David Lesh reaches plea deal in illegal Independence Pass snowmobile case
Assistant U.S. attorney: Lesh could face charges in Keystone, Hanging Lake incidents
A rogue snowmobiler who rode his sled in the wilderness east of Aspen on July 3, 2019, settled that case in federal court Tuesday but learned he will face additional charges for allegedly riding in closed terrain at Keystone Resort this spring and walking a log in the off-limits Hanging Lake.
David Lesh agreed to pay a $500 “collateral forfeiture” to the U.S. government and perform 50 hours of useful public service for the Independence Pass incident in July 2019. The fine has been paid; the public service must be performed by Sept. 5.
Assistant U.S. attorney Peter Hautzinger said in court that the two additional incidents allegedly involving Lesh at Keystone ski area and Hanging Lake in Glenwood Canyon were recently brought to his attention.
“I do intend to file information with these new (cases),” Hautzinger said. “All of them have been documented by photographs the defendant took and posted to social media.”
Lesh, 35, said little in court Tuesday morning other than acknowledging procedural questions from U.S. Magistrate Judge Gordon Gallagher.
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Lesh’s attorney, Stephen Laiche of Grand Junction, said his client explored serving his useful public service in his home state of Wisconsin but wasn’t able to arrange anything satisfactory. Instead, he will serve it with Only One Inc. of Boulder, which Laiche indicated has ties to a Native American cause.
Lesh was spotted by Independence Pass Foundation executive director Karin Teague and two other women riding his snowmobile near the Upper Lost Man trailhead near the summit of Independence Pass last July. Lesh and another snowmobiler, who hasn’t been identified, rode in designated wilderness, where motorized and mechanized travel is banned. They also crossed non-wilderness forestlands that are closed to winter travel.
Lesh was cited by the Forest Service on four petty offenses: possessing of using a motor vehicle in a designated wilderness, prohibited to operate or possess an over-the-snow vehicle on National Forest Lands in violation of restrictions, damaging any natural feature or other property of the United States, and selling or offering for sale any merchandise or conducting any kind of work activity.
Lesh was also involved in a plane crash off the coast of California in August 2019. No one was injured.
The FAA and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating the cause of the crash, saying at the time that it usually takes up to a year to determine the cause of an accident.
This story will be updated.
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