Off-roader calls court-ordered YouTube apology 'baloney'

By Laura McVicker, Columbian staff writer

Published:

Updated: July 28, 2010, 7:49 PM

 

A Camas man got busted for illegally off-roading and destroying state forest land. And to punish him, a judge sentenced him to make an apologetic YouTube video.

But now that the public-service announcement has gone live, Rickey Sharratt calls the whole thing “baloney.”

“It’s just a bunch of baloney,” he said. “I just thought that was an easier route to go” than jail work crew.

Sharratt, 29, also vented Wednesday about the trial that led him to reluctantly agree to the video, saying the prosecuting attorney excused all possible jurors who could have sided with him — those who like to four-wheel drive.

“The jurors were all a bunch of tree-hugging hippies,” he said.

After a six-member District Court jury found Sharratt guilty of the misdemeanor crime of destruction of state-owned property in May, a state Department of Natural Resources officer suggested the idea of filming the video as a way of getting its message out.

Clark County District Court Judge James Swanger agreed to the idea. He asked Sharratt whether he’d rather serve five days on work crew or take part in the video. Sharratt picked the video.

Sentenced May 28, Sharratt’s video went live on YouTube this month.

While the punishment is unusual, Swanger said Wednesday he thought it would benefit the defendant — and the public — the most.

“I thought it was probably more therapeutic for him,” Swanger explained. “If the word gets out about the problems with illegal off-roading, that’s a benefit to all of us.”

On Feb. 2, officials say Sharratt maneuvered his Chevrolet Blazer around a locked gate at a forest service road near Tukes Mountain east of Battle Ground, according to court documents. Next to the locked gate was a sign that said, “No motorized vehicles.”

However, Sharratt said he never tried to get around the gate but took back trails to the forest land instead.

After driving his truck through the mud and then getting it a stuck in the mud near a beaver pond, a logger noticed him trying to pull the Blazer out of the pond. The logger notified DNR workers, who responded and cited Sharratt.

Damage to the forest road was estimated at $2,140, according to court documents. Swanger ordered Sharratt to pay back $1,200.

In the YouTube video — which crested more than 700 page views by Wednesday afternoon — Sharratt first talks about the incident and his ensuing punishment before explaining how off-roading affects wildlife. He’s seated behind a table, reading from a piece of paper, as he addresses the camera. A heavy metal song is playing in the background in between takes, when the camera switches to pictures of his muddy truck.

He first says he thought it would be fun to off-road — then, the word “busted!” appears across the screen. He goes on to say he has since learned about the repercussions.

“I learned how off-roading damages habitat that fish and wildlife depend on,” he says. “The cost of illegal off-roading is pretty horrible.”

Prompted in the video to explain why he agreed to go public with his message, Sharratt explains, “To make others aware of the situation and how important it is to read the signs.”

At the end, a message says the video was ordered by a Clark County District Court judge.

The video is a first for DNR, said Larry Raedel, chief of law enforcement services. Officials have noticed a growing number of people posting videos on YouTube, showing them illegally off-roading on forest land. Officials thought they’d put a spin on that trend.

“This has been something that officers are all aware of. We’re paying attention to the social networking sites,” he said. “We really want to get the word out about what the rules are.”

Laura McVicker: 360-735-4516 or laura.mcvicker@columbian.com.