[Courtesy photo]

After lashing out online at some of his critics, slackliner, climber and BASE jumper Andy Lewis now faces criminal harassment charges in Grand County Justice Court.

Lewis, a record-setting athlete who once performed at the Super Bowl halftime show with Madonna, posted on Facebook March 23 following the publication of the Moab Sun News article “Local climbers angered by decorating of Ancient Art spire.” That article detailed criticisms made by some members of the Moab community after Lewis and six others temporarily draped one of the summits of the nearby Fisher Towers with Christmas lights and ornaments.

In his publicly visible Facebook post, Lewis wrote to Kiley Miller, Eve Tallman and Trish Hedin, three climbers who had voiced objections to the December stunt. He called Miller a “stupid (expletive)”; told Tallman to “bend over and I’ll show you some disrespect”; and told Hedin to “(expletive) yourself.”

“[P]lease don’t hesitate to slap them in the face or grab them by the (expletive),” he wrote, using the phrase made notorious by President Donald Trump.

Though Lewis says he regretted the post and deleted it quickly, the outburst eventually resulted in a summons from the court: He is scheduled for arraignment on Wednesday, May 17, on one count of harassment, a class B misdemeanor, and three counts of electronic communications harassment, also a class B misdemeanor. If found guilty, under state sentencing guidelines he could face up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000 for each charge. (Editor’s Note: City prosecutors have since dismissed all four harassment charges against Lewis with prejudice, after he entered a “no contest” plea in abeyance to a disorderly conduct infraction.)

He described the post as a “momentary lapse in judgment” in an email to the Moab Sun News, but declined to comment further, stating that he is seeking legal advice.

Tallman was traveling out of state when the post went up, she said.

“I was in Arizona, and (friends) texted me and said, ‘Hey, this is over the top,'” Tallman said. “As soon as I did read it, it was pretty chilling. I called dispatch from Arizona to report it.” Her police report led to the charges from the Moab city prosecutor.

“I was actually called by a friend of mine who works at Seekhaven” – the local nonprofit that provides services for sexual assault survivors and domestic violence victims – “because he was concerned, as he should have been, about my well-being and safety,” Tallman added.

Miller said she was “appalled” and “stunned” when she first read the post.

“I was worried,” she said. “I was wary that I would be walking around town and somebody would recognize me … I felt exposed and vulnerable.”

Tallman pointed out that Lewis’ post mistakenly claimed she, Miller and Hedin attempted to have the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) issue a citation for the Ancient Art stunt. It was Bill Love who contacted BLM District Manager Lance Porter with that request.

“It was interesting that he only seemed to attack the women who commented on his activities,” Tallman said.

Online threats against women, Miller said, are too often dismissed by law enforcement authorities.

“These kind of things aren’t taken seriously, and women are expected to just let these things go,” she said. “I’m very grateful that law enforcement feels this is something that needs to be pursued.”

Hedin, former president of the climbing access advocacy group Friends of Indian Creek, was the only one of the three women who said she had spoken to Lewis since the publication of the article and his post.

“I don’t know him in a more in-depth manner, so it’s hard to know if he’s truly remorseful,” Hedin said. “He seems like it, to me, and I’ve been receptive to talking to him.”

But the post, she said, was “pretty inappropriate.”

“I felt threatened. And I’ve never felt that way in this town,” she said.

Though she believes Lewis sincerely wants to make amends, she also believes “the ball is in motion” in the courts. She hopes facing serious consequences might persuade Lewis to “listen to people” and think more carefully about his platform as an ambassador for the sport of climbing.

“I don’t seek ill will towards him. I don’t seek to have him punished severely. I just want to hopefully have him have a kind of epiphany,” Hedin said. “We all learn. We all make huge mistakes, and we all have to learn from those mistakes in some manner or other.”

Tallman was less interested in potential apologies or amends.

“Personally, I’m just waiting for the arraignment date. I’ve never met the guy; I don’t want to meet the guy,” she said. “I just know that he committed a crime against me and my friends and it was totally unacceptable. He needs to have his day in court.”

In a video posted to his Facebook profile the same day as his post directed at Miller, Tallman, and Hedin, Lewis apologized for his language and called his expletive-heavy posts and his “Sketchy Andy” nickname marketing devices used to build his personal brand. His profile is no longer publicly visible.

Lewis is not currently employed at Skydive Moab, where he had been working previously as an instructor, according to operations manager Sharney Perrow.

“He started this season with us,” Perrow said. “After his most recent public incident, we put him on probation. Now we’ve kind of just put it on hold. He’s currently not working for us.”

Local climbers’ controversy culminated in expletive-laden Facebook post

Since this article first appeared in the April 27-May 3, 2017 edition of the Moab Sun News, city prosecutors have dismissed all four misdemeanor harassment charges against slackliner Andy Lewis with prejudice. In late July, Lewis entered a “no contest” plea in abeyance to an infraction charge of disorderly conduct. In Utah, the conviction of a person who has entered a plea in abeyance will be expunged from a defendant’s court record, as long as that person follows the conditions of a plea agreement for a specified period of time.