Lipsey pleads, will spend 2 years on probation
Editor’s note: The charges discussed in this article were resolved with Joseph Lipsey IV pleading guilty in May 2020 to misdemeanor reckless endangerment and drug possession, and with Joseph Lipsey III and Shira Lipsey pleading guilty in July 2021 to one misdemeanor count each of providing alcohol to minors.
A former Aspen High School student admitted Tuesday to driving off a winding, two-lane country road at high speed a year and a half ago and seriously injuring four other teens inside his car.
Joseph Lipsey IV, 20, now must spend the next two years on probation, when he will have to remain sober and perform five hours of community service every week for almost a year.
“He needs to understand how really tragic this could have been,” said Deputy District Attorney Don Nottingham. “We’re lucky everyone is alive.”
Lipsey pleaded guilty Tuesday to felony vehicular assault in a virtual hearing held in a Pitkin County district courtroom that included only a newspaper reporter and the court clerk. His plea deal with the District Attorney’s Office also included guilty pleas to reckless endangerment and drug possession — both misdemeanors — and the stipulation that the felony conviction will be wiped from his record if he stays out of trouble for the next two years.
“I would like to say I really am truly sorry,” Lipsey said. “I regret what happened. It will be something I will grow from. I hope all of us, including myself, will learn from this.”
He said he hoped everyone involved in the accident could one day be friends again and that they are able to move on with their lives.
Lipsey’s plea to drug possession grew out of a second felony case filed against him two months after the car crash that accused him of allowing underage teens to drink and consume drugs in his family’s Aspen Highlands-area home. He was originally charged with felony contributing to the delinquency of a minor and a felony drug distribution count in connection with that case.
Lipsey’s parents, Shira and Joseph Lipsey III, also were charged with felony contributing to the delinquency of a minor and other misdemeanor charges in connection with the January 2019 incident that also involved their son. Those charges are still pending.
Nottingham said that of the two cases against the younger Lipsey, the crash Nov. 18 off of Maroon Creek Road near the T-Lazy 7 Ranch was, by far, the more serious.
“Without the vehicular assault, I would have been less concerned about him,” the prosecutor said.
The accident that late fall night was truly horrific, according to witness accounts and accident reports, and easily could have been a lasting community tragedy, Nottingham said.
A Colorado State Patrol investigator estimated that Lipsey’s 2017 Tesla X was traveling at about 75 mph when it missed a curve in the road. One of the teens inside the vehicle said she saw the car hit 97 mph before Lipsey made no effort to make the turn, according to a letter Nottingham read in court Tuesday.
The car then rotated and slid nearly 40 feet on the road before heading off the pavement for another approximately 30 feet before going airborne and flying off the road, according to the CSP report. The SUV struck a tree and headed more than 170 feet downhill, overturning twice in the process, before coming to rest on its wheels in Maroon Creek.
The teen who wrote the letter said the crash initially knocked her out, but that she woke up with icy water creeping up her legs and a girl crying behind her. She said she’s now blinded by lights, sometimes has trouble understanding people speaking normally and slept with her mother because of nightmares, Nottingham said.
“(The) lives of these kids were hugely affected and I hope that Mr. Lipsey would understand that behavior like this has consequences,” he said.
The girl who wrote the letter was present virtually during Tuesday’s proceedings but did not speak. Parents of other victims also listened in but did not speak.
Lipsey wrote a six-page letter to the victims that was included in the court file. In it, he addressed each of the four who were in the car that night and apologized profusely and repeatedly. His lawyer said he wrote it last summer.
“On a daily basis, I think about how the crash has impacted my friends’ lives,” he wrote. “I want to live the rest of my life making up for what happened.”
Nottingham noted that Lipsey — who said he was in the middle of his freshman year in college — won’t be able to act like a typical 20-year-old college student. While District Judge Chris Seldin allowed his probation to be transferred to Tennessee, Lipsey will be randomly tested for drugs and alcohol and must complete 250 hours of community service at five hours a week.
“It’s designed so he has to think about this every week for the next year,” said Greg Greer, Lipsey’s lawyer.
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