Aspen man charged with felony assault for pushing snowboarder off chairlift | SierraSun.com

Aspen man charged with felony assault for pushing snowboarder off chairlift

Jason Auslander
JAuslander@aspentimes.com

Thomas Proesel

ASPEN, Colo. — A 31-year-old Aspen man who threw a snowboarder off a chairlift at Aspen Highlands nearly a month ago was charged and arrested Thursday before appearing in District Court in Aspen.

Thomas Proesel — who has spent the last three weeks at a psychiatric hospital in Grand Junction — was charged with felony assault and misdemeanor reckless endangerment, according to court documents.

Proesel's father and uncle attended Thursday's advisement in District Court and were set to post a $10,000 bond at the Pitkin County Jail, then drive Proesel to a residential treatment facility in Tennessee.

Proesel is reportedly suffering from a serious mental illness. District Judge Chris Seldin ordered that Proesel never leave the presence of his father and uncle during the two or three days it will take to reach the Tennessee facility.

Aspen prosecutor Andrea Bryan and Pamela Mackey, Proesel's Denver-based attorney, previously agreed to those conditions, which will include regular updates on his status. Mackey said she will provide those updates.

The Tennessee facility has recommended Proesel undergo three to four months of residential treatment followed by another six months to one year of "supported residential treatment," according to an acceptance letter from the facility included in court documents. The facility will notify Mackey if Proesel leaves without court permission, documents state.

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If he is released from the facility, a long list of conditions will kick in, including that he live in Chicago, be tested weekly to make sure he's taking his medications and have a health care professional confirm three times a week that his "mental-health issues are controlled," according to court documents.

Bryan said after Thursday's court hearing that she will reassess the case depending on what happens in the future.

Proesel is originally from the Chicago area. It's unclear exactly how long he's lived in Aspen, though property records indicate he bought a one-bedroom Hunter Creek condominium in 2012 for $310,000.

Proesel was identified by video cameras at the bottom of Aspen Highlands as well as scanners that read his ski pass, according to police reports.

The incident on the Loge Peak Chairlift at Highlands occurred at about 9:30 a.m. on Jan. 17. Aspen photographer and snowboarder Seth Beckton told The Aspen Times he was riding up the lift with Proesel and another man, and didn't really say much to them until the end of the ride.

Beckton, 28, was sitting on the right, with Proesel in the middle and the other man on the left, according to police reports filed in court.

At that time they were talking about the 5 to 6 inches of snow on the ground, and Beckton said he commented that it's easier for skiers to get faceshots of powder than for snowboarders.

"To get tits deep pow shots you just need to be on your edges," Beckton quoted himself as saying in a Facebook post.

Near the top of the lift, "Beckton said he chuckled at something the male sitting directly next him said and the male asked, 'Are you laughing at me?'" Beckton replied that "maybe" he was.

"According to Beckton, the male then said to him, 'Well is this funny?' and then grabbed him and pulled/pushed him off the chairlift," a police report states.

Beckton fell 20 to 25 feet face-first off the lift and, fortunately for him, landed in a pocket of deep snow and wasn't injured. He said he tried to look for the man after the fall, but was unsuccessful. Beckton didn't report the fall until 3:45 p.m. later that day.

He later told the Times he regretted not reporting it sooner because the person could push someone else off a lift. He said he was traumatized at the time and wasn't thinking clearly, but he wasn't hurt, so he decided to enjoy the powder day.