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Feds wants Utah lawmaker to pay $90,000 for illegal ATV ride

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Now that former San Juan County commissioner Phil Lyman is getting a government stipend as a state lawmaker, federal prosecutors want him to speed up paying off the $96,000 in damage caused by an illegal ATV protest ride he led through a pristine southeastern canyon in 2014.

Federal prosecutors said in a new court filing that Lyman has a “heightened moral obligation” because he receives taxpayer money, the Deseret News reported. Lyman became a state representative this year and received about $12,300 at the beginning of the session.

Prosecutors want him to pay $500 a month, up from $100. That would pay off the $90,000 he still owes by 2034, prosecutors said.

“Lyman receives income from the people to whom he owes restitution, and it would be an injustice to the public if Lyman were to fail to repay his debt,” assistant U.S. attorney Allison J.P. Moon wrote.

The restitution was imposed by a judge in 2015 who sentenced Lyman to 10 days in jail and three years of probation after a jury that year found Lyman guilty of misdemeanor illegal use of ATVs and conspiracy.

Lyman declined comment about the court filing.

Lyman became a cause celebre in a movement challenging federal management of Western public lands when he organized an ATV ride through a canyon closed to vehicles that is home to Native American cliff dwellings.

Federal officials closed the canyon to motorized vehicles in 2007 to protect the ancient dwellings, artifacts and burials, but it has long been a source of tension in the area among people who say that it was improper and unnecessary.

The ride came shortly after Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy had a standoff with the Bureau of Land Management over similar issues and illustrated the simmering tension between the federal government and some residents in the West over land use.

Prosecutors say Lyman, an accountant from Blanding, Utah, has told them he wants to pay off the restitution and put it behind him and is considering selling his properties to make it happen.