Judge decides David Lesh illegally used national land to promote outerwear business – CBS Denver
GRAND JUNCTION, Colorado (CBS4) – A federal court judge on Friday convicted a Colorado business owner who said he “did not stand out as super ‘eco this’ and ‘eco that'” for using US land Forest Service without permission in its social media campaigns.
U.S. District Court Judge Gordon P. Gallagher used Lesh’s ad to make his decision.
READ MORE: David Lesh, pictured on Hanging Lake Log, appears in court over Independence Pass snowmobile ban
“The publicity and marketing campaign with which the defendant embarked, starting with the photographs of the Keystone Resort, relied on social media trolling as a means of generating controversy and the free press while using the lands of the NFS as a venue or backdrop, ”Judge Gallagher wrote. in a decision obtained by CBS4.
Gallagher determined that Lesh’s intention to market his company, Virtika, while on US Forest Service lands, violated federal laws.
David Lesh, 36, posted alleged photos of himself three times in 2020 in three different locations.
The first showed a helmeted snowmobiler doing jumps in a ski resort. It was posted on Lesh’s Instagram account on April 25 with the caption: “Solid park sesh, no lift ticket needed. “
Christopher Ingham, director of mountain operations for Keystone Resort, was alerted to the Instagram post the same day, according to the judge’s order. Ingham visited the resort’s snow park that morning and found snowmobile trails.
Ingham noted that the trails indicated that more than one jump had taken place and that, in addition to using ski jumping, the trails indicated that the snowmobile had occurred around the resort, the snow park, in an area called the Erickson Bowl and in a trail on NFS ‘land, as stated in the judge’s order.
The Keystone ski area had been closed the previous month due to concerns about the coronavirus. Employees had used tracked vehicles to build a berm around the snow park and carried out weekly patrols to prevent unauthorized use of the facility. Signage has also been placed around the functionality.
Ingham also discovered that a utility shed above the springboard had been broken into and a shovel had been taken. It was used to dig a channel through the snow berm wide enough to allow a snowmobile to enter.
In August, the caption for Lesh’s Instagram post was changed to include obscenity directed at resort property.
Additional images were posted to Lesh’s Instagram profile on June 10, 2020 and October 21, 2020. They showed Lesh standing on a log in Hanging Lake and apparently defecating in Maroon Lake. Both are protected water bodies on forest service land, the judge noted.
Lesh claimed the photos had been edited. Federal prosecutors have in fact not sought to prove their authenticity.
READ MORE: Colorado business owner David Lesh at the center of the controversy
But Judge Gallagher determined that Lesh’s intention in using the footage was to promote Virtika. He repeatedly cited an interview with Lesh in a January 2021 New Yorker article titled “Trolling The Great Outdoors”.
“I wanted them to accuse me of something,” Lesh said in the New Yorker article. “The only proof they have are the photos I posted on Instagram, which I know were fake, because I faked them. I realized that they react quickly to public protests. I wanted to bait them to charge me.
“I want to be able to post fake stuff on the internet,” Lesh added in the interview. “It’s my fucking right as an American.”
Lesh told The New Yorker that his company’s sales rose 30% after the Hanging Lake photo was released.
“The more hate I have, the more people support me, all over the world,” Lesh said. “It was an opportunity to reach a whole new group of people – while really strengthening the customer base we already had.”
In his ruling, Justice Gallagher wrote: “The photographs of Hanging Lake and Maroon Lake may be considered evidence of motive, expediency, intent, preparation, plan, knowledge, identity, no error or no accident.
He also ruled that Lesh’s intrusion into the Keystone Resort was commercial in nature.
Lesh was convicted of two minor offenses. The judge gave the two sides until mid-December to decide on an amount of restitution, or reimbursement of damages. The date of Lesh’s sentencing will not be set until the issue of restitution has been agreed.
Lesh’s lawyers could also choose to appeal Friday’s ruling.
Lesh first came to prominence in July 2019 when he drove a snowmobile through a no-go area of Independence Pass. According to the Aspen Times, Lesh did not admit guilt in the case but was sentenced to 50 hours of community service and a fine of $ 500. Lesh’s own social media posts helped Forest Service investigators in this case.
A month later, Lesh crashed a plane off the coast of California. He also recorded it and posted it on social media.
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Lesh is currently prohibited from entering national forest lands.