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A federal judge on Wednesday rejected San Juan County Commissioner Phil Lyman's claim that the First Amendment shields him from conspiracy charges stemming from his role in organizing a motorized group ride into southeastern Utah's Recapture Canyon last year.

"Speech is not protected if it is the vehicle of the crime itself," said U.S. District Court Judge Robert Shelby after a two-hour hearing in his Salt Lake City courtroom.

Four Utah men are to be tried April 28 in the alleged conspiracy. The charges carry up to a year in jail and $100,000 in fines.

Shelby also rejected Lyman's argument that the U.S. Bureau of Land Management illegally blocked motorized access to the scenic canyon east of Blanding. Under that logic, the canyon would have been open on May 10, the day Lyman led 50 motorized protesters, including armed anti-federal militia members, through the canyon.

In 2007, the agency closed the canyon, once inhabited by Anasazi communities, following the discovery that unauthorized trail construction had damaged archaeological sites.

In separate motions, Lyman and two of his co-defendants, blogger Monte Wells and Shane Marian, sought to dismiss misdemeanor charges arising from the May 10 event, while Franklin Holliday did not participate.

Lyman's attorney Jared Stubbs argued federal prosecutors failed to adequately outline the alleged conspiracy, which entailed extensive media coverage promoting the illegal ride.

But Shelby found the basis of charges to be plainly obvious.

"The allegation is the four of you conspired to illegally ride in the canyon and then you went and did it," he said.