Supporters step in as state bows out of commissioner’s legal fight against feds

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SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 Utah) Utah taxpayers won’t be chipping in to help a San Juan County Commissioner fight criminal charges.

Commissioner, Phil Lyman was convicted in federal court for leading a protest ride up a closed portion of Recapture Canyon last year.

A proposal to use $100,000 in state funds sparked a heated debate at the Constitutional Defense Council meeting at the Capitol on Wednesday.

“It’s what you call judicial, prosecutorial overreach. You over charge, you hype up the charges, you get the public inflamed that he caused $300,000 in damages and you prosecute them in the press,” said Representative Mike Noel, ( R ) Kanab.

Noel says the jury that convicted Lyman didn’t have all the facts.

He believes the road was illegally closed by the feds and he wants Lyman to appeal.

Opponents, like Representative Brian King say not on the taxpayers dime.

He says Lyman was convicted and needs to personally take responsibility.

“We should not be rushing to use taxpayer funds to support this particular person in this particular case, because it doesn’t help us in asserting our states rights against the federal government. It hurts that cause,” said King, (D) Salt Lake City.

After going into executive session the Utah Association of Counties withdrew the proposal and decided to contribute privately.

One by one supporters gave their donations leaving behind a mountain of money.

“It’s still about the central issue that resonates with those people who want to support that effort. It’s not going to me, it’s not going into my pockets, it’s going to help push this effort forward,” said Lyman.

In the end both sides were still at odds, but okay with how it played out.

“I think it’s a good compromise. I think it’s going to get Phil Lyman what he needs, the private funds to move forward on his case and we’ve got the governor committed to file a lawsuit for declaratory judgment on the very road he was on,” said Noel.

“This became a forum for raising a bunch of private funds to defend Phil Lyman. More power to you Phil! If you can get your friends and supporters to raise money I don’t have a problem with that at all, but when you ask the taxpayer to do it, that’s another matter,” said King.

Commissioner Lyman believes he was singled out for political reasons.

At this point he hasn’t decided if he will even appeal the conviction to the 10th Circuit.

He is considering all the options.

Governor Gary Herbert is among the supporters contributing money, he is pitching in $10,000.

Lt. Governor, Spencer Cox is donating $1000.

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