Written by John Plestina
Former Poplar resident Barry Beach’s freedom might have been legislated in the halls of the Montana State Capital with the passage of House Bill 43 that Gov. Steve Bullock penned his signature to less than two weeks ago, granting him final authority in clemency decisions.
The new law that will take effect Oct. 15 will grant the Montana governor clemency powers similar to those held by a majority of governors and allow the governor to release state prisoners, even if the Montana Board of Pardons and Parole previously denied clemency applications.
Currently, Montana’s Board of Pardons and Parole is one of only eight in the nation that have the final say on clemency petitions.
Bullock wrote to that board in April 2014, while a clemency application was pending for Beach, saying he believed Beach deserved an opportunity for rehabilitation outside of prison.
Bullock has not made a statement on pardoning Beach since the passage of HB43.
The measure passed the House in late January on a vote of 88-12 and passed the Senate unanimously March 20, after receiving a unanimous endorsement from the Senate Judiciary Committee in February.
Beach, 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 a 1979 murder he was convicted of that happened in Poplar when he was 17. A 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.
While October is the earliest that Bullock could pardon Beach, the Montana Supreme Court is expected to rule soon on a petition Beach’s attorneys filed in October 2014, asking that Beach be re-sentenced for his conviction of a 1979 beating death, a crime Beach denies any guilt for. Montana’s highest court heard arguments for Beach’s petition Feb. 4.
The central point of the hearing was not whether Beach killed Kim Nees nearly 36 years ago, but rather on the constitutionality of his 100-year sentence without eligibility for parole for a crime that occurred when he was a juvenile.
If that occurs, a likely outcome would be a decision to send the case back to district court for re-sentencing before 7th District Judge Katherine Bidegaray of Sidney.
Fifteenth District Judge David Cybulski recused himself from a hearing for Beach several years ago because he had denied a petition for post conviction relief and was reversed on appeal.
Beach has never wavered on his assertion of innocence in the 1979 murder of his Poplar High School classmate.
His 1984 conviction in 17th District Court in Glasgow was based on Beach confessing to the crime following an interrogation by investigators from a Louisiana sheriff’s office. He has maintained that the confession was coerced with aggressive tactics.
Other people have claimed responsibility for the murder and some have said they witnessed people other than Beach killing Nees.
In June 2014, the Montana Board of Pardons and Parole rejected an application for a full clemency hearing for Beach.
Written by John Plestina
Gov. Steve Bullock signed House Bill 132 into law last week, paving the way for the Roosevelt County DUI Task Force to receive about $18,000 in funding by July 1.
The new legislation allows reallocation of unspent special revenue funds to Roosevelt County and 35 other counties that have DUI task forces or other county drinking and driving prevention programs, by allowing for the county portion of driver’s license reinstatement fees collected in counties that do not have task forces to be distributed on an equal basis to the 36 counties that have task forces on July 1 of each year.
DUI Task Force secretary Mary Vine said the exact amount is unknown, but it is believed to be about $18,000.
The bill was introduced for the current legislative session at the request of the Montana Department of Transportation.
During the monthly DUI Task Force meeting, Wednesday, April 1, there was a discussion of what to do with funding.
Possibilities include establishing a scholarship and purchasing monitoring equipment for monitoring non-tribal DUI offenders through the Fort Peck Tribal Court DUI Court program.
The county commissioners approved a resolution that formally established the task force in April 2014. A group had held organizational meetings since late 2013. The task force meets monthly and includes representatives of the Wolf Point Police Department, Roosevelt County Sheriff’s Office, Montana Highway Patrol, Fort Peck Tribes Department of Law and Justice, Fort Peck Tribal Court and members of the community.
In other business, the task force discussed two more alcohol sales and service training classes ― one in Wolf Point and one in Culbertson ― before the current fiscal year ends June 30.
Employees, managers and owners of bars, restaurants, convenience stores and other retail stores that sell or serve alcohol must take an alcohol sales and server training class that is mandated by state law and become certified within 60 days of being hired. After 60 days, employees cannot legally work without certification and owners of establishments could face fines for not ensuring that themselves and all of their employees are certified.
The DUI Task Force also discussed possibly paying the Wolf Point Police Department to cover overtime for officers to do compliance checks at bars for certification of all servers and observance of state laws, including not over serving intoxicated patrons and not serving minors.
Written by Herald-News
The Wolf Point Volunteer Fire Department elected officers for the coming year Thursday, April 2.
The WPFD elects officers every April.
Shawn Eggar will continue to serve as fire chief.
Dave Parsley was elected assistant chief. He served as a captain last year.
Chris Dschaak was elected as one of the two captains. He is also mayor of Wolf Point.
Clint Bushman was also elected as a captain.
Chris Allen was elected training officer.
Joe Reinhart will serve as secretary/treasurer.
Jennifer Burshia-Martell was elected safety officer.
Written by Herald-News
The deadline for candidates to file for school trustee positions passed Friday, March 27. The following is a list of candidates in all Roosevelt County school districts.
In Bainville, four running for two positions. Ron Butikofer is the only incumbent seeking reelection. He is opposed by John Gilligan, Michael Keefner and Tyler Traeger.
Current board member Chanon Romo did not file for reelection.
In Brockton, incumbents Leonard Boxer and Rodney Burshia are opposed by Darren Long Hair. The top two finishers will serve on the board.
Culbertson does not have a contested race with incumbents Paul Finnicum and Cheryl Kirkaldie running for reelection unopposed.
In the Frontier School District, incumbents Brandon Babb and Bill Pew are running for reelection unopposed.
In Froid, three people are running for two positions. Lynda Labatte, Scott Westland and Rick Williams are seeking election to the seats currently held by Rod Luft and J.D. Anderson. Neither are running for reelection.
There are two three-year terms open in Poplar with 13 candidates. Incumbents Faith O’Connor and Noah Strauser are opposed by Howard Azure, Scotty H. Azure, Jodie Boyd, Thomas Brown, George Budak, James DeHerrera, Susan L. Ennis, Rick Kirn, Shannon Knowlton, Debra J. McGowan and Gary Sadler.
Fourteen people filed papers with the Wolf Point School District declaring their candidacy for six available school trustee positions. By district, they are:
District 45-1, two-year term: Yvonne Smoker-Bashay, Corey E Reum;
District 45-2, one-year term: Jaronn R. Boysun [incumbent], Linda L. Hansen;
District 45-3, three-year term: Mark Kurokawa, Gib R. Medicine Cloud;
District 45-4, three-year term: Paul K, Gysler. La-Rae Hanks, Lawrence “Larry” Wetsit;
District 45-5, two-year term: Lanette Clark, Mary Vine;
At-large district 45A, one-year term: Brandon Babb, Roxanne Gourneau, Glenn Strader.
Written by Herald-News
Wolf Point Chamber of Commerce and Agriculture director Jan Bryan presents the First Dollar Award to Dakota Dollar Plus owner Eric Johannasen, Monday, April 6. Johannasen opened the new dollar store Feb. 7 on the 400 block of Cascade Street. (Photo by John Plestina)