SALT LAKE CITY — Federal prosecutors dismiss as "misplaced" a Utah lawmaker's accusation that their efforts to quintuple his restitution payments for an illegal ATV ride is politically motivated.
And in a reply to Rep. Phil Lyman's tirade against assistant U.S. attorney Allison J.P. Moon, the government argues that the Blanding Republican is more than able to pay a larger amount.
A new filing in U.S. District Court late Thursday is the latest in the back and forth between prosecutors and Lyman over his $95,955 in restitution after his conviction for leading an ATV protest ride through an archaeologically sensitive southeastern Utah canyon. Lyman spent 10 days in jail for trespassing.
Last month, prosecutors claimed Lyman's financial circumstances had changed since his election to the Utah House of Representatives last year and that he has a "heightened moral obligation" to pay off the debt. They say he is capable of paying $500 a month rather than the court-ordered $100.
Lyman, acting as his own attorney, argued that he's making $25,000 per year less after giving up his position on the San Juan County Commission to serve in the House. He also questioned Moon's motives for seeking the higher payment.
"Could it be that this has come about because I am a newly elected state representative on the opposite of Ms. Moon politically?" he wrote in letter last week to Judge David Nuffer.
Moon dismisses Lyman's allegations in the latest court filing.
"As to the United States’ motive, the United States is simply seeking to collect a debt, and Mr. Lyman’s accusations are misplaced," she wrote.
Prosecutors also acknowledged that they overlooked the fact that Lyman makes less as a state legislator than he did as a county commissioner.
"But in the end this matters little because any material change in the defendant’s economic circumstances allows the court to adjust the defendant’s payment schedule to serve the interests of justice," Moon wrote.
"And even with his allegedly decreased income, Mr. Lyman can afford to pay $500 per month towards restitution."
Prosecutors say Lyman, a certified public accountant, did not argue in his letter that he can't afford to make the higher payment nor did he provide any specific financial information.
Though much of what apparently is Lyman's personal financial information is redacted in the new court filing, the government says he owns commercial real estate in Blanding. It estimates the net equity in the property at $202,511.
Raising the restitution payment would ensure the full amount is paid and that "Mr. Lyman, who receives a publicly funded income, would also pay his public debt," Moon wrote.
Court documents show Lyman has a $90,105 balance on his restitution, with the judgment against him expiring in April 2036.
At the current rate, he would pay only another $20,500 before that date, according to court documents. If he were to pay $500 a month, he would have it paid in full by 2034.