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Attorney rejects plea agreement in Dells amusement park ride case

Attorney rejects plea agreement in Dells amusement park ride case

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The attorney for a man charged with recklessly dropping a girl 10 stories at a Lake Delton amusement park announced Monday they will not accept a plea agreement and he will argue the judge should dismiss the charges.

Wisconsin Dells resident Charles A. Carnell, 34, appeared in Sauk County Circuit Court with his defense attorney, Christopher T. Van Wagner of Madison, for a hearing to accept or reject the prosecutor's offer of a plea deal.

Sauk County District Attorney Patricia Barrett charged Carnell with felony first-degree reckless injury and showing, "utter disregard for human life" after an incident July 30 at the Extreme World amusement park in the village of Lake Delton. During the incident, 13-year-old Teagan Marti of Parkland, Fla., suffered severe injures after Carnell released her harness on the Terminal Velocity free fall ride without first checking the safety airbag and net were in place.

Van Wagner said they had not resolved the case in confidential negotiations with the DA's office and asked to move to the next step, a preliminary hearing. During the hearing, Barrett must present testimony that convinces the judge there is enough evidence of a felony to take the case to trial.

Within the week, Van Wagner said he will also file a motion to have the criminal charges dismissed.

According to the criminal complaint, Carnell told a Lake Delton police officer normal procedure called for him to check with a co-worker operating the net and airbag before dropping Terminal Velocity jumpers from a cage suspended high over the ground. He failed to do so in Marti's case and the net and bag were not ready.

"He stated he totally blanked it out," the criminal complaint states. "He said he didn't know why."

When Carnell was charged in August Van Wagner argued Marti's fall was a horrific accident, but not something that justifies criminal charges.

"He feels devastated, he fells absolutely horrible," Van Wagner told a crowd of reporters after the Aug. 18 initial appearance.

"I don't know how you can't be shocked," Van Wagner said. "You have an accident, you don't do anything criminally wrong and they issue a felony charge and they arrest you."

While he is disputing whether the criminal charges against Carnell are justified, Van Wagner told Judge James Evenson he will formally acknowledge the seriousness of Marti's injuries, called a stipulation.

Marti had to undergo surgery at American Family Children's Hospital in Madison and was in critical condition for a time.

At the scene police found the girl's "skin was gray and her lips were blue. There was blood coming from her mouth, ears and nose," according to the complaint

Her doctors told police investigators she suffered injuries including swelling of the brain; several severe spinal fractures; multiple pelvis fractures; and lacerations to her liver, spleen, intestines and duodenum.

Last week Marti left a Miami hospital to go home, according to news reports. She still can't walk and requires a wheelchair to get around.

Judge Evenson said he will review Van Wagner's motion to dismiss the case and also accept written arguments from Barrett on the issue. He expected to rule on dismissal before the preliminary hearing, set for Dec. 3.

If he were convicted, Carnell faces a maximum penalty of 25 years in prison and a $100,000 fine.

When he appeared in court Monday Carnell was accompanied by a large crowd of friends and family. He is free after posting a $1,000 cash bond.


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