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Judge rejects Senate leader's conspiracy claims

HELENA, Mont. (AP) - A Helena judge has dismissed claims by the Montana Senate majority leader that the governor, a state senator and two commissioners of political practices were conspiring to drive him out of office.

District Judge Jeffrey Sherlock Tuesday also rejected Bozeman Republican Art Wittich's accusations of misconduct and abuse of process against Commissioner Jonathan Motl for bringing a civil action against Wittich for campaign law violations.

Motl's lawsuit asks Sherlock to uphold the commissioner's findings that Wittich coordinated with and took illegal corporate contributions from the conservative group Western Tradition Partnership.

If Sherlock agrees with Motl's findings, Wittich could be removed from office.

Wittich filed counterclaims against Motl, saying the commissioner's ulterior motive is to remove Wittich.

Wittich also claimed Gov. Steve Bullock, Republican Sen. Bruce Tutvedt of Kalispell and Motl's predecessor, Jim Murry, conspired against him.


Former Wall Street Journal reporter assaulted

MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) - Police in Missoula are searching for a man suspected of assaulting a former Wall Street Journal and Missoulian reporter, likely costing the 70-year-old man the sight in his left eye.

Les Gapay tells the Missoulian he was assaulted Sunday in the parking lot of a Walmart, where he was staying in his pickup for the night.

Gapay says as he was leaving the store he was approached by two intoxicated men, one of whom punched him in the chest. He says a third man hit him in the eye at least five times.

Gapay's eye surgeon told him his chance of seeing again is about 5 percent.

The first two men were arrested and face misdemeanor charges. Officers have a warrant to arrest 30-year-old Sean Marceau for felony aggravated assault.


Havre businessman pleads guilty in corruption case

GREAT FALLS, Mont. (AP) - A Havre businessman has pleaded guilty to his role in a conspiracy that defrauded the Chippewa Cree Tribe and funneled money to several others involved, including former state legislator Tony Belcourt.

Shad James Huston pleaded guilty Monday to theft from an Indian tribal organization, failure to file currency transaction reports and bribery of a tribal official. U.S. District Judge Brian Morris scheduled sentencing for Nov. 24.

Huston acknowledged one of his businesses received $120,000 from the tribe in October 2011 for $4,000 worth of road work.

He also acknowledged failing to report a transaction of more than $10,000 at another business and to paying $25,000 to benefit tribal business committee chairman Bruce Sunchild.

Federal prosecutors said they could prove additional theft, that Huston failed to report 19 transactions and spent $57,800 to benefit three tribal members.


Triple-murder suspect due in court Wednesday

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) - A man accused in a triple murder on Montana's Crow Indian Reservation is due in court Wednesday for a mental health competency hearing.

Twenty-five-year-old Sheldon Bernard Chase has been ordered to appear via video conference from the U.S. Medical Center for Federal Prisoners in Springfield, Missouri. Also ordered to appear was prison psychologist Dr. Elizabeth Tyner.

Authorities say in October 2011 Chase took a rifle from his mother's house in North Dakota and travelled to the Crow reservation, where he shot his grandmother, cousin and the cousin's boyfriend.

If U.S. District Judge Susan Watters upholds an earlier determination that Chase is incompetent to stand trial, he'll go through a civil commitment process that could send him to an institution for the rest of his life.

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