The video was allowed into evidence by the judge, but it was not sufficient to persuade a jury that the Aspen Skiing Company employee was guilty of charges of reckless endangerment and third-degree assault. Though the former SkiCo lift operator slammed into a 7-year-old boy during an off-duty snowboarding run last March, the jury returned not guilty verdicts for both charges.
Travis Lee Huffman, 22, of Pfafftown, N.C., declined to testify on his own behalf during the daylong trial. The jury took about 90 minutes to deliberate on Friday afternoon. It took longer than that to put a jury in place, due to the extensive media coverage pre-trial. At one point in open court, 9th Judicial District Judge Erin Fernandez-Ely expressed her displeasure with the Aspen Daily News and other media outlets over their pre-trial coverage.
Many potential jurors who arrived at the courthouse at 8 a.m. Friday morning were said to have read a newspaper story about a Thursday court hearing to determine whether a video of the incident could be shown at trial. The same article was discussed here regarding the admission of the video and defense attorney’s motion to dismiss the case.
Nedlin portrayed Huffman as a selfish risk-taker who ignored his SkiCo training and had no concern for the safety of others when he sought to “catch some air” by flying off a “blind roller” on the Green Cabin run at Snowmass ski area on March 12. Huffman crashed into a 7-year-old Brazilian boy who was learning to ski under the supervision of his father and uncle. The youngster was taken to Aspen Valley Hospital and treated for bruises, but survived the incident.
It would be interesting to know how much the video hurt the prosecution, as well as helping it. In the audio that accompanied the video, which jurors watched Friday afternoon, a man is heard to be shouting obscenities at Huffman: “F— you, motherf—er! I’m gonna kill you!” But no charges were filed against the father and uncle because there were no witnesses to the alleged action, and the injuries of which Huffman complained may have occurred in the actual collision. Huffman was charged because there was concrete evidence of the act, the father’s video recording.
In closing, Nedlin said Huffman made “a conscious choice to tuck himself off a blind roller. He wanted to hot dog a little bit.” But Rubinstein inferred that the young boy’s family was partly at fault for taking him to ski down a trail that wasn’t kid-friendly. In the end, the jury found the defendant’s version more credible.