SALT LAKE CITY — Former computer store owner and TV pitchman "Superdell" faces federal charges for allegedly chasing an owl with his motorized paraglider more than three years ago.
Dell Schanze, 45, of American Fork, was charged Tuesday in U.S. District Court with two misdemeanor counts of knowingly using an aircraft to harass wildlife and pursuing a migratory bird.
A video of a paramotorist chasing and kicking a migratory bird west of Utah Lake surfaced on YouTube in April 2013, drawing sharp criticism from members of the paragliding community who asked federal and state authorities to investigate.
Prosecutors allege Schanze violated the Airborne Hunting Act by using a motorized paraglider to harass an owl during an incident in February or March 2011. He also used the aircraft to pursue a barn owl, which is a violation of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, prosecutors say.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office also seeks to seize the paraglider or other property or assets if Schanze no longer has the aircraft.
The potential penalty for using an aircraft to harass wildlife is up to one year in jail and a $100,000 fine. The penalty for pursuing a migratory bird is up to six months in jail and a $5,000 fine.
A summons will be issued to Schanze to appear in federal court.
Schanze is known for his over-the-top personal style and the shrill, hyperactive TV commercials that advertised his one-time Totally Awesome Computers retail chain. As a candidate for Utah governor, Schanze received less than 3 percent of the vote in the 2008 election. He also fell short in a Saratoga Springs mayoral campaign in 2009.
Schanze spent eight days in jail in after he was found guilty in Saratoga Springs Justice Court of misdemeanor reckless driving and seat belt infractions from a 2008 traffic stop. Police said Schanze was weaving in the road with children in his car.
Schanze said his driving was a way to entertain the children, according to court records. A loaded gun was found in a fanny pack Schanze was wearing, and his concealed weapons permit had expired. But a weapons charge was dismissed because of a change in state law that permitted the possession of a handgun in a vehicle.
He appealed to state district court, where he was convicted again. Schanze was sentenced to six months in jail with credit for time served. The rest of the sentence was suspended, and he was ordered to pay a $590 fine.
In June 2011, Schanze faced misdemeanor charges in Astoria, Oregon, for jumping from the 125-foot tall Astoria Column while wearing a gliding device.
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