SUMMIT COUNTY, Colo. (KDVR) — Two backcountry snowboarders accused of triggering an avalanche near the Eisenhower Tunnel are now fighting back with a first-of-its-kind court motion.
Evan Hannibal and Tyler DeWitt are being charged with a single misdemeanor count of reckless endangerment and are being asked to pay $168,000 in restitution for the slide last March.
However, the pair is claiming the Colorado Avalanche Information Center violated their Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights.
In a motion filed Wednesday in the Fifth Judicial District, attorney Jason Flores-Williams alleges the Go-Pro video being used by prosecutors as evidence should never have been handed over to Summit County prosecutors.
Flores-Williams says his clients gave the video to the CAIC in good faith, not knowing it was going to be used against them as evidence.
“He (Hannibal) believed he was just contributing to overall knowledge of avalanches. It’s now being used to prosecute. You got to tell them, ‘What we’re using could be used against you,'” Flores-Williams explained.
Flores-Williams believes what happens in the case could have implications that extend far beyond Colorado. He believes his clients are being made an example.
“This is absolutely ridiculous. We’re fighting this message being sent that going forward skiing and backcountry life might be criminalized. What we’re doing here is defending the backcountry and this has implications throughout the entire Mountain West,” he explained.
No one was injured by the avalanche. However, a service road used mostly by transportation workers ended up buried in about 20 feet of snow. An expensive piece of avalanche mitigation equipment was also destroyed.
Fifth Judicial District Attorney Bruce Brown plans to respond to the motion in court. However, he released this statement to FOX31:
“Information voluntarily surrendered without coercion enables prosecutors to use that information in court. I am unaware of any express or implied limitation that was placed on information obtained during the law enforcement investigation that would undermine that principal. It is important that every person charged with a crime have an opportunity to fully litigate all legal issues before a judge and have their guilt determined by an impartial jury of their peers.”
The Colorado Avalanche Information Center also tells FOX31 that the motion’s assertions “are neither grounded in fact nor warranted by existing law.” The CAIC goes on to say “many of the allegations regarding the CAIC and its (role) in this incident are clear mischaracterizations of the events the motion attempts to describe. It is also clear the motion does not reflect an understanding of the mission of the CAIC or its long-standing support of and coordination with the backcountry community, private sector avalanche safety groups, and other government agencies including local law enforcement. We hope the attorney’s legal tactics will not affect our ability to continue to promote public safety.”
A trial is scheduled for late March.