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Feds regroup in case against public lands abuser David Lesh

Prosecutors focus on Keystone incident and marketing on federal land

Scott Condon
The Aspen Times
Denver resident David Lesh posted photos of himself snowmobiling at Keystone Resort in April. He pleaded not guilty Thursday to two misdemeanor charges filed in connection to the incident.
Photo from David Lesh Instagram

ASPEN — The United States government on Thursday, Feb. 11, dropped five criminal counts against David Lesh for allegedly entering Hanging Lake illegally last summer.

Instead, the U.S. Attorney’s Office will focus on trying to prosecute Lesh for allegedly operating a snowmobile in a closed terrain park at Keystone Resort last winter and using the national forest for his outdoor clothing company’s marketing and sales efforts without authorization.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Pete Hautzinger didn’t comment on the change of strategy during a brief hearing in federal court in Grand Junction. Hautzinger said during a hearing Jan. 11 that he would investigate comments Lesh made in an article in The New Yorker last month. Hautzinger said at the time that it could influence how the prosecution proceeded.



In the article, Lesh said photos of him walking on a log in Hanging Lake in Glenwood Canyon and defecating in Maroon Lake southwest of Aspen were doctored as part of a hoax. He made the same claims in court. He told the magazine that he wanted to “bait” authorities into charging him. Lesh posted the photos of himself in Hanging Lake and in Maroon Lake on social media.

He told The New Yorker: “I want to be able to post fake things to the Internet. That’s my f—— right as an American.”



Lesh told the magazine that he feels he was treated unfairly after riding his snowmobile in a closed area of Independence Pass in July 2019. That case was settled with a plea agreement that required Lesh to pay a $500 fine and perform 50 hours of useful public service.

As that case was wrapping up, the U.S. Attorney’s Office filed six new counts against Lesh in September — one for the Keystone snowmobile incident and five for the Hanging Lake incident. Lesh pleaded not guilty to all counts Jan. 11. Now, five of the counts are withdrawn.

In the new information filed Thursday, the government alleged that Lesh operated a snowmobile off a designated route at Keystone on April 24. Lesh posted a photo of himself riding in the closed Keystone terrain park. He hasn’t alleged the photo was doctored.

In a second count, Lesh is accused of using federal lands at Keystone and elsewhere in the White River National Forest for the sale or offer for sale of merchandise without authorization.

In The New Yorker article and in court hearings, Lesh has said he uses the landscapes in the national forest for sales and marketing materials for his outdoor clothing company. Commercial use of the national forest requires a permit.

Lesh, 35, of Denver, pleaded not guilty to the two misdemeanor charges on Thursday. U.S. Magistrate Gordon Gallagher said Lesh is entitled to a trial by the judge but that it cannot be set yet because of COVID-19-related restrictions. A status conference will be held March 3 to determine when a trial can be scheduled.

If convicted, Lesh faces a possible penalty of up to six months in jail, a $5,000 fine or both on each count. The information filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office said detention would not be sought.

As a condition of bond, Gallagher ruled in October that Lesh cannot enter national forestland. In addition, Lesh cannot post any picture or video on any social media platform of himself or anyone else violating laws on any federal land.

This story is from AspenTimes.com.


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