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This Hour: Latest Montana news, sports, business and entertainment

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Senator says he had PTSD when he wrote thesis

HELENA, Mont. (AP) - U.S. Sen. John Walsh of Montana says he was on medication and being treated for post-traumatic stress disorder when he used unattributed work of scholars in his master's thesis.

Walsh says he unintentionally made incorrect citations in the 2007 paper, written nearly two years after he returned from Iraq.

Walsh told The Associated Press on Wednesday that his "head was not in a place very conducive to a classroom and an academic environment."

He was being treated and taking medication for persistent nightmares, anxiety, sleeplessness and the recent suicide of another veteran.

He says he has worked through those issues, though he is still taking antidepressant medication. Walsh says he will consider apologizing to the scholars for lifting their work.


State and Xerox resolve Medicaid contract problems

HELENA, Mont. (AP) - State officials say they've resolved a breach of contract issue with Xerox Corp. over developing a new computer program for Medicaid payments.

Montana Department of Health and Human Services Director Richard Opper said in a letter to Xerox July 18 the company is no longer in breach of the $70 million state contract awarded in 2012. He says his department has accepted a revised work plan and that they have been encouraged by Xerox's cooperation. If the plan is successfully executed the system should last 20 years.

The Medicaid Management and Information System to handle payments to thousands of Medicaid providers is supposed to replace a system that is more than 30 years old. The old system is unable to keep up with increasingly complex payment rules and parameters.


Wolf Creek voters to decide on resort tax

HELENA, Mont. (AP) - Voters in Wolf Creek could decide late this summer whether to implement a 3 percent seasonal resort tax to help pay for a new wastewater treatment system for the tourist town along the Missouri River.

County elections supervisor Audrey Dufrechou tells the Independent Record that ballots will be mailed on out Aug. 26 to around 40 registered voters in Wolf Creek.

The proposed tax would be effective from April 1 through Nov. 15 each year for 20 years. It calls for the greater of $50,000 or 90 percent of the tax collected each year to be applied toward the construction and maintenance of the wastewater system.

The tax would be applied to luxury items such as restaurant meals, bars and lodging, but would not apply to groceries or medicine.


Copper mine project draws hundreds of comments

BOZEMAN, Mont. (AP) - A proposal to dig test wells at the site of a planned copper mine near White Sulphur Springs has drawn about 940 public comments.

A Tintina Resources subsidiary plans to apply for an operations permit for the Black Butte mining project, but first is asking state regulators permission to drill four wells to test how pumping water for the mining operation will affect the groundwater table.

The Department of Environmental Quality will review the comments. DEQ spokesman Chris Saeger tells the Bozeman Daily Chronicle officials plan to make a decision within three weeks because the company wants to complete the wells before winter.

Tintina vice president Jerry Zieg says he worked closely with DEQ officials on the plan and it would be remarkable if they turned it down.


Missoula man sentenced for construction fraud

MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) - A Montana man has been sentenced to over eight years in prison and ordered to pay nearly $6.5 million in restitution for taking millions of dollars in down payments on steel buildings he never completed.

U.S. District Judge Donald Molloy sentenced 41-year-old Jonathan Lee Oliver of Missoula on Tuesday.

Oliver pleaded guilty in February to wire fraud, money laundering and structuring, or intentionally making bank transactions in amounts less than the $10,000 level at which a federal report must be filed.

Charging documents said Oliver solicited pre-payments of nearly $7.9 million mostly from residents of Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota between October 2010 and December 2011 and only completed one building.

Prosecutors alleged Oliver used some of the money to buy a house, three new vehicles, a motorhome, an engagement ring and other items.


Supreme Court upholds firing of tourism director

HELENA, Mont. (AP) - The Montana Supreme Court has upheld the 2010 firing of a former state tourism director.

Elizabeth "Betsy" Baumgart served as administrator of the Montana Tourism and Promotion Division for eight years and received satisfactory or better performance reviews.

In August 2010, the new Department of Commerce director fired Baumgart. The agency said Baumgart left millions of dollars unspent each year, opening the possibility for the Legislature to revert that money to the state general fund.

She sued, arguing her firing was politically motivated. The Supreme Court rejected that argument and ruled Tuesday the budget issues were adequate grounds for firing.

Two justices dissented, saying only in the world of government budgeting can an employee who is achieving results and winning awards be fired for not spending enough of the government's money to do so.


Sentencing enhancement justified in sex crime

HELENA, Mont. (AP) - The Montana Supreme Court has ruled a Havre man convicted of sexually assaulting a 7-year-old girl should face a sentencing enhancement due to the girl's age, even if the ages of the defendant and the victim were not on the verdict form.

Edward Harold Ghostbear was convicted in October 2012. The prosecution asked for a minimum four-year sentence based on the fact that the girl was younger than 16 and Ghostbear was more than three years older than she.

Public defender Dan Minnis argued jurors didn't make a separate finding about the ages, so the maximum sentence Ghostbear could receive was six months.

District Judge Dan Boucher of Havre agreed. Prosecutors appealed.

The Supreme Court ruled Ghostbear was faced the longer sentence because the ages of the girl and Ghostbear were presented to jurors and not disputed.


Man denies charge he tried to kidnap 10-year-old

MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) - A man accused of grabbing a 10-year-old girl as she played with her brother in a Missoula park has pleaded not guilty to attempted kidnapping.

The Missoulian reports 34-year-old Coty James Low appeared before District Judge Karen Townsend on Tuesday via video from jail. She continued his bail at $100,000.

Prosecutors say Low ran up to the children on June 21 and grabbed the girl by the leg. He carried her about 25 feet before the girl's kicking and screaming caused him to drop her.

The girl's father chased after the man and held him for police.

Low initially said he was trying to save the girl from a dog, and then told police he was looking for companionship and wasn't thinking when he grabbed the girl.

Prosecutors say Low was convicted of sexually assaulting a nurse in April.

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