- Written by Culbertson Searchlight
Gov. Steve Bullock’s Rain Disaster Declaration issued Thursday, Sept. 4, excludes Roosevelt County, but includes Valley and several other Hi-Line counties.
Heavy August rains between Aug. 21 and 24 prompted the declaration for several eastern Montana counties.
In addition to Valley County, the declaration covers the counties of Petroleum and Musselshell, the town of Ekalaka and the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation.
The declaration comes as a result of a microburst that recorded winds in excess of 75 mph on Aug. 21 in Ekalaka, with debris from fallen or damaged trees causing significant damage to property.
Meanwhile, rainfall in excess of seven inches in a short period of time across central and north-central Montana caused the Milk and Musselshell rivers and tributaries to rapidly rise above major flood stage, damaging culverts, roadways and stock reservoirs.
The declaration will allow Bullock to mobilize state resources and the Montana National Guard, as well as expend funds to meet the contingencies and needs that may arise from the emergency.
“With the severity and intensity of the storms we saw last week and the damage that resulted, it is important that the state provide relief to those jurisdictions that need our assistance,” Bullock said.
- Written by John Plestina
Roosevelt County Commissioners Gary Macdonald, Duane Nygaard and Jim Shanks approved the preliminary plat for the five-lot Upland Creek Subdivision north of Cul-
bertson during their weekly meeting, Tuesday, Sept. 2.
In another matter, the commissioners approved a three-year contract renewal with Olness and Associates, the county’s CPA firm for annual audits.
- Written by Culbertson Searchlight
The Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame and Western Heritage Center is seeking nominations for the 2015 Montana Cowboy Hall of Fame induction round.
Every year, the MCHF honors living and historical figures that have made notable contributions to Montana’s western heritage.
“The Hall of Fame nominations are open to the general public,” said Mark Larson, MCHF director, and chairman of the board of trustees. “We encourage all to reflect on notable contributions to our western heritage and help us celebrate by nominating those from your community you believe serve as an example for next generation.”
Next year will mark the fifth year the MCHF will honor living historical figures and the eighth year of honoring legacy (non-living) inductees.
One living inductee and two legacy inductees from each of the MCHF’s 12 trustee districts will be chosen from votes cast by the MCHF board of trustees based on nominations from the public.
Nominees are assigned to a trustee district for consideration based on the local area where their notable contributions were made.
Nominees can be men, women, ranches, stage coach lines, animals, hotels, etc. — anyone or anything that has made a notable contribution or serves as a notable example of our Montana western heritage.
A full listing of inductees from 2008-2014, the 2015 nomination criteria, and more about the Hall of Fame induction process can be found online at www.montanacowboyfame.org.
The 2015 Class of the MCHF will be announced by press release by June 30. Winning inductees will be honored at the 2016 annual Circle the Wagons Gathering.
- Written by Culbertson Searchlight
(Editor’s Note: The Roosevelt County Sheriff’s Office distributes an inmate roster each week with charges and communities of residence to The Herald-News and The Searchlight to illustrate that the jail has been dealing with overcrowding issues in the 17-bed facility.)
As of Monday, Sept. 8, 12 inmates were incarcerated, Valley County Detention Center was holding two females and the Fort Benton Detention Center was holding four males to alleviate overcrowding.
The RCSO reported that the following individuals were incarcerated at the jail as of Monday, Sept. 8: Adam Alonzo, 31, Williston, N.D./San Bernadino, Calif., criminal possession of dangerous drugs with intent to sell; Michael Conant, 34, McCabe, partner family member assault, felony criminal mischief, felony assault on a peace officer; Scott Crain, 27 Froid, criminal possession of dangerous drugs, criminal possession of drug paraphernalia, obstructing a peace officer and misdemeanor criminal mischief; Andrew Giles, 32, Wolf Point, criminal contempt warrant and driving without a valid driver’s license; Tina Houim, 50, Tioga, N.D., criminal possession of dangerous drugs, criminal possession of drug paraphernalia and DUI; Gary Jones, 44, Mesa, Ariz., assault on a peace officer with injury; Jason Knight, 37, Spokane, Wash., criminal possession of drug paraphernalia; Timothy Oglesby, 31, Hot Springs, Ark., out of county warrant; Jeremy Sepanski, 30, Plentywood, forgery, theft, obstruction of a peace officer; Amber Taylor, 29, Wolf Point, criminal possession of dangerous drugs; Hilrio Velasquez, 33, Riverside, Calif., possession of dangerous drugs, criminal possession of drug paraphernalia; and Cameron Watson, 19, Malta, criminal possession of dangerous drugs [marijuana], criminal possession of dangerous drugs, and criminal possession of drug paraphernalia.
- Written by John Plestina
Listening To Concerns -- Fort Peck Tribes Chairman A.T. “Rusty” Stafne listens as Sen. John Tester, D-Mont., fields a question. (Photo by John Plestina)
Concerns that human trafficking could become a larger issue in eastern Montana and an increasing drug problem, especially the proliferation of methamphetamine, were major concerns expressed to Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., and U.S. Attorney Mike Cotter during a listening session in Greet the Dawn Auditorium on the Fort Peck Community College campus in Poplar, Thursday, Aug. 28.
The westward creep of Bakken Oilfield development into Montana was blamed for the spike in crime.
“Montana and North Dakota have been hit especially hard,” Tester said of crime problems. “Bad actors are attracted to the profits [of Bakken trafficking].”
“We are already seeing negative impacts of oil and gas development with no benefits to us,” A.T. “Rusty” Stafne, chairman of the Fort Peck Assiniboine and Sioux tribes, said.
Two people asked Tester and Cotter if the oil boom is worth the drug and other crime problems and the heavy trucks on the roads.
“It’s hard to imagine, but it is here in our region,” Cotter said.
He said victims of human trafficking are trafficked for prostitution or labor.
“Since the Bakken oil boom has happened here in the last 10 years, we have seen an increase in our area with illegal drugs and human trafficking that goes along with that,” Capt. Jim Summers of the Fort Peck Tribes Department of Law and Justice said.
He added that his department was focused mainly on drug crimes and that the proportions of the methamphetamine problem have increased significantly in recent years.
Summers said additional funding is needed for more and better paid investigators and officers.
Cotter said some of the drug trafficking is directly linked to cartels.
Cotter also said there has been an influx of oilfield workers into eastern Montana, many of which are young males, and many averaging $100,000 in annual earrings with substantial disposable incomes making them attractive to those trafficking in prostitution and drugs.
A woman said she was from the Bakken-impacted Fort Berthold Indian Reservation in western North Dakota and that methamphetamine impacted 30 new-born infants at Fort Berthold.
“So far in Montana, we have only seen sex trafficking,” Cotter said, but added that labor trafficking could come to the Bakken.
The U.S. Trafficking Victims Protection Act defines human trafficking as the use of force, fraud or coercion for the purposes of subjection to involuntary servitude, as well as any commercial sex act performed by a person under 18 years of age.
Labor trafficking often targets illegal immigrants and includes forced labor debt bondage for transportation from another country to the United States, and is covered under the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000. It amounts to slavery.
Cotter said human trafficking purveyors often target vulnerable female victims raised in low-income, single-parent households. He said victims rarely come forward and when information is provided to law enforcement, the sources usually are other people with knowledge of the trafficking.
There are 61 federally-funded task forces addressing human trafficking that operate in all 50 states. They include the Montana Human Trafficking Task Force, established by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, District of Montana in 2012.
Montana Assistant Attorney General Melissa Schlichting said the AG’s Office gives human trafficking a high priority.
Since 2010, 25 people have been charged for human trafficking crimes in South Dakota. Half of the victims were young Native American girls.
Cotter said several human trafficking cases have been successfully prosecuted in Montana and nearby states. They include William Richard Nielsen, of Missoula, who is serving a 40-year sentence in a federal prison. Cotter said Nielsen used the internet to lure a 12-year-old girl from Wyoming to Missoula in 2009, drugged and raped her. Cotter also talked about Iraqi refugee Mohammed Alaboudi, of Sioux Falls, S.D., who the U.S. Attorney in South Dakota said had drugged young girls and forced them into prostitution. A federal judge sentenced Alaboudi to four life terms earlier this year.
“North Dakota and South Dakota have successfully prosecuted cases that involved Native Americans as procurers and victims,” Cotter said. Some of those cases involved crimes committed in Williston.
Also cited was jurisdictional issues because of the presence of the reservation and that city, county, state and tribal law enforcement have agreements in place that allow them to work together.
Roosevelt County Sheriff’s Office Jail Administrator Melvin Clark represented Sheriff Freedom Crawford, who did not attend the meeting.
Clark said man camps are a law enforcement issue.
“When we try and track them down, they’ve got a new place already,” he said.
The RCSO is under staffed.
“We’re down on the east end of the county. We can’t give as many officers to the reservation,” Clark said.
He added the deputies cannot afford rental housing in the Culbertson and Bainville areas.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation has several agents based in Glasgow that work with all law enforcement agencies in the region.
Project Safe Bakken, comprised of local, state and federal law enforcement agencies and others in Montana and North Dakota, is working to reduce human and drug trafficking and other crime in the area. Law enforcement in Montana and North Dakota and federal authorities share information.
Cotter asked the public to report known or suspected human trafficking.
“The public always has a place to go with evidence of human trafficking,” Cotter said.
To report a human or drug trafficking case, contact the FBI in Glasgow at 228-2533. Other law enforcement agency telephone numbers are: Fort Peck Tribes Department of Law and Justice, 768-5332; Roosevelt County Sheriff’s Office, 653-6216; and Wolf Point Police Department, 653-1093.