Teen in Aspen hit-and-run sentenced to 25 days in jail, two years of supervised probation
Plea deal comes after incident Dec. 21 in downtown where Basalt man was hit crossing Main Street
An 18-year-old Florida high school senior who pleaded guilty Monday to a hit-and-run felony charge as part of a plea agreement will begin a 25-day county jail sentence May 30.
“I hit Mr. (Dave) Rossi as he was crossing the street and then left the scene of the accident,” defendant Spencer Diamond told Pitkin County District Judge Chris Seldin of the December incident in downtown Aspen.
Diamond pleaded guilty to the Class 4 felony charge of leaving the scene of a Dec. 21 accident with serious bodily injury. A conviction carries a presumptive prison range of two to six years, but the plea agreement strayed from those guidelines given Diamond’s age and her admission of guilt and remorse, attorneys said. She also was not intoxicated at the time of the collision, according to prosecutor Don Nottingham.
Diamond agreed to supervised probation for the next two years as part of the agreement. She also must perform 120 hours of community service, which Diamond already is close to completing through her volunteer work at a soup kitchen in South Florida, according to her defense counsel, Kate Stimson of the Denver firm Stimson Stancil LaBranche Hubbard LLC.
The felony will be removed from Diamond’s record if she successfully completes her probation without any criminal citations or arrests. Diamond also pleaded guilty to careless driving causing injury relating to the December incident, and she entered a guilty plea to a careless driving charge related to a different incident in July.
Diamond sat next to her mother during the entire virtual arraignment hearing, which was held nearly five months after she drove a Range Rover into a Basalt man crossing East Main Street in front of the Aspen Police Department building. Victim Dave Rossi was alone crossing the street when the SUV struck him at approximately 11:52 p.m. Dec. 21, authorities said.
“Certainly the most aggravating part of this case is not Ms. Diamond’s driving, which was not the greatest,” said Nottingham, adding that “it’s the fact that she left the scene. She got out of her car, saw Mr. Rossi, and left the scene, which could be described as disgusting, abhorrent, really bad behavior, really dangerous behavior. Luckily this did happen in a populated area where there were other people there who did give Mr. Rossi the help that he needed.“
Rossi suffered head injuries and a broken pelvis, among other injuries.
“It caused really significant injuries to Mr. Rossi,” said Nottingham. “There was certainly concern that Mr. Rossi might die from those injuries. He had to be transported via helicopter (to Denver) … from Aspen to a more capable hospital for dealing with that level of trauma.”
Rossi’s attorney, Michael Fox, attended the hearing and did not object to the plea agreement. Diamond also will be ordered to pay restitution as part of the deal, though the amount has not yet been determined.
“Mr. Rossi is not here, and he does not wish to make a statement, and I don’t wish to make a statement,” Fox said.
Aspen police, aided by community tips and video footage that showed the green Land Rover that Diamond was driving, arrested Diamond the day after the accident at her mother and stepfather’s Aspen residence. Diamond has taken responsibility for what happened ever since police arrested her, Nottingham said.
“I would say from about that moment on, Ms. Diamond has done things just about as well as she can,” Nottingham said. “She admitted to what happened. Her mother and stepfather behaved appropriately with the appropriate amount of shock, I think, for finding out this had happened and not a desire to hide Ms. Diamond’s behavior.”
Diamond made a poor choice and panicked when she left the scene, Stimson said, noting it was dark outside and she did not see Rossi because of “how he was crossing.”
“Her driving was not compromised, but she did strike him,” Stimson said. “She did pull over. There were other people who attended and called 911. Then she made a bad decision of leaving. She’s a senior in high school, 18 years old, and she just made a bad decision.”
Diamond will graduate this month, after which she will begin her jail sentence. She plans to attend college in California this fall.
Diamond will need permission from California’s legal authorities to continue her supervised probation when she’s in school. Diamond plans to stay with her parents this summer and start college around fall. As part of her probation, she cannot consume alcohol or marijuana.
There was no evidence showing that Diamond was under the influence when she hit Rossi, Nottingham said.
“I’m convinced that Ms. Diamond was not intoxicated,” he said. “But I don’t think, necessarily, that she, as young person, has sustained from that sort of behavior, and I do have concerns in that regard, but the evidence on a whole indicates she was not intoxicated; she was simply an 18-year-old who panicked and did something really stupid. Stupid and dangerous, I should say, and left Mr. Rossi at the scene.”
In an Aspen Times article published in early January, Rossi said he harbored no ill will toward Diamond.
“He appears to be a remarkably forgiving person where someone might be angry and vindictive about this having happened to them,” Nottingham said.
Diamond also has demonstrated that she has learned a lesson, said Nottingham.
“I think that says something about Diamond, that she has agreed to that (going to jail), from the point of view that she recognizes that this is where she ends up if she continues to engage in behavior like this,” he said. “I expect her to complete this deferred-judgment sentence successfully.”
Likewise, Stimson said the sentence is appropriate.
“It does allow her to move on with her life and put this behind her, but it also recognizes the severity of what happened,” she said, noting what Rossi experienced “was horrible.”
Diamond is the daughter of Aspenite Sue Hostetler, who is married to billionaire William Wrigley Jr.
“In a case like this, knowing Ms. Diamond’s age and her socio-economic position, is that Ms. Diamond may think that she’s the sort of person that gets in less trouble than some others, doesn’t see herself in the same population as some of the folks who go before a district court judge,” Nottingham said. “And it’s important to my office, it’s important to me, that she recognizes that her behavior in the eyes of the law doesn’t depend on what car she’s driving or what college she’s going to or anything else. It depends on her culpability and her actions, and for that reason, Ms. Stimson and I have worked out a disposition … she should not a face a lifetime felony conviction.”
Diamond will get jail credit for the one day she already served at the time of her arrest. With good behavior, her sentence could be cut by 10 or 11 days, Nottingham said.