Alleged Aspen chairlift pusher found not guilty by reason of insanity

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ASPEN, Colo. — A 32-year-old man accused of pushing a snowboarder off a chairlift at Aspen Highlands has been found not guilty by reason of insanity.

Thomas Proesel was accused of assault and reckless endangerment. He entered his plea April 18 and Aspen District Judge Chris Seldin made the ruling Monday.

He found probable cause to charge Proesel with attempted first-degree assault, then heard testimony from a state psychologist, who interviewed Proesel and testified that he was insane when he pushed the snowboarder off the lift.

Dr. Charles Harrison with the Colorado Mental Health Institute in Pueblo diagnosed Proesel with schizophrenia and another psychotic disorder. Proesel had previously been diagnosed with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, Harrison said.

“It’s clear from (the psychologist’s) report that Mr. Proesel was, at the time of the incident, experiencing a mental state that rendered him incapable of forming the culpable mental state (to commit attempted first-degree assault),” Seldin said, according to the Aspen Times.

Proesel was ordered to report to the Colorado Mental Health Institute on Monday. Seldin allowed Proesel’s father to drive him to the facility. Proesel will be evaluated by officials at the institute and determine where he will be treated.

The Aspen Times previously reported that Proesel spent several weeks in a Grand Junction mental health facility to receive treatment for an undisclosed, but serious, illness. Proesel is from Chicago but had been living in Aspen, the newspaper reported.

Prosel was accused of pushing Seth Beckton off the Loge Peak lift on Jan. 17. Beckton posted about the incident on his Facebook page. Beckton said he fell face-first 20 to 25 feet but landed in a “large pocket of snow” and was not injured.

Beckton said he was pushed after making a comment to the effect of: “To get (chest) deep pow shots you just need to be on your edges.”

“I honestly thought I was dead,” Beckton told the newspaper. “Because I didn’t know where we were (within the lift path). It’s not cool to think anyone would do that.”