Can you force a DA to file charges? Rare legal action tested in deadly bus crash

FORT COLLINS, Colo. (KDVR) — A rare legal motion filed in Larimer County seeks to compel prosecutors to file charges in a case in which the district attorney already determined charges aren’t warranted.

Jason Telleen died on Jan. 24 after a coworker ran over him while driving a bus at the Transfort maintenance facility in Fort Collins. Fort Collins Police, which investigated the workplace incident, recommended no charges be filed against the 63-year-old driver, and prosecutors agreed.

The victim’s mother is now leading an effort to change the decision.

“Justice has not been served because he killed my son in a totally avoidable accident,” said Patricia Telleen, mother of the 37-year-old victim.

She said dash camera video from inside the bus proves the driver was careless because it shows Jason Telleen on the bus tarmac for 8 seconds, walking into the driver’s view before he was killed.

“It is an absolute travesty of justice that this man ran over and killed my son with not even so much as a slap on the hand, no ticket, nothing,” Patricia Telleen said.

Family aims to override DA in court

She hired attorney Matthew Haltzman to file a “motion to compel prosecution,” a little-known legal tactic, which aims to convince a judge that the 8th Judicial District Attorney’s Office got it wrong when it declined to file a charge of careless driving resulting in death.

“Something needs to be done by the courts in order to override what the district attorney is trying to do here, which is sweep the case under the rug,” said Haltzman, who filed the motion under the little-known state law that allows citizens to second-guess the decisions of elected prosecutors.

“The legislature intended for citizens to be able to have a voice when they feel like prosecutors act in a way that is unreasonable and in a way that is really just, at the end of the day, random,” Haltzman said.

In a statement to the Problem Solvers, a spokesman for District Attorney Gordon McLaughlin wrote: “The DA will be responding to the motion to compel prosecution and we are unable to discuss any further details as the case is pending before the court.”

Fort Collins bus crash fatality footage screen shot
The death of 37-year-old Jason Telleen was caught on video from multiple angles. (Credit: Fort Collins)

Forensic analysis commissioned in deadly crash

Back in April, when FOX31 first reported on this story, the DA’s office said it was reasonable for the driver not to see Jason Telleen because he wasn’t wearing a reflective vest, the lighting was poor and investigators insisted the interior bus camera (stationed just above and behind the driver) didn’t accurately reflect what the driver could see.

But in his motion to compel prosecution, Haltzman leans heavily on a forensic analysis done by Accident Reconstruction Services, Inc., a firm hired by Haltzman to review the investigation into Jason Telleen’s death.

That report found LED lights attached to the bus barn created better-than-average lighting at night and additionally found the driver “would have a better viewing angle of Mr. Telleen than the video camera” and “likely had better eyesight than the technical capacity of the video camera to ‘see’ at night.”

“Yeah, there is a discrepancy, and the discrepancy is that the bus driver actually had better vision than what you’ll see on the camera,” Haltzman said.

The case has been assigned to Judge Katharine “Jenny” Ellison. Haltzman told FOX31 it’ll likely take several weeks before the judge decides if the motion has enough merit to hold a hearing on his request.

If the driver were to be charged with the misdemeanor count of careless driving resulting in death, he could face up to one year in jail.

See the original article here: https://kdvr.com/news/colorado/motion-to-compel-prosecution-larimer-transfort-bus-crash/

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