Written by Herald-News
In the story about the Montana Department of Revenue alcohol law enforcement training for area law enforcement that ran last week, powdered-alcohol and alcohol-filled chocolates are illegal in Montana.
Written by Herald-News
(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 help keep the public informed and to illustrate that the jail has been dealing with overcrowding issues in the 17-bed facility.)
As of Tuesday, Sept. 8, 15 inmates were housed in the Roosevelt County Jail. Fort Benton Detention Center was holding one male and the Valley County Detention Center Was Holding two females to alleviate overcrowding.
The RCSO reported that the following individuals were incarcerated at the jail between Monday, Aug. 24 and Tuesday, Sept. 8:
• Frank Baker, 33, Wolf Point, criminal possession of dangerous drugs;
• Amos Bridges, 39, Wolf Point, criminal contempt warrant;
• Jason Daugherty, 37, Wolf Point, criminal possession of dangerous drugs [two counts], criminal possession of drug paraphernalia, attempted assault on a peace officer or judicial officer, and resisting arrest;
• Tyrule Davis, 43, Los Angeles, Calif., assault on peace officer or judicial official;
•Jason Fridge, 30, Williston, N.D., driving under the influence of any drug;
•Terry Holben, 46, Harlem, partner or family member assault - third offense;
•Christopher L. Hovey, 26, Williston, N.D., out-of- county warrant;
•Kevyn Johannesson, 26, Williston, N.D., fleeing or eluding a peace officer, criminal endangerment and obstructing a peace officer;
•Joseph Laturell, 52, Bainville, partner or family member assault, sexual intercourse without consent and aggravated kidnapping;
•Anthony McClendon, 56, Culbertson, aggravated assault;
•Roy Allen Murray Jr., 30, Portland, Ore., arrested on Oregon felony warrant, driving under the influence - drug, driving a motor vehicle while privilege to do so revoked, operating without liability insurance, criminal possession of drug paraphernalia, criminal possession of dangerous drugs;
•Brett Sandy, 25, Orange, Calif., felony theft;
•Bobby Vondall, 28, Trenton, N.D., speeding, driving under the influence, disorderly conduct;
•Kouchi Wagner, 44, Kalispell, out-of-county warrant;
•Monte Walton, 35, Poplar, endangering the welfare of a child, violation of a protective order, first offense, criminal possession of dangerous drugs and criminal possession of drug paraphernalia.
Written by Herald-News
(Editor’s Note: The following blotter is a partial list of activities involving the Wolf Point Police Department and Volunteer Fire Department between Aug. 31 and Sept. 6. All those arrested or cited are presumed innocent.)
Noon, officers responded to Fourth Avenue South and Main Street for a report of a motor vehicle accident with one person transported by ambulance to Northeast Montana Health Services - Wolf Point Campus with non-life threatening injuries. Officers cited Phillip Letsche, 51, of Wolf Point with a right-of-way violation.
8:30 a.m., officers responded to a residence on the 500 block of Johnson Street for a report of a theft from the yard with a loss valued under $1,000. The incident remains under investigation.
10:17 p.m., officers responded to Third Avenue South and Main Street for a report of a disturbance and cited David Moran, 23, of Wolf Point for disorderly conduct.
2:34 a.m., officers responded to Town Pump for a report of a male harassing others. The individual left prior to police arrival.
9:05 a.m., officers responded to Town Pump for a report of a female attempting to pass counterfeit currency. The incident remains under investigation.
10 a.m., officers responded to Wolf Point Liquor Market on the 200 block of Anaconda Street for a report of a theft with a loss valued under $1,000. The incident remains under investigation.
10:16 a.m., officers responded to Wolf Point Federal Credit Union for a report of an attempt to pass counterfeit currency by the same individual that attempted to use counterfeit money at Town Pump 16 minutes earlier. Police said the individual is a juvenile female. The incident remains under investigation.
11:22 a.m., officers responded to Triangle Park for a report of a male attempting to assault a female and arrested Larry Long Jr., 42, of Frazer for disorderly conduct.
10:05 p.m., officers responded to Gysler Hardware for a report of an attempted assault with no reported injuries. The incident remains under investigation.
10:09 p.m., officers responded to Lucky Lil’s Casino for a report of an assault. The victim refused to cooperate with police. No further action was taken.
10:27 p.m., officers responded to a residence on the 300 block of Custer Street for a report of a man causing a disturbance and arrested Trevor White, 23, of Wolf Point for disorderly conduct and simple assault.
8:49 a.m., police took a report of a theft of a credit card with unauthorized charges against the card with a loss valued over $1,000. The incident remains under investigation.
4:02 a.m., officers responded to Town Pump for a request to remove a male and arrested Josh Flaten, 22, of Wolf Point on a warrant.
11:55 a.m., officers responded to the 100 block of Main Street for a report of a motor vehicle accident and cited Jeff Low Dog, 54, of Wolf Point for driving without a license.
1:15 p.m., officers responded to a residence on the 100 block of Idaho Street for a report of a theft from the yard with a loss valued under $1,000. The incident remains under investigation.
5:38 a.m., officers responded to a residence on the 300 block of Custer Street for a report of vandalism to a residence with a loss valued under $1,000. The incident remains under investigation.
10:39 a.m., officers responded to the 200 block of East Granville Street for a report of an assault and arrested Billy Escarcega, 28, and Doratello Fisher, 30, both of Wolf Point for aggravated assault and criminal trespass.
10:50 p.m., officers responded to a residence on the 400 block of Fifth Avenue South for a report of two people throwing rocks at a residence. The incident remains under investigation.
In addition to the above calls, the WPPD responded to the following calls between Aug. 31 and Sept. 6: checks of wellbeing, two; civil standby, two; public assistance, 26; motor vehicle accidents, one; removal of unwanted individuals, 17; animal complaints, five; medical assistance, four; alarm, 11; assist other agency, three; unfounded reports, 10; driving complaints, nine; and school requested assistance, one.
Written by John Plestina
Debris from two burned mobile homes on the south side remain long after fires displaced the last people living at the sites.
(Photos by John Plestina)
City officials are telling some Wolf Point property owners to remove trash and junk vehicles from yards and cut down weeds or the work could be done without permission from owners and assessments charged.
City clerk/treasurer Marlene Mahlum said weeds and other vegetation exceeding eight inches, untrimmed hedges, unlicensed vehicles, trash and debris from burned structures violate a municipal nuisance ordinance.
Property owners are legally responsible for weeds and trash to the street in front of their properties and one-half of alleys behind properties.
The problem exists in every part of town.
Mahlum said the Wolf Point Police Department and public works department could enforce the nuisance ordinance.
She cited public health, safety and fire hazards.
“I can send them a notice. I can give them seven days to mow it,” Mahlum said.
She said the city can have grass and weeds mowed, yards cleaned up and charge assessments.
“We have sent letters out. I don’t know how many of them responded,” Mahlum said.
“Some of them cut the weeds and left them [in yards and alleys],” she said, and added that cut vegetation must be removed.
Mahlum said owners of several properties with debris remaining from fires that destroyed houses and mobile homes, and owners of vacant and neglected properties are subject to the nuisance ordinance. Some structures that have been destroyed by fire have remained on lots for several years.
Written by John Plestina
Several members of the Wolf Point Police Department, Roosevelt County Sheriff’s Office and Montana Highway Patrol attended a Montana Department of Revenue alcohol law enforcement training in Wolf Point Wednesday, Aug. 26.
The DOR is educating law enforcement officers and the public across the state about enforcement of existing liquor laws and the need to change a deeply ingrained Montana drinking culture that is stubbornly resistant to change.
Montana ranks first in the nation for alcohol-related deaths per 100,000 people, highest in the nation for fatalities per 100 million miles traveled and third at almost 40 percent of fatalities related to alcohol.
Lisa Scates, a Helena-based Montana DOR alcohol education coordinator, told local law enforcement officials and officers that the drinking culture in Montana is very strong.
“We’re fighting a tough battle,” she said.
Scates said 65 percent of crime nationwide begins or ends at a bar or liquor store.
Wolf Point police chief Jeff Harada said that percentage is low for Wolf Point.
Scates said alcohol-caused crimes include assaults, domestic violence and sexual assaults.
According to Montana Department of Corrections statistics, 90 percent of inmates had alcohol or drugs or both related to the crimes of which they were convicted.
Scates said the percentage of crimes that are related to both alcohol and marijuana are increasing.
She said powdered alcohol and alcohol-filled chocolates are not illegal in Montana. She compared powdered alcohol to Kool-Aid packets that become beverages when water is added.
“How easy that is to entice kids to try that,” she said.
Scates said the DOR denied a cereal-flavored vodka called Loopy with a Fruit Loops-style design on the bottle.
“It’s perfectly legal for a bar to make Jell-O shots and sell them,” she said and added that it is not legal to sell in stores. Scates also cited alcohol-filled chocolates, which are illegal in Montana.
“There’s bacon-flavored vodka. There’s salmon-flavored vodka,” she said.
Scates cited Washington state, which deregulated alcohol sales four years ago with a voter approved liquor privatization initiative.
The availability of alcohol increased with the number of retailers increasing from 338 state stores to more than 1,700 private stores.
Large retailers lobbied voters to approve the initiative.
“Costco spent about $33 million,” Scates said.
“They’re now dealing with the consequences [in Washington],” she said.
“The cost of alcohol has gone through the roof. Their grab and runs [shoplifting of alcohol] has gone up,” Scates said.
She said “border stores,” which are liquor stores in Oregon just across the state line from Washington, have benefited.
“Washington is really suffering for that now,” Scates said. “It’s a benefit that we are a control state.”
Montana is one of 18 control states, which means the DOR controls all liquor sold in the state. Other control states include neighbors Idaho and Wyoming.
The vendor owns the liquor and must send it to a state warehouse in Helena. The DOR acts as a middleman before it is distributed to retailers.
Thirty-eight states are licensing states, which license establishments and the state is not in the wholesale business.
Scates said there would be more consumption if Montana were a license state.
Liquor distribution in Montana is a three-tiered system. The tiers are breweries and wineries, wholesalers and retailers. Licensed businesses cannot be more than one. Breweries are not on the retail tier.
Montana is one of only 17 states that use a system of quota areas for liquor licensing. Quotas for the number of liquor licenses include the area that is within city limits, within a five-mile radius of the city limits and within the county.
“It’s a way for us [DOR] to control how many licenses there are out there,” Scates said.
Agency stores in Montana are privately owned liquor stores under contract with the state. Agency stores are not bars.
“They cannot consume on the premises,” Scates said.
That is what is called “self pour,” which is not allowed in Montana.
Over service and sales to minors are lingering problem across Montana that have been reported to be prevalent in Wolf Point.
It is unlawful in Montana sell or serve alcohol to a person who is actually, apparently obviously intoxicated.
Scates said the DOR wants to fix the problems.
“We don’t want to put them [bars and convenience stores] out of business. They’re Montana businesses,” Scates said.
She said bartenders and retail sales people should cut off people who are not obviously intoxicated if it is apparent that they are attempting to purchase alcohol for an intoxicated individual.
The DOR issues licenses and is the only entity that can take them away, but there is action local law enforcement can take.
“If law enforcement deems a bar a public nuisance, they can shut them down,” Scates said.
A city can revoke a business license, she said.
“The Montana Department of Revenue functions with a four-strike policy. Four strikes in three years, you’re out,” Scates said.
She explained that any liquor law violation against a bartender, server or retail employee counts against the liquor license. As far as individual employees that are cited for violations, some judges are stricter than others.
Scates recommended that law enforcement send copies of citations for violations that include over service and serving minors against establishments, managers and owners to the DOR. She said even if there are no formal charges or cases are dismissed, the DOR could investigate for state liquor law violations. Also, law enforcement should forward DUI reports that include where the person charged purchased package alcohol or ordered bar drinks.
Montana is among the most lenient of states with some of the lowest dollar amounts of fines.
The fines for violations that include over service and serving minors are: first offense, $250 fine; second offense, $1,000 fine; third offense, $1,500 fine; and fourth offense, revocation of the liquor license.
“It is very difficult to change liquor laws in Montana without the support of the [alcohol] industry,” Scates said.
Scates cited a landmark case with consequences where a bartender became the first in Montana to go to jail for over service after an intoxicated patron caused a fatal crash.
Bartender Nathan Hale, 28, of Bigfork was employed in a bar in a bowling alley in a rural area near Flathead Lake in 2009. Scates called the location of the establishment “in the middle of nowhere,” with a substantial amount of driving required for patrons leaving the bar.
Hale was convicted of negligent endangerment, selling alcohol after hours and selling alcohol to an intoxicated customer, all misdemeanors, and served six months in jail.
“It was the first time that anyone was held accountable for that in Montana,” Scates said.
Hale was reported to have served 13 drinks in two and a half hours to off-duty coworker Travis Vandersloot, 29, of Columbia Falls. After leaving the bowling alley, Vandersloot crashed head-on into a Montana Highway Patrol cruiser while traveling at about 80 mph in the wrong lane on U.S. Hwy, 93. MHP trooper Michael Haynes and Vandersloot both died in the crashed. Police found a glass pipe for smoking marijuana in Vandersloot’s car and determined that his blood alcohol level was 0.18.
Scates said that crash and another DUI caused crash in 2008 that also claimed the life of an MHP trooper resulted in then MHP colonel and now Montana Department of Transportation director Mike Tooley, who is formerly of Wolf Point, telling the Montana Legislature they failed the families of the two MHP troopers, who were the only fatalities in the line of duty in about 50 years. Tooley lobbied for and got stricter DUI laws.
Scates said she has had calls from owners of bars and stores that sell alcoholic beverages, bartenders and other employees that sell or serve alcohol that are upset because they cannot serve intoxicated people. She said some people told her they don’t think they should be responsible for others.
“If you think about it, over service is a big problem in Montana,” Scates said.
She said some other states license servers as well as establishments, holding bartenders and table servers to a higher level of accountability than they are in Montana.
Scates said if Montana licensed servers, a fired bartender or server would have a license to work in jeopardy and a difficult time finding another job.
Montana does require sales and service training within two months of being hired. Several certification classes have been held in Wolf Point and Culbertson.
A few other points that Scates presented included that a city can be more restrictive than state law, but not less.
She said there is no state law that says a person younger than 21 cannot be inside a bar. Some states prohibit any person under 21 from being in any bar, even with a parent.
Scates said bars could set “house policies,” which are limits on minors being inside establishments, as long as the policies do not violate civil rights.
Minors at 18 are permitted to work in bars and to serve open containers of alcohol. There is no legal minimum age to sell, stock or carry out for customers closed containers of alcohol.
Licenses are not needed for private events that include weddings and office parties where alcohol is served. An exception would be for catering businesses.
Anyone having a private event or party could be liable if someone becomes intoxicated and hurts him or her self or someone else.