Recapture Canyon protest trial drawing to a close

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.

San Juan Record

49 South Main St
PO Box 879
Monticello, UT 84535

Phone: 435.587.2277
Fax: 435.587.3377
Open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday