‘Snowball’ trial dismissed
December 13, 2007
BRECKENRIDGE ” An Australian set to go to trial Thursday for throwing a snowball at a co-worker will fly home Friday a free man.
Summit County Court Judge Ed Casias agreed to dismiss the charges against Andrew Thistleton, 21, on Thursday morning based on a motion from the district attorney’s office requesting to drop the case in “the best interest of justice,” as long as Thistleton’s penned an apology letter to the alleged victim.
Thistleton, a college student who was a seasonal worker at Copper Mountain last winter, said he was overjoyed at the outcome.
“It’s a long time overdue, but I’m certainly happy with the result with the trial being dismissed. … It’s just a never-ending nightmare, but now it’s finally over,” Thistleton said during a press conference at the Summit County Justice Center.
Thistleton threw a snowball at co-worker Michelle Oehlert last February while she waited for a bus at Copper Mountain, which she told police caused her pain. As a result, police ticketed Thistleton for 3rd degree assault and harassment.
A second jury trial was scheduled to start Thursday to determine whether Thistleton was guilty or not.
Casias ruled a mistrial in the case last Friday after Oehlert testified that Thistleton sometimes brushed his hand against her behind ” allegations that had never been heard by the defense or the prosecution.
District Attorney Mark Hurlbert said the decision to drop the charges had nothing to do with the mistrial or Oehlert’s statements on the stand.
He said his office had been offering a plea bargain of a petty offense and a letter of apology to Thistleton’s attorney, Lisa Moses, the entire 10 months. If Moses had told prosecutors about Thistleton’s desire to get a student visa in the future, which would’ve been affected by a petty offense on his record, they would’ve dropped the charge long ago and settled with a just letter. Moses, however, cut off negotiations after the case began attracting media attention back in October, according to Hurlbert.
“It’s not about Mr. Thistleton. It’s not about the people of Summit County. It’s about (Moses) getting in the newspaper,” Hurlbert said.
Moses said she tried on two separate occasion to get the charges dropped and was appalled at the claim that such an offer was always on the table.
“I called (the district attorney) even before he had a copy of the file to say, ‘Look, you know, we’ve got a snowball, this has got to be silly. Look at this and give me call,'” Moses said.
In Hurlbert’s eyes, even though the case wasn’t a high priority for his office, it was never as simple as it sounded.
“This was about (Thistleton’s) intent,” Hurlbert said. “This was about a larger picture of bullying where he was putting her down. He got on the bus after he hit her … saying you need to go home, this was a larger picture.”
Thistleton denied trying to taunt or tease Oehlert and said he was only trying to include her.
“As a matter of fact at our work that’s what we did. It was part of the workplace. We threw snowballs at one another. It was a game,” Thistleton said.