Judges affirm Recapture protest rulings
Oct 24, 2017 | 3331 views | 0 0 comments | 873 873 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The convictions of San Juan County Commissioner Phil Lyman and Monticello resident Monte Wells were upheld in an October 23 ruling by the U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals. The two men were convicted for their role in the May, 2014 protest in Recapture Canyon.

Appeals to the conviction were filed with the Tenth Circuit on a host of matters, including claims that the judge should have recused himself, that the verdict should be dismissed, that the evidence was insufficient, that the fines were excessive, and that a newly discovered map shows that San Juan County may have a right of way in the canyon.

On each claim, the Court of Appeals affirmed the district court judgment and restitution order.

The 2014 protest was organized after years of frustration over the 2007 closure of portions of Recapture Canyon to motorized traffic by the Bureau of Land Management. Protesters had lost patience after the “temporary” closure of the area extended for nearly seven years.

After a May 10, 2014 rally in Blanding, more than 100 protesters drove into the closed section of the canyon along a pipeline maintenance road. Approximately 50 riders continued on a more primitive road through the northern portion of the canyon. Others turned around.

After the protest, a host of charges were filed against five men, including Lyman and Wells. The charges included conspiracy and driving in the closed portion of the canyon.

The case eventually went to trial for four defendants in May, 2015. After a three-day trial, and seven hours of deliberation, a jury convicted Lyman and Wells and found the other two defendants not guilty.

They were fined nearly $100,000, placed on probation, and sentenced to a few days in federal prison for the misdemeanors.

In April, 2017, nearly a decade after the “temporary” closure of portions of the canyon, the BLM announced a “compromise” decision that opened portions of the area to motorized traffic but rejected a county request for a right-of-way in the canyon.

The San Juan County Commission released a statement, “We express our profound disappointment in the result of the judicial appeal rejection. It seems that the issues Commissioner Lyman tried to bring to light have fallen on deaf ears.

“A failed government bureaucracy with an inability to communicate promptly led to the ATV ride in 2014. This is another example of federal government overreach and unaccountable bureaucracy.”
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