Facing a Monday trial on two misdemeanor counts of owl harassment, Dell Schanze decided to plead guilty instead.
Schanze, who also goes by the nickname “Super Dell,” became (in)famous in Utah some time ago as the TV pitchman for his business “Totally Awesome Computers.” The ads have been called “zany” but based on the first ten seconds or so of this clip, a lot of other adjectives come to mind as well. The business closed in 2006—a development Schanze blamed on the media—and since then he has run for office a couple times, been convicted of a few misdemeanors, and frequently engaged in his favorite pastime of paragliding.
Most recently he has been combining those last two, and posting the evidence on YouTube. [Sadly, the videos have been deleted since this was first posted.]
The first video came to the attention of federal agents because it showed the pilot of a powered paraglider first pursuing and then kicking an owl in flight. As you may recall from other recent events, owls are a protected species and are not to be interfered with, let alone kicked. See “Men Filmed Chillin’ With a Owl Were Violatin’ Migratory Bird Treaty Act” (Apr. 3) and “Chillin’ With a Owl: Followup” (Apr. 8). This first video did not show the pilot’s face, but by pleading guilty Schanze has now more or less admitted he was the owl-kicker. (In February, he told the same judge that these charges had been manufactured by an “anti-Christ homosexual who hates me,” but I’m guessing the evidence didn’t support that claim.)
A second one showed a pilot (who is said to resemble Schanze) pulling a handgun out of a fanny pack and firing multiple rounds from the air while over a lake (right). Utah law forbids firing a gun from “an automobile or other vehicle” except in lawful defense of oneself or others, but so far as I can tell Schanze has not been prosecuted for this one. (Maybe he was protecting someone from a bear?) The Tribune quoted a paragliding instructor who opined that “powered paragliding enthusiasts generally do not fire weapons while in flight,” so that’s good to know.
On Thursday it looked like the deal would fall through after Schanze balked at admitting he had “knowingly” bothered the bird, claiming he was concerned about his reputation. Unfortunately, his lawyer seems to have talked him out of going to trial. Schanze returned on Friday, pleaded guilty, and was sentenced to a year of probation. Not sure if they have given him his guns back yet or not (they were seized while he was awaiting trial), so Utahns still might need to keep an eye on the sky.