Lesh wants trial for alleged abuses of Hanging Lake, Keystone

He pleaded not guilty to six petty offenses Monday

David Lesh is eager to take his case over alleged abuse of public lands to a jury of his peers. He’s going to have to settle for a trial by a federal judge.

Lesh pleaded not guilty Monday to six petty offenses in U.S. District Court in Grand Junction and he requested a jury trial.

U.S. Magistrate Gordon Gallagher accepted the plea on each count but noted Lesh is not entitled to a jury trial for petty offenses.

No trial date was selected for a couple of reasons. First, no in-person trials are being held during the COVID-19 pandemic, the judge said. Second, the prosecutor wants to investigate issues that arose in an article in The New Yorker, which was posted online Monday and hits the newsstands Jan. 18.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Peter Hautzinger said he learned of the article Monday morning.

“It raises a number of new issues that I think require additional investigation,” Hautzinger said. “I’m not prepared to schedule a trial at this point.”

He didn’t go into detail on the issues he wants to explore. The article — titled, “Trolling the Great Outdoors” — labels Lesh “the most hated man in the Rockies.” It outlines a laundry list of Lesh’s transgressions, through his childhood and more recently on national forest.

Lesh, 35, of Denver and Breckenridge, became highly reviled in Aspen after he was caught riding his snowmobile on Independence Pass in July 2019, entering a prohibited area and possibly crossing over into wilderness at Upper Lost Man, where motorized and mechanized uses are prohibited. That case was settled with a plea agreement and a sentence of a $500 fine and 50 hours of useful public service. His critics contended the sentence wasn’t harsh enough. Forest Service officials said it was consistent with sentences for similar infractions.

In September, a six-count indictment was filed against Lesh, one for riding a snowmobile off a designated route at Keystone and five counts for his alleged entry into Hanging Lake.

If convicted, he could face as long as six months in prison on each count.

Lesh further enraged people this fall by posting a photo of him allegedly defecating in Maroon Lake. He hasn’t been charged for the incident, but it played a role in the judge setting a bond condition that prohibits Lesh from entering national forestlands.

David Lesh posted this photo of himself at Hanging Lake in June. He contends it was just a hoax and a doctored photo.
David Lesh/courtesy image

Lesh contends the Maroon Lake and Hanging Lake photos were Photoshopped and were just a hoax. He prepared a video that shows him using a laptop to allegedly doctor the shots.

He told The New Yorker he wanted to “bait” authorities into charging him. “So I’ll release this and then we’ll see how eager they are to take it to trial,” Lesh said in the article.

Lesh has not addressed the circumstances of his alleged illegal entry into the Keystone terrain park, other than his not guilty plea.

He is due back in court, via phone, Feb. 11.