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State-Wide Weekend Update – Saturday, March 31, 2012

MISSING MONTANA TEACHER-FUNERAL

Funeral held for teacher who was kidnapped, killed

SIDNEY, Mont. (AP) — Sidney residents have called for justice at the funeral of a high school teacher who was kidnapped, strangled and buried in a field in North Dakota.

Hundreds of people on Friday streamed into the Sidney High School gymnasium, the same school where Sherry Arnold and her husband taught and her two children attend classes.

Arnold’s disappearance on Jan. 7 shocked the tight-knit community in this eastern Montana town that was already dealing with the growing pains of the nearby boom in the North Dakota oil fields.

One of Arnold’s former students, Cody Schroeder, says she wants to see justice for Arnold’s death.

Michael Spell and Lester Van Waters Jr. have pleaded not guilty to aggravated kidnapping and await trial.

RYAN LEAF-ARREST

Ex-NFL quarterback Ryan Leaf arrested in Montana

GREAT FALLS, Mont. (AP) — Authorities say former NFL quarterback Ryan Leaf has been arrested in his Montana hometown on burglary and drug possession charges.

Great Falls Police Sgt. Dean Bennett says Leaf was arrested Friday afternoon.

The circumstances surrounding Leaf’s arrest are not immediately clear. Bennett says he hasn’t seen a report detailing the allegations.

Cascade County Detention Center Officer Robert Rivera says Leaf was booked on charges of burglary of a residence, theft and felony criminal possession of dangerous drugs.

Leaf was freed on $76,000 bond and is scheduled to make an initial court appearance Monday.

The former San Diego Chargers first-round pick has had several past run-ins with the law. In 2010, he pleaded guilty in Amarillo, Texas, to various drug charges and was sentenced to 10 years’ probation and fined $20,000.

MONTANA-INTERIM COACH

Montana names interim coach, athletic director

MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — The University of Montana has named assistant coach Mick Delaney as interim football coach to replace the fired Robin Pflugrad.

School officials also said Friday that Jean Gee would become interim athletic director after Jim O’Day’s dismissal.

Pflugrad and O’Day were fired Thursday by UM President Royce Engstrom.

No reason was given for the firings beyond Engstrom telling Pflugrad that the university needed a change in leadership.

Delaney has been on the UM coaching staff for four years. He came to Montana from Colorado State, where he was an assistant coach for 15 years.

Delaney was named assistant head coach of the Griz in 2009 and worked with the running backs.

Gee was previously associate athletic director and has been involved with university athletics for 15 years.

CREDIT SUISSE-PREDATORY LOANS

Judge says Credit Suisse loan lawsuit can continue

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A federal judge has denied a request by Credit Suisse to dismiss a lawsuit brought by homeowners at four luxury resorts in the West and the Bahamas that went bankrupt.

U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge ruled Friday that some of the plaintiffs can proceed with claims of fraud, negligence and interference against Credit Suisse. He made an identical ruling regarding a second defendant, New York-based real estate consultant Cushman & Wakefield.

Lodge dismissed claims of breach of fiduciary duty against the defendants.

The suit is from property owners at Idaho’s Tamarack Resort, the Yellowstone Club in Montana, Nevada’s Lake Las Vegas resort and the Ginn Sur Mer Resort in the Bahamas.

It is backed by Yellowstone Club founder Tim Blixseth. Lodge denied Blixseth’s motion to personally intervene in the case.

SCHWEITZER-ETHICS

GOP appeals dismissal of Schweitzer ethics case

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — The Montana Republican Party is asking a state court to reverse a decision to dismiss the GOP’s ethics complaint against Gov. Brian Schweitzer.

Earlier this month, the commissioner of political practices tossed out the case against Schweitzer. The decision followed a preliminary recommendation that Schweitzer be penalized.

Schweitzer, a Democrat, was accused of improperly using state resources to appear in a public service radio advertisement at the same time he was running for re-election in 2008.

The governor has argued no state money was spent to air the advertisement, since it was a PSA.

But the GOP argues that state time and resources were used in making the ad for radio stations. They are asking the district court in Helena to reverse the administrative decision and order a penalty.

SURGEON-COCAINE CHARGES

Prosecutor recommends prison for Billings surgeon

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A federal prosecutor has recommended a prison sentence of three to four years for a Billings oral surgeon convicted of possessing and distributing cocaine.

Jerome Daniel Mancuso faces sentencing on Thursday after being convicted by a jury in October.

Federal prosecutors alleged Mancuso distributed cocaine to a number of people from his house and his office, the Rocky Mountain Center for Oral and Facial Surgery, for seven years, beginning in 2002.

The Billings Gazette reports that Assistant U.S. Attorney Jim Seykora wrote a sentencing memo that says Mancuso is in denial about his actions and should get no benefit for accepting responsibility.

Mancuso’s attorney has filed a sentencing recommendation under seal to protect personal information.

Mancuso has closed his practice and has been on release pending sentencing.

MONTANA EMPLOYMENT

Montana employment falls to 6.2 percent

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — The state Department of Labor says Montana’s unemployment rate fell three-tenths of a point to 6.2 percent in February.

The drop marks seven straight months of decreases since August.

The national employment rate held at 8.3 percent in February.

Labor Commissioner Keith Kelly says the Montana economy added more than 1,000 jobs in the last month.

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