Thursday, November 02, 2017

Defendants convicted of misdemeanors in connection with protest of BLM closure order

U.S. v. Wells, 2017 WL 4767529 (10/23/17)(Utah)(published) - affirmance of defendants' misdemeanor convictions for operating ATVs on BLM land to protest BLM closure order and conspiracy. The COA rejects the following arguments: (1) the district judge should have sua sponte recused himself -- a judge's adverse rulings and ordinary efforts at courtroom administration are insufficient and the trial judge's friendship with the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance legal director would not have caused a reasonable observer to question the judge's impartiality; (2) the prosecution was vindictive and constituted retaliation for exercise of First Amendment rights -- no evidence was presented of prosecutorial hostility toward exercise of First Amendment rights; (3) indictment adequately set forth interdependence element of conspiracy charge; (4) there was sufficient evidence of one defendant's agreement to act as a coconspirator, not just as a journalist; (5) government failure to produce a 1979 map showing a possible public right-of-way through BLM land and maybe calling into question the lawfulness of the BLM closure did not violate Brady -- the order was not material to defendants' good-faith defense, it was unclear that the map even showed the existence of a right-of-way, and defendants were unaware of the map at the time of their offenses; (6) restitution order was proper -- the government presented evidence establishing both that defendants caused the claimed damages and the amount of actual loss, including costs of damage assessment and repair of soil damage.