Aspen Times Editorial: Lesh Conviction Should Hit Him Where It Counts… in the Forest
David Lesh had the day in court he desperately wanted, but it didn’t work out the way he hoped. Lesh was convicted by a federal judge on October 22 of two minor offenses, but there will be no real justice unless his sentence is more than a slap on the wrist.
Lesh is the owner of Virtika Outerwear which adopts a bad boy image in her marketing and catchy antics. Lesh sees Colorado’s National Forests as his personal playground, where the only rules that matter are getting a provocative photograph. Lesh’s posts about himself snowmobiling on Independence Pass in July 2019 and at Keystone Resort in April 2020 helped him get arrested for illegally snowmobiling in closed areas of the White River National Forest.
In the Independence Pass case, resolved in June 2020, Lesh paid a fine and had to perform 50 hours of community service.
On October 22, he was convicted of two minor offenses for an unrelated incident. He walked into the Keystone Resort and was pictured snowmobiling over jumps in a snow park last year. The ski area was closed by order of Governor Jared Polis at the time due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Lesh was also convicted by US investigating judge Gordon Gallagher last week for unauthorized use of national forests to promote his business. Lesh posted photos of himself in Keystone, as well as forged photos of him defecating in Maroon Lake and walking a log in Hanging Lake, to promote Virtika, the judge ruled.
In the Independence Pass case, Lesh was allowed to choose where he served his 50 hours of useful public service. He chose to work for Only One Inc., a Boulder-based nonprofit that supposedly works on Native American issues.
GuideStar, a clearinghouse for information on nonprofits, had raised a red flag over Only One, which it classified as a versatile arts and cultural organization.
“This organization’s exemption status has been automatically revoked by the IRS for failing to file a Form 990, 990-EZ, 990-N or 990-PF for 3 consecutive years,” a notice said on GuideStar. “Further investigation and due diligence are warranted. “
Given this, we doubt that any work Lesh could have done would have a significant impact on the community.
Lesh could potentially face up to six months in jail, a fine of $ 5,000, or both for each of Keystone’s minor offense convictions. In reality, he will not be jailed for a minor offense, which is essentially a misdemeanor. Instead, he should face a fine of up to $ 5,000 on each count for a total of $ 10,000 and an effective public service sentence of 100 hours.
We have some creative ideas on how Lesh could be productive. The US Forest Service could put Lesh to work in the Dillon and Aspen-Sopris Ranger Districts, where his past transgressions have occurred. The Forest Service installed a restroom this summer at the Upper Lost Man Trailhead on Independence Pass. We would like to see Lesh clean up this facility next July weekend to remove part of that sentence. We’re sure the Dillon Ranger district, where Keystone is located, might find some work for Lesh as well.
Additionally, we would like to see Lesh banned from entering the White River National Forest throughout 2022. It would be difficult to enforce, but the price of violating the ban and getting caught would be an adequate deterrent. If Lesh were found on forest land during the ban, he would risk a longer ban.
Lesh has proven time and time again through his actions that he has no respect for Colorado public lands or the legal ramifications of his actions. A harsh sentence might not fix his manners, but it would definitely make us feel better.
The Aspen Times editorial board is made up of editor Samantha Johnston, editor David Krause, editor Rick Carroll, journalists Scott Condon and Carolyn Sackariason and editor Sean Beckwith.