Ryan Leaf formally charged with 4 felonies

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A Montana prosecutor has formally charged former NFL quarterback Ryan Leaf with four felonies in connection with allegations that he broke into homes to steal prescription painkillers.

Cascade County Attorney John Parker charged Leaf Thursday with two counts of burglary and two counts of criminal possession of a dangerous drug.

Leaf is accused of entering an acquaintance's home to steal oxycodone on March 29. He was arrested the next day and released after posting bail.

Authorities say he broke into another home and stole hydrocodone two days later.

If convicted, Leaf faces a possible prison sentence of up to 50 years on all four charges.

Leaf is jailed without bond on a 30-day hold on charges that he violated his Texas probation with his Montana arrest.


Same-sex benefits case goes to state Supreme Court

MISSOULA, Mont. (AP) — An attorney for six gay couples suing Montana for the benefits that married couples have says his clients should be able to make decisions about their families' health and finances.

Attorney James Goetz asked the Montana Supreme Court Friday to declare that not providing those legal benefits is an unconstitutional violation of equal-rights protections.

The couples are appealing a Helena judge's dismissal of their case last year after state prosecutors argued that spousal benefits are limited to married couples.

Assistant attorney general Mike Black says the Legislature can create a separate class for couples regardless of sexual orientation. But Black says lawmakers do not have a constitutional mandate to do so and the couples' demands are overly sweeping.

The justices did not make an immediate ruling.


Hantavirus confirmed in Cascade, Flathead counties

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services have confirmed cases of hantavirus pulmonary syndrome in both Cascade and Flathead counties.

The agency did not release any information on those with the illness, including whether they were hospitalized or had recovered.

The cases bring to 35 the number reported in Montana since 1993. There have been three so far this year.

Hantavirus cases often increase as people begin to clean their garages and sheds in the warmer spring weather. Cleaning can disturb nesting materials contaminated with dried saliva, urine, or droppings from infected deer mice, which are inhaled, causing exposure to the virus.

The illness usually starts with flu-like symptoms, including fever, sore muscles and headaches. It progresses to a severe shortness of breath. Early diagnoses and treatment increase the likelihood of full recovery.


Former Butte judge gets probation for bribery

(Information in the following story is from: The Montana Standard, http://www.mtstandard.com)

BUTTE, Mont. (AP) — A former Butte city judge who pleaded guilty to taking money in exchange for dismissing misdemeanor traffic tickets has been placed on probation for five years.

The Montana Standard reports 53-year-old Steven Kambich also was ordered to pay $5,000 in restitution during a sentencing hearing Friday in U.S. District Court in Butte. He pleaded guilty to felony bribery in January.

The FBI began investigating Kambich after receiving a tip in March 2008. During a July 2011 interview, Kambich acknowledged accepting between $100 and $300 each time he dismissed a ticket. Investigators found at least one $400 bribe.

Federal prosecutors say investigators found $13,900 in unexplained cash deposits in Kambich's bank accounts in 2008.

Kambich resigned from his post effective Dec. 15.


Insulation company fire appears accidental

(Information in the following story is from: Billings Gazette, http://www.billingsgazette.com)

BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — Yellowstone County officials say a fire that destroyed an insulation manufacturing company appears to be accidental.

Sheriff's Sgt. Sam Bofto says an initial investigation found no evidence that the fire at CC Manufacturing was purposely set early Thursday. He says the cause has not been determined.

The Billings Gazette reports the building housed a cellulose and mulch plant used to make insulation materials. Bofto said it appears the fire began in the manufacturing area.

The fire caused damages estimated at between $1 million to $1.3 million.


Governor to promote Montana flights on Letterman

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer has big plans for promoting a new direct flight from New York City to Bozeman.

Schweitzer says he is scheduled to be on the Late Show with David Letterman on April 25. Letterman owns a ranch north of Helena and is one of Montana's most famous part time residents.

The governor says the state is placing murals of Montana attractions and wildlife on a dozen city delivery trucks.

Schweitzer says he is going to take one downtown and give away Montana products like beef jerky and huckleberry jam, hoping to "cause a commotion."

The governor says Montana has never gotten cheaper advertising than it will get with his television appearance.

The new flights are scheduled to start in June and will be offered by United Airlines.