Actor Pierce Brosnan pleads guilty to violating Yellowstone rules against 'foot travel' in dangerous geothermal areas

 March 16, 2024

Irish-born Hollywood actor Pierce Brosnan, perhaps best known for his former role as the iconic "James Bond" British secret agent, was in some legal hot water on Thursday that stemmed from a visit he paid last year to Yellowstone National Park.

In a federal court hearing in Wyoming that he attended virtually, Brosnan pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor offense of "foot travel" in a restricted geothermal feature area of the park, for which he was fined $1,500, according to the New York Post.

Brosnan visited Yellowstone in November 2023 and later posted since-deleted photos of his trip to Instagram, including a picture of himself posing in an off-limits area on a snow-covered geothermal feature that was subsequently highlighted by a special account on the platform that focuses on calling out "moronic tourists" who violate the park's rules.

Pleaded guilty

According to a Justice Department press release, Brosnan, 70, pleaded guilty on Thursday to "foot travel in a thermal area" that stemmed from the picture he posted of himself on Instagram in an area where signs are posted "that warn visitors of the dangers of thermal features and state that visitors must remain on the designated boardwalks and trails."

Brosnan's guilty plea was accepted by U.S. Magistrate Judge Stephanie A. Hambrick, who sentenced the actor to pay a total of $1,540, which included a $500 fine and $1,000 for a community service payment to the Yellowstone Forever Geological Fund, plus a $30 court processing fee and $10 special assessment.

That sentence was substantially less than what federal prosecutors had initially sought -- a $5,000 fine and two years of probation plus a two-year ban from the park -- and that leniency from the judge was likely in response to the remorse Brosnan expressed for his actions during the hearing, according to Wyoming's Cowboy State Daily.

Brosnan, who initially pleaded not guilty in January, told the court he was "highly embarrassed and ashamed" by the "foolish, foolish, impulsive thing" he had done, and further claimed he'd been "so engrossed with the beauty of the landscape" that he hadn't noticed the warning signs against exiting the boardwalk. He added, "If I had known or seen that sign, I never would have done it."

Judge Hambrick ultimately accepted Brosnan's apology and the plea deal he reached with prosecutors, albeit with a more lenient sentence, and told the actor concerning his expressed remorse, "I’m sure you will not be doing this behavior again," and added, "I’m convinced you’ve learned your lesson."

Actor posts an apology and explanation on social media

Brosnan also issued a public apology on his Instagram account, and wrote, "As an environmentalist I have the utmost respect for and love of our natural world."

"However, I made an impulsive mistake -- one that I do not take lightly -- when entering a thermal area covered in snow in Yellowstone National Park to take a photograph," he continued. "I did not see a 'No Trespassing' sign posted that warned of danger nor did I hike in the immediate area."

"I deeply regret my transgression and offer my heartfelt apologies to all for trespassing in this sensitive area. Yellowstone and all our National Parks are to be cared for and preserved for all to enjoy," the actor added along with "#StayOnThePath."

Yellowstone's geothermal features are dangerous and deadly

The DOJ press release noted that the National Park Service "reminds Yellowstone visitors that the ground in thermal areas is fragile and thin, and scalding water is just below the surface. Therefore, trespassing on thermal features is dangerous and can harm delicate natural resources within the park. Additionally, the park was established primarily to protect these hydrothermal areas. NPS encourages visitors to exercise extreme caution around thermal features by staying on boardwalks and trails."

Indeed, the NPS website for Yellowstone specifically mentions the potential dangers of the park's numerous thermal features and formations and warns, "Water in hot springs can cause severe or fatal burns, and scalding water underlies most of the thin, breakable crust around hot springs."

As such, the rules are that everyone must stay on the "boardwalks and designated trails," children and pets are to be kept close, nobody is allowed to touch or throw things into thermals or their runoffs, possible toxic fumes are to be noted and avoided, and "swimming or soaking" in the hot springs is expressly forbidden, given that at least 20 people have died from severe burns -- and countless more seriously injured -- after entering or falling into the boilingly hot waters of the geothermal features.

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