Archives for January 2017

50-year-old Molester Sentenced

A 50-year-old Yellowstone County man was sentenced to 16 years in prison on Monday for two separate sexual assault crimes against two girls under the age of 12. Daniel Mario Cuellar was sentenced in Yellowstone County District Court on two counts of sexual assault. Judge Rod Souza suspended eight years of the sentence.
Cuellar reportedly touched an 11-year-old under her shirt in January 2014. A younger girl witnessed the incident and testified that she told Cuellar to stop. The younger child said the 11-year-old girl looked frightened when the 50-year-old Cuellar touched her inappropriately.
The 11-year-old girl also testified that Cuellar had choked her. Another girl came forward in June 2014 and reported Cuellar had also touched her breasts, under the pretense of tickling her, according to court documents.
Cuellar admitted to the grandmother of the 11-year-old that the assaults [quote] “might have happened once or twice, but that was it.”

Escapee From MWP Arrested in Oregon

A 26-year-old woman who escaped from the Montana Women’s Prison in May was reportedly arrested by Portland, Oregon Police on Thursday.
Christina Alexandra Becker escaped on May 27, 2016, while assigned to the garden maintenance crew by apparently climbing a fence. Becker was serving a five-year sentence out of Lewis and Clark County for criminal possession of dangerous drugs, as well as a consecutive three-year sentence for a prior escape– walking away from a prerelease center. She is being held in the Multnomah County Detention Center on escape and misdemeanor charges of interfering with an officer and theft of service for riding a train without a ticket.
Authorities in Portland will decide whether to charge Becker or take her back to Montana.
Becker now faces felony escape charges in Yellowstone County, which carry a maximum sentence of 10 years, in addition to the remainder of her original sentence.

Saturday Chase Results in One Arrest

A prolonged vehicle chase on Saturday morning involving multiple law enforcement agencies, which began south of Hardin, ended in Yellowstone County with the peaceful arrest of one man in Billings. The incident began just before 11 a.m., when Bureau of Indian Affairs police out of Crow Agency attempted to stop a possibly stolen maroon Chevy Silverado pickup, according to the Billings Police Department. The BIA broke off the pursuit, and the chase was picked up on I-90 by the Yellowstone County Sheriff’s Office and Montana Highway Patrol. The Silverado was traveling westbound in an eastbound lane briefly before a spike strip could be placed on the road. The pickup took the South 27th Street exit in Billings, and the pickup was discovered in an alley on the 100 block between Broadwater and Custer avenues. Two of the suspects were identified and detained. One was later arrested.

First Interstate Acquires Cascade Bank

Billings-based First Interstate Bank is in the process of completing its acquisition of Cascade Bank, after which small businesses will have better access to government-backed loans, according to First Interstate CEO Kevin Riley.
In an earnings call with analysts on Friday, Riley said that Bend, Oregon-based Cascade has a strong Small Business Administration lending program that will fold neatly into First Interstate’s operations. These include loans for veterans, micro-lending and other loans designed for small business.
Riley said, in response to a question from an analyst, that First Interstate is not as strong as Cascade on small business loans, so that platform will probably be something they adopt, adding [quote] “Together, we’re stronger than we are apart.” [end quote]
Since the $589 million purchase of Cascade, publicly traded First Interstate reported a $24.8 million profit, or 56 cents per share, for the fourth quarter ending Dec. 31.

10-Hour Parking Meters Being Removed

Downtown Billings’ 10-hour parking meters– removed this week from Fourth Avenue North– are the first of what will be the complete removal of all 68 10-hour meters, according to the Billings Parking Division.
Parking Manager Tracy Scott said Thursday that 10-hour parking signs are being erected in place of the meters as they’re removed. Downtown parking is enforced Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., but parking is free evenings and weekends. Crews are currently busy with snow removal, but 10-hour meters slated for removal are on Third Avenue North, on North 30th Street, along North Broadway, on North 25th Street and along South 28th Street. The Parking Division is set to seek bids on 150 smart meters, which are expected to be installed in the spring or summer. Ten-hour parking permits are available through the Downtown Billings Alliance for $20 per month by calling 406-294-5060.

Sex Trafficking in Billings

Human trafficking in Montana has been traced back to a Washington man, accused in a federal investigation. 23-year-old Andrew Anthony Rivera of Tacoma was charged and released after an initial court appearance on Wednesday in Yakima. U.S. Magistrate Judge Mary Dimke denied a prosecution motion to detain Rivera and released him– on condition of electronic monitoring and home detention– pending a Feb. 2 hearing in Billings.
Rivera appeared for an initial hearing on the Montana charges Wednesday. The indictment charges Rivera with sex trafficking by force and transportation of a person with intent to engage in sexual activity. Sex trafficking carries a mandatory minimum of 15 years to life in prison and a $250,000 fine.
The indictment alleges that in 2014, Rivera forced a person to engage in commercial sex and that in April 2016, he transported another from Washington to Montana for similar purposes.

Medical Marijuana Patient Has More Than Legal Amount

A medical marijuana patient has been accused of having more than the legal amount. 58-year-old Kenneth Glode appeared in Yellowstone County Justice Court on Wednesday for a felony charge of criminal production or manufacture of dangerous drugs. He was released on his own recognizance after the hearing and is scheduled to appear in District Court on Feb. 1. The Billings Police Department reports they were called to the Stone Street home in April 2014. Officers smelled marijuana and heard the sound of large exhaust fans on the property, according to court documents.
The smell and sound seemed to be coming from a detached building, which was outfitted with surveillance cameras. Glade told them that he was a registered medical marijuana patient, and presented his card, but a search turned up three rooms with at least 48 plants, some of which were eight feet tall.

Montana’s Solar Guy in Billings Wednesday

Referred to by many as Montana’s “Solar Guy”, Brad Van Wert was in Billings Wednesday, talking to a crowd of approximately 100 people about solar electricity’s affordablility and improved technology at the Last Chance Pub and Cider Mill. His message is simple; solar is about freedom to choose.
Van Wert is the co-owner of Bozeman-based Harvest Solar, and his speaking tour is sponsored by ChargeMT, a collaborative which includes Renewable Northwest, the Montana Renewable Energy Association, NW Energy Coalition, and Forward Montana Foundation.
Montana is 44th in the nation in installed solar capacity. Of the 300 thousand nationwide, only about 150 Montanans make a living in the solar industry. Montana’s Public Service Commission has limited solar arrays at businesses to 50 kilowatts, and Senate Bill 78, under consideration today in the legislature, would pay less to solar electricity customers who use net metering.

Big Sky Rising Lobbies Daines’ Billings Office

In the aftermath of Saturday’s Women’s March on Helena, one of dozens of peaceful protests across the nation inspired by the simultaneous Women’s March on Washington D.C., a Montana-wide grassroots organization appears intent on making its voice heard. More than 1,000 members of the organization live in Billings.
According to its website, the group known as Big Sky Rising [quote] “empowers individuals and connects communities while fostering equality, diversity, human rights, civil liberties and a sustainable future through respectful dialogue, education and advocacy,” [end quote]
On Tuesday, 20 members of the Billings chapter visited Republican U.S. Sen. Steve Daines’ downtown office to urge Daines to vote no on several of President Trump’s cabinet nominees.
Kari Kaiser, leader of the Billings chapter, said the visit was the first of many they hope to make each week to one or more of the local congressional offices, to speak out.

Lucky Lil’s Not So Lucky Again

On Tuesday night, yet another casino robbery occurred in Billings as Lucky Lil’s was held up at gunpoint, according to the Billings Police Department.
A man walked into the Casino located at 770 King Park at about 7:10 p.m., reportedly brandishing a firearm and demanding cash. Shortly afterward, the suspect left with what was described in the release as an undisclosed amount of money. No one was injured, and the BPD continues to investigate the incident. It was the same Lucky Lil’s that was robbed just a few months ago on November 12, 2016. In that incident, three men entered the business brandishing firearms, took money from the business and wallets and money from the patrons. No employees or patrons were hurt during that robbery, but one patron needed medical attention for a medical condition resulting from the robbery.
Two men have been charged in that case.