No use of state funds for Lyman defense, appeal
Funds from the State of Utah will not be used to help cover legal costs incurred by San Juan County Commissioner Phil Lyman for the Recapture Canyon protest.
The decision was made at a June 24 meeting that involved the Utah Constitutional Defense Council (CDC) and the Utah Association of Counties (UAC).
State Representative Mike Noel requested that the state set aside up to $100,000 from the Constitutional Defense Fund “for the purpose of providing legal counsel and advice and representation to county officials who face charges for acting to address critical issues in their community.”
If approved, the request could have been used to cover legal costs incurred in Lyman’s criminal defense trial and potential appeal.
After a tense open meeting and a closed session on June 24, the UAC withdrew their request for the use of Constitutional Defense Funds.
Republican members of the groups encouraged Utah residents to make private contributions to Lyman’s defense and potential appeal. The donations included a $10,000 contribution by Utah Governor Gary Herbert.
Lyman and Monticello resident Monte Wells were each convicted by a jury in federal court of two misdemeanor counts related to their role in the May 10, 2014 protest in Recapture Canyon. Two other local residents were found not guilt by the jury.
In 2007, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) imposed a “temporary” closure of the canyon to motorized traffic. After seven years of attempts to resolve the closure, patience wore thin and the local residents planned and carried out the protest ride.
Sentencing before Federal Judge Robert Shelby is scheduled to take place on July 15. The men could face up to one year in prison, a $100,000 fine, and damages for each charge.
A BLM archaeologist estimates that the ride caused up to $400,000 in damages. Supporters of Lyman argue that the group caused no damage. A large protest group led by Lyman crossed into the closed area of the canyon for approximately one mile, but they stayed on an established pipeline maintenance road. Approximately 50 ATVs continued on the trail through other portions of the canyon.
A jury convicted Lyman and Wells during a one-week trial in Salt Lake City in May, 2015. The trial focused specifically on the protest. Lyman supporters state critical testimony regarding the legality of the BLM closure was not allowed in court.