Charges against Durango wilderness advocate Rose Chilcoat, who was accused of trying to kill cattle in Utah, were officially dropped late Thursday.
The Utah Court of Appeals ordered all charges to be dismissed after it concluded there was not enough evidence to bring Chilcoat to trial.
The appeals court, however, did not come to the same conclusion for her husband, Mark Franklin, who faces felony and misdemeanor charges for allegedly closing a corral gate.
“I was happy to see that the Attorney General’s Office took a fresh look at this and concluded it was impossible to defend bringing charges against me,” Chilcoat said in an emailed statement. “I’m glad to have this behind me and know that Mark will be acquitted soon as well.”
Chilcoat and Franklin were accused of trying to kill cattle in April 2017 when Franklin allegedly closed a gate to a livestock corral on state trust land between Bluff and Mexican Hat in southeastern Utah.
Chilcoat was charged with two felony charges: attempted wanton destruction of livestock and retaliation against a witness, as well as two misdemeanors: trespassing on trust lands and providing false information for identifying herself to a deputy using her married last name.
Franklin faces charges of attempted wanton destruction of livestock and trespassing on trust lands.
The San Juan County Attorney’s Office alleged the couple were trying to kill cattle by cutting off their access to water and that the act was somehow related to Chilcoat’s environmental advocacy work in the region.
San Juan County Attorney Kendall Laws was out of the office Friday and unavailable for comment.
The couple has maintained the charges were an act of retribution against Chilcoat, who for years worked at the Great Old Broads for Wilderness, which works on public land advocacy issues related to grazing and ATV use, among others.
As of Friday, Franklin’s attorneys were still deciding whether to pursue additional appeals or try the case.
If the case goes to trial, it would be held in Carbon County, Utah, after a judge determined the couple wouldn’t receive a fair trial in San Juan County because of bias there against the couple.
“This is virtually an unprecedented case, where the Utah Attorney General’s Office, to its credit, admitted that the county attorney had filed serious criminal charges that lacked any foundation,” said Paul Cassell, the couple’s attorney.
“Given that the charges against Rose and Mark were somewhat similar, we believe that the charges against Mark will similarly be proven to be without any merit in the very near future.”