Chairlift pusher to plead not guilty by insanity |

Chairlift pusher to plead not guilty by insanity

Jason Auslander
The Aspen Times
Thomas Proesel

A 32-year-old Aspen man who threw a snowboarder off a chairlift at Aspen Highlands in January will plead not guilty by reason of insanity to charges related to the incident, his lawyer said Monday.

Attorney Pamela Mackey of Denver said she wanted to travel to Tennessee, where Thomas Proesel is undergoing mental-health treatment, and arrange a Skype or phone hearing with the District Court during which he would enter the pleas to felony attempted assault and misdemeanor reckless endangerment.

Aspen prosecutor Andrea Bryan, however, said entering such a “significant plea,” which triggers many special rules, requires Proesel to be present in the courtroom. Mackey said that would be difficult because it would require a three-day drive for him to return to Colorado.

“It’s very dangerous for him (to leave),” she said. “His mental state is fragile at best. We can’t put him on a plane.”

Still, she said Proesel is “doing well in treatment.”

Bryan said her biggest concern is any possible appeals that might later arise out of the case and that she wants to “do everything by the book.”

District Judge Chris Seldin asked Mackey and Bryan to submit briefs on the issue, which he will decide on during a hearing April 18.

On Jan. 17, Proesel threw a 28-year-old local photographer and snowboarder off the Loge Peak chairlift near the top of the lift after the man made an innocuous comment about skiing versus snowboarding in powder. The photographer fell 20 to 25 feet, landed in a pile of fluffy snow and was not injured.

In other court news Monday

Two local men who have been in custody for months awaiting the results of psychiatric exams have both been found competent to stand trial, a district judge said Monday.

Nathaniel Work, 27, of Snowmass Village, has been at the Pitkin County Jail since August, when he was arrested for drowning his family’s cat at their home. A state psychiatrist found him competent, but said he must continue taking medication that keeps him stable and must avoid mind-altering drugs, Sedin said.

Seldin allowed Work to leave the jail Monday on a $5,000 personal-recognizance bond. Molly Owens, Work’s public defender, said his parents are working on getting him admitted to an in-patient mental-health treatment facility.

William Hallisey, 59, of Aspen Village, was arrested in October for allegedly breaking into one home in Old Snowmass and trying to break into another.

After Seldin cited the evaluation and found him competent, Owens, also Hallisey’s lawyer, asked the judge to release Hallisey on a personal-recognizance bond. She said the allegations against him were not dangerous or violent in nature, and that if he continues to be held in jail it is “because of his mental illness.”

Bryan disagreed with the characterization of those allegations, calling Hallisey’s acts “a home invasion” that was “terrifying to the victim and the community as a whole.” A woman and her daughter were home during the attempted break-in, police have said.

Bryan also noted that Hallisey was on felony probation for criminal trespassing — the same charges he was hit with for the October incidents — when he was arrested. His being in jail is the only environment where officials can be assured he takes his medication, she said.

Hallisey continually interrupted the proceedings Monday by yelling at Seldin and Bryan. Seldin denied the request to release Hallisey.