United States District Court, D. Utah, Central Division
Magistrate Judge, Robert T. Braithwaite
MEMORANDUM DECISION AND ORDER
WADDOUPS, UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
matter is before the court on Appellant Lester E. Titus's
appeal from the United States Magistrate Court for the
District of Utah. Mr. Titus was charged with a misdemeanor
and convicted for knowingly and willfully failing to obtain a
Special Recreation Permit and pay required fees before
conducting a group bike ride to Corona Arch. Mr. Titus
contends he was deprived of his right to a jury trial and
that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction.
For the reasons stated below, the court vacates Mr.
Titus's conviction and remands this case for further
proceedings consistent with this order.
2014, Mr. Titus was charged with knowingly and willfully
violating 43 U.S.C. § 1701 and 43 C.F.R. §
2932.57(a)(1). Section 1701 states the policy of the United
State with respect to federal land management. It directs
that regulations and rules be developed to ensure public
lands are properly managed and protected. See 43
U.S.C. § 1701(a). Section 2932.57(a)(1) constitutes one
of those regulations and states that a person “must not
. . . [f]ail to obtain a Special Recreation Permit and pay
the fees required by this subpart.” 43 C.F.R. §
2932.57(a)(1). It warns that if a person is convicted
“of failing to obtain a Special Recreation Permit,
” the person “may be subject to a sentence of a
fine or imprisonment or both for a Class A misdemeanor in
accordance with 18 U.S.C. 3571 and 3581 et
seq.” Id. § 2932.57(b)(1). Failing
to pay required fees may, however, subject a person only
“to a sentence of a fine not to exceed $100 for the
first offense, or a sentence of a fine and or imprisonment
for a Class A or B misdemeanor . . . for all subsequent
offenses.” Id. § 2932.57(b)(2).
2012, Mr. Titus organized and conducted a bike tour in the
Needles Overlook Area on BLM land south of Moab. Because Mr.
Titus did not obtain a Special Recreation Permit or pay
required fees, Officer Tyler Fouss issued a citation to him.
Officer Fouss explained the permitting requirements to Mr.
Titus at that time, including that he could not conduct an
event on public land without following those permitting
two years later, the events leading to this case occurred.
Officer Fouss learned that Mr. Titus was advertising another
commercial bike tour. Officer Fouss saw the advertisement on
April 16, 2014. The bike tour was scheduled for May 29, 2014
through May 31, 2014, with the first day of the tour
including a one-and-a-half-mile hike to Corona Arch. A few
days before the bike tour, Officer Fouss verified that Mr.
Titus had not obtained a Special Recreation Permit or paid
the required fees. He therefore went to the Corona Arch
trailhead on May 29, 2014 and watched Mr. Titus take his
group up the trail. When they returned, Office Fouss issued
Mr. Titus a second citation.
Mr. Titus first advertised the bike tour and hike, Corona
Arch did not fall within the boundaries of land owned by the
BLM. Rather, the State of Utah owned and managed Corona Arch
as a School and Institutional Trust Lands
(“SITLA”) parcel. On May 8, 2014, however, the
State transferred the parcel to the BLM. Despite this
transfer, twenty days later, the marquee at Corona Arch
trailhead still informed Mr. Titus and his group that Corona
Arch was on State trust lands.
the Corona Arch parcel had been owned and managed by the
State until May 8, 2014, the trailhead, the parking lot by
the trailhead, and the one-and-a-half-mile trail to the arch
have always been owned by the federal government. On the day
of the hike, a smaller sign by the marquee informed visitors
that the area was a bighorn sheep lambing area and to keep
dogs on a leash at all times. There were two BLM logos on the
sign. A registration box stood part way up the trail. The box
contained a map, and a BLM logo and a registration sheet were
visible if one opened the lid. No markings existed on the
outside of the box. Finally, there was a marker on the trail
that had a BLM logo on it.
a bench trial on April 23, 2015, Mr. Titus argued that the
small logos on the bighorn sheep sign and the trail marker
were insufficient to put him on notice that he was on BLM
land, especially when compared to the larger marquee that
identified the trail as state land. Moreover, because no
evidence was presented that he had signed the registration
list or even opened the registration box's lid, Mr. Titus
argued the box provided no notice he was on BLM land. The
trial court rejected Mr. Titus's arguments and concluded
the evidence was sufficient to show he knowingly failed to
obtain a Special Recreation Permit and pay required fees. Mr.
Titus timely filed this appeal.
STANDARD OF REVIEW
scope of an appeal to the district court from a bench trial
before a magistrate judge “is the same as in an appeal
to the court of appeals from a judgment entered by a district
judge.” Fed. R. Crim. P. 58(g)(2)(D). This means
“this court reviews a magistrate judge's factual
findings for clear error and its legal conclusions de
novo.” United States v. Fronk, 2014 U.S. Dist.
LEXIS 95397, at *10 (D. Utah July 11, 2014). On challenges to
the sufficiency of the evidence, the court “reviews
de novo whether the government presented sufficient
evidence to support [a] conviction.” Id.
(citing United States v. Sells, 477 F.3d 1226, 1235
(10th Cir. 2007)). The evidence, however, must be viewed
“in the light most favorable to the prosecution.”
Id. (citing Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S.
307, 319 (1979)). Therefore, the court must determine whether
a reasonable fact finder “could find guilt beyond a
reasonable doubt, based on the direct and circumstantial
evidence, together with the reasonable inferences to be drawn