Conservationist Rose Chilcoat Sues San Juan County Attorney and a Rancher for Pressing Charges in Gategate Case

Gategate continues. On Apri 1, Mark Franklin, a Colorado-based biologist and historian, pled “no contest” to two misdemeanor charges related to closing a cattle gate on state land in San Juan County in 2017, ending a two-year-long saga.

But on Wednesday, a new suit was filed, this time by Franklin’s wife and former associate director of the Great Old Broads for Wilderness, Rose Chilcoat, who announced she is bringing a lawsuit against rancher Zane Odell and San Juan County Attorney Kendall Laws.

“The lawsuit alleges that Chilcoat was illegally detained and falsely accused of attempting to kill cattle by defendant Zane Odell, and that San Juan County Attorney Kendall Laws made intentional factual misstatements in order to obtain a bind over of baseless witness retaliation felony charges against her,” Chilcoat’s attorney said in a statement.

The case, known locally as Gategate, dragged on for two years before Franklin took the plea deal in Monticello’s 7th District Court last week. Franklin admitted to closing the gate but maintained that he never attempted to harm Odell’s livestock.

The couple was stopped by Odell and fellow rancher Zeb Dalton on April 3, 2017, two days after the gate closure, and was detained on a county road until a sheriff’s deputy arrived. Later that month, Laws filed a number of misdemeanor and felony charges against both Franklin and Chilcoat.

Laws slapped Chilcoat with a felony “retaliation against a witness” charge after she sent a letter to the BLM about grazing improvements near Valley of the Gods in what was then Bears Ears National Monument. The charges against her were dismissed in 2018, and Chilcoat has long claimed that they were filed in retaliation for her activism related to Bears Ears and her work with Great Old Broads in Utah.

The suit seeks damages related to the $130,000 in legal fees incurred by the couple and a slew of threats posted on social media over the last two years.

Last week, the San Juan County Commissioner Kenneth Maryboy introduced an unrelated resolution to sue Laws for failing to comply with directives handed down by the county commission related, in part, to Bears Ears National Monument.

— Read more about the lawsuit in the Salt Lake Tribune.

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