Utah official to appeal conviction in ATV protest ride

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — San Juan County Commissioner Phil Lyman said Tuesday he has decided to appeal a conviction for his role in an ATV protest ride through a closed canyon in 2014 that was intended to draw attention to what organizers called federal overreach.

Lyman told The Associated Press he knows winning an appeal is a long shot but he wants to prove he didn't trespass or encourage others to break the law in the May 2014 ride that took place in an idyllic spot called Recapture Canyon in the Four Corners region, about 300 miles southeast of Salt Lake City.

"If you're going to take a course of insisting on the truth, I think you have to see it through to the end," Lyman said.

Lyman submitted his notice of appeal Tuesday. The full appeal will be filed at a later date.

Blogger Monte Wells also filed to appeal Tuesday of his conviction. A jury found both men guilty of misdemeanor illegal use of ATVs and conspiracy.

Lyman was sentenced last month to 10 days in prison and given three years' probation. He was also ordered to pay a $1,000 fine and $96,000 for damage caused by the ride.

U.S. District Judge David Nuffer allowed Lyman to report for his prison stint at a later date. Lyman said he doesn't know yet when he will serve the time. Wells was sentenced to five days in jail and three years of probation.

Utah U.S. Attorney John Huber declined comment Tuesday. He said after sentencing that his office would likely defend the conviction and sentence that showed his office will prosecute all violations of federal law — no matter where a person falls on the political spectrum.

The protest ride was organized shortly after Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy had a standoff with the federal Bureau of Land Management over similar issues. Those 2014 protests showcased the deep-rooted strain between the federal government and residents in the West over land use.

The issue re-emerged this month with an armed group occupying the headquarters of a national wildlife refuge in southeastern Oregon. The group, led by Cliven Bundy's son Ammon Bundy, wants the federal government to relinquish the land to local officials so it becomes more accessible for ranching, mining and other uses.

The Utah protest ride was peaceful and without confrontations, but prosecutors accused Lyman of recruiting people for his ride who had taken up arms in the Nevada faceoff.

Lyman and his attorney say the ATV ride was a peaceful way to bring attention to frustrations from him and his constituents about years of inaction by the federal government.

Lyman and about 50 others rode their ATVs on a trail that was declared off-limits to vehicles to protect ruins that are nearly 2,000 years old. The decision to block vehicles in the area has long been a source of tension, with Lyman and other calling it improper and unnecessary.'

Several Utah officials have stepped up to support Lyman's stance, including Gov. Gary Herbert. State lawmakers threw down wads of cash to help pay for his legal defense during a public hearing. The Utah Association of Counties named Lyman county commissioner of the year, though he returned the honor.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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