Utah man accused of chasing owl in paraglider

AP News
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Posted: Oct 29, 2014 3:13 PM

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A former TV pitchman in Utah with a history of running afoul of the law was charged Tuesday with two federal misdemeanors by prosecutors who say he chased a barn owl in flight on his motorized paraglider.

Dell "Super Dell" Schanze is accused of knowingly using an aircraft to harass wildlife and pursuing a migratory bird, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office in Utah.

The charges come after a federal investigation into an online video that surfaced last year and appeared to show a paraglider near Utah Lake kicking a soaring owl and boasting, "I kicked an owl butt."

Prosecutors say the 45-year-old Schanze's flight happened in February or March of 2011, and would constitute a violation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

No hearings were immediately scheduled in the case, and no attorney was listed for Shanze. He could not be reached for comment.

The harassment charge carries a penalty of up to one year in jail and a $100,000 fine, while the other charge could lead to six months in jail and a $5,000 fine. It also calls on Schanze to forfeit his paraglider.

Schanze is known in Utah for his over-the-top personal style and the shrill, hyperactive TV commercials that advertised his one-time Totally Awesome Computers retail chain.

He shut down the stores in 2006 amid sinking sales and legal troubles. In the years since, he has run for political office, including a Libertarian bid for governor.

Shanze's paragliding has run afoul of the law before. In 2006, he was charged with disorderly conduct after flying low near Interstate 15 at rush hour. He kissed the feet of a fan who paid his $300 fine in the case. Five years later, he was arrested in Oregon in connection with a jump off the 125-foot-tall Astoria Column and said outside the jail the government was stifling his creativity.

He's also had other legal troubles, including a 2005 conviction for lying to officers after prosecutors said he brandished a gun at Draper residents angry that he'd sped through their neighborhood.

He was sentenced to 10 days in jail four years later, after police stopped him for weaving in and out of traffic. Prosecutors say his children weren't wearing seatbelts and Schanze was carrying a loaded gun in his fanny pack without a permit.