Environmental activist trial moved to Price
The May 23 trial of two environmental activists in Seventh District Court has been moved from Monticello to Price. Mark Franklin and Rose Chilcoat face charges, including felony charges, for an April 2017 incident at a corral on Lime Ridge, between Bluff and Mexican Hat.
The trial has gained widespread attention since Chilcoat worked for several years as an Associate Director of the Great Old Broads for Wilderness. The Great Old Broads had been involved in challenging livestock grazing permits in the Canyons of the Ancients National Monument in southwest Colorado, which is adjacent to San Juan County.
The charges allege that the pair closed a gate on the corral, apparently with the intention of depriving cattle from their water source.
Seventh District Judge Lyle R. Anderson has expressed an interest in keeping to the May 23 trial date, even as an avalanche of filings had been entered into the record. There have been 148 filings on the case in just the past month.
In recent days, Anderson ordered that the trial be moved to Price after defense attorneys released the results of a public opinion survey that showed that many San Juan County residents had a negative opinion of the environmentalist group.
The Dan Jones survey found that 57 percent of local residents have an unfavorable opinion of the Great Old Broads, compared to just seven percent of Carbon County residents.
While the defense attorneys succeeded in moving the trial, Judge Anderson made several additional rulings that were in favor of the prosecution attorneys.
Judge Anderson stuck to a previous ruling to bind the defendants over for trial and ruled against a motion to disqualify San Juan County Attorney Kendall Laws from prosecuting the case.
Both of these decisions have been appealed. The avalanche of motions has failed to delay the trial so far, but the defense seems determined to secure a stay on the trial.
The defense attorneys have been joined by Paul Cassell, a retired federal judge who currently teaches at the University of Utah law school.
According to San Juan County Attorney Kendall Laws, a possible conflict of interest related to Cassell’s participation with the defense has resulted in the Utah Attorney General’s office withdrawing support for the prosecution.
Laws stated that having no help from the Attorney General’s office creates a significant challenge to the county in such a complicated case.
There has been a long history of conflict between local residents and the Great Old Broads, with allegations of “monkey wrenching” on both sides.