Summit County DA says Colorado AG is undermining prosecution of 2 avalanche suspects

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BRECKENRIDGE, Colo. (KDVR) — The Colorado Attorney General and the defense attorney for two snowboarders charged with causing an avalanche, have become legal bedfellows thanks to a new legal motion opposed by the Summit County District Attorney.

“It definitely would undermine this case,” said Heidi McCollum the DA for the 5th Judicial District which covers Summit, Lake, Clear Creek and Eagle Counties.

McCollum is referring to a motion filed Friday by Colorado AG Phil Weiser to quash testimony from two members of the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, Ethan Green and Jason Konigsberg.

“It definitely frustrates and impedes the people’s case and it definitely doesn’t have a good look about it if one state agency is sort of frustrating another state agency’s duty in prosecuting cases,” said McCollum.

Prosecutors have subpoenaed both Green and Konigsberg to testify at the trial of Evan Hannibal and Tyler DeWitt. The two snowboarders are charged with reckless endangerment for causing an avalanche on March 25, 2020.

GoPro video captured the moment the two snowboarders caused an avalanche over the Loop Road located just above the Eisenhower Tunnel on the west side of Interstate 70.

Defense attorney Jason Flores-Williams has contended it’s wrong for prosecutors to use GoPro video his clients provided to the CAIC, never thinking it would be used against them in a criminal case.

“The director of the CAIC cannot be in the business of working with law enforcement and testifying against people who in absolute good faith report avalanches,” said Flores-Williams.

The motion from Weiser states it “could have an unintended adverse chilling impact on the CAIC’s ability to gather important information from people involved in avalanches.”

“That’s one of many concerns,” said Ethan Greene, the executive director of the CAIC who acknowledged to FOX31 he asked the state AG to intervene on behalf  of his agency.

Greene told the Problem Solvers his office has never been involved in a criminal case and preferred prosecutors relied on experts from the private sector so that his office could continue to “Promote information sharing. It’s literally the middle name of our agency and anything that goes against information sharing is contrary to our mission.”

Flores-Williams said allowing the CAIC to be used by prosecutors might prevent people from reporting avalanches in the future. “They think to themselves hey we better not report this because if we report this to the CAIC they may actually use this information against us,” he said.

McCollum told FOX31 she doesn’t believe that’s the case. “Dare I say it’s a ‘the sky is falling’ type of reaction but I do think that’s an over-reaction. I don’t’ believe any individual in their own constitution who would otherwise report either a fire or an avalanche would now simply choose not to report it because they might be held criminally responsible,” she said.

Weiser’s office declined to comment to FOX31 but Flores-Williams complimented its motion. “What we’re really thankful for is that the Colorado attorney general has considered this thoughtfully and said okay these are the real life implications of what could happen unless we step in,” he said.

Judge Edward Jude Casias released an order Monday ordering a hearing be set to decide if the two CAIC employees have to testify or not.

The hearing is expected to happen soon because Hannibal and DeWitt are scheduled to go on trial at the end of this month.

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