Friday, January 20, 2017

Gov. Steve Bullock slated to speak at David Brock-led Democratic conference in Florida on Saturday

Posted By on Fri, Jan 20, 2017 at 2:09 PM

The nation’s capital descended into inauguration madness today. Masked protesters smashing store windows. A former America’s Got Talent competitor crooning “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Our new president promising a skittish country that “I will never, ever let you down.”

Quite a ways down the coast, at Miami’s Turnberry Isle Resort, politicians and progressive donors are presently gathered for an event of their own: a conference, led by liberal operative David Brock, dedicated to resistance. Titled “Democracy Matters 17,” the three-day affair includes an array of panels and presentations from names like former Obama chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon and EMILY’S List President (and Butte native) Stephanie Schriock. Also on the agenda is a Saturday luncheon with former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and—here it comes—Montana Gov. Steve Bullock.
Montana Gov. Steve Bullock - COURTESY GOVERNOR.MT.GOV
  • Courtesy
  • Montana Gov. Steve Bullock

The conference has attracted increasing media attention since BuzzFeed first broke the news on Jan. 13 of Brock’s efforts to create a Koch-brothers-like leftist donor network capable of fighting back against Donald Trump. Bullock’s scheduled appearance, of course, raises a few more questions for those of us back home. The Democracy Matters 17 agenda describes the Bullock-Holder luncheon as an opportunity to discuss “how Democrats can build momentum from the ground up, starting in the states, to advance progressive policy and defend voting rights,” and to examine “legislative opportunities in governors races in 2018 and how we can impact the big prize of redistricting in 2020.” So, yeah, fairly vague stuff there.

The Indy reached out to Bullock’s office for a little more insight. A spokesperson told us via email that the governor is “interested in being a part of the conversation about the future of the country and the future of the Democratic Party.” Apparently Bullock doesn’t have any prepared remarks or presentation material available, but his office added that he will be discussing his experience as Montana’s top executive, “including his ability to work with a Republican-majority legislature to advance an agenda that includes Medicaid expansion, campaign finance reform, equal pay for equal work, and expanding public education. He will also be discussing his successful re-election bid as a Democrat in a state that voted for President Donald J. Trump by a margin of 21 points.”

According to a copy of Brock’s opening remarks for the conference, Democracy Matters 17 is geared toward discussing what worked (and, more important, what didn’t) in the 2016 election, and how Democrats can build a bigger, sleeker machine to leverage Republican weaknesses in 2018 and 2020. Brock’s speech jabbed at the Clinton campaign for failing to use information he insists could have taken Trump down, while also acknowledging that Trump “threw out the political rulebook” last year. “Democrats showed up for a boxing match, and Trump was wrestling the whole time.”

As folks in Washington, D.C., continue to celebrate or protest, Brock is using his conference to send a clear message: “We’re already at work resisting Donald Trump at every turn and protecting and defending our shared values and the Obama legacy,” he wrote in his remarks. “We certainly don’t have all the answers, but hopefully you’ll view this conference as a constructive, thoughtful, and politically savvy starting point.”

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Montana in Rockies Today, Jan. 19

Posted By on Thu, Jan 19, 2017 at 1:43 PM

Today's top headlines from around the state, as collected by Mountain West News:

Montana groups seek fracking chemical disclosure:
Two environmental groups and a handful of landowners filed a lawsuit earlier this week to force the Montana Board of Oil and Gas Conservation to require oil and gas drillers to disclose the fracking chemicals they use. (Courthouse News)

Why do some trees fend off mountain pine beetles?

YouTube personality and educator Hank Green interviews bark-beetle expert Diana Six, both of Missoula, to discuss how genetically adapted trees that resist infestations could be, as Six says, “the ace in the hole for the future.” (YouTube)

Montana tribes closer to managing Bison Range:
The Fish and Wildlife Service announced it will prepare a conservation plan for the National Bison Range, accompanied by an environmental impact statement, a step forward in the effort to transfer management of the wildlife refuge to the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes in northwest Montana. A lawyer for Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, which opposes the transfer and has sued to stop it, called the move a “desperate Hail Mary pass” ahead of Trump’s inauguration. (Missoulian)

Opinion: Zinke speaks to urban and rural Idahoans:
The Idaho Stateman’s Rocky Barker writes that Interior secretary nominee Ryan Zinke’s message during his Senate confirmation hearing resonated with urban and rural Idahoans alike.

For the complete 'Rockies Today' roundup with dispatches from across the west, visit

Mountain West News is a service of the O’Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West — a regional studies and public education program at the University of Montana. The Center’s purpose is to serve as an important and credible resource for people in the state and region in understanding the region’s past, present, and future.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Hey Betsy DeVos, you don't need a gun to get a bear out of your school—just ask Bozeman

Posted By on Wed, Jan 18, 2017 at 11:56 AM

The argument for allowing guns in school took a wild turn Tuesday on Capitol Hill when Trump's nominee for education secretary, Betsy DeVos, raised the threat of... grizzly bears.

"Potential grizzlies," to be precise. That's how DeVos explained why states and local school districts—not the feds—should be able to decide whether teachers can pack heat. Pressed on the issue during her tense Senate confirmation hearing, DeVos referenced an elementary school in Wapiti, Wyoming that installed a fence around the playground to keep bears out. "I think probably there, I would imagine that there's probably a gun in the school to protect from potential grizzlies," she said.
In this file photo, black bears hang out in the Rattlesnake. In Montana, they've been known to wander inside high schools, too. - PHOTO COURTESY OF BOB WIESNER
  • photo courtesy of Bob Wiesner
  • In this file photo, black bears hang out in the Rattlesnake. In Montana, they've been known to wander inside high schools, too.

Perhaps DeVos, like most Republicans, was a faithful viewer of The Colbert Report, whose host tirelessly raised awareness of grizzlies as "Godless killing machines" and "the number one threat to America." And in her defense, DeVos was referencing an earlier comment about the Wapiti fence made by Wyoming Sen. Mike Enzi.

Montanans also know a thing or two about the threat bears can pose to our children's lives and ACT scores. Just ask the teachers at Bozeman High School, where a black bear wandered the halls last school year.

As the Bozeman Daily Chronicle reported at the time, the beast found its way through an open garage door after being spotted on the football field. It then waltzed into a main corridor lined with student lockers. The paper reports:
For a couple of minutes, the bear sniffed around the hallway as about 10 students watched from one side and nervous staff members on the other.

The whole account is worth a read, but we'll cut to the chase. School officials and law enforcement didn't need a gun to ward off the God-hating bruin menace. They just opened all the doors.

More shameless clickbait: Watch a grizzly bear run an obstacle course around Wash-Griz Stadium.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

"Stop flipping off the Mayor:" City official censures volunteer after she resigns from Historic Preservation Commission

Posted By on Tue, Jan 10, 2017 at 1:05 PM

The anger was palpable in Kate Kolwicz's letter of resignation from the city Historic Preservation Commission last week. She acknowledged as much, writing that "as we are all aware, the past many months have been difficult and frustrating." The sources of frustration, Kolwicz wrote, included lack of training and a historic preservation officer, Leslie Schwab, who was "openly dismissive and contemptuous" of commission members. But Kolwicz, the third volunteer board member to resign over the city's handling of the Missoula Mercantile demolition, says she also wanted to offer constructive criticism as she bowed out. So, in addition to explaining the sources of her frustration, Kolwicz offered four suggestions toward fixing the broken system. Then she emailed her letter to the board, thinking that was that.

Schwab wasn't about to give Kolwicz the last word. She fired off a string of rebuttal emails to her and other HPC members accusing Kolwicz of lying, disregarding legal advice and abusing staff "at your every convenience."

"Also," Schwab concluded, "please stop flipping off the Mayor in public. It's childish."
Email from Historic Preservation Officer Leslie Schwab to commission members
  • Email from Historic Preservation Officer Leslie Schwab to commission members

Such is the state of affairs in the wake of last year's power struggle over the fate of the Merc. That bitterness and mutual distrust has only intensified in recent months, spilling into open hostility between Schwab and HPC members during public meetings. Even as Kolwicz ran for the door, Schwab made sure it hit her on the way out.

"It's like the Cold War," says HPC member Scott Loken, who has served on the board for ten years. "There's no connection between our historic preservation officer and the commission."

The standoff has virtually paralyzed the commission. It has been unable to obtain a quorum for the last four months, leaving those members who do attend unable to take votes or even approve meeting minutes. City Council has yet to fill vacancies stretching back to March 2016. Remaining members, Loken says, "don't want to come."

As the staff liaison to the board and an employee of the city's Development Services division, Schwab was at the center of the Merc tug of war. City Communications Director Ginny Merriam says the toll led Schwab to engage in the email exchange with Kolwicz—an exchange Merriam described as "never appropriate, nor is it professional or a best practice." No formal disciplinary action has been taken, Merriam says. Schwab did not respond to a request for comment.
In wake of the contentious Merc decision, the relationship between the volunteer Historic Preservation Commission and Historic Preservation Officer Leslie Schwab has eroded to the point where Schwab accused one member of lying and "flipping off the Mayor" after she resigned from the commission. - PHOTO BY AMY DONOVAN
  • photo by Amy Donovan
  • In wake of the contentious Merc decision, the relationship between the volunteer Historic Preservation Commission and Historic Preservation Officer Leslie Schwab has eroded to the point where Schwab accused one member of lying and "flipping off the Mayor" after she resigned from the commission.

On Monday, Schwab did email HPC members an apology for her "unprofessional" emails. "I have felt picked on, and I became defensive," she wrote. Kolwicz tells the Indy that while she appreciates Schwab's apology, "I was disappointed that she did not specifically retract her false and libelous allegations towards me."

Schwab's emails also prompted councilwoman Emily Bentley to contact HPC members in an attempt to begin rebuilding trust. Bentley says City Council plans to revise its much-maligned historic preservation ordinance, reexamine the HPC membership structure and fill open seats once Merc litigation with Preserve Historic Missoula concludes. What the city doesn't plan to do, Bentley says, is undermine the commission's authority.

"I feel like we could give them more support," she says.


Tags: , , , , , ,

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Zinke's book offers some insight on the Interior Secretary-to-be's approach to public lands

Posted By on Thu, Jan 5, 2017 at 12:01 PM

Congressman Ryan Zinke can’t seem to stay out of the headlines lately. He won reelection in November. He was nominated to Donald Trump’s cabinet in December. And just this Tuesday, he rankled conservationists by voting for a bill that would ease congressional transfers of federal lands to state or local control. His office has been increasingly mum on these developments, either supplying boilerplate statements or, as in the case of his nomination to the Interior, declining to even acknowledge receipt of email inquiries from the Indy. Spokeswoman Heather Swift offered only this in response to Zinke’s Tuesday vote on Republican Utah Rep. Rob Bishop’s controversial proposal:

"The Congressman's position on federal lands and their ownership has not changed."

Slipping through the cracks of all this Zinke news was the November release of his new book, American Commander: Serving a Country Worth Fighting For and Training the Brave Soldiers Who Lead the Way. The 240-page tome—an autobiography of sorts penned with an assist from American Sniper author Scott McEwen—offers rare insights into Zinke’s mind at a time when comments from him are harder to come by. It’s an admittedly tough read, unfolding less like a chronological narrative and more like a series of tales told elbow-to-elbow in some Montana dive bar. But if you can tolerate the constant tangents, the dangling threads, the generals and Navy SEALs and NFL stars who flit in and out, there are some interesting passages pertinent to the Interior post Zinke now appears destined for.

Zinke is fond of describing himself as an avid outdoorsman, though American Commander spends virtually no time in Montana’s backcountry. The closest readers come to adventuring alongside Zinke in the elements comes during his recollection of hoofing it through the jungles of Thailand while on assignment with his SEAL crew. It’s a vivid passage, replete with game trails and swamps and Zinke’s leg “nearly black from being covered by leeches.” Mostly it leaves you thirsting for a similar glimpse of the home-state rivers and trails Zinke repeatedly says he loves.

What we do glimpse, however briefly, is the genesis of Zinke’s espoused soft-spot for wildlands. He got his start in the Boy Scouts of America, where he “learned how to cook, camp, and use a compass.” He describes the first time he turned a “critical eye” on the environment, conducting an Eagle Scout project that tested soil and water samples from the Whitefish River to gauge pollution from the nearby railroad’s oil-holding ponds.

The BSA has always been at the forefront of environmental awareness: You put out fires you build. You leave a campsite cleaner and better than when you found it. You respect wildlife and habitat. This is in addition to the cliche of helping elderly citizens cross a street—which isn’t a bad quality either, this idea that we should slow down and help one another.

Zinke has long cast himself as a conservationist and politician in the Teddy Roosevelt mold. And he’s fond of quoting the irascible former president. In discussing his beliefs about land management, Zinke invokes not only Roosevelt but the first chief forester of Roosevelt’s then-new U.S. Forest Service, Gifford Pinchot. The result is something of a mixed bag when it comes to natural resource development on public lands:

Continue reading »

Palace Lounge to close as a live music venue

Posted By on Thu, Jan 5, 2017 at 10:38 AM

Missoula band Tiny Plastic Stars playing the Palace in September 2016. - PHOTO BY AMY DONOVAN
  • photo by Amy Donovan
  • Missoula band Tiny Plastic Stars playing the Palace in September 2016.

The Palace Lounge will close its doors as a live music venue after Sat., Feb. 25, according to a press release from Scott MacIntyre, owner of the four-bar complex that includes Palace, Badlander, Golden Rose and Savoy.

"Given the competitive demands of a live music venue in Missoula, the owners of The Palace have decided to switch directions of the venue to better diversify their businesses and focus more on the music scene in the Badlander," MacIntyre wrote.

The basement bar is slated to reopen on March 17 as a billiard room called Three on the Side, a reference to a difficult billiards shot. That opening will coincide with the 10th anniversary of the complex. According to the release, the space will host several pool tables, games, television, seating and a full bar. The final live show at the Palace on Feb. 25 will also be the final Rock Lotto (Rock Lotto V: The Final Countdown), an annual event where musicians throw their names into a hat and are randomly placed in bands, with which they play for one night only.

The Palace has been home to the independent rock scene, and is one of just a couple of venues in town that cater to the DIY scene. The basement space has been a dive bar and live-show venue since at least the late-1980s, when it was called the DownUnder. It later became Club X and then Trendz. Over the years the space has hosted several artists who later became big, including the Offspring, Red Fang and Reggie Watts.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Conviction vacated in Cody Marble rape case

Posted By on Tue, Jan 3, 2017 at 12:10 PM

Cody Marble's eight-year legal battle reached a major turning point this week. On Jan. 3, retired District Court Judge Ed McLean issued an order overturning Marble's rape conviction and ordering a new trial. Marble's father, Jerry, says they hugged upon hearing the news, and Cody jumped in his car and went for a drive to collect his thoughts.

"We were confident we were going to win, but ain’t nothing like the real thing," Jerry says. "And now when you see it in bold print, it’s a whole other feeling."

  • Courtesy Jerry Marble
  • Cody Marble

Marble's attorney, Colin Stephens, is elated with the result.

"This is exactly what we asked for," Stephens says. "It uses the evidence we submitted that shows that the evidence from way back when was a joke."

Marble, now 32, was convicted in 2002 of raping a fellow inmate at the Missoula County Detention Center. The now-deceased accuser, Robert Thomas, later recanted his testimony four times in front of Montana Innocence Project staff. (A 2011 Independent's feature story by Jessica Mayrer explores the evidence in greater detail.) Thomas told Innocence Project attorneys that he was pressured into making the allegation by other inmates. Marble has continuously maintained his innocence.

McLean's 21-page decision makes note of some of the major players who have been involved in Marble's case. Former Missoula County Attorney Fred Van Valkenburg pursued Marble's conviction in 2002. His former deputy attorney, current County Attorney Kirsten Pabst, filed a motion to dismiss charges against Marble in April, and criticized Van Valkenburg's handling of the case.

After Pabst's filing, McLean allowed Marble to go free while asking for a new evidentiary hearing, which took place on Dec. 12.

McLean's decision notes that Marble's case is "the subject of much consternation between the current county attorney (Kirsten Pabst) and the former county attorney (Fred Van Valkenburg)." His decision doesn't directly criticize Van Valkenburg's original decision to prosecute, but it does state that the testimony of the Montana Innocence Project is sufficient to overturn the original conviction.

McLean's Jan. 3 order leaves it up to Pabst's office to decide whether to press charges and initiate a new trial. Stephens thinks that's unlikely. For him, McLean's decision marks the end of an eight-year pro bono case in which he became close to Marble and his family.

"I’ll be very surprised if they ask for a new trial," Stephens says.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Friday, December 30, 2016

Big Sky Documentary Film Festival will open with a suddenly timely documentary about Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds

Posted By on Fri, Dec 30, 2016 at 3:35 PM

Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds in Bright Lights.
  • Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds in Bright Lights.

The Big Sky Documentary Film Festival sent out a press release in early December announcing Bright Lights, an HBO documentary about mother-daughter stars Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher. At the time, it seemed an unremarkable pick for the kickoff of the festival's 14th year. Sure, Fisher had been back on the popular radar since Star Wars: The Force Awakens, but the franchise's most recent film, Rogue One, featured her only as a hologram. Reynolds had received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Screen Actor's Guild in 2015 and an honorary Oscar in 2016, but she hadn't been in the press much beyond that.

Everything changed when Fisher was rushed to the hospital on Dec. 23 and died on the 27th. Reynolds died one day later, of a stroke. The back-to-back deaths will go down as one of the more heartbreaking celebrity stories Of all time. Among Reynolds' last words, reportedly, were "I want to be with Carrie."

Big Sky Executive Director Rachel Gregg says she initially picked the HBO film to screen at the festival simply because she thought it was an interesting story about a complicated relationship. It had already screened at Cannes, and Missoula was supposed to be its last stop on the festival circuit before debuting on HBO.

This morning it was announced that HBO will move the film's network debut to Jan. 7. In an updated press release, BSDFF writes: "The Big Sky staff and board were deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds this week ... it is our honor to open our festival with Bright Lights, an intimate portrait of these talented women."

Bright Lights: Starring Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher screens at the Wilma Fri. Feb. 17, at 7 PM. Free.

Daily Stormer's Andrew Anglin insists anti-Semitic demonstration in Whitefish will happen, names nonexistent "Jewish center" as location

Posted By on Fri, Dec 30, 2016 at 1:28 PM

Neo-Nazi blogger Andrew Anglin says he plans to make good on threats to stage an anti-Semitic armed march through Whitefish next month, despite dismissive comments this week by Richard Spencer, the white nationalist and part-time Whitefish resident who inspired the idea.

Anglin's insistence comes after Spencer said he doesn't believe the march will take place, describing Anglin's scheme as simply a "troll" of Whitefish residents. In an email Thursday, Anglin said Spencer is wrong, and that Anglin plans to apply for a permit that would allow him and a cohort of fellow skinheads to demonstrate in the streets.

"This is not about backing up Richard Spencer," Anglin wrote of his proposed march, "this is about justice, and making it clear to the Jewish mafia that we will no longer tolerate their criminal gangsterism, their attacks on the families of those they disagree with politically."

The proposed march was spun out of a recent dispute between Spencer, his mother, and local real estate agent Tanya Gersh, with the Spencers accusing Gersh of a "shake down" aimed at forcing Sherry Spencer to sell a commercial building she owns in Whitefish. Anglin took up the cause, calling for a "trollstorm" against Gersh, who is Jewish, and other Jewish residents of Whitefish. That threat later escalated when Anglin began promoting a "March on Whitefish" for which he would recruit California skinhead groups to carry assault-style rifles through the town.

The situation garnered international attention, prompting Spencer on Wednesday to tell the Daily Interlake and Missoulian newspapers he thought Anglin's call to arms was just a joke—much as Spencer dismissed his own "Hail Trump" salute at a recent white nationalist conference as ironic play. Spencer did not, however, explicitly call for Anglin to call off the march, saying only that he is powerless to influence the blogger, but has become weary of the spotlight the controversy has put on Whitefish.

"I'm not telling Anglin to do anything," Spencer now tells the Indy. "I just assumed it was a troll. Can he really bring out people for a march on a ski village in remote Montana?"
Richard Spencer says Anglin's tactics aren't his style. - PHOTO COURTESY OF NATIONAL POLICY INSTITUTE
  • photo courtesy of National Policy Institute
  • Richard Spencer says Anglin's tactics aren't his style.
Anglin says he can, though he may be confused about where exactly his skinheads will march. Anglin, who lists a Worthington, Ohio, address on his site, says he is routing a path for the demonstration that will begin in "the center of the city" and end at the "Jewish center, where Gersh is the head and several figures in [local human rights group] Love Lives Here are members."

The Glacier Jewish Community congregation does not have a center or synagogue in Whitefish. Anglin did not respond to a follow-up question asking what he means by "Jewish center."

Anglin is virulently anti-Semitic, and his emailed statement doubles as a rant against the Jewish people. "Jews have operated with impunity for decades, destroying the lives of anyone who dared question their international criminal cartel," he writes. "Those days are finished. This is a revolt of the goyim."

He explains that he is moving forward with the march because Gersh and Love Lives Here have refused his demand that they apologize to Sherry Spencer.

In response to Anglin's demand, Loves Live Here chairman Will Randall echoed a recent comment by U.S. Sen. Jon Tester. "This is not a negotiation," he says. "It's discrimination and it should never be negotiable."

Spencer and Anglin

Anglin's interest in Whitefish links Spencer to a rhetoric and style that he tries to keep at arm's length. Spencer, credited with coining the term "alt-right," attempts to present white nationalism as an intellectually legitimate position, independent of the overtly racist rhetoric usually associated with hate groups. That's why he has fashioned his nonprofit National Policy Institute as a beltway-style think tank with aspirations to relocate to Washington, D.C.

Anglin, on the other hand, has expressed concern via the Daily Stormer that media attention to figures such as Spencer serves to "remove focus from the Jewish problem."

"I absolutely believe that unrepentant anti-Semitism needs to remain at the core of the movement, just as it has been from the beginning," Anglin wrote in an August guide to the "alt-right" published on the site.

Spencer doesn't traffic in the grotesquely inflammatory language used by Anglin, but anti-Semitic jokes and references are nonetheless a regular feature of his speeches. At the NPI conference in November, where he led the "Hail Trump" toast, Spencer referenced Jewish folklore to describe journalists as "soulless golem."

Earlier this month, Anglin and Spencer appeared together on a right-wing podcast. An excerpt reported by the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights shows the two men's difference in approach.
Spencer: “They [Jews] kind of need us in a way… But in a weird way, it’s the people that shall not dwell alone, to borrow a title from Kevin McDonald’s book. They do need us.”

Anglin: “It’s a virus. They’re a human disease” [laughter].

Spencer: “Somewhat inflammatory language, but I understand what you’re saying.”

This week, Spencer told the Daily Interlake that Anglin is "totally wild—that's not my kind of thing," while also calling him a "rational" person who wouldn't engage in physical violence.

Asked Friday morning whether he would call upon Anglin to stand down, Spencer offered this statement: "It's time to bring this to an end." He then pointed the Indy to a Youtube video he posted on Friday in which Spencer says that Whitefish residents can end the controversy by renouncing Love Lives Here, and specifically the Jewish rabbis involved.

"Don't listen to these rabbis," he says in the video. "Do you think they have good in their heart? Do you think they care for you? Do you think they care for this community? No, they're pursuing their own sick little project."

Spencer goes on in the video to tell Montana politicians who have denounced the march to "stop freaking out."

"The trolls are playing the tune and you are dancing to it, which is kind of funny," he says.

Residents opposed to Spencer and Anglin have scheduled a "Love Not Hate" block party for Jan. 7 in Whitefish.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Judge shoots down Malheur occupier Ryan Payne’s motion to withdraw plea

Posted By on Thu, Dec 29, 2016 at 4:22 PM

A federal judge in Oregon yesterday denied U.S. Army veteran and Anaconda resident Ryan Payne’s request to withdraw his guilty plea, accusing Payne of having “buyer’s remorse” over a plea agreement reached in the wake of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge occupation. Payne, a key figure in the armed occupation and the subject of a 2014 Indy feature, admitted to a charge of conspiracy to impede U.S. officials this summer—and in so doing avoided another charge of possession of firearms and dangerous weapons in federal facilities. In early November, not long after the acquittal of seven of his fellow occupiers, Payne attempted to reverse that admission.
Ryan Payne at his Anaconda home in 2014. - PHOTO BY CATHRINE L. WALTERS
  • Photo by Cathrine L. Walters
  • Ryan Payne at his Anaconda home in 2014.

Judge Anna Brown’s Dec. 28 decision was a strongly worded rebuke of each of Payne’s arguments, including the claim that he'd only accepted the plea agreement based on the belief that he would also get a deal in a separate case in Nevada. Brown's most damning critique took aim at Payne’s statement that he’d had serious misgivings about the facts surrounding his plea from the get-go, an assertion the judge said was “without merit.” Brown continued:

Although it was clear to the Court from Payne’s demeanor throughout the plea hearing that he had conflicting feelings about the decision whether to plead guilty, that is not surprising in light of Payne’s close relationships with Ammon Bundy and some of the other occupiers, his leadership role in the occupation of the MNWR, and the fact that his guilty plea would have been perceived by some as a betrayal of the causes that he sought to advance with Bundy and the other occupiers. Nevertheless, after assuring the Court that he had sufficient time to consider, with the advice of counsel, his decision to plead guilty, Payne ultimately chose to do just that.

The conspiracy charge Payne pleaded guilty to carries a maximum penalty of six years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. In denying Payne’s motion to withdraw his plea, Brown directed counsel on both sides to submit an updated proposal for a sentencing date by late January. Payne is also scheduled to stand trial in Nevada this coming spring on a separate set of charges stemming from his involvement in the 2014 standoff with federal agents at Cliven Bundy’s ranch. Attempts to reach a plea agreement in that case broke down this fall.

Today | Sat | Sun | Mon | Tue | Wed | Thu

Jazzzination @ Imagine Nation Brewing Co.

Sundays, 5-8 p.m.

All of today's events | Staff Picks

Recent Comments

© 2017 Missoula News/Independent Publishing | Powered by Foundation