Andrew Maxwell is the first person to be charged in connection with a flying protest on Denali National Park’s highest mountain, according to officials from the Interior Department’s National Park Service (NPS).
The Park Service says Maxwell flew above a park helicopter landing area at 18,000 feet in an attempt to stop the aircraft’s descent on 2 May. At the time, he intended to broadcast the video for Facebook Live and catch a helicopter hovering above Denali’s peak.
In the days that followed, he began to broadcast his protest video, said Matthew Howe, a park spokesman.
The video showed a pilot rushing toward Maxwell, who had made a jump from the mountain, and the two exchanged heated words.
“Are you a fireman or a f****** paramedic?” the pilot can be heard yelling in the video. “Answer me!” Maxwell responds, using threatening and derogatory language.
“You want this?” the pilot replies. “You are on a mountain, with no access to anything. You’re out there by yourself and you just want to broadcast!”
Another soldier then runs onto the scene, and the video cuts out shortly afterward.
According to the criminal complaint, Maxwell requested the helicopter to lead a rescue mission on Denali to rescue “people who lost their way”, and that he meant to contact the crew. The pilot, named in the complaint only as John, noticed and overheard Maxwell’s initial plan, and replied that “all of the resources he needs” were in place. Maxwell did not use the name John in the video and a telephone call to Maxwell was unsuccessful.
The Park Service is also investigating a second person who participated in the protest.
Maxwell, 30, of Chestnut Creek, New York, is charged with one count of false report to summon a person to an emergency and one count of interference with FAA aircraft, says Andrew McGuire, a spokeswoman for the North Dakota US Attorney’s Office.
Since the video was first posted online, Maxwell has been questioned by the FBI, Park Service and FBI. He will be in federal court at 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday in Missoula, Montana. Maxwell’s lawyer, Jeffrey Toussaint, declined to comment on his client’s case.
Maxwell wasn’t charged with trespassing, which can carry up to a year in prison. The false report charge carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The interference charge, which would have applied if the helicopter was in danger of being struck, carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Yara Greenberg, Maxwell’s wife, told NBC News in an email that she had been notified about the charges but hadn’t yet seen a court document.
“I will follow this closely as this moves through the courts and can’t predict what will happen based on the facts in this case,” she wrote.
Maxwell recorded several other videos during the protest, officials said. He plans to continue posting these to Facebook.
“He will continue this type of action whether it is legal or not,” McGuire said.