Breckenridge attorney addresses backlash after hit-and-run sentencing
Laura Hamilton is on the road to recovery after she was left seriously injured in a hit-and-run accident. Found unconscious in a snow bank on the side of Airport Road the night of Dec. 26, 2014, she suffered a fractured vertebra, a fractured femur, a large gash on her leg and a major concussion. She has no memory of the incident.
As she worked to foot her mounting PT and medical bills, close friends and coworkers raised funds to assist in her recovery.
“I just want to thank the community and everyone involved that helped; people that didn’t even know me that helped,” Hamilton said. “I’m still recovering and will be for a long time, but it’s over, and I’m moving forward in a positive way.”
Less than a week after the accident, Breckenridge Police arrested 25-year old Hallie Schmitt after discovering debris at the site of the collision the matched her Toyota 4Runner Limited Edition V8, which had sustained damage to the front. She turned down a plea bargain last year but accepted a plea bargain in April, pleading guilty to leaving the scene of an accident causing serious bodily injury, a class-four felony.
Hamilton did not wish to comment on a recent sentencing, in which Fifth Judicial District Judge Mark Thompson sentenced Schmitt to six years of probation.
Fifth Judicial District Attorney Bruce Brown requested a sentence of six years in community corrections at the July 11 court hearing. He was not available for comment at the time of this story.
Schmitt’s defense attorney, Todd Barson, said Hamilton had received a substantial civil settlement. He was disturbed, however, by the public outcry after the sentencing.
“You’ve got a general citizenship that’s screaming for her head instead of grace,” Barson said. “They don’t understand. They’re only reading the headline the DA is putting out himself. It polarizes a tragic incident.”
Barson added that the only reason Schmitt pled guilty to the charge is because there is no requirement under the law to prove she was aware she was in the accident.
“She would have done anything to change places with Hamilton. She would have done anything she could to help,” he added. “This girl should have not gone to prison, should not have gone to community corrections. The judge sifted through the evidence and was strong enough to make the right decision in this case.”
TWO ACCIDENTS AND COUNTING
The crash was one of two hit-and-run accidents to take place within a one-year period. In March, Steven Gravatt was sentenced to six years in the Department of Corrections for vehicular homicide and arson after entering a guilty plea earlier this year. The accident took the life of Christina Martinez Hernandez, a 25-year-old Breckenridge resident, on Aug. 31, 2015.
“There was a much different sentence in that case,” Barson said. “There were different facts and evidence to support that sentence.”
The crash, which took place at the 600-block of Airport Road, was not far from where Hamilton was hit. Since both incidents, Breckenridge has added a flashing crosswalk in the area and improved some of the sidewalks along Airport Road.
According to a study conducted by the town’s public works department last September, 85 percent of cars were following the speed limit, set at 35 miles per hour. With two affordable housing developments within walking distance of the recreation center and the grocery store, the area will likely see more pedestrians in the future.
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