BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — U.S. officials expect to release a proposal this fall that would remove federal protections for grizzly bears in northwestern Montana, home to the largest grizzly population in the Lower 48.
The plan was released Wednesday as part of the U.S. Interior Department's regulatory agenda for coming months.
An estimated 1,000 bears occupy at least 22,000 square miles (56,000 square kilometers) in northwestern Montana centered on Glacier National Park.
Wildlife officials are finalizing criteria to determine if the animals have enough habitat to shield them from extinction.
The Interior Department is locked in a court battle with conservationists and American Indian tribes over the lifting of protections for another group of grizzlies in and around Yellowstone National Park. Wyoming and Idaho are planning limited trophy hunts for those animals this fall.
GREAT FALLS, Mont. (AP) — Authorities say a 28-year-old man died after spending one day in the Bureau of Indian Affairs Correctional Facility in northwest Montana.
BIA officials say the FBI is investigating the in-custody death of Richard Bennett, who was arrested for public intoxication Sunday morning. The Great Falls Tribune reports Bennett was taken from the correctional facility in Browning to the hospital Monday.
No other information was released.
BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A former Bureau of Indian Affairs police officer has been sentenced to three years in prison after acknowledging using his position of authority to coerce a woman into having sex and impregnating her.
The Billings Gazette reports that 43-year-old Dana Michael Bullcoming pleaded guilty in December to deprivation of rights under color of law as part of a plea agreement. Two counts of lying to federal officers were dismissed and the government also agreed not to prosecute Bullcoming for sexual abuse.
Court documents say in 2015 the victim reported that Bullcoming came to her house and told her “something had to be done'' about a drunk driving incident.
The victim asked Bullcoming if he meant “sex,'' and he said yes.
They had unprotected sex and she ended up pregnant.
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Three men accused of raping a 9-year-old Utah girl while her mother was smoking methamphetamine in a garage were found not guilty Wednesday after their lawyers argued they couldn't be convicted without physical evidence.
Prosecutors said the girl's clear, harrowing testimony that the three grabbed and assaulted her after a 2016 Easter-egg hunt in rural Utah should be enough to convict them. Uintah County attorney Mark Thomas pointed to testimony that helped convict comedian Bill Cosby in his sexual-assault case.
But the defense argued that without any blood, hair or serious injuries, the jury couldn't be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt. Attorneys said the child, now 11, was copying a story fabricated by her paranoid mother, who was angry at a former boyfriend who was a defendant.
“If everything that she was saying was true, there should be some kind of physical evidence or injury to her,'' said defense attorney Bryan Sidwell.
The jury of five men and three women deliberated for about three hours before reaching the verdict.
Defendants Larson RonDeau, 38, Randall Flatlip, 28 and Jerry Flatlip, 31, were held in custody to face additional charges, though some may be thrown out after the acquittal on rape and sodomy counts.
The case provoked outrage in the town of Vernal, about 170 miles (274 kilometers) east of Salt Lake City.
The girl testified that she went with her mother, who wanted to visit a friend from jail, to the house where the three men were staying in 2016.
She said the three men brought her to a back bedroom and assaulted her after she fell asleep on a couch, and returned her there after it was over. When her mother got back from the garage, she found the girl upset with her Easter dress askew. She insisted on going home.
She didn't initially tell her mother about the assault because the men threatened to kill her, prosecutors said. The mother called police when she confided in her about two days later.
Thomas said Wednesday that prosecutors went to court with the best evidence available.
“We present cases to the jury that we believe that we have sufficient evidence. Then it's up to the jury,'' he said.
“There was a case against Bill Cosby where there was no physical evidence and the jury there found (him guilty) solely on the testimony of somebody who was there,'' Thomas said. “Obviously we still believe that a person's testimony can be weighed and considered by the jury.''
The Associated Press generally does not identity people who say they were victims of sexual assault, and is not naming the mother to avoid identifying the girl.
The mother subsequently pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor child abuse charge and was sentenced to jail and drug treatment.
The girl is now in the care of her Native American tribe, authorities have said.
Charges were initially filed against a fourth man but dropped when the mother could not be found to testify at a 2016 evidence hearing.
The defendants remained calm throughout much of the five-day trial, but Jerry Flatlip seemed to become emotional as defense attorneys implored the jury to acquit the men.
“He said, ‘This is the first time in two years that somebody's actually stood up and told my side of the story to someone,''' his lawyer, Sidwell, said.