Commissioner Lyman, Monte Wells convicted for role in Recapture Canyon protest
by by David Boyle
May 01, 2015 | 2911 views | 0 0 comments | 18 18 recommendations | email to a friend | print
by David Boyle, Staff writer (Updated at 8:45 p.m.) A twelve-man jury returned two guilty verdicts each against Phil Lyman and Monte Wells in a federal courthouse in Salt Lake City. Shane Marian and Trent Holliday are not guilty on all counts. The verdicts were announced after the jury deliberated for seven hours. The men are convicted of conspiracy for organizing and participating in a May 10, 2014 protest at Recapture Canyon east of Blanding. They each face one year in jail and a $100,000 fine for each count. The verdict of four San Juan County men charged in the May, 2014 Recapture Canyon protest is in the hands of a twelve-member jury. Commissioner Phil Lyman, Monte Wells, Shane Marian and Trent Holliday each face two federal misdemeanor charges for organizing and participating in the protest. The three-day trial concluded this afternoon before Federal Judge Robert Shelby in a Salt Lake City federal court. Over the course of the trial, the US Attorney presented a large volume of evidence that the men helped to conceive, organize and participate in the ride. In contrast, the defense called a single witness while arguing that the protesters had a “good faith” reason to believe that the canyon was open. Ferd Johnson, the water master for the San Juan Water Conservancy District, testified that he gave permission for the protest to take place on a pipeline maintenance road through a right-of-way granted to the district by the BLM. Johnson “left the gate open, literally and figuratively” said the defense attorney in closing arguments. The prosecution presented closing arguments this morning, stating, "We are here because these four defendants crossed the line." They showed that beginning as early as February, 2014, Phil Lyman planned to ride the trail in protest. The evidence includes emails to the BLM, letters to the Deseret News and other media, and a lunch meeting with BLM State Director Juan Palma. Monte Wells' involvement includes participating at the lunch meeting and by publishing articles on his website. At the protest, Holliday and Marian, along with Wells and Lyman, arrived at the rally and crossed the boundary line. Prosecutors argued against the "good faith" argument of the defense, stating that if Ferd Johnson had given permission to access the San Juan Water Conservancy District right-of-way as early as March, 2014, Lyman would have mentioned it in documents and statements. The prosecution further argued that the men did not use the right of way to maintain the water pipeline. Nathan Crane, Wells' attorney, presented his closing arguments. Crane argued that Lyman's actions were as an elected official representing his constituents. Defense argued that Lyman had no plans to ride on the illegal portion of the trail. Crane said that Lyman did not share with the BLM his permission granted by Ferd Johnson to access the pipeline trail because he doesn't trust them and could have worried that they would have sought to withdraw their permission given to the water conservancy district. Crane argued that Wells was at the meeting with Juan Palma, and covered the events leading up to and including the protest, as a journalist. Crane argued that journalists are not required to be neutral in their news coverage. Crane closed by arguing that his client had reasonable belief that he had permission to be there through the water conservancy district. Attorneys for Holliday and Marian argued that the evidence that the men were present at the rally does not imply that they were conspiring to ride their ATV's illegally. They said that following an elected official, in what they assumed was a legal ride, does not infer guilt. The attorneys said that the government burden is to prove that they "knowingly and willfully broke the law" and the evidence does not prove that. Phil Lyman’s attorney said that all Lyman's actions are as a political figure and that his call for the protest never explicitly said they would ride ATV's illegally on the closed portion of the trail. In recalling Ferd Johnson's testimony, Stubbs said Johnson is a, "salt of the earth, honest, hardworking man." Stubbs argued that Johnson gave his express permission, and left the gate open. Stubbs pointed out that the BLM closure sign says ATV use is forbidden "except for authorized or permitted use." Stubbs said Johnson gave that permission. Stubbs closed his argument by stating the US government did not reach their burden of proof. Prosecutor said the jury must make their decision based on facts and evidence and said the defense used speculation to guess what the defendants intentions were. He asked again, why did Lyman not bring forth the supposed permission by Ferd Johnson before the protest ride? The jury was urged to use the evidence to assert the state of mind of the defendants. "They knew what they were doing was wrong, they did it anyway” As of 6:30 p.m., the jury is still in deliberation. A court official said that juries have deliberated into the night in previous cases. It is still anticipated that a verdict could be reached today.
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Recapture Canyon protest trial drawing to a close
Apr 30, 2015 | 1580 views | 0 0 comments | 17 17 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Recapture ATV protest ride
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Protesters ride through Recapture Canyon as part of a protest led by San Juan County Commissioner Phil Lyman. See the story and more photos on pages two and three. Staff photo
by David Boyle Day two of the trial of U.S. v. Phil Lyman, Monte Wells, Shane Marian, and Franklin “Trent” Holliday continued today at the federal courthouse in Salt Lake City. The San Juan County men are charged for the May 10, 2014 protest ride in Recapture Canyon. Today, the prosecution presented further evidence of the men’s involvement in planning and carrying out the protest. Jury selection began Tuesday, with opening arguments yesterday before Federal Judge Robert Shelby. The prosecution closed the case at noon today. The defense called a single witness. It is expected that the arguments will close tomorrow and the case sent to the jury. Today, the prosecution brought Bureau of Land Management (BLM) agent Brian Loftin to the stand. Loftin gathered information for the case via open source internet research. The prosecution brought forth dozens of photographs, news publications, social media posts and recordings as evidence of the plans to organize the May 10 protest ride. The primary focus of the prosecution appears to be pointed toward Phil Lyman and Monte Wells. Photos were presented which appear to place all four defendants as participants at the protest. However, the evidence presented regarding a conspiracy by Trent Holliday or Shane Marian seems to be a few Facebook "likes". Holliday’s attorney asked Loftin, “Isn’t it possible that Mr. Holliday, in addition to liking the three mentioned posts on Phil Lyman’s page, could have liked environmental group Facebook pages, cat videos and other number of posts?” Later, Loftin was asked, “In any of your research did the name Shane Marian come up?” Loftin, who said that he researched online for a month gathering evidence about the ATV ride, said no. The defense opening statements were that the four defendants had good faith reason to believe that they had legal right to ride along the pipeline trail. The defense called a single witness, Ferd Johnson, the Water Master for the San Juan Water Conservancy District. The claim is that the defendants used the Water Conservancy District right-of-way, granted by the BLM in 1986, to access the trail in the closed area of the canyon. Johnson said that the BLM granted the legal right to use the trail to build and maintain the pipeline along Recapture Canyon. Protesters on approximately 100 all terrain vehicles (ATVs) rode on the pipeline trail about one mile beyond the BLM closure sign. At that point, many turned around, while approximately 50 more vehicles continued on a more primitive portion of the trail. Johnson is the Water Conservancy employee that is charged to maintain the pipeline. He said he gave Lyman and fellow protestors permission to access the established pipeline trail for the purpose of a protest on May 10, 2014. With Johnson under cross-examination, the prosecution argued that the protestors did not use the right-of-way within the stipulations granted by the BLM. The stipulation is that access is granted for maintenance of the pipeline. The defense maintained its case that the defendants had reason to believe that they had legal access to the pipeline maintenance trail that day for the purpose of the protest. In final arguments for the day, attorneys for the defense moved to dismiss the conspiracy charges against the four defendants. The motion was denied. Federal Judge Robert Shelby noted that he believes the evidence for conspiracy is stronger for some defendants than for others. The jury will receive instructions tomorrow morning and are expected to reach a verdict Friday afternoon.
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First day of trial for Recapture Canyon protest
Apr 29, 2015 | 1346 views | 0 0 comments | 20 20 recommendations | email to a friend | print
by David Boyle, Staff writer Four San Juan County men facing federal charges in relation to the May 10, 2014 protest ride in Recapture Canyon began a three-day trial this morning in the federal district court in Salt Lake City before Judge Robert Shelby. The trial of U.S. v. Phil Lyman, Monte Wells, Shane Marian, and Franklin “Trent” Holliday began Tuesday with the selection of 12 jury members to rule on the case. The four men are all charged with two federal misdemeanors, the first a conspiracy to operate off-road vehicle on public lands closed to off-road vehicles, and the second to actually operate the vehicles. The prosecution opening statement claims that the defendants knowingly and willfully conspired to illegally ride All Terrain Vehicles (ATV’s) in a restricted area. The defense opening statements expressed frustration over the “temporary” closure of the trail through Recapture Canyon in 2007. Over the subsequent seven years, the frustration grew year by year, with no apparent progress on resolving the closure. The defense further argued that the defendants had a right to be in the canyon. The prosecution provided photographic and video evidence of all four men riding on the closed trail. In addition, the prosecution called several witnesses to the stand, including Juan Palma, the former Utah State Director for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The prosecution plans to close its case tomorrow morning. Once the prosecution rests, the defense will present its case. During cross-examination, the defense asked if the ride was truly illegal. The defense is expected to expand its case tomorrow. The jury is expected to reach a verdict by Friday.
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