Aspen chairlift pusher starts release process |

Aspen chairlift pusher starts release process

Jason Auslander
The Aspen Times

The former Aspen resident who threw a snowboarder off an Aspen Highlands chairlift in January 2016 has initiated a legal process that could lead to his release from the state psychiatric hospital, according to court documents.

Thomas Proesel, 34, was found not guilty of the assault on the snowboarder by reason of insanity and committed to the Colorado Mental Health Institute at Pueblo on July 27, 2016.

District Judge Chris Seldin made that determination after hearing a report from a state psychologist who interviewed Proesel and found that he was insane at the time of the incident. In February, Proesel filed a petition in Pitkin County District Court asking Seldin to appoint a public defender in the case and schedule a release evaluation, according to the petition.

“I am asking for the assistance of a lawyer to help me determine whether an independent medical examination or other examinations or evaluations should (be) requested, and for assistance in presenting these issues to the court,” Proesel’s petition states.

Proesel also requested a release hearing in front of a jury of six people to determine his eligibility for release.

On March 8, Seldin ordered CMHIP to evaluate Proesel’s readiness for release or conditional release by April 23. He also appointed the Public Defender’s Office to represent him, according to court documents.

On March 19, an official with the Colorado Office of Behavioral Health wrote a letter to Seldin reporting that CMHIP could not meet the April 23 deadline and requesting an eight-week extension, according to court documents. The report is now scheduled to be submitted to Seldin by June 18.

Proesel threw the 28-year-old snowboarder off the Loge Peak chairlift about 9:30 a.m. on Jan. 17, 2016 after the snowboarder made an innocuous comment. The snowboarder fell 20 to 25 feet but was not injured because he landed in a mound of newly fallen powder.

The incident occurred near the top of the lift and Proesel was able to ski away without being stopped. Pitkin County sheriff’s deputies later tracked him down and transported him to a psychiatric hospital in Grand Junction.

The CMHIP psychologist diagnosed Proesel with schizophrenia and another psychiatric disorder based on mania he’d exhibited for 10 years or so. At the time of the examination, Proesel had been undergoing psychiatric treatment for four months and was taking the maximum dose allowed of anti-psychotic medication, though it was not fully controlling his symptoms, the psychologist said.

That meant Proesel’s illness was resistant to medications and his prognosis was “poor,” the psychologist said.

Proesel lived in a Hunter Creek apartment in Aspen since 2012, though he was originally from the Chicago area.

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