SALT LAKE CITY — San Juan County Commissioner Phil Lyman is acting as his own lawyer in a request that the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver overturn his conviction for the protest ride in Recapture Canyon.
“Acting pro se in this matter, I ask the court in advance to forgive my lack of experience in filing this type of legal brief. My arguments are factual, but I will do my best to also incorporate appropriate legal case law,” Lyman wrote in the filing obtained by FOX 13 on Friday.
Lyman and co-defendant Monte Wells were convicted of misdemeanor charges for their role in the 2014 protest in Recapture Canyon, where demonstrators drove off-road vehicles through closed-off areas in protest of federal land policies. Lyman and Wells recently completed a brief jail term as part of their sentences.
In their appeals, both men question the impartiality of U.S. District Court Judge Robert Shelby, who eventually recused himself from the case over questions of his ties to the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance. Lyman also argues he got ineffective assistance with his lawyers and the media coverage was too much.
Wells raises a First Amendment defense, arguing that his blog and Facebook postings were “acts of journalism” and not part of a conspiracy in the Recapture Canyon ride protest.
“Mr. Wells’ alleged conspiratorial activities included posting news articles and posting an interview. He did not write or receive letters with BLM officials, he did not give speeches, he did not plan events. For his alleged part of the conspiracy, he maintained his news blog – protected speech,” his attorney, Michelle Mumford, wrote.
Mumford also pointed out that the punishment did not fit the crime — Wells was ordered to do five days in jail and pay $48,000 in restitution when the actual damages only cost the government $11,800 (and the BLM spent $85,000 to find out how much it cost them).
“Any reasonable citizen would be aghast at the governmental waste those numbers represent,” she wrote.
Lyman and Wells ask the three judge panel of the appeals court to let him make arguments before them. Federal prosecutors will be given an opportunity to respond before the court decides whether to hear arguments.
Read Lyman’s appeal here:
Read Wells’ appeal here: