- Written by Culbertson Searchlight
A fire broke out at an oil well site just north of Culbertson, Tuesday, Jan. 20, during the afternoon, pluming thick black smoke toward the sky. Further information was unavailable as of presstime. (Photo by Nancy Mahan)
- Written by John Plestina
The man who attacked and injured a Roosevelt County deputy sheriff after tailgating his sheriff’s cruiser in April 2014, was sentenced to five years in Montana State Prison and a $10,000 fine in 15th District Court, Wednesday, Jan. 14.
A second five-year sentence for a conviction for a felony DUI was suspended.
Gary Ray Jones, 45, with residences listed that included Culbertson, Arizona, Tennessee, Oregon and Washington, was sentenced for assault on a peace officer with injury and the felony DUI, which was his fourth.
Jones, who has had DUIs in Oregon and Tennessee, tailgated and flashed headlights of a black Chevrolet sedan with Arizona license plates at RCSO Deputy William Black Dog on U.S. Hwy. 2 east of Brockton, April 29, 2014, at about 10:42 p.m., according to an RCSO narrative written by Black Dog.
Black Dog got behind Jones and stopped him near mile marker 636.
Black Dog wrote in the narrative: “The driver jumped out and stated, ‘I challenge you,’ and got right in my face.”
Black Dog also wrote that he smelled a strong odor of alcohol and that Jones got back into his vehicle. The deputy ordered him to exit the vehicle.
“He stated, ‘I always wanted to challenge a cop,’” Black Dog wrote.
The two men fought and Black Dog eventually handcuffed Jones, but Jones injured Black Dog, leaving him with a knee injury that required surgery and several months that he could not work.
Black Dog called for assistance. RCSO Sgt. Tim Lingle, Dep. Patrick O’Connor and Fort Peck Tribes Department of Law and Justice officers arrived at the scene.
“That was a bad one,” undersheriff John Summers said.
“It happened during a busy period,” he said.
“We were without him for months. He’s back to work,” Summers said.
“Jones followed him, tailgating him, wanting a law enforcement officer to engage him,” Summers said.
In addition to the felony counts of assault on a peace officer and DUI fourth offense, Jones was charged with resisting arrest, obstructing a peace officer, operating a motor vehicle while the privilege to do so is suspended or revoked, following another vehicle too closely and failure to exhibit proof of liability insurance.
Jones’ troubles were not over. He posted $40,000 bail in August 2014 and was drunk and in a bar fight in Culbertson the next night.
“He bonded out on a Friday and was where he was living in Culbertson. He was released with conditions – no alcohol. That Saturday he was boozing it up and got in a fight in a bar,” Summers said.
Jones appeared in District Court on Aug. 13, 2014, on a bench warrant to answer a petition to revoke bond due to failure to comply with bail conditions. District Judge David Cybulski said the $40,000 Jones had posted no longer applied and it would take an additional $40,000 bond to get out of jail. Jones remained lodged in the Roosevelt County Jail the next five months.
During that court appearance, Jones signed a plea agreement. He pleaded guilty to assault on a peace officer and the felony DUI.
Jones might owe more money for restitution. A restitution hearing may be held at a later date when more information becomes available.
Probation officer Trevor Newman testified that Black Dog’s loss was substantial.
Newman said he recommended that Jones be sentenced to 10 years confinement in Montana State Prison with five years suspended, fines and restitution for medical expenses for the assault on a peace officer charge and 13 months confinement with substance abuse treatment for the felony DUI.
“Fighting with the cops is a bad plan,” Cybulski said after he imposed the sentence.
“I fought with the law and the law won,” Jones said.
“You’re one of those people who whacks a cop and when you bop a cop, you’re going to get whacked,” Cybulski said.
Jones was transferred to the Fort Benton Detention Center Thursday, Jan. 15, where he is being held until the Department of Corrections transfers him.
- Written by Culbertson Searchlight
Gov. Steve Bullock announced, Thursday, Jan. 15, that ratepayers in Bainville will save $178,257 thanks to changes he made to the State Revolving Fund loan program last year.
The savings come as part of a new $156,000 SRF loan that was approved to improve Bainville’s wastewater treatment system, as well as the refinancing of an existing $328,000 to the new lower rate.
“Through strong fiscal management, and a bit of common sense, we’re ensuring ratepayers in Bainville can keep more money in their pockets,” Bullock said of the loan. “We’ll continue to work with local communities to find responsible ways to make critical infrastructure improvements, while saving money for Main Street Montana businesses and customers.
The community, which had a population of 150 in 2008, has seen their population swell to 858 due to growth associated with oil and gas development in the region. The loan will allow the city to make important upgrades to the city’s wastewater system, allowing it to serve a population of 1,500. Through the project, the city will replace a water storage tank and approximately 4,000 feet of outdated cast-iron pipeline. It is scheduled for completion at the end of 2015.
Last year, Bullock reduced the interest rates on loans through the SRF loan program in order to expand local government’s access to capital to make important upgrades to local infrastructure, while saving ratepayers money. He reduced long-term interest rates in this program from 3 percent, to 2.5 percent, and reduced construction interest rates from 3 percent to 1.5 percent. In addition, he reduced the amount of financial reserves communities must hold in order to receive a loan, and reduced the debt service coverage communities must have. These changes were made possible through strong fiscal management at the state level and the state’s sterling bond rating. In their first year, these reduced rates are expected to provide $29 million in additional savings for ratepayers.
The changes to the SRF interest rate were made as part of Bullock’s Main Street Montana Project. This project is building and implementing a business plan for the state of Montana that helps businesses grow, supports job creation, and increases wages. One of the goals of the project is to ensure Montana businesses and communities have an efficient and reliable infrastructure.
Bullock has proposed additional investments in infrastructure in Eastern Montana, including upgrades to roads, bridges and schools. This proposal requires approval from the 2015 Legislature.
The State Revolving Fund loan program, which is administered by DNRC and the Montana Department of Environmental Quality, enables Montana communities to upgrade or expand critical drinking or wastewater treatment facilities at the lowest possible cost.
For more information on the State Revolving Fund program, contact Anna Miller of DNRC at 444-6689, or visit the Montana DNRC Web site at http:/dnrc.mt.gov/.
- Written by John Plestina
The third person of a trio of drug offenders from North Dakota was sentenced in 15th District Court Wednesday, Jan. 14.
Malinda K. Bibb, 31, of Minot, N.D., entered the court room in striped jail clothing and noticeably pregnant.
Judge David Cybulski sentenced her to four years confinement in the custody of the Montana Department of Corrections in each of two cases with four years to serve and four suspended. The time she will serve will include treatment, pre-release and probation. Bibb is likely to serve less than four years.
Probation and Parole Officer Trevor Newman completed the pre-sentencing investigation. He testified during the sentencing hearing that he recommended four years confinement to the Montana Department of Corrections in each case with four years to serve and four suspended, which the court followed.
He said his recommendation is based partly on Bibb’s willingness to go to substance abuse treatment.
She will go to DOC’s Passages Prerelease Center in Billings for treatment.
Bibb apologized to the court. “I have no excuses for my behavior,” she said.
Bibb said she wants treatment. She said she has a husband and four daughters in addition to her pregnancy.
Bibb’s legal troubles began when Roosevelt County Sheriff’s Office deputies stopped a car carrying her, Brandon J. Bigham, 30, and Jamie D. Vert, 36, all of Minot, N.D., on U.S. Hwy. 2 near Bainville, on Sept. 20, 2013. Vert was driving, according to the charging documents.
Methamphetamine, marijuana, drug paraphernalia and weapons [no firearms] were found in the vehicle, according to charging documents.
All three were subsequently arraigned on felony charges. Bigham and Vert pleaded not guilty to all charges and both later withdrew guilty pleas under plea agreements. Both have since been sentenced. Bigham received 12 years in the custody of the DOC with eight years suspended six months on each of two misdemeanor charges, suspended, a $25,000 fine and credit for 231 days previously served.
Bibb pleaded not guilty to criminal possession of dangerous drugs, criminal possession with intent to distribute and criminal possession of drug paraphernalia and was released on $20,000 bond, May 28, 2014.
She was scheduled with a trial date of Aug. 14. Cybulski declared a mistrial because not enough potential jurors showed up for jury selection. A new jury trial was scheduled for October, but she faced additional charges by then.
Wolf Point Police Department officers onboard an Amtrak Empire Builder train Sept. 8, 2014, and arrested Bibb on a warrant for alleged bail condition violations. She then faced new charges of criminal possession of dangerous drugs, carrying dangerous drugs on a train, both felonies, and misdemeanor counts of criminal possession of dangerous drugs and criminal possession of drug paraphernalia. According to charging documents, Bibb was attempting to travel to Washington. She has been lodged in the Roosevelt County Jail since then.
She pleaded guilty in two separate drug cases Oct. 15.
Bibb was transferred to the Fort Benton Detention Center, Thursday, Jan. 15, where she is being held until the Department of Corrections transfers her.
- Written by Culbertson Searchlight
As much as 50,000 gallons of crude oil spilled into the Yellowstone River near Glendive, Saturday, Jan. 17.
The Carrollton, Texas, headquartered Bridger Pipeline Company released a statement that it shut down the 12-inch-wide pipeline shortly before 11 a.m., Saturday. The company said it’s primary concern is to minimize environmental impacts.
A change of pipeline pressure was detected, sounding an alarm that something was wrong.
According to a statement by Dave Parker, a spokesman for Gov. Steve Bullock, some of the oil spilled onto frozen portions of the river, possibly reducing impacts.
The exact amount of oil spilled and potential environmental damages were not known early this week.
Bullock traveled to Glendive, Monday, Jan. 19, to ensure all appropriate steps were being taken to respond to the oil spill. Bullock signed an executive order declaring a state of emergency.
In Glendive, Bullock announced a series of initial steps to ensure the health and safety of Montanans, as well as evaluating impacts on Montana wildlife. He has relocated a member of his personal staff to work out of Glendive to ensure the concerns of residents are being addressed. In response to CDC’s suggestion that residents drink bottled water, he has instructed the Montana Department of Disaster and Emergency Services to bring in bottled water for residents, the first shipment of which was scheduled to arrive on Tuesday; in addition he is dispatching a public water supply specialist from the Department of Environmental Quality to work with local officials to quickly identify and address impacts on the community’s water supply. He has also tasked the Department of Fish, Wildlife & Parks to monitor any adverse impacts on wildlife in the area.
“The health and safety of Montanans in the area impacted by this oil spill is my top concern,” Bullock said of the steps he announced today. “Local, state, and federal officials are working together to quickly assess this situation, and ensure that those responsible are held accountable, the oil is cleaned up and all damages are addressed. My expectation is that the cleanup will continue until it meets the standard of me and the people of Montana.”
At the direction of Bullock, the Department of Environmental Quality, the Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks and the Department of Military Affairs have taken an active role in the oversight of this hazardous materials response in coordination with the United States Environmental Protection Agency. Bullock has committed all available resources and taken all possible actions to respond, mitigate and alleviate the situation.