- Written by John Plestina
Roosevelt County Commission presiding officer Duane Nygaard read a letter from the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Billings Tuesday, March 17, commending Roosevelt County Sheriff’s Sgt. Patrick O’Connor for the arrest of Misha Marie Canon, 48, of San Bernardino,
Calif., near Bainville on Jan. 25.
Canon was the last of a 40-member East Coast heroin and cocaine ring to be taken into custody.
In other business, Culbertson Airport Committee members Rick Knick and Bob Petersen requested county assistance for Big Sky Field, the county-owned airport at Cul-
Knick asked for help with with an appraisal needed for a land acquisition that would be necessary to lengthen and widen a runway that would allow air ambulances to land in Culbertson. Currently, airplanes used as air ambulances must land in Poplar and patients must be transported more than 30 miles by ambulance.
“We see this as essential to keep the hospital in Culbertson,” Petersen said.
Commissioner Allen Bowker of Culbertson asked Knick how much it would cost the county and how long the county would have to wait for FAA reimbursement.
The response was that reimbursement might take more than a year and land in the area has sold between $5,000 and $20,000 per acre. He added that it might not cost as much.
“We all know the oil boom is bust, so we don’t know what the appraisal would come in at,” Knick said.
Nygaard said he wants to see an environmental assessment for the runway project.
Also, a Bainville resident is asking for a new hangar on the south side of the ramp area.
Knick asked Assistant Roosevelt County Attorney Jordan Knudsen to review a draft of a lease agreement.
The commissioners discussed needed fencing repairs at the airport and will vote on funding repairs or replacement Tuesday, March 24.
In another matter, Tina Magnan of Wolf Point told the commissioners that people who live in rural areas have been dumping trash in dumpsters within the city. She suggested a county landfill fee for rural residents.
One rural resident took offense, saying he would not be willing to pay an additional tax.
Nygaard said some rural county residents pay a fee to use the dumpsters in Wolf Point.
Knudsen said he would research the law pertaining to the matter. He said enforcement and prosecution would be a start.
In another matter brought to the commissioners, Clayton - Stevenson Memorial Chapel requested that the county pay for an indigent burial of a woman who recently died in Faith Home.
Knudsen said he has not seen any solid evidence that the woman was indigent and recommended that the commission delay a decision.
The commissioners will revisit the matter at a later date.
The commission also voted to hire Tamara Fossetta to become the librarian in Culbertson.
In other business, the commissioners voted to hire Lowell Boyd Jr. and Lee Frederick as deputy sheriffs to work in Poplar. The RCSO recently took over city patrol duties because the Poplar Police Department disbanded.
- Written by John Plestina
The Fort Peck Tribal Court is now one of only five in the nation with criminal jurisdiction over non-Indians in crimes of domestic and dating violence where a tribal member is a victim.
The United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Montana announced earlier this month that the U.S. Department of Justice selected the tribal court in Poplar to become one of only five tribal courts in the nation to qualify for a pilot project for implementation of the 2013 reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, which partially reversed a 1978 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that stripped Native American tribal courts of criminal jurisdiction over non-Indians on reservations.
The VAWA now permits the Fort Peck Tribes Department of Law and Justice to investigate and the tribes to prosecute non-Indians who are married to or in a dating partnership with a tribal member for domestic violence, dating violence and violations of restraining orders. Any non-Indian prosecuted under the new law must either live or work on the reservation.
Persons convicted of domestic violence in tribal court have a right to appeal to the tribes’ Court of Appeals, and if appeals are exhausted, defendants may appeal to federal court.
Prior to this change, Indian women who were beaten or otherwise abused by non-Indian husbands or partners on tribal land had nowhere to turn for protection. Tribal authorities had no authority to intervene if the perpetrator was a non-Indian and the state could not prosecute because the victim was an Indian with the crime occurring on a reservation. It was rare that the federal government would prosecute those cases.
The federal law mandates that the presiding judge, prosecuting attorney and defense attorney must be lawyers. Until recently, tribal public defender Anna Sullivan had been the only attorney on the court staff.
The tribes recently hired Stacie Crawford as a special prosecutor to for the VAWA cases. She is a tribal employee and will be able to prosecute in both tribal court and U.S. District Court.
The tribes’ executive board hired attorney Eldena Nicole Bear Don’t Walk in November. She is a private practice attorney in Saint Ignatius in western Montana and an enrolled member of the Crow Tribe.
Bear Don’t Walk, 41, has a juris doctorate from the University of Montana School of Law. She has about eight years experience as an attorney, is an appellate justice for the Rocky Boy’s Reservation and serves other tribes as a judge. She was also a state public defender in Montana.
The U.S. Attorney’s office will review more serious crimes of violence against women that might qualify for federal prosecution.
Fort Peck tribal attorney Rene Martell told The Herald-News that Monday, March 16, was the implementation day for the tribes’ participation in the pilot project.
“The tribes were authorized to do it on March 7,” he said.
There are no cases yet.
“We don’t know exactly what numbers we are going to have in the next year. In a large percentage of criminal cases, things settle out,” Martell said of potential plea agreements.
He said it is likely that there might be prosecutions during the coming months, but he did not know when there might be a jury trial.
Martell said non-Indians convicted of domestic violence under the pilot project would be jailed in the Fort Peck Tribal jail.
The Fort Peck Tribes joins the Pascua Yaqui Tribe of Arizona, the Tulalip Tribes of Washington, Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate of the Lake Traverse Reservation in South Dakota and the Umatilla Tribes of Oregon with the special criminal jurisdiction.
“The U.S. Attorney’s Office congratulates Fort Peck for its hard work in earning pilot project status,” Montana U.S. Attorney Michael Cotter said in a prepared statement. “This is a significant win for public safety and tribal sovereignty for the Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes.”
John Dossett, general counsel for the National Congress of American Indians, also said in a prepared statement: “From the beginning of the Violence Against Women Act tribal working group, we wanted to see Fort Peck succeed in the pilot because it is a large rural reservation with a larger criminal case load. They have provided a very good model for other large tribes and it will increase justice and safety for those reservations. Hats off to Fort Peck.”
President Barack Obama signed the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act on March 7, 2013, and said, “tribal governments have an inherent right to protect their people, and all women deserve the right to live free from fear.”
Obama signed a measure in December to extend VAWA’s tribal provisions to Alaska.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, American Indian women suffer from domestic violence at rates more than double national averages, and sometimes at the hands of non-Indian men.
Other tribal governments in Montana and across the nation may gain the authority to prosecute non-Indians under the VAWA.
- Written by Nancy Mahan
The Culbertson school board chose a school calendar for the 2015-2016 school year during the monthly board meeting, Thursday, March 12.
The board reviewed school calendar options and chose Calendar A, which has 180 student days, three flex days and seven PIR days with school starting Aug. 20 and ending on May 26, 2016.
The board approved the purchase of new gym equipment in the total of $45,000. They also approved a new rental agreement for access to the gym and equipment. Access card holders must be at least 18 and a high school graduate. A background check will be required. An access card will be issued once the background check clears.
Cameras are installed and the memory was updated to allow for a longer record playback for security purposes and for theft prevention and apprehension. If a card holder misuses their card or the facility, their card will be deactivated. The card holder would then need to go before the school board to explain why they should have their card reinstated.
Some reasons a card could be deactivated are, but not limited to; allowing other people to use your card to enter the gym including your children, allowing your children to be unsupervised in the gym, stealing gym equipment, leaving the facility in disarray, possessing alcohol, tobacco, weapons or narcotics in the gym or any misuse of the facility and the equipment. Card holders are also required to show proof they have an active liability insurance policy in order to use the facility.
Two guest teacher applications from Stephan Copple and Valerie Thompson were approved pending clear background checks. The resignation of Spanish teacher Tara Swanepoel was accepted leaving an opening for a Spanish teacher for the 2015-16 school year.
The FFA/concessions stipend increase from $4,000 to $5,000 was approved.
The golf head coach for this season will be D.J. Houge. Track season started March 9 with 24 students participating. Junior high and elementary track will start March 23.
Participation in the Roose-Valley Special Education Cooperative for the 2015-2016 school year was approved. This co-op provides a speech pathologist, a school psychologist and occupational therapy service for those in need with in the school.
Any seniors on the Accellus credit recovery program must have their classes completed by May 8 in order to graduate. The Student Council will be hosting
a motivational speaker, Monday, March 23. Area schools have been invited to attend this assembly. A’rick Jackson is the guest speaker.
Current enrollment numbers are 275 students.
The school board decided to not run an additional general fund levy for both the elementary and high school district this school year.
Tuesday May 5 will be the date to vote for the school board trustee positions. The seats held by Cheryl Kirkaldie and Paul Finnicum will expire this May. Petitions for these seats on the board are available from Lora Finnicum. Anyone interested in running for the board can pick one up at her office at the Culbertson School. The deadline to complete and submit the petition is March 26 at 4 p.m.
The next board meeting will be held Thursday, April 16, at 7 p.m. This meeting follows parent teacher conferences.
- Written by Culbertson Searchlight
A spill of an estimated 1,680 gallons of brine as a result of a truck overflow about seven miles west of Williston, N.D., Monday, March 9.
Brine is a salty, toxic drilling waste byproduct of fracking operations that is much saltier than sea water.
The spill impacted a nearby creek.
The North Dakota Department of Health has identified Golden Eagle Trucking as the responsible party.
A brine spill of almost 3 million gallons on Jan. 6, also near Williston, was North Dakota’s largest since the oil boom began.
- Written by Culbertson Searchlight
Several people appeared before District Judge David Cybulski in 15th District Court, Wednesday, March 11.
Kyle Fuchs, 32, of Culbertson withdrew previously entered not guilty pleas and pleaded guilty to assault with a weapon and criminal endangerment, both felonies.
The original charges following his Sept. 28 arrest were disorderly conduct, partner/family member assault, assault with weapon, unlawful restraint and criminal endangerment.
Fuchs admitted in court last week that he threatened his wife and a male visitor in his home with a loaded shotgun while intoxicated.
Fuchs, who has been lodged in the Roosevelt County Jail more than five months, went home with an own recognizance release, which was part of his plea agreement.
Cybulski denied a reduction in bail Nov. 12 after Assistant County Attorney Jordan Knudsen opposed reducing bond, citing eight previous bail jumping charges.
Joshua Wayne Jones, 36, of Williston, N.D., entered not guilty pleas to three counts. He said he had previously entered not guilty pleas. It was unclear whether he had.
Jones pleaded guilty to a felony charge of criminal possession of dangerous drugs and misdemeanor criminal possession of drug paraphernalia.
Jones and Melissa Ann Jewett, 32, of Williston were arrested together Jan. 19 in a casino near Bainville. They have companion cases and trials scheduled. Methamphetamine and a knife were found in Jones’ pockets.
Both have been free on bond since Feb. 12, one day after Cybulski agreed to reduce bail from $25,000 to $5,000 for both with waivers of extraction.
Jewett pleaded not guilty in February on felony criminal possession of dangerous drugs and a misdemeanor charge of obstructing a peace officer.
Jones and Jewett are scheduled for trial May 11.