Taxpayers escape paying for Lyman Defense, Governor kicks in 10-Grand Private Donation

June 25, 2015

Lyman(Salt Lake City Utah)-Taxpayers won’t be on the hook for Phil Lyman’s legal bills after all. But the embattled San Juan County commissioner did walk out of a Capitol hearing room Wednesday with a handsome pile of legal tender, courtesy of his fellow county commissioners and state officials.

A flood of donations was unleashed during a tense meeting of the Utah Constitutional Defense Council (CDC) after Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox described the legal and political pitfalls of using public money to help an official fight criminal charges. Cox said private money should be collected for Lyman, whom a federal jury convicted last month on misdemeanor conspiracy charges for leading last year’s ATV protest ride into Recapture Canyon. Cox kicked in a grand of his own money.

“We are proud to support one of our own,” said Cox, himself a former Sanpete County commissioner. “Commissioner Lyman is one of the finest individuals I know. San Juan County is fortunate to have a public servant like him. “Were I in his situation, I would have done the same thing.”

Cox said he has “serious concerns about the way the case was handled and how it was ruled on.” But, Utah’s lieutenant governor said, many people have contacted his office, threatening to sue if the state spends public money on Lyman.

When it became clear the San Juan County commissioner would not get taxpayer funds, the meeting turned into a Lyman love fest. Speakers flogged the news media, environmental groups and the federal government as they emptied their wallets.

Beaver County Commissioner Mark Whitney was the first.

Rookie Weber County Commissioner James Ebert borrowed $100 from another commissioner to add to the growing pile. And Garfield County Commissioner Leland Pollock said San Juan County residents all looked to Lyman “for help, begging him to do something about closed roads.”

“That conspiracy consisted of his right to conduct a public demonstration. You should take a look at a judge who would suppress free assembly,” said Kane County Commissioner Doug Heaton. “The reason the Founding Fathers gave us a Second Amendment was if the First Amendment fails. “It is a chilling thing,” Heaton added, “to see a fellow commissioner being prosecuted for fulfilling his duties.”

Shelby will sentence Lyman and co-defendant Monte Wells on July 15. The two face up to a year in jail and $100,000 in fines, as well as restitution associated with damage protesters allegedly caused to archaeological resources in the canyon just east of Blanding.

“I appreciate what Mike is trying to do. If you separate the two — my legal situation from the underlying issue — you are talking about a right of way that needs to be determined,” he told reporters.

“I would like to see the state get involved and try to get a decision,” Lyman added. “That was the whole point of the ride. The [BLM] can’t just designate something closed that is not closed.”

Lyman and his supporters say he limited his protest to an area where motorized use posed no threat to archaeological sites and where county officials regularly travel to service a pipeline under a long-standing easement.


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