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Jury finds San Juan County Commissioner guilty for protest ride in Utah’s Recapture Canyon

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Posted at 8:19 PM, May 01, 2015
and last updated 2015-05-02 23:25:30-04

SALT LAKE CITY – After deliberating for about 7 hours, the jury has reached a verdict in the trial for four men, including the San Juan County Commissioner, who allegedly rode all-terrain vehicles through a restricted area as part of a protest against the Bureau of Land Management and the issue of federal management of land in Utah, and two of the men were found guilty.

San Juan County Commissioner Phil Lyman and Monte Wells were both found guilty on misdemeanor counts of conspiracy to operate off-road vehicles on public lands closed to off-road vehicles and one count of operation of off-road vehicles on public lands closed to off-road vehicles. The other two men on trial, Shane Marian and Trent Holliday, were found not-guilty on both counts.

Sentencing for the men is scheduled for July 15. According to a statement from the U.S. Attorney's Office, the two men face: "Potential sentence of 1 year in jail and a $100,000 fine."

Lyman spoke to FOX 13 News as he left the courtroom following Friday night's verdict.

"This is a shout-out, I guess, to county officials that: 'You do not have jurisdiction in your counties: it is a federal jurisdiction state,'" he said.

BLM spokesman Tom Gorey released a statement via the U.S. Attorney's Office Friday night.

"Today’s verdict underscores the importance of protecting the nation's irreplaceable archaeological treasures. These ancient dwellings and artifacts are essential for understanding the story of the earliest inhabitants of the American Southwest. As Congress has directed, the BLM will continue to protect these resources while managing the public lands for multiple-use and sustained yield on behalf of all Americans."

The four men were allegedly among at least 50 people who rode ATVs through Recapture Canyon in San Juan County, which had been closed to motorized vehicles by the BLM to protect the canyon and archeological artifacts in the area.

The canyon was closed to motorized vehicles in 2007. Jay Redd was also charged in connection with the ride, but the charges against Redd were later dropped. A motion to drop charges against the other four was denied.

Prosecutors said earlier in the week that Lyman and the others “knowingly and willingly crossed the line in an act of defiance,” and that “there was no way for confusion or error.”

Outside of court Wednesday, Lyman replied “no” when asked if he regretted his role in the ride.