Former pro-skier David Lesh was found guilty last fall of illegally driving a snowmobile at Keystone Resort, CO, while the resort was closed during the COVID-19 pandemic. On Tuesday his lawyers filed a brief appealing the conviction, Vail Daily reports.
According to Vail Daily, “his lawyers argue that prosecutors failed to prove his guilt, the bench trial denied his right to a trial by jury on criminal charges, the court erred by allowing inadmissible material into evidence, and the U.S. Forest Service’s interpretation of the statute was wrong.” The brief says that the snowmobiler cannot be identified because the face isn’t visible, no brand name is on the individual’s clothing, Virtika was not mentioned or tagged in the Instagram post, and there is nothing to say when the photograph was taken.
Lesh was found guilty of illegally riding the snowmobile at a terrain park in closed Keystone Resort on April 24, 2020, and undertaking an unauthorized commercial venture on national forestland. Lesh’s own social media pictures played a part in the conviction.
US Magistrate Judge Gordon Gallagher ruled that Lesh’s social media campaign with photos on or pretending to be on public lands constituted a commercial venture. Lesh had posted pictures of himself snowmobiling at Keystone Resort shortly after it closed due to the covid-19 pandemic.
“The advertisement and marketing campaign with which Defendant embarked, beginning with the Keystone Resort photographs, was one that relied upon social media trolling as a way to stir up controversy and free press while using NFS lands as the location or backdrop.
“Thus, the Court finds that Defendant’s activity while trespassing at the Keystone Resort was commercial in nature and that the activity was on lands encompassed by the regulation and without a special use authorization.”
– U.S. Magistrate Judge Gordon Gallagher
Lesh claimed other photos of him defecating in the iconic Maroon Lake near Aspen and walking on a log in Hanging Lake had been photoshopped. The prosecution didn’t argue that but claimed that real or not, the images were consistent with a pattern of Lesh promoting his business using controversial pictures of him on public lands, leading to the charge that Lesh was “selling or offering for sale any merchandise or conducting any work activity or service without authorization upon lands administered by the United States Forest Service.”
An interview with Lesh for an article in the New Yorker titled “Trolling the Great Outdoors” also played a part in his conviction.
“Defendant assisted the Government in proving his motive, opportunity, and intent when he stated in The New Yorker article, ‘[t]he more hate I got, the more people got behind me, from all over the world. It was an opportunity to reach a whole new group of people — while really solidifying the customer base we already had.’”
– Judge Gallagher
Lesh had been in court on August 5, 2021 with Judge Gallagher presenting his verdict on Friday, October 22, 2021. Lesh could face up to 6-months in jail and/or a $5,000 fine on each count.
Former pro-skier David Lesh had five other criminal counts against him dropped by the US Government in February 2021, Vail Daily reported. The counts related to the alleged trespassing in Hanging Lake last summer.
Lesh is still restricted from entering national forest lands and is prohibited from posting any images on social media of himself or anyone else breaking the law on federal lands.
Lesh, called ‘the most hated man in the Rockies’ in a recent New Yorker article, faced six charges relating to trespassing incidents in Glenwood Canyon’s Hanging Lake and snowmobiling in a closed Keystone Ski Resort. He is also currently banned from all national forest land for an image he posted of himself defecating in the iconic Maroon Lake near Aspen, CO. His attorney claims the image is a fabrication, and a photo of Lesh defecating was photoshopped onto a stock image of the Maroon Bells backdrop for Instagram. As such, he should not have been banned from forest service land.
In the New Yorker article, Lesh claims he has a video ready to release demonstrating how he Photoshopped the infamous ‘defecating in Maroon Lake’ image and the image of him trespassing Hanging Lake. He claims both images were in response to his charge for snowmobiling on Independence Pass in 2019, for which he claims there was ‘no evidence.’ He used the alleged Photoshopped images to ‘bait them into charging him.’
“I wanted them to charge me with something. The only evidence they have is the photos I posted on Instagram, which I know are fake, because I faked them. I was pissed off about them charging me for the snowmobiling on Independence Pass with zero evidence. I realized they are quick to respond to public outcry. I wanted to bait them into charging me.”
“I want to be able to post fake things to the Internet. That’s my fucking right as an American.”
– David Lesh tells the New Yorker
Whether the image was real or not, the judge said just by posting it:
“…is clear evidence of the defendant’s contempt of the Court and the judicial system. It is evidence that he believes he can do whatever he wants to wherever he wants to, without regard for what the Court has ordered.”
In April 2020, Lesh posted pictures on Instagram of him riding a snowmobile in a terrain park at Keystone Resort. The resort had been closed to the public since March 15, when the Colorado Governor ordered all ski areas closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The incident was one count of the allegations.
A further five counts were tied to Lesh’s alleged entry of Hanging Lake in Glenwood Canyon on June 10, an incident again documented on Instagram.
The Hanging Lake charges included:
- Entering an area closed for the protection of threatened, endangered, rare, unique, or vanishing plants, animals, or fish when entering the Hanging Lake National Natural Landmark Area
- Entering an area closed for the protection of special biological communities
- Entering an area closed for the protection of property
- Entering an area closed for the protection of historical, archeological, geological, or paleontological interest
- Entering a prohibited body of water
According to the filed document, each charge holds a potential penalty of not more than six months imprisonment, not more than a $5,000 fine, or both.
In June 2020, Lesh was fined $500 and ordered to perform 50 hours of public service this summer to illegally ride his snowmobile near the summit of a snowless Independence Pass near Aspen, CO, in summer 2019.
Lesh is no stranger to ‘bad publicity,’ often engaging in stunts that garner public attention. For example, in August 2019, he crash-landed his plane into Half Moon Bay off the California Coast, live streaming the plane sinking and the whole rescue operation.
- Related: VIDEO: Former Pro-Skier David Lesh Crashed His Plane into Half Moon Bay Off California on Tuesday
In July 2014, Lesh was arrested and charged with arson following a fire at the Virtika warehouse in Boulder, caused during a promotional video filming.
Lesh, a Denver, CO resident, posted pictures on Instagram in April of himself snowmobiling in a terrain park at Keystone, with the caption “solid park sesh, no lift ticket needed.”
#NEW Excuse the language, BUT moments before this video was taken, these two went down with their plane. Incredible!
No injuries, other than a few jellyfish stings.
— Amanda del Castillo (@AmandaABC7) August 21, 2019