Written by John Plestina
Will House Bill 43 that Gov. Steve Bullock penned his signature to in April be Barry Beach’s get out of jail card?
It remains unknown if former Poplar resident Beach’s freedom might have been legislated in the halls of the Montana State Capital early this year with the passage of HB 43 that took effect Oct. 1. It grants Montana’s governor final authority in clemency decisions to release state prisoners, even if the Montana Board of Pardons and Parole previously denied clemency applications. The new law grants Bullock powers similar to those held by governors of 42 other states.
Bullock has not made a statement on pardoning Beach since the passage of HB 43. He wrote to the parole board in April 2014, while a clemency application was pending for Beach, saying he believed Beach deserved an opportunity for rehabilitation outside of prison.
Beach, now 53, has languished in Montana State Prison in Deer Lodge for most of the last 31 years since he was sentenced in April 1984 at age 22 to a 100-year term without parole for the 1979 murder of his Poplar High School classmate Kim Nees that happened when he was 17.
The Justice Department under five Montana attorneys general, including Bullock, has argued that long before Beach claimed innocence, he confessed to the crime.
Beach has never wavered on his assertion of innocence and has maintained that his confession was coerced with aggressive tactics by investigators from a Louisiana sheriff’s office when he was 21 years old and living in Monroe, La.
Other people claimed responsibility for the murder and some have said they witnessed people other than Beach killing Nees.
Centurion Ministries, a Princeton, N.J., investigative agency that investigates and challenges alleged wrongful convictions, has won freedom in the court system for more than 50 people. Centurion accepted Beach’s case more than a decade ago.
Seattle, Wash., attorney Peter Camiel is affiliated with Centurion Ministries and has represented Beach for more than nine years. Wolf Point attorney Terrance Toavs has served as a co-council.
A new clemency application must be filed with the Board of Pardons and Parole, because before the governor can grant clemency, the parole board must still decide whether to hear a prisoner’s case and make a ruling.
The board has denied Beach four times in the past 21 years, choosing each time not to send the request on to the governor, who didn’t have the power to consider the case.
“We were originally expecting that Centurion Ministries would have the brief ready to file tomorrow [Oct. 1],” Beach’s mother Bobbi Clincher of Laurel said.
“I had joked and told Barry that I wanted it to be ready to be delivered one minute after midnight,” she said.
Clincher said the newest clemency filing was likely Monday or Tuesday, Oct. 5 or 6, because of availability of attorneys.
“Nothing from the Governor’s Office, but Margie MacDonald (D-Billings), the representative who originally carried House Bill 43 to the floor; she and 35 other legislators signed a letter that she composed to the governor asking the governor to grant clemency to Barry,” Clincher said.
“We pulled the Montana code on clemency out and realized that within the realm of clemency, he [Bullock] can grant clemency and, within that, he could grant a pardon or he could commute a sentence, or he can grant respite,” she said.
“We were worried that respite might mean parole; that they might commit Barry to parole,” Clincher said.
She said former state Sen. Terry Murphy, R-Cardwell, and several other former Republican senators and representatives composed a letter to Bullock and recommended that he commute the sentence to time served and do it as soon as possible.
“That was hand delivered to the governor this past Monday [Sept. 28],” Clincher said.
Beach’s case has become known nationally. It has been twice profiled on Dateline NBC.
A state court decision granting a new trial freed Beach for a little more than a year a few years ago, but a Supreme Court decision denied the new trial and sent Beach back to prison.
In May, the Montana Supreme Court denied a petition Beach’s attorneys filed in October 2014 with a 4-3, 68-page decision. The petition sought re-sentencing based on the constitutionality of the 100-year sentence without eligibility for parole because it was for a crime that occurred when he was a juvenile.
In June 2014, the Montana Board of Pardons and Parole rejected an application for a full clemency hearing for Beach.
Written by Eric Killelea
CHS Inc., the nation’s biggest co-op, recently offered tours to farmers showing them ongoing construction of the new grain elevator at the Macon terminal outside Wolf Point.
ASI Industrial, of Billings, began construction in May and expects the completion date in July.
With an added storage capacity of 915,000 bushels, the new grain elevator will include a 110-car capacity on the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway line moving peas along with spring and winter wheats to markets. The current elevator, which will connect to the new structure, was erected in 1974 and stores 990,000 bushels.
“We don’t have elevators to handle the modern-day farmer,” said James Lee Hardy III, manager at the Macon and Wolf Point terminals. “The farmers are excited because we’re re-investing in them.”
CHS declined to estimate the cost.
The Macon terminal has been buzzing with construction crews. It’s a welcomed site for the area farmers who have struggled with outdated grain elevators, while waiting on rail cars that seemed to focus on getting in and out of the Bakken oil patch. But various ingredients including political pressure, an increased buildout of pipelines and a slowdown in drilling activity have improved business for the farmers in eastern Montana.
“BNSF rail services to agriculture has improved in the past year,” Hardy said. “The rail freight (frack sand and pipe) is not as bad and this will help us load out more trains.”
The new elevator will have two unloading pits to receive an additional 20,000 bushels per hour each, up from 6,500 per hour today. The facility will have the capacity to load 105,000 bushels per hour – a considerable improvement from 35,000 bushels.
“The elevator will help provide better services to farmers without a doubt,” Hardy said. “We’ll be able to load out freight significantly faster.”
CHS did not plan to hire additional workers to its six person staff at the Macon terminal. Hardy did not have the cost of the overall construction but said ASI had nearly 100 workers for each of two shifts.
“That means it’s bringing in a whole lot of dollars into Wolf Point,” Hardy said.
CHS, based in St. Paul, Minn., is an agribusiness owned by farmers, ranchers and cooperatives across the United States.
Written by Eric Killelea
Rep. Bridget Smith, D-Wolf Point, flies Cape Air services in and out of Billings for business and personal meetings.
She is among the declining number of passengers using the Essential Air Service program that offers flights to Billings from Glasgow, Glendive, Havre, Sidney and Wolf Point since 2013 and has been awarded a new subsidized contract by the U.S. Department of Transportation.
The new contract continues service over the next four years at a 3 percent increase in annual subsidy. The current annual subsidy is $11.9 million.
Smith says the airline service is needed despite the number of passengers having dropped over the past year due to the slowdown in the Bakken oil fields of eastern Montana and western North Dakota.
The latest federal data shows most airports suffered declining figures between August 2013 and August 2014: Glasgow at 0.8 percent to 4,847 passengers; Glendive at 8.9 percent to 2,835; Sidney at 11.7 percent to 13,376; Wolf Point at 1.3 percent to 5,030. Havre increased its numbers by 0.3 to 3,029.
“Still, we need our airline service,” Smith said. “It’s one of the areas – besides roads – that we need help with here.”
Flights cost $52 each way, including all taxes and fees. The airline’s nine-passenger plane departs from the Wolf Point airport at 6:45 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. on its flights to Billings, and arrives back in Wolf Point at 12:16 p.m. and 7:11 p.m.
Richard Isle, director at the Wolf Point Public Works Department with general administrative power over the airport, said passengers can take the early morning flights and return home in the same day and others can use the service to catch connecting flights elsewhere.
“The oil patch has settled down, but the airline service is going well for all of us,” Isle said. “It’s a huge benefit. People fly out for business and medical reasons. The elderly love it. They don’t have to drive for their doctor’s appointments.”
To meet federal requirements the city airport has undergone several projects over the past decade: installment of the new aerodrome beacon and airport wind socks; expansion of the terminal for Transportation Security Administration screenings; construction of a fire equipment building and the runway.
Cape Air also serves markets in the northeast, Midwest and Caribbean. Its Montana Essential Air Service predecessors include Big Sky Airlines, Great Lakes Aviation and Silver Airways. Congress created the EAS program after deregulation of the airline industry in the late 1970s to help small communities maintain regular air service.
Written by John Plestina
Wolf Point Federal Credit Union CEO Lester Warby presents Carol Hackley of Wolf Point Pound Puppies with a donation.
Jerald Petersen of Western Bank presents Carol Hackley of Wolf Point Pound Puppies with a donation.
Employees of the banks in Wolf Point and Poplar, and the Wolf Point Federal Credit Union are going ”casual for canines,” by turning casual Fridays into cash for Wolf Point Pound Puppies.
Employees of First Community Bank and Western Bank of Wolf Point and Independence Bank of Poplar, and Wolf Point Federal Credit Union are collecting a dollar at a time from employees so that they can wear jeans on Fridays.
The nonprofit Pound Puppies is a local animal rescue organization that rescues animals from the pound in Wolf Point that have reached the six-day holding limit and finds new homes with local people for some and transports others to animal adoption groups in Montana and North Dakota.
Darla Bradley, president of Wolf Point Pound Puppies, said recently that Pound Puppies has rescued 736 dogs and about 150 cats since the inception of the organization more than three years ago.
First Community Bank in Wolf Point has a “Jeans Day Fund,” to which employees donate $1 on Fridays if they wear jeans to work. The funds are deposited into an account where they accumulate.
The city’s pound has a six-day hold and many dogs have been euthanized in the past because of a lack of space to keep them beyond the six days. Fewer are put down now because Pound Puppies takes as many dogs that have reached the six-day limit as they can accommodate at their homes or can find foster homes for.
Many are taken to organizations in Montana and North Dakota for adoption.
Pound Puppies has survived since its inception in late 2012, through donations from the Wolf Point Lions Club, other donations from organizations and individuals.
For additional information about adoptions, fostering pets and donating to Wolf Point Pound Puppies, contact Tina Bets His Medicine at 650-2177, Darla Bradley at 451-4847 or Carol Hackley at 768-7581.
Written by Herald-News
Agland Co-op held the first of several livestock clinics at the Cenex East store in Wolf Point Saturday, Oct. 3. Dr. Deidre Loendorf, a veterinarian practicing at a large animal clinic in Huntley and originally from Wolf Point, presents about best practices for cattle pre-conditioning and vaccinating. A Hi-Hog livestock equipment demonstration and a barbecue lunch were also provided. (Photo by John Plestina)