Michael Moore’s story on the federal crackdown on medical marijuana is generating a lot of comment.
Turns out that inquiries by U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents extend to lawmakers who worked to reform Montana’s messy medical marijuana situation.
They included Missoula’s Diana Sands, who was not amused:
“So now, if you’re a state legislator who has been working on medical marijuana laws, you are somehow part of a conspiracy,” said Sands, who represents House District 95 in Missoula and works as development director for the Historical Museum at Fort Missoula. “It’s ridiculous, of course, but it’s also threatening to think that the federal government is willing to use its influence and try to chill discussion about this subject.”
Sands isn’t the only one with concerns. At least one other legislator declined comment regarding DEA questions about the legislator’s duties out of concern over “additional harassment.”
Sands thinks the DEA is trying to send a message to people to steer clear of medical marijuana – even if their only involvement is working on legislation.
What do you think?
Saying that “I am no longer the best man for the job,” Lake County Undersheriff Karey Reynolds – under investigation by the Montana Department of Justice – quit yesterday.
Missoulian reporter Vince Devlin, who’s been following the case, writes that Detective Dan Yonkin will take over as undersheriff Feb. 14.
Yonkin finished last in a three-way race to replace Sheriff Lucky Larson in 2010 that was won by then-Undersheriff Jay Doyle.
Allegations against both Doyle and Reynolds are currently under investigation by the Montana Department of Justice, at Doyle’s request.
That probe focuses on allegations of perjury against Reynolds and obstruction of justice against Doyle.
It is no secret that the Sheriff Office is going through a difficult time,” Reynolds wrote. “Rumors of officer wrongdoing continue to be rehashed despite the fact that the election is long past and that, like Elvis, previous administrations have left the building.”
The issue of sexual assault was addressed at two separate forums in Missoula yesterday.
University of Montana President Royce Engstrom spoke with students, who recently returned from winter break, about the progress of an investigation into alleged sexual assaults involving UM students. That probe was launched just days before winter break began.
The Missoulian’s Chelsi Moy covered the meeting:
UM has a “legal and ethical obligation” under federal Title IX laws to investigate reports of sexual assault by students, Engstrom said. The university can’t tell local law enforcement whether to launch an investigation, he said, but federal law requires UM to do its own investigation.
And Missoula Police Chief Mark Muir (above, in Michael Gallacher’s photo) told the full house attending a City Council committee meeting that his department needs to do a better job communicating with rape victims.
“We will find ways to challenge our officers to become better communicators and to learn to be more accomplished at responding rather than reacting to confrontation as they face it in the course of their investigations,” Muir said.
See Missoulian reporter Keila Szpaller’s story for statistics on the outcome of sexual assault investigations by the Missoula Police Department.
We’ll continue to follow this story as it develops:
The University of Montana has hired an outside investigator to review allegations of a recent sexual assault on campus that reportedly involved two female students, multiple male students and the date-rape drug Rohypnol.
UM Vice President Jim Foley told the Missoulian on Wednesday that former state Supreme Court Justice Diane Barz will arrive on campus Thursday to launch the investigation. UM has asked Barz to complete her review by year’s end, Foley said.
“From the president on down through senior administrators who have been involved in this discussion in the last few days, we all understand how serious these topics and allegations are, which is the reason why the president (Royce Engstrom) has instructed us to retain Judge Barz and have it completed by the end of the year,” he said.
Foley says UM students received electronic messages last week on the dangers of alcohol, drugs and date rape, and that forums on those subjects will be held during the spring semester.
There are varying explanations as to why the tree in the Missoula County Sheriff’s Department is hanging upside down. It was so crooked it looks better that way. The tree stand broke. Etc, etc. Whatever the reason, here’s the tree in all its inverted glory. FYI, the decorations are photos of the deputies and other office personnel.
The Missoula County Sheriff’s Office has announced it will have extra patrols out tonight in conjunction with the Griz-Northern Iowa game, checking for drunk drivers. And today’s Missoulian has a great editorial on the same subject:
Here’s a suggestion for the newest Griz fan campaign: Let’s encourage designated drivers.
Last Saturday’s roster of DUI arrests was a sobering reminder of the need to encourage sober driving. Police arrested 13 people for DUI in the hours after the University of Montana Grizzly football team defeated Central Arkansas on our home turf. Thank heavens no one was seriously injured by a drunk driver last weekend. Reportedly, the most serious damage was done to a house that was driven into by an alleged drunk driver.
It could have been much, much worse. As it stands, 13 DUI arrests in a matter of hours is a shameful reflection on Missoula.
Obviously, not every person arrested for DUI last weekend was drinking while watching the Griz game, but the the fact is that drinking alcohol while watching football is an entrenched part of the local culture. And the fact is that this culture that does not always encourage responsible drinking.
Let’s start changing that culture tonight.
This just in from the Associated Press:
LEWISTOWN, Mont. (AP) — A district judge has released convicted murderer Barry Beach on his own recognizance while he awaits a new trial in the 1979 death of Kim Nees on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation.
Beach has been in prison for 29 years.
District Judge E. Wayne Phillips made the ruling Wednesday afternoon after a hearing in Lewistown.
Phillips on Nov. 23 ordered a new trial for Beach. He said there was enough evidence to raise doubts about Beach’s guilt after a court hearing last summer in which witnesses linked Nees’ death to an out-of-control fight among teenage girls.
And, from the Attorney General’s Office:
“We have an obligation to defend a murder conviction rendered by a Montana jury against a man who confessed to the most serious of crimes,” said Brant Light, chief of the Prosecution Services Bureau and a prosecutor representing the state in the case. “This is one more step in a lengthy legal process and the final word has not been spoken.”
This one has played out over the course of three decades. Someone killed 17-year-old Kim Nees in Poplar in 1983. Barry Beach was convicted on the basis of his confession to police in Louisiana after a lengthy interview.
He recanted his confession and has maintained his innocence since. That was hardly the end of the case. As Matt Volz of the Associated Press writes:
Montana prosecutors filed a notice of appeal Tuesday asking the state Supreme Court to overturn a judge’s decision to grant Barry Beach a new trial in the 1979 killing of a Poplar teen.
The state Department of Justice said that in granting Beach a new trial, District Judge Wayne Phillips did not consider all the evidence, such as Beach’s 1983 confession to the killing of 17-year-old Kim Nees
In the midst of that court battle, a bail hearing for Beach is under way today in Lewistown. Follow updates at #BarryBeach on Twitter.
Kalispell attorney Dana Christensen has won unanimous approval from the U.S. Senate to replace Missoula federal Judge Donald Molloy, who is retiring.
The Missoulian’s Tristan Scott writes about Christensen’s “sterling” reputation:
Carl Tobias, a law professor at the University of Richmond who taught at the University of Montana while Christensen was a third-year law student there, said the Senate’s unanimous consent implies that Christensen is well-qualified for the judgeship and non-controversial as a candidate.
“His smooth confirmation with no opposition or controversy means that Dana Christensen has the qualities that the nation expects of federal judges: intelligence, diligence, independence, character and balanced temperament,” Tobias said.
The 60-year-old Christensen is a civil litigator who has worked since 1996 as a partner at the law firm of Christensen, Moore, Cockrell, Cummings & Axelberg. He graduated from Stanford University in 1973 and received his law degree from the University of Montana School of Law in 1976, Scott reports.