Two High On Life Defendants Plead Guilty; Three Will Go To Trial
Two of the five defendants from the British Columbia group High on Life were banned from entering millions of acres of federal land after they pleaded guilty Tuesday to violations in Yellowstone and Death Valley national parks, according to a news release from Yellowstone National Park.
After they were recorded walking on the delicate bacterial mats at the Grand Prismatic Spring in Yellowstone, all defendants were the subjects of multiple investigations by the National Park Service and U.S. Bureau of Land Management, which lead to charges against them in Wyoming, Utah and California.
Tuesday, the defendants made their court appearances before U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark Carman at the Yellowstone Justice Center in Mammoth, YNP.
Hamish McNab Campbell Cross of New Zealand and Parker Heuser of British Columbia pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct by creating a hazardous condition and foot travel in a thermal area.
Canadian nationals Charles Gamble, Alexey Andriyovych Lyakh and Justis Cooper Price-Brown pleaded not guilty and will be appointed federal public defenders to represent them.
Specifically, Cross pleaded guilty to charges in Yellowstone National Park of disorderly conduct by creating a hazardous condition and foot travel in a thermal area.
He will pay more than $8,000 in fines, restitution, community service payments to the cultural preservation organization Yellowstone Forever, and fees.
Heuser pleaded guilty to two violations in Death Valley National Park: riding a bike in wilderness and taking commercial photographs without a permit.
He will pay for collateral fines that stemmed from violations at the BLM-managed Bonneville Salt Flats. Heuser will pay more than $1,000 in fines and fees. He was not charged any violations in Yellowstone National Park.
Besides monetary damages, Carman placed Cross and Heuser on probation for five years and banned them from public lands managed by the U.S. Department of Interior, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. In other words, they cannot enter national parks; national monuments; national grasslands and forests; and numerous trails systems, lakes, streams, and parks.
The case began on May 16, when a park visitor contacted rangers in Yellowstone National Park, after he saw four individuals on May 14 walking on the Grand Prismatic Spring and video-recorded them and their blue bus.
Rangers identified Gamble, Lyakh, Price-Brown and Cross, and arrest warrants were issued.
Social media and tips from the public helped park officials and prosecutors investigate their activities on other federal lands. The High on Life group was issued violation notices from:
- Zion National Park
- Death Valley National Park
- Yellowstone National Park
- Mesa Verde National Park
- Corona Arch
- Bonneville Salt Flats
Yellowstone National Park Superintendent Dan Wenk applauded Carman's sentence of Cross.
"Hamish Cross’s egregious actions damaged a world-class hot spring and risked his own life coupled with the lives of responding rangers," Wenk said. "We look forward to the outcome of the case regarding the three remaining defendants."