State Rep. Phil Lyman on Tuesday had his federal conviction on charges of leading an illegal ATV protest on federal lands wiped out in a pardon by outgoing President Donald Trump.
Trump also granted a full pardon to Weldon Angelos, a Utah music producer who was originally sentenced to 55 years in prison on a marijuana selling and gun possession conviction because of mandatory minimum sentence rules.
“I’m almost speechless,” Angelos, who had been released after serving 13 years, told The Tribune on Tuesday evening. “Everything is erased now. I don’t get back the time and money, but I’m a whole person again. I’m not a felon. I don’t have to check that box on a job application anymore.”
These Utahns were two of 20 people Trump pardoned Tuesday, including former Republican state lawmakers and an aide convicted in the Russia probe.
In the announcement, the White House said Lyman’s pardon was backed by Sen. Mike Lee, former Rep. Jason Chaffetz “and other notable members of the Utah community.”
Lyman, a San Juan County commissioner when convicted of leading an illegal protest in Recapture Canyon near Blanding in 2014, is currently a member of the Utah House of Representatives and an ardent Trump supporter.
“The false narratives of the media have been so damaging, not only to me but to the truth,” wrote Lyman on Facebook shortly after receiving the pardon. “I am deeply grateful to President Donald Trump. Today he righted a wrong. People should not fear prosecution when they have done nothing illegal and I hope that my experience brings attention to the persistent federal attacks on rural Utah by the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. attorneys, activist federal judges, and career politicians who choose to sit quietly when the moment calls for them to stand.”
When Sen. Mitt Romney became the only Republican to vote to convict and remove President Trump from office on abuse of power charges in February, Lyman filed a bill to censure Romney. Legislative leaders opted to jettison Lyman’s measure in favor of a joint statement praising Trump that did not require a legislative vote.
The White House statement called the maverick conservative “a man of integrity and character” who was “subjected to selective prosecution.”
“The prosecution of Phil Lyman — a devoted public servant — amounted to an abuse of prosecutorial discretion by the Obama Justice Department,” Lee said in an email statement Tuesday. “I thank President Trump for correcting the injustice stemming from this overreach of federal power.”
The prospect of a presidential pardon for Lyman was first raised by then-state Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab, in 2018. Noel, another ardent backer of Trump, said at a meeting at the Utah Capitol that he planned on raising the issue with the White House.
Lyman was elected to the House seat Noel held for 16 years until he retired in 2019.
Lyman’s full pardon wipes the misdemeanor criminal conviction from his record but he had already served his 10-day jail sentence and just recently paid off the $86,000 balance of the restitution ordered in the case for damages the federal government said were caused by the ORVs in the canyon.
Chase Thomas, executive director of the left-leaning advocacy organization Alliance for a Better Utah, ripped Trump’s decision to pardon Lyman.
“It’s not a surprise that one of Utah’s ‘trumpiest’ politicians got a pardon from Trump,” said Thomas in a text message. “This isn’t a vindication for Lyman at all — he already served his time in jail and his pardon came during the eleventh hour from one of the most corrupt presidents in our nation’s history.”
Angelos’ pardon was also supported by Lee, along with Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and former U.S. Attorney for Utah Brett Tolman, among others.
Even the presiding judge had blasted his 2002 sentence as “unjust and cruel and even irrational,” but nevertheless dictated by mandatory minimums.
Angelos has become an activist for criminal justice reform and participated in a prison reform summit at the White House in 2018.
Angelos said he learned his pardon was granted when he got a phone call from Lee on Tuesday afternoon.
“This made my Christmas and my year,” Angelos told The Tribune. “It’s an amazing feeling to put everything that happened to me in the past without that felony conviction.”
“Weldon Angelos has already given so much back to his community. He was instrumental in helping to pass the most significant federal criminal justice reform legislation in a generation, the First Step Act, and I know he has a bright future ahead of him,” Lee said in an email statement. “I thank President Trump for listening to his case and making the compassionate decision.”