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Dan Jessop, who since 2006 has been fighting a citation for driving an all-terrain vehicle on a road posted closed by a federal land agency in Washington County, was convicted this week and ordered to pay a fine of $125.
The Hurricane resident was found guilty in a bench trial in St. George by U.S. Magistrate Robert Braithwaite for driving on the scenic Broad Hollow Road on Canaan Mountain that had been posted closed by the Bureau of Land Management in 1980.
The Broad Hollow Road was closed by BLM because it went through a Wilderness Study Area.
It is the second time Jessop has been found guilty of the violation in a case that has been followed and supported by ATV groups around the West. They have encouraged Jessop to fight to encourage open access to lands closed to riders.
Jessop, 63, was first found guilty of the misdemeanor charge after a bench trial in 2008. He was fined $300 and put on six months probation, but Braithwaite stayed the sentence until the latest appeal was heard.
The current fine was also stayed until any appeal by Jessop is resolved.
At the hearing Monday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jared Bennett argued that Jessop drove on the road knowing that portions of the road were closed and he should be held accountable.
Jessop argued that the road falls under the right of way provisions of R.S. 2477, a 19th-century law that allowed roads to cross public lands to encourage development of the West. That law was amended in 1976 but grandfathered in roads that could be proven in valid use prior to the change in law.
Jessop claims that the BLM has no authority to close the dirt road because it has a history of use by people in the county.
U.S. Attorney for Utah Carlie Christensen said her office is pleased with Braithwaite's decision.
"In this case, Mr. Jessop had an easy choice to make," said Christensen. "He could respect the signs marking the road as closed or disobey the law. Mr. Jessop chose to disobey the law because he did not agree with it. Disagreement with the law is not a defense to criminal conduct."
Since fighting his case, Jessop has developed a following with all-terrain riders around the West, collecting at least $30,000 for a defense fund.
Michael Swenson, the executive director of Utah Shared Access Alliance, whose 11,000 dues-paying members promote responsible access for off-road vehicles, said Friday he was "disgusted" that the federal government has decided to "abuse" its power by imposing illegal closures on roads that it does not own.