More than a dozen conservation groups have signed on to a legal brief filed last week in support of a Durango couple facing felony charges over the closing of a gate in San Juan County, Utah.
Rose Chilcoat and her husband, Mark Franklin, were charged with attempted wanton destruction of livestock after Franklin closed the gate to a corral last year. The prosecution says the closure cut cattle off from a water source, but attorneys for the couple say the cattle were never in danger since part of the fence was down. In their amicus curiae, or “friend of the court,” brief, the conservation groups contend that Chilcoat is being targeted because she is a former associate director of the nonprofit Great Old Broads for Wilderness. They say Franklin was targeted because of his association with her. The groups argue that this is a violation of constitutional rights under the First Amendment. In a release, the executive director for Great Old Broads, Shelley Silbert called the charges “malicious and overtly harsh.” Chase Thomas of the Alliance for a Better Utah said, “Simply belonging to an environmental group engaged in peaceful activity should not be the basis for which someone is brought to trial.” The trial is set for later this month, but could be delayed because several defense motions have yet to be ruled on, including one for a change of venue.