PROVO — Iron County prosecutors dropped the more severe of two charges against the Taylorsville man accused of accidentally starting the massive Brian Head wildfire in 2017.
Fourth District Judge James Brady granted the prosecutors’ request Tuesday to dismiss a charge of reckless burning, a class A misdemeanor, for Robert Ray Lyman, court records show. Court documents don’t indicate the reason for the recent change.
Lyman, 63, still faces a lesser charge of burning without a permit, a class B misdemeanor.
If convicted at the conclusion of a two-day trial in March, the retired basketball coach and teacher at Salt Lake City’s West High School would face up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. A conviction on the now-dismissed charge would have carried twice the jail time and up to a $2,500 fine.
Lyman had earlier pleaded not guilty to the two charges.
Lyman is accused of sparking the 2017 blaze that ultimately torched more than 100 square miles and over a dozen homes near the southern Utah resort town.
Contrary to early official statements, the fire did not begin with a weed torch, his attorney Andrew Deiss has argued. Lyman was using a lighter on June 17, 2017, in an attempt to create a fire break and destroy potential fuel near his cabin, according to Deiss, but the flames spread out of hand.
Lyman was originally charged in Cedar City, but a judge there agreed to transfer the case to a new judicial district after his attorney argued comments on social media and online news stories showed he is hated in Iron County and might not get a fair trial there.
His trial is scheduled for March 12 and 13 in Provo.
This story will be updated.