Lesh objects to being banned from public lands while awaiting July trial
Alleged public lands abuser complains that prohibition from national forest is hurting his clothing business
David Lesh will go to trial July 22-23 to fight allegations he rode his snowmobile illegally at Keystone Resort last winter and used national forest without authorization to promote his outdoor clothing company’s products.
Lesh has pleaded not guilty to the petty offenses. The trial will be held before U.S. Magistrate Judge Gordon Gallagher in Grand Junction.
“There’s no entitlement to a jury trial in this case,” Gallagher said during a hearing Wednesday.
Lesh became known in the Roaring Fork Valley for riding his snowmobile in an off-limits area of Independence Pass near the Upper Lost Man Trailhead in July 2019, posting photos of himself allegedly defecating in Maroon Lake and walking on a log in the middle of Hanging Lake in Glenwood Canyon.
He took a plea deal in June 2020 of the illegal Independence Pass snowmobile ride but five charges were dropped last month for the Hanging Lake incident because the picture was faked. Lesh also claimed he Photoshopped the Maroon Lake photo and was never charged for the incident.
Lesh posted photos that allegedly show himself riding his snowmobile in a terrain park at Keystone on April 24, after the ski area was forced to close due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He hasn’t claimed those photos were doctored.
As a condition of his bond, Lesh was prohibited from entering national forest lands. His attorney filed a motion Monday asking the judge to ease the ban and instead require Lesh to avoid breaking any laws while on national forest.
“Since the Court imposed the NFS land prohibition, there has been a substantial change in circumstances warranting reconsideration of that prohibition,” said the motion by attorney Eric Faddis of the Denver suburb Centennial.
On Feb. 11, the U.S. government dismissed five of six charges against Lesh. All of the dismissed charges related to Lesh’s alleged entry of Hanging Lake. The new charge of performing business on national forest without authorization was added when the five charges were dismissed, leaving two charges active.
“While every federal case is significant, the scale and gravity of this case has been drastically altered by the Superseding Information,” Faddis said in the motion. “Mr. Lesh is no longer facing six petty offenses, but two. There are no longer two alleged incidents, but one.”
Faddis wrote that he is unaware of any other case involving a petty offense where the accused person is facing a blanket ban on approximately 188.34 million acres of public lands throughout the nation.
His motion went on to say, “The government has dismissed two-thirds of its cases, and the restrictive NFS ban that may have been appropriate before the dismissal no longer reflects the state of the case of the risk Mr. Lesh alleged poses to the community.”
Lesh maintained he should not be prohibited from national forest for the next 3½ months while awaiting trial.
“Further, this bond condition has restrained Mr. Lesh’s ability to market his company and make a living,” the motion said. “The company’s marketing efforts include accompanying athletes — including snowmobilers — in the backcountry and on ski resorts, and taking pictures and videos for social media, emails, banner ads, print marketing, and other forms of advertising, all of which have been significantly curtailed since the bond condition’s imposition.”
Gallagher didn’t rule on Lesh’s request. He gave the U.S. Attorney’s Office until March 16 to respond.
Last Friday, the Aspen Art Museum capped its second annual ArtWeek with a big fundraiser. The proceeds will help fund art education and accessibility for the Roaring Fork Valley and beyond.
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