Flurry of filings before livestock endangerment trial
Defense attorneys have filed a flurry of motions leading up to the planned May 23 trial in Seventh District Court of a married couple from Durango, CO.
Rose Chilcoat and Mark Kevin Franklin face a number of charges related to an incident involving livestock on Lime Ridge, between Bluff and Mexican Hat.
The case has gained significant attention, in part because of Chilcoat’s previous involvement in an environmental organization that has challenged livestock grazing permits.
A two-day trial is scheduled to take place in Monticello before Seventh District Judge Lyle R. Anderson on May 23 and 24.
The recent filings (more than 60 in the past two weeks alone) includes questions regarding previous court decisions, and the objectivity of the San Juan County Attorney’s Office.
An April 30 motion suggests that County Attorney Kendall Laws should recuse himself and his office from the prosecution.
The motion argues that Laws and other county officials, including Commissioner Phil Lyman, have an appearance of partiality against Chilcoat. Public comments from the officials, including Facebook posts, are presented as evidence of the partiality.
In previous court statements, Judge Anderson said he intends for the trial to take place in May and not face additional delays.
The charges relate to an April 1, 2017 incident in which a wired-open gate to a corral had been shut, thus restricting access to water for the cattle. The incident occurred on state trust lands leased from the Utah School and Institutional Trust Lands Administration (SITLA).
Officials state an image from a trail camera at the corral helped identify a vehicle involved in the incident. Two days later, a vehicle matching the description passed the corral.
The vehicle was stopped by a San Juan County Sheriff’s Deputy and the occupants identified themselves as Mark Kevin Franklin, age 61, and Rose Franklin, age 58. According to the deputy, the couple admitted to being involved in the incident.
Eventually, it was determined that the legal name of Rose Franklin is Rose Chilcoat. Chilcoat had recently retired as the Executive Director of the Great Old Broads for Wilderness, an environmental group. At the time, she was also a member of the board of the Friends of Cedar Mesa.
Since charges have been filed, there has been a large amount of public attention on the incident.
The last several years have been marked by a number of incidents of “mischief” in San Juan County. Local cattlemen and residents have complained about gates left open and apparent acts of vandalism. Water troughs have been drained.
On the other side, threatening or false signs and posters have been posted at trailheads and at community gathering spots.
Several years ago, the Great Old Broads complained that one of their campsites in San Juan County had been vandalized and the gate locked with the campers inside.
Despite the growing list of allegations of mischief on both sides, law enforcement officials state they had not gathered enough evidence to file charges until this incident.
While many of these acts may seem harmless or trivial, San Juan County Sheriff Rick Eldredge said they can cause significant problems.
Eldredge states that crimes such as this will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.