Criminal charges against Rose Chilcoat dropped
Criminal charges have been dropped against an environmental activist from Durango, CO after a hearing in a Utah Court of Appeals. A trial in Seventh District Court in Price will proceed for similar charges against her husband.
Rose Chilcoat and Mark Franklin had faced misdemeanor and felony charges after an April, 2017 incident at a corral between Bluff and Mexican Hat.
A gate on the corral had been closed, possibly cutting access to water for livestock in the area.
The actions were discovered by the rancher before any cattle were harmed.
Charges were filed after the couple passed the area two days later and were confronted by the rancher. The evidence, including statements by Franklin, suggests that he had closed the gate.
The charges gained notoriety, in part because Chilcoat served for many years as an associate director of Great Old Broads for Wilderness. The environmental organization has been opposed to grazing permits on public lands in the area.
In November, 2017, the pair was bound over for trial. That decision was appealed for both Chilcoat and Franklin.
In addition, the defense appealed the participation of San Juan County Attorney Kendall Laws as the prosecutor in the two cases. Defense argued that Laws should not participate in the process because of statements he had made about public land issues.
In a July hearing, the appeals court upheld three of the four earlier decisions. However, they questioned whether there was enough evidence of Chilcoat’s involvement to bind her over for trial.
Since the November 2017 decision, a Utah Supreme Court ruling has redefined the definition of accomplice liability, which may have been the basis of the charges against Chilcoat. Under the new criteria, the decision to bind over was viewed in a new light.
The charges against Chilcoat were dropped about ten days after the appeal hearing.
The trial has not yet been held. The original trial was eventually delayed after the defense filed more than 150 motions in the days leading up to the scheduled May, 2018 trial date.
Chilcoat and Franklin hired a flight of attorneys to fight the charges, led by Paul Cassell, a retired federal judge who teaches law at the University of Utah and works for the Utah Attorney General office.
A social media campaign raised more than $75,000 for the legal defense, with the charges cast as a politically motivated prosecution.
On the prosecution side, San Juan County has moved ahead with limited assistance in the high-profile case from the Utah Attorney General office, in part because of the participation of Cassell in the defense.
The case was being heard by Seventh District Judge Lyle R. Anderson. However, Anderson has since retired from the bench and a new judge will be assigned to the case.
In April, the trial location was moved from Monticello to Price after defense attorneys argued that it would be difficult to seat an impartial jury in San Juan County.