Lesh’s credibility comes back to haunt him in federal lands case

Attorneys debate: Did he or didn’t he defecate in Maroon Lake?

Did he or didn’t he defecate in Maroon Lake? That’s the question that an attorney for accused, David Lesh, and a prosecutor for the U.S. Attorney’s Office are debating.

Lesh, who was charged with six petty offenses in October for allegedly entering closed sites in the White River National Forest, is in further hot water for posting a photo on social media of himself allegedly relieving himself in Maroon Lake with the Maroon Bells as the backdrop.

After Lesh posted the photo, a U.S. Magistrate stiffened bond conditions to prohibit Lesh from entering national forest lands in the United States while his case is adjudicated. Lesh had previously been prohibited from undertaking any illegal activity or trespassing in national forest as part of his bond.

Lesh tried unsuccessfully on Dec. 10 to get the judge to ease up on the ban because, he claimed, the Maroon Lake photo was just a hoax.

His attorney, Eric Faddis of Denver, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Pau Hautzinger debated the authenticity of the infamous Maroon Lake photo in motions filed in federal court in Grand Junction.

Faddis said it is fabricated. Hautzinger said something smells about Lesh’s story.

Faddis’ motion claimed Lesh took a photo of himself assuming the position of relieving himself and superimposing it over a stock photo of Maroon Lake to create an Instagram post.

“The alleged entry upon Maroon Lake was no entry at all,” the motion said. “No bond conditions have been violated. The government’s reason for wanting to ban Mr. Lesh from all NFS lands is hollow.”

To try to prove the point, Faddis included three photographs as exhibits to his motion. One shows Lesh squatting in shallow depths of what appears to be a suburban lake or pond. The location isn’t identified in the photo. Lesh’s arm is extended like he’s grabbing onto something for balance. His swimming trunks are pulled down below his knees.

Another exhibit shows a scenic shot of the iconic Maroon Lake. A third exhibit shows how Lesh supposedly used the photo from the suburban scene and photo-shopped his squatting image onto the stock photo of Maroon Lake. His hand is now grasping a log for balance. The same swimming trunks are pulled down beneath his knees.

Faddis’ motion said government investigators acknowledged they didn’t know when the photograph of Lesh in Maroon Lake was taken.

“Upon investigation, the government further admitted that the water level in Maroon Lake was currently lower than the Instagram photo depicts and that avalanche debris floating in the lake at the time the photo was posted wasn’t seen in Lesh’s image,” the motion said.

Faddis concludes the picture is inauthentic. “Mr. Lesh has never been to Maroon Lake,” the motion said.

Hautzinger’s response made it clear he wasn’t buying Lesh’s claim that he has never been to Maroon Lake and that his post is fake. The claim is uncorroborated, he said, and evidence suggests otherwise.

“While the undersigned is no expert in photography and photo shopping, a layperson’s examination of defense Exhibits A, B & C reveals certain details which appear inconsistent with the defendant’s claims,” Hautzinger said in his motion.

He then laid out his suspicions: “The original Instagram posting (Exhibit A) shows ripples in the surface of Maroon Lake reflected off the back of the defendant’s leg. It also shows the defendant’s shadow in front of him, also with ripples from the surface of Maroon Lake.

“The photo the defendant claims to have superimposed onto a stock photo of Maroon Lake (Exhibit C) depicts the defendant squaring in smooth surfaced, brownish water at the edge of a lake or pond,” the motion continued. “There are no ripples apparent in the water, yet the reflection of ripples is still obviously reflected off of the back of the defendant’s leg.

“Again, while the Government does not argue that the original Instagram posting is necessarily genuine … the Government does submit that there are ample reasons for the Court to question the veracity of the defendant’s latest claims. While the original photo posted does not appear to have been taken between October 2, 2020 and October 30, 2020, due to current water levels and conditions at Maroon Lake, it is entirely possible that it is genuine and was taken at some time in the past.”

The Forest Service hasn’t cited Lesh for the Maroon Lake incident even though entering Maroon Lake is illegal. Hautzinger said in his motion there isn’t clear evidence. However, the Maroon Lake incident is a major factor in the bond conditions.

Lesh’s motion said he should be allowed to enter national forest lands because the setting is vital to the marketing efforts of his outerwear company. He wants to go into the woods for photo shoots.

As of now, he cannot legally enter the forest. His next court appearance is in January.