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Lesh appears to continue habit of abusing public lands — this time at Maroon Lake

This time David Lesh made his feelings toward public lands crystal clear.

After riding his snowmobile in a wilderness area on Independence Pass in July 2019, poaching Keystone’s terrain park with his snowmobile while it was closed last winter and entering Hanging Lake during a COVID-related closure this summer, the part-time Colorado resident elevated his social media-curated disrespect for those lands to a new level Wednesday.

Lesh, 35, posted a picture to Instagram late Wednesday morning that purports to show him defecating in Maroon Lake.

“Moved to Colorado 15 years ago, finally made it to Maroon Lake,” Lesh wrote in the photo’s caption. “A scenic dump with no one there was worth the wait.”

The photo shows him standing in the lake shirtless with his shorts around his ankles while squatting and holding on to a dead tree stump on the shore of the lake. He appears to be in the middle of defecating. There is not a way to see when the photo was taken, but partially snow-covered Maroon Bells — the most photographed feature in Colorado — are in the background, along with the yellow and orange fall colors.

The photo received more than 3,000 likes and nearly 300 comments by 5 p.m. on Wednesday, with some commenters calling Lesh “a legend.”

Lesh just appeared in U.S. District Court in Grand Junction on Oct. 2 to answer to charges related to the alleged Hanging Lake and Keystone incidents. During that appearance, Lesh agreed not to trespass on closed national forest lands and to abide by all rules on open lands or risk arrest and/or the forfeiture of a $1,000 bond.

On Wednesday, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office said he was aware of the Maroon Lake photo but could not comment further. A spokesman for the U.S. Forest Service said the same thing.

Kevin Warner, district ranger for the Aspen-Sopris Ranger District that includes the Maroon Bells, confirmed in an email exchange that entering Maroon Lake for any purpose — swimming, wading, boating — is prohibited. Defecating in the lake also is not allowed under “more general sanitation regulations,” Warner said.

“The photo is deeply offensive to us at the Forest Service,” he said in a subsequent phone interview. “I think it is deeply offensive to the public who treasure their national forests.”

However, Warner said the photo may not be real. Lake levels this year and the location of avalanche debris appear to indicate the photo was not taken this year, he said.

“I can’t tell you definitively,” Warner said.

Pitkin County Sheriff Joe DiSalvo said the U.S. Forest Service is investigating the alleged incident, along with a deputy from his office. He said he first heard about the photo from someone in the community who has kept tabs on Lesh since his antics on Independence Pass, though he later heard from at least five other people on the subject.

DiSalvo said he’d seen the picture and caption.

“I took him at his word,” the sheriff said of Lesh allegedly using the lake as a toilet. “That’s what it looked like he was doing. The behavior’s totally unacceptable.”

U.S. Magistrate Gordon Gallagher on Oct. 2 approved Lesh’s bond conditions regarding public lands and ordered him to provide the unsecured bond. If he violates conditions of the bond, he will “be on the hook for $1,000,” Gallagher said at the time.

Asked if he understood the conditions, Lesh said, “I do, your honor.”

A message left for Lesh’s attorney in Grand Junction was not returned Wednesday. In addition, a message sent to Lesh via Instagram from The Aspen Times seeking comment was not returned.

Woman arrested Wednesday following high-speed pursuit on I-70 near Silt, New Castle

A 20-year-old woman faces several charges after allegedly leading law enforcement on a high-speed pursuit Wednesday evening along county roads and Interstate 70.

An arrest affidavit states Erica Janett Canas was arrested on felony charges of second-degree assault on a peace officer and second-degree trespassing on agricultural land. She also faces eight misdemeanors: criminal mischief, reckless driving, vehicular eluding, resisting arrest, obstructing a peace officer, reckless endangerment, driving under cancellation/denied and leaving the scene of an accident involving property damage.

Authorities were called to a “trespass in progress” at a bee farm outside of Silt around 5:40 p.m. Wednesday, according to arrest records. A woman, later identified as Canas, was allegedly driving a midsize SUV in circles through the property.

Deputies approached Canas on foot. Canas, who had an outstanding felony arrest warrant, accelerated in their direction, according to arrest records. At this time, an assisting deputy deployed a spike strip, after which Canas pulled an abrupt U-turn, drove quickly eastbound across the property and through a field.

Canas then drove through a fence and onto County Road 346, eventually pulling into a hotel parking lot on River Frontage Road, according to arrest records. Canas would then make it onto I-70, traveling between 85-110 mph eastbound with several deputies in pursuit.

At the I-70 New Castle exit, Canas made an abrupt turn onto the eastbound off-ramp at the last moment, disregarding a stop sign then heading southbound toward Garfield County Road 335. Driving between 65-75 mph in a 45 mph zone, Canas allegedly passed multiple vehicles over the double line.

Canas would lead authorities through the Apple Tree mobile home park and back onto County Road 335, according to arrest records. Soon after, Canas drove over a deployed spike strip and managed to make it several car lengths before stopping.

Canas then attempted to evade authorities on foot. She was eventually tased “to attempt to prevent her from scaling the guard rail and potentially escaping by jumping into the Colorado River,” according to arrest records.

Apprehended, Canas was taken to Valley View Hospital around 7 p.m. While seated next to an arresting deputy in a hospital waiting room, Canas allegedly kicked the deputy in the groin and began running toward the front doors. The deputy gave chase and tackled Canas. 

With the help of several assisting deputies, Canas was eventually taken to the Garfield County jail.

rerku@citizentelegram.com

Forest foe David Lesh agrees to bond conditions to behave on public lands

Rogue outdoorsman David Lesh agreed Friday not to trespass on closed national forest system lands and to follow rules on open lands or risk arrest for violating bond conditions and forfeit $1,000.

Lesh is the self-styled bad boy who has been issued citations for allegedly entering Hanging Lake while it was closed this summer and for riding his snowmobile in a terrain park in Keystone while the ski area was closed last winter. A six-count indictment was filed in U.S. District Court in Grand Junction on Sept. 15.

Lesh, 34, a part-time Colorado resident and owner of an outdoor clothing company, became known in Aspen for riding a snowmobile in designated wilderness on Independence Pass on July 3, 2019. He was cited for four petty offenses. In a plea agreement, he agreed to pay a $500 fine and perform 50 hours of useful public service.

As the old case was concluding, the new case emerged. In the new case, Assistant U.S. Attorney Peter Hautzinger and Lesh’s attorney, Stephen Laiche, hashed out terms of bond and revealed them to U.S. District Judge Gordon Gallagher on Friday. Lesh cannot trespass on closed national forest system lands. He cannot violate any rules while on open forestlands.

Gallagher approved the conditions and said Lesh must provide unsecured bond. If he violates conditions of bond, he will “be on the hook for $1,000,” the judge said. Lesh would also risk arrest for bond violation.

Lesh’s only words in court came when the judge asked him if he understood the conditions.

“I do, your honor,” Lesh said.

His next court appearance is set for Oct. 30 at 11:30 a.m. The prosecutor and defense may arrange a plea agreement by then or the case could be set for trial.

Lesh allegedly entered the Hanging Lake Natural Landmark Area in Glenwood Canyon on June 10 while it was closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. He posted a picture on social media of himself on a log in the lake. He’s facing five counts in relation to that incident.

He is facing one count for allegedly riding his snowmobile in the Keystone terrain park after the ski area closed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

All counts for both incidents are misdemeanors.

Aspen man pleads guilty to violating Pitkin County’s social distancing health order

In what was deemed an “unique” and “nuanced” case by the prosecution, an Aspen man charged by the Pitkin County health director for coughing in a woman’s face and violating the county’s public health order in late March pleaded guilty Thursday and received a deferred sentence.

In exchange for the plea agreement, Tom Patierno’s sentence has been deferred for six months and he will have six months of supervised probation. He also must perform 60 hours of useful public service, attend 18 hours of mental health counseling and write an apology letter to the victim. He was not fined and will pay an court costs.

If he meets all the requirements of the agreement and probation, the case will be dismissed and removed from his record.

Patierno admitted to police he “got in the woman’s face” on March 29 and made at least a “coughing gesture” after she asked him to move over as they approached each other on the Rio Grande Trail.

He was originally charged with disorderly conduct by Aspen Police after his behavior toward the 68-year-old woman. Less than two weeks later, however, Pitkin County Public Health Director Karen Koenemann — through the county attorney’s office — charged Patierno with the misdemeanor count of violating the March 23 county public health order for not social distancing.

“Your Honor, it’s a nuanced area of statute, no doubt,” Pitkin County Assistant Attorney Richard Neiley said in Thursday’s court proceeding. “The charge came from the Pitkin County public health director.”

He said the deal was agreed upon by Koenemann and the victim, who both, Neiley said, wanted to ensure Patierno “participated in some level of mental health counseling in connection with the events that led up to the charge.

“There’s no doubt this offense took place at the beginning of the year when the emergence of the pandemic was new and it was a scary time,” Neiley said.

The case was heard in Garfield County after Pitkin County Court Judge Erin Fernandez-Ely recused herself. Her husband, John Ely, is the Pitkin County attorney and the charges came from the county’s health director.

“The facts of this case were of significant concern to the community and I’m sure to the victim in this matter,” Garfield County Judge Paul Metzger said Thursday. “I’m glad to hear the victim is in support of this type of resolution and this is a resolution.”

Patierno, who appeared via video conference, was contrite Thursday and reiterated it was a difficult time for him. As he told police after the incident, he said he was facing unemployment because of the pandemic. His attorney said Thursday he was also in a “contentious custody battle with an ex-girlfriend.”

He has since started a new job, the custody hearing has been resolved and he has started counseling, his attorney said.

“It was a scary time. A lot of things were up in the air. I was unsettled (and) pretty distraught,” Patierno said. “I’m glad I’ve had a string of personal success in my life. I’m feeling a lot more stable.”

He faced as many as 18 months in the Pitkin County Jail and a fine of as much as $5,000 for the public health order violation.

Patierno was “engaging in an ‘essential activity’ without complying with ‘social distancing requirements’” in violation of the public health order, according to court records. Koenemann said during the summer her decision to file the charge was based on the idea that Patierno’s act seemed to be intentional.

Koenemann told The Aspen Times in July that “the facts seem to indicate that this was a purposeful act that unfortunately impacted someone who is in a vulnerable population. We are looking at egregious violations and someone purposefully coughing on someone certainly fits that bill.”

The victim said she did not develop COVID-19 after the interaction.

“I want to thank the court and particularly the court staff for dealing with the unique situation where you had somebody other than the District Attorney’s Office entering a complaint on a criminal charge in this matter,” Neiley said Thursday.

Carbondale police seek suspect in Monday assault incident at bus stop

Carbondale police are seeking the public’s assistance in identifying and locating an unidentified male suspect in a reported gun threat and attempted stabbing at the town’s main bus station Monday evening.

Police responded at 7:08 p.m. Monday to a report of an assault at the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority Park and Ride on Highway 133, in which the suspect allegedly pointed a gun at and later attempted to stab the victim with a knife.

According to a Tuesday evening press release, the victim described the suspect as a Hispanic male, approximately 5 feet, 10 inches, wearing a dark jacket, dark pants, hat and a backpack.

Security camera image of the alleged suspect in a stabbing incident in Carbondale.

The victim had a minor injury, according to the release. 

“This is believed to be an isolated incident and there is no threat to the community.” Police Lt. Kirk Wilson said. 

Anyone with information about this crime is urged to contact the Carbondale Police Department at 970-963-2662. 

Defendant in 2018 Glenwood Springs murder case wants to represent himself

A Glenwood Springs man accused of killing a fellow homeless man during an alleged drunken confrontation in June 2018 wants to represent himself in his pending first-degree murder trial.

Trevor Torreyson asked District Judge James Boyd Wednesday for the right to act pro se in his own defense of the murder charge.

“I would like to break all ties with both of them at this time,” Torreyson said of his court-appointed attorneys, Ashley Marie Petrey and Trent Palmer, adding he’d just as soon not have anyone else at the table even as advisory counsel.

Torreyson is accused of murder in the beating death of Keith Wayne on June 20, 2018, during what police investigators indicated was a night of heavy drinking in a small park area located next to a car dealership on Storm King Road in West Glenwood.

Torreyson was back in court Wednesday, after continued hearings in July and August, appearing before Boyd via WebEx video from the Garfield County Jail. He has been in jail on $1 million bond since his arrest the day after the incident.

Boyd questioned Torreyson on his ability to effectively represent himself, and said it’s a tall order for someone to serve as their own attorney in any criminal case, let alone a first-degree murder trial.

“It’s widely recognized by people with experience in the courts, that those who try to represent themselves often do a bad job of it,” Boyd said, probing Torreyson on his ability to represent himself at trial.

Torreyson has had a history of conflicts with his legal representatives as the case has dragged out for more than two years, first with the Public Defender’s Office and now with his court-appointed attorneys.

Boyd strongly advised Torreyson that the requirements of preparing for trial, reviewing evidence and following courtroom procedures may be beyond his ability without some legal training.

Torreyson admitted he does not have such training, and said he completed his general education requirements for high school and some college, but did not study law.

But he said he’s prepared to represent himself, if he can be provided with the same information that his lawyers would have been.

“I haven’t even seen more than 3,000 pages of my discovery. I’ve seen lots of pictures, but that’s it,” he said, requesting he be given the information to properly prepare if he does decide to represent himself.

Boyd gave Torreyson a few more days to think about it. A follow-up hearing is slated for 3 p.m. next Tuesday.

Both Torreyson, now 43, and Wayne were experiencing homelessness at the time of the incident, and were said to be well-known within the community of people who often camp on the outskirts of Glenwood Springs.

Wayne, who was 56, was found dead that night near several car dealerships in West Glenwood off of Storm King Road, with wounds on his left temple consistent with blunt force trauma.

The first officers on the scene found dry blood boot tracks on the concrete, leading west from the scene.

When police arrested Torreyson later that day, he was discovered in his campsite near Interstate 70 with blood on his boots, pants, shirt and arms, according to evidence in the case.

Police initially identified Torreyson as the primary suspect in the case because of a bandana officers found at the scene under Wayne’s body, which officers recognized from previous contacts with the defendant.

jstroud@postindependent.com

Courts during COVID: Garfield County’s legal community navigates challenges of pandemic

Jury trials could soon begin again in the Ninth Judicial District, which includes Garfield County, after a months-long hiatus because of the pandemic, the district’s chief judge said. 

But with social distancing, capacity limitations and a backlog of trials created by months without trials by jury, it could be a slow road back to normal.

“We have a plan for restarting jury trials that mirrors another being used around the state,” Chief Judge James Boyd said. “But the greatest challenge facing the Ninth District in the next year is implementing that plan and clearing our considerable backlog.” 

As jury trials return, the first few will be limited to 6-person juries, which can be used in trials for non-felony offenses, he explained. But as soon as October, the district plans to start conducting felony trials again with 12-person juries.

“I’ve concluded that — at least in the beginning — we can only conduct one jury trial at a time per courthouse,” said Boyd, who co-authored the district’s post-pandemic jury trial plan.

For the district attorney’s office, the lack of jury trials has been a big disruption, and the district’s return to jury trials raises a few additional questions.

“We haven’t had a criminal jury trial since March,” Deputy District Attorney Ben Sollars said. “There’s an old adage: Justice delayed is justice denied.”

Sollars said the jury trials set for court during the pandemic were ruled as mistried, allowing the cases to be continued at a later date. Those rulings could conflict with a person’s constitutional right to a swift trial, he said.

“It creates the question: If you’re continuing things beyond that speedy trial time frame, is that going to survive in an appellate court,” Sollars said, adding little-to-no precedent exists for conducting court during a pandemic.

Virtual court

While jury trials were delayed, the court system did not grind to a complete halt. 

Like many industries, courts cleared the social-distancing hurdle by leaping into the realm of virtual conferencing. 

“It all came up so quickly that it really created a challenge as to how to move forward with any court operations,” Boyd said. “We did as much as we could to not have people assembling face-to-face.”

The courts started using Cisco Webex, a video conferencing platform, to conduct certain functions.

Sollars said people responded quickly to the software. 

“Early on, we didn’t have the foresight to know we’d be in a pandemic, so a lot of summons were responded to in person,” he recalled. “Once the court started utilizing Webex, the personal appearance numbers went down drastically.”

Webex was not a silver bullet, however. Not everyone had access to virtual conferencing-capable devices or internet connections, so courtroom attendance was not entirely eliminated.

Boyd said to reduce the risk of infection for those few who did still show up in court, the district implemented rules barring people with symptoms of COVID-19 from entering the building. Additionally, court rooms are taped off to provide attendees with clear visual references for staying 6 feet apart and require face masks.

“These are not guidelines we’re dreaming up on our own,” Boyd said. “We are trying to follow guidance from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment as well as localities with more restrictive guidelines.”

Failure to appear

During the height of the pandemic, the district issued significantly less Failure-to-Appear warrants, but by July, the warrants were trending upward, according to data provided by the Colorado State Court Administrator’s Office. 

In January, the Ninth Judicial District issued 156 failure-to-appear warrants in Garfield County and 91 were issued in February. During March, the district issued 73 and only 33 failure-to-appear warrants were issued throughout the County in April. 

May and June saw a slow rise in failure-to-appear warrants issued and by July, the district returned to pre-pandemic numbers with 139 failure-to-appear warrants issued in Garfield County.

“There is certainly a correlation between the pandemic and the failure-to-appear numbers,” Sollars said. “But, I don’t know if it’s as simple as to say it’s X, Y or Z causing those trends.”

The ability for some people to attend virtually could be a contributing factor to the lower numbers, he said.

Previously, out-of-state visitors charged with a crime would need to make arrangements to return for a court date, but with Webex, they might only need to take a couple hours out of their day and attend from the comfort of their home.

Another factor could be a pre-trial supervision program, part of which sends texts reminding defendants about their court dates. Sollars said the program rolled out in January. 

Lastly, he said the courts might be partially responsible for the downward trend. 

“I also do think the courts have been more lenient to individuals who haven’t shown up,” Sollars said. “Whatever the reason might be, I think the courts are less likely to issue warrants.”

Boyd said even with the call reminder program and virtual attendance, beyond the pandemic, failure-to-appear warrants could continue to rise.

“The criminal case load in Pitkin and Garfield counties, and within the Ninth Judicial District generally, has gone up quite a lot in the last 4-5 years,” he said. “The future of failure-to-appears will depend on the volume of criminal case filings.”

Deputy State Public Defender Scott Troxell declined to be interviewed for this story. 

Rogue forest visitor David Lesh faces charges for Hanging Lake, Keystone incidents

On the same day that David Lesh officially settled one case involving illegal snowmobiling on Independence Pass, he was cited for allegedly illegally swimming in Hanging Lake and snowmobiling in a Keystone ski area terrain park.

A six-count indictment was filed in U.S. District Court in Grand Junction on Tuesday against Lesh, 34, a part-time Colorado resident and owner of an outdoor clothing company.

One count alleged Lesh operated a snowmobile off a designated route on U.S. Forest Service land at Keystone on April 24.

Counts two through six were tied to Lesh’s alleged entry of Hanging Lake in Glenwood Canyon on June 10.

One count said he entered 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.

Another count said he entered an area closed for the protection of special biological communities.

Count four said he entered an area closed for the protection of property while count five said he entered an area closed for the protection of historical, archaeological, geological or paleontological interest.

The final count said Lesh “entered or was in or on a prohibited body of water.”

All counts are misdemeanors, each with the potential penalty of not more than six months imprisonment, not more than a $5,000 fine or both, according to the document that was filed. The U.S. Attorney’s Office indicated it would not seek imprisonment.

Lesh was ordered to appear in court Sept. 21 in Grand Junction.

Lesh allegedly rode his sled in the Keystone terrain park while the ski area was closed because of the coronavirus. He posted a photo of himself soaring off a jump on his snowmobile. The Forest Service worked with the Summit County Sheriff’s Office on the investigation.

Two months later, Lesh posted pictures of himself walking on a log jutting into Hanging Lake, a pristine destination that was closed at the time.

He undertook the alleged activities while awaiting a June 16 court appearance for illegally snowmobiling in designated wilderness near the summit of Independence Pass east of Aspen on July 3, 2019. Wilderness areas are closed to mechanized and motorized travel.

The executive director of the Independence Foundation spotted Lesh running his sled over grass and fragile terrain near the Upper Lost Man trailhead. After an investigation by the Forest Service, he was cited for four petty offenses. In a plea arrangement, he agreed to pay a $500 fine and perform 50 hours of useful public service. Lesh paid the fine and provided documentation of completing the service by Sept. 5, so he wasn’t required to appear in court Tuesday for a follow-up, according to a court clerk.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Peter Hautzinger said in court in June that he intended to file charges against Lesh for the Keystone and Hanging Lake incidents.

White River National Forest Supervisor Scott Fitzwilliams told The Aspen Times after Lesh’s court appearance in June that if he was found guilty of repeat infractions, it was possible the agency would seek to ban him from entering national forest lands.

Suspect in Basalt assault requests preliminary hearing

One of the suspects in an alleged Basalt assault case requested a preliminary hearing while a co-defendant reserved his right for such a hearing during separate court appearances Tuesday.

Mustafa Muhammad
Eagle County Jail

Mustafa Muhammad’s preliminary hearing will be held Sept. 24. Daniel “Danny” Wettstein will have a preliminary demand hearing Oct. 27, when it will be determined whether he wants to proceed with a preliminary hearing.

The 5th Judicial District Attorney’s Office filed formal charges against the men Sept. 3. Both men are facing 14 charges, including three counts of first-degree assault. Authorities accused them of holding a man against his will at their Willits Townhouse in Basalt on Aug. 13 and 14 and beating him. The alleged victim suffered broken bones and lacerations to his face and other injuries to his body.

Daniel Wettstein
Eagle County Jail

The man escaped after crawling up a second-story window and requesting help from a neighbor. Wettstein surrendered without incident when police came to the townhouse. Muhammad surrendered nearly four hours after police were called. They brought in a SWAT team out of concern about weapons in the house.

Muhammad remains in custody in Eagle County Jail. Kevin Jensen of the Colorado public defender’s office in Dillon is representing him.

Wettstein bonded out of jail and is represented by attorney Michael Fox.

In Eagle County Court on Tuesday, Jensen said his client likely wouldn’t be able to bond out of jail so he wouldn’t waive his right to a preliminary hearing within 35 days of charges being filed.

A prosecutor in the case told Judge Rachel Olguin-Fresquez that at least three hours would be needed for the hearing. A preliminary hearing is held for a judge to determine if there is enough evidence to require a defendant to stand trial on the charges.

Fox said Wettstein was willing to waive his right to a preliminary hearing within 35 days of charges being filed. He said he is just starting to receive discovery or notification of the alleged evidence against his client and expects to receive more in coming weeks. He said it was uncertain if Wettstein will seek a preliminary hearing. The judge allowed them to reserve that right.

Two dogs poisoned in El Jebel, Sheriff’s Office seeks help finding those responsible

The Eagle County Sheriff’s Office is looking for help finding the person or persons believed to be involved in poisoning two dogs in the El Jebel Mobile Home Park on Aug. 27.

One dog died after the owners sought care and the other dog had to be put down, according to a news release from the Sheriff’s Office.

“The owners stated that their dogs had been outside in the family yard for a short time and when they were let back inside, one dog immediately began acting strangely and became very sick,” the statement said. “The dog then vomited some suspected chicken meat, which the family had not fed to the dogs.”

The second dog also became sick after eating the suspect meat. The family took the dogs to a veterinary clinic where the first dog died within a few hours of being poisoned.

“The second dog’s condition continued to worsen and had to be put down the next day,” according to the Sheriff’s Office.

Blood tests showed a specific poison in the bloodstreams of both dogs.

A spokeswoman for the Sheriff’s Office said it is believed dogs have been poisoned in the neighborhood before, though no reports were filed.

“(Investigators) do suspect that these dogs might have been targeted specifically by a neighbor or someone else in the neighborhood,” the spokeswoman said.

Eagle County Crime Stoppers is assisting deputies by offering a cash reward to anyone who provides information that leads to an arrest and indictment. Anyone with information is urged to call the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office at (970) 328-8500 or remain anonymous and call the Eagle County Crime Stoppers at 970-328-7007, 1-800-972-TIPS, submit your tip online at http://www.p3tips.com or send a mobile tip using the free ‘P3 Tips’ mobile app.