SALT LAKE CITY — U.S. marshals handcuffed and temporarily took Dell "Super Dell" Schanze into custody Thursday after he disrupted a federal courtroom even before his own hearing began.
The vociferous former TV pitchman and one-time candidate for governor faces misdemeanor charges for allegedly chasing an owl with his motorized paraglider more than three years ago. Thursday was his first appearance on the charges in U.S. District Court.
As he waited for his name to be called, he stood and objected to U.S. Magistrate Judge Brooke Wells' decision to require a defendant in a separate case to give up his guns as a condition of his release from jail.
"That's totally unconstitutional," said Schanze, who once owned the Totally Awesome Computers retail chain. "That's not cool at all."
Wells asked him to be quiet but, when he persisted, she had the marshals take him into custody. They handcuffed him and escorted him out of the courtroom.
Schanze, 45, returned in handcuffs for his hearing, and continued to balk at questions Wells asked him and moved to dismiss the case because it's "all based on a fake YouTube video."
Wells appointed federal public defender Kent Hart to represent Schanze, but not before Shanze quibbled over qualifications for free legal services. Asked several times to verify the information on a financial affidavit he had just filled out, Schanze gave noncommittal answers.
"KSL destroyed all my businesses," he said. "I have no income."
An exasperated Wells said at one point, "I'm not going to play these games."
Prosecutor Jared Bennett said the U.S. Attorney's Office had been prepared to let Schanze be released on his own recognizance, but expressed concerns after the courtroom outbursts.
As a condition of his release, Wells required Schanze to remove all guns from his house. Hart told her Schanze has "strong feelings" about the Second Amendment. Wells replied that she would put Schanze in jail if he didn't comply and then continued the hearing until later Thursday afternoon.
Schanze, still handcuffed and chained around the waist, was more conciliatory when the hearing resumed.
Noting her hesitation because of his behavior in court and past gun-related charges, Wells released Schanze with several conditions, including restrictions on possessing weapons and traveling. She also ordered him to look for a job and undergo a mental health evaluation.
Asked if he understood, Schanze answered with a high-pitched, "Yes, ma'am," which drew a raised eyebrow from the judge, but nothing more was said.
Schanze, of American Fork, is charged with misdemeanor counts of knowingly using an aircraft to harass wildlife and pursuing a migratory bird. He pleaded not guilty during the hearing.
When asked by reporters on his way into court if he had anything to say, Schanze replied, "Not to you guys. You guys are evil. Stop lying."
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 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.
Hart, who wasn't in the courtroom when Schanze first questioned the judge, said after the hearing that Schanze is passionate about gun rights.
"I assume that he was just concerned about the right to bear arms generally and so he was voicing his opinion," he said.
Schanze is known for his over-the-top personal style and shrill, hyperactive TV commercials that advertised his former computer store 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.
He spent eight days in jail 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 the reckless driving conviction to state district court, where he was found guilty 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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