM to suspend leasing basin coal. The BLM hasn't granted that request.
Man shoots hand trying to ward off intruder
(Information in the following story is from: Bozeman Daily Chronicle, http://www.bozemandailychronicle.com)
BOZEMAN, Mont. (AP) — A 74-year-old Bozeman man who was loading a gun while trying to scare off an intruder accidentally shot himself in the hand.
Police tell the Bozeman Daily Chronicle that Carl Craft was awakened just before 2 a.m. Friday by someone banging on the front door.
Craft said he yelled at the man to leave several times and said he was armed.
Court records say that Craft shot himself in the hand while loading his gun and then fired a warning shot through the door.
The intruder broke out the window on a storm door before police arrived.
Officers arrested 23-year-old Orion Audisio Alonso on suspicion of trespassing, criminal mischief and disorderly conduct. Court records say Alonso appeared intoxicated and told investigators he believed he was at his own house.
Craft was taken to the hospital.