This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Eccentric former pitchman Dell "Super Dell" Schanze, who once touted his "Totally Awesome Computers" on local TV, interrupted a court proceeding on Thursday to tell a federal judge that a decision she had just made was "totally unconstitutional."
U.S. Magistrate Brooke Wells was not totally amused by the interruption by Schnaze as he waited in the public gallery for his own case to be called. After he refused Wells' entreaties to sit down and be quiet, she had him handcuffed and removed from the courtroom.
It was classic Schanze, who pitched his computer business before it collapsed in 2006. He then ran unsuccessfully for governor and mayor of Saratoga Springs as a strong gun-rights advocate and has had a string of arrests since.
On Thursday, Schanze was sitting in the front row of the public section of a federal courtroom in Salt Lake City waiting for his first appearance on two misdemeanor wildlife charges while a court hearing was in progress in another case.
Wells had just told a man with a lengthy arrest record on drug charges, and who was in court for alleged possession of stolen ammunition, that she would release him from custody pending his trial, but he had to agree not to possess dangerous weapons or ammunition. If he was going to live with his father as planned, then the father also had to remove those items from his home, Wells said.
That prompted Schanze to stand up and interrupt.
"Your honor that's totally unconstitutional," he said. "How can you force his father to take his weapons from his house?"
Wells told Schanze to sit down and be quiet, but he persisted and was removed from the courtroom.
When his case was called, Schanze was brought back with his arms cuffed behind him. Wells asked Schanze if he wished to have a court-appointed attorney.
"I would move to dismiss the case," he said, adding that the video on which his case is based was doctored.
Wells told him that was improper at this stage of his case, and then she and Schanze went back and forth over a financial statement he provided in order to qualify for a court-appointed attorney.
Schanze said he didn't know what his total income was because his wife keeps separate accounts. After more exchanges, during which Wells warned Schanze to only answer questions and not interrupt, he finally agreed that his financial statement was an accurate accounting of his income.
That settled, an attorney was appointed and Schanze pleaded not guilty to knowingly using an aircraft to harass wildlife and pursuing a migratory bird from his paraglider near Utah Lake in 2011, incidents that showed up on videos posted on YouTube.
A one-day jury trial was set for Feb. 17.
But Schanze remained in custody for several more hours following his 11 a.m. hearing because a prosecutor, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jared Bennett, expressed concerns that Schanze might not comply with any requirement that he not possess or have access to dangerous weapons.
When Schanze reappeared before Wells at 2:30 p.m. after several hours in custody, he agreed to give up his guns and the judge released him on his own recognizance after he answered a question about whether he would comply with an effusive: "Of course your honor."
The charges came after a federal investigation into an online video that surfaced last year and appeared to show a paraglider pilot near Utah Lake kicking a soaring barn owl and boasting about it.
Prosecutors say the 45-year-old Schanze's flight happened in February or March of 2011.
His attorney, Kent Hart, said Schanze's courtroom behavior came about because, "Obviously, Mr. Schanze feels strongly about his right to bear arms."
Schanze has had previous run-ins with the law, including at least one that involved a firearm.