Colorado sources report that a mistrial was declared Friday, December 7, in the trial of Andrew Thistleton. Thistleton, an Australian, faces criminal assault charges due to an incident last season at Copper Mountain ski resort, where he and the victim then worked. Thistleton (and his mother) paid $6,000 to return to the U.S. and face trial, after Thistleton refused to plead guilty to a lesser charge. He seems to think he did nothing seriously wrong by hitting Michelle Oehlert with a snowball.
According to police reports, Oehlert said she was walking to the bus stop last February 4th when Thistleton and two other people began "taunting" her. Shortly thereafter she was hit in the back or side with a wintry object. (The two sides dispute whether the object was a fluffy "snowball" or the feared "iceball.") Oehlert does not claim that the ball itself was enough to hurt, but rather says it was painful because it happened to hit near her spleen, which had been lacerated the year before in a car accident. Thistleton denied the taunting but admitted to throwing the ball, and tried to apologize. But Oehlert is pressing charges.
In opening statements Thursday, the district attorney said that there was already bad blood between the two, who worked together at a ski-rental shop, and that this was the motive for the unprovoked "iceball" assault. He asked the jury to reject the defendant's position that the act was all in "good fun." (Is there a bad kind of fun? Well, maybe there is.) "It's not a joke to chuck an iceball at someone from behind who's not looking," he said. "This wasn't in good fun. This was malicious."
But this was not "chucking an iceball," said the defense attorney, it was a mere "lob of a snowball." Far from being an assault, she said, it was simply "playful action in the snow," apparently a legal term of art that translates to "goofing around.") She said wasting time on the case was "insane."
But the "playful action" defense was never tested. When Oehlert took the stand Friday morning, she brought up new allegations of harassment that neither side had heard before. The defense objected and Judge Ed Casias decided that he had to declare a mistrial. Seemingly determined to get a conviction, the state has decided to retry the case. Thistleton's mother was reportedly in tears at the prospect of another week in the U.S. with the assault case still unresolved. "This has been hanging over our heads for nine months now," she said. "I don't think we've slept a full night since this started."
Jury selection in the retrial is set for Thursday, December 13, at 8:30 a.m.
Link: Summit Daily News