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Charges have been dropped against one of the defendants charged in last spring's Recapture Canyon protest.
The U.S. Attorney for Utah dismissed charges Friday against Jay Redd, one of five men charged in September for their participation in an ad hoc protest against federal control of public lands.
Defense attorney Wally Bugden said after he presented federal prosecutors with witness testimony and video of a speech Redd gave at the rally before the canyon ride, Assistant U.S. Attorney John Huber reconsidered the charges.
"They didn't have a case," Bugden said. "The Recapture Canyon protest was not Jay Redd's issue. He wasn't trying in his speech to incite anyone to cross the line. His speech really focused upon his father's love for the people of Blanding, his dedication to those people and the tragedy of his death."
Redd's father, the late James Redd, took his life five years ago after his arrest in the Bureau of Land Management's investigation into artifacts trafficking. The Redd family has alleged BLM investigators overreached and used excessive force to detain and question the beloved Blanding physician.
Multiple videos show Redd speaking about his father at the May 10 rally before the crowd moved into the canyon. Redd went with the crowd, but eventually turned back when he realized he had crossed the closure line.
"As soon as he knew he was over the line, he got off the vehicle and walked out of the canyon," Bugden said.
BLM had closed the canyon after officials discovered an illegally constructed ATV trail had damaged archaeological sites. Two Blanding men were ordered to pay $36,000 in fines.
The idea for a protest ride was hatched at "town hall" in February and San Juan County Commissioner Phil Lyman began promoting it on his Facebook page, and later with a series of on-line interviews with Monte Wells shot on the canyon rim.
That spring, the BLM became embroiled in an armed stand-off with militant supporters of Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy. To avoid a similar confrontation at Blanding, BLM officers took no steps to block the Recapture ride and had no presence at the north end of the canyon where riders entered on an established road below Recapture Reservoir. But federal officers were in the canyon monitoring the ride and archaeological sites, officials said at the time.
About 50 people rode ATVs into the canyon to protest closure of an "historic" highway.
Four other defendants were charged with conspiracy or "operation of off-road vehicles on public lands closed to vehicles" in connection to statements they made at the rally or after they drove into the closed canyon. The other defendants include Lyman, Wells, Shane Marian and Franklin Trent Holliday. Each offense carries a punishment of up to one year in jail and $100,000 in fines.
At a hearing in October, about 60 family members and supporters of the defendants overflowed the Salt Lake City federal courtroom. Each of the men has pleaded not guilty. And Lyman asked to have a federal public defender assigned to his case.
"When the train leaves the station, it's hard to stop the train," Bugden said about the original charges. "We're appreciative this particular prosecutor listened to Jay Redd's side of the story."
A trial has been set for Dec. 22.