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Mistrial Declared In Summit County Snowboarder Avalanche Case

SUMMIT COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4)- Two snowboarders facing charges in Summit County for an avalanche they triggered last spring, will have to wait until June for their day in court. Evan Hannibal, 26, and Tyler DeWitt, 38, appeared in Summit County District Court Thursday for what was supposed to be day one of their trial, but only half of those summoned for jury duty appeared.

The case was declared a mistrial.

avalanche snowboarder
(credit: CBS)

"I'm disappointed for a lot of reasons," said Judge Edward Casias. "I'm disappointed for the parties not being able to address this the way they should have today. Both the People and Mr. Hannible and Mr. Dewitt were entitled to a jury trial of 6."

Jason Flores-Williams, attorney for the defendants said of the 40 summoned, around half were present for questioning.

"…and when we started questioning jurors about what they knew about the case, if they had any biases, it became pretty clear that we weren't going to be able to get 6 impartial jurors," said Flores-Williams.

(credit: CBS)

Judge Casias thanked those who did show up and had some words for those who didn't.

"It's an important case. Every case is important," he continued, "There are very few civic responsibilities we ask of you. Jury service and voting really are the two that we ask you to be engaged in with your community and some of the people that were summonsed chose not to and I will address that with them and probably the community at large."

The case is the first of its kind in Colorado- no one has ever faced criminal charges for triggering an avalanche and the outcome could have an impact on how slides are reported.

Hannibal and DeWitt were backcountry snowboarding on March 25 when they triggered an avalanche just above the west portal of the Eisenhower Tunnel.

"The avalanche put debris on the road that was over 400 feet wide and 20 feet deep," said Ethan Greene, Director of the Colorado Avalanche Information Center.

avalanche map
(credit: CBS)

The pair reported the slide to the CAIC and weeks later, handed over GoPro video to go along with the report — never realizing it would later be used to build a court case against them.

They now face a misdemeanor for reckless endangerment and have been ordered to pay $168,000 in restitution for damage caused.
The CAIC said it preferred not to be involved in the trial but has been summoned to testify.

"We're not doing things to try and put other people in harm's way and that has much less to do with this case than just a general value that we share," said Greene.

The trial has been rescheduled for June 7, 8, and 9.


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