Utah state lawmaker may pay fine for ATV protest ride

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A state representative who was found guilty several years ago of leading an illegal ATV protest ride through a southern Utah canyon has been given one month to pay in full the $96,000 in restitution he owes.

The arrangement was made after an attorney for Utah state Rep. Phil Lyman asked U.S. District Judge David Nuffer during a hearing Friday if Lyman could avoid sending tax documents if he paid up.

Nuffer gave Lyman until Oct. 16 to pay the full amount, The Salt Lake Tribune reported.

If that doesn't happen, Nuffer said Lyman must file an explanation about why prosecutors can't look at his tax records.

Lyman's attorney, Dan McCay, said he hadn't a chance to review the issue to know why Lyman wasn't allowing prosecutors to see the tax returns but said, “The question really became whether the U.S. attorney’s office needed to see that information.”

“We don’t deal one-sided justice in the United States,” Nuffer responded. “How could that possibly be appropriate?”

McCay is a Republican state senator. Lyman is also a Republican lawmaker and former county commissioner in San Juan County in southeastern Utah.

U.S. prosecutors were seeking Lyman's tax returns to determine whether the restitution payments he owes the government should be higher.

When he was a county commissioner, Lyman led a 2014 protest of about 50 ATV riders in a canyon in Utah that officials had closed to motorized traffic. A federal court convicted the lawmaker of a misdemeanor and ordered him to pay $95,955.61 in damages. Lyman also spent 10 days in jail, the Salt Lake Tribune reported.

Lyman agreed to make $100 payments every month. But in Oct. 2019, a court ordered him to provide tax returns from 2017 to 2019 by May 1, 2020, in order to determine if the payment should be higher. That deadline was later extended, but Lyman never provided the documents, prosecutors said.

Lyman said in an email he had submitted tax returns to Judge Nuffer, but not prosecutors.

The state rep's $100 per month payments would only cover a quarter of the roughly $96,000 owed before 2036, when he is not required to continue payments.

In addition to Lyman’s salary from his role at the state legislature, he owns an accounting firm, an investment group and a financial advisory group, according to a state disclosure form.

Lyman filed a nine-page response to the U.S. attorneys on Wednesday, complaining about past mistreatment at the hands of the court and alleging that he is being singled out by a backroom deal between judges and environmentalists, the Tribune reported.

“You may choose to see (and I am certain that you will represent) my arguments as merely a rant,” Lyman wrote. “That is to be expected in this cancel culture. But I am not in contempt of our great country. I love the United States. I love the Constitution. And I, like you and every officer of the Court, has sworn an oath to uphold it. I am not in contempt of the Law.”

Lyman later expressed irritation at the government's threat of arrest a hearing that was scheduled for Oct. 2 before Friday's hearing changed the plan.

“Incarceration for what? The order to appear in person, more than 300 miles from my home ... seems draconian,” Lyman said in an email to the Tribune.