Details emerge in Summit County snowmobiler assault case involving social media influencer David Lesh

The man who was allegedly assaulted told deputies he captured the incident on his GoPro camera and reportedly can be heard stating "I can't breathe" in the audio

David Lesh, 37, is facing criminal charges related to an alleged assault at the Spring Creek Trailhead in unincorporated Summit County on March 25, 2023.
Courtesy photo

A Denver-area man notorious for controversial social media stunts and snowmobile-related offenses allegedly strangled a man during a dispute while snowmobiling in Summit County in March, according to court documents.

David Lesh, 37, is facing charges of second degree assault by strangulation, a Class 4 felony, and third degree assault, a Class 1 misdemeanor. He is scheduled to appear in Summit County court in Breckenridge on Wednesday, May 10, for an appearance on bond.

JB Katz, a defense attorney representing Lesh, declined to comment on the assault charges he is facing beyond stating, “Facts will come out in court, not in a newspaper.”

On March 25 around 1 p.m., a Summit County Sheriff’s Deputy responded to the west end of Spring Creek Road, north of Heeney, according to an affidavit in support of an arrest warrant filed in the assault case.

Upon arriving at the scene, a man reportedly told deputies that Lesh, a member of the group he was supposed to be snowmobiling with, assaulted him. The man told deputies he had not known Lesh would be there that day and that his GoPro camera captured the incident.

The GoPro video reportedly shows the man and Lesh getting into a verbal fight during which the man says he only plans to stick with the group until he can meet with another group down the trail, to which Lesh replies, “I would not recommend it,” the affidavit states.

“I will knock you the (expletive) out and take your key and leave you in the backcountry,” Lesh said, according to the affidavit.

In the video, the man said, “No you won’t,” to which David replied “You wanna bet?” before jumping off his snowmobile toward the man and striking him in the face, the affidavit states.

At this point, the camera appears to fall into the snow and only picks up audio, according to the affidavit, which states that there are about 20 seconds of what sounds like fighting before choking or muffled yelling can be heard.

The man told deputies that at this point Lesh had him in a chokehold from behind and above and he was trying to “tap out” — a common sign of giving up during a fight due to lack of oxygen — because he could not breathe and nearly went unconscious, the affidavit states.

At one point, the man can reportedly be heard on the GoPro audio saying, “I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe” and “You’re seriously choking me.”

Then, the man’s voice in the audio goes from “very muffled” to “only somewhat strained” as he calls out for help and it sounds like Lesh lets go of him, according to the affidavit. The man and Lesh reportedly continued to argue, with the man telling deputies that he punched Lesh when Lesh touched him again.

As the two continued to fight, the man claims Lesh grabbed him by the throat and began to apply pressure to his neck, causing him to start to black out again, and later jammed his finger into his eye, according to the affidavit. 

In all, the video is a little more than 8 minutes long, with the fight starting around 3 minutes. The man reportedly told the other snowmobilers in the group “Lesh hates me,” early in the video, before the fight, and Lesh reportedly told the whole group upon arriving that he wouldn’t ride with the man.

The man told deputies that he and Lesh have issues because he doesn’t believe Lesh takes backcountry safety or the safety of the snowmobiling group seriously, according to the affidavit. 

At one point in the video, the man reportedly tells Lesh he only plans to follow the group until he can meet up with another group, but Lesh asks why he can’t just snowmobile alone, to which the man cites backcountry safety.

A forensic nurse examiner inspected the man’s injuries the day after the incident and found that the strangulation and eye wound constitute serious bodily injury, according to the affidavit. The man rated the chokehold as an 8 out of 10 in terms of pressure and the strangulation with two hands as a 9 out 10, the affidavit states.

In separate cases, a federal judge last year sentenced Lesh to $10,000 in fines and 160 hours of useful public service after he was convicted of two petty offenses for riding a snowmobile at Keystone Resort’s terrain park in April 2020.

Social media posts in 2020 depicting Lesh seemingly defecating in Maroon Lake and walking on a log at Hanging Lake caught the ire of U.S. National Forest officials and were used as evidence for one of those petty offenses, according to The Aspen Times. Lesh says the photos were digitally altered, and he is appealing the conviction.

Lesh was also accused of riding his snowmobile in a closed area of Independence Pass in July 2019, and reached a plea deal in that case requiring him to pay a $500 fine and complete 50 hours of community service.

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