’Boarder guilty plea
By Martin Reed
July 28, 2006
A Maryland snowboarder this week pleaded guilty to criminally negligent homicide for the 2005 death of a skier at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort.
Greg Doda, 18, entered his plea Tuesday for killing skier Heather Donahue when he collided with her while snowboarding down Laramie Bowl, according to court documents. The Shrewsbury, Mass., woman suffered serious injuries that resulted in her death the day after the Feb. 24, 2005, crash.
Through Jackson attorney Robert Horn, Doda filed a guilty plea without appearing in Jackson’s 9th Circuit Court. Instead, the filing includes a factual basis in which he admits to the misdemeanor charge's allegations, as well as a plea agreement stipulating there is no deal concerning sentencing.
Judge Timothy C. Day has been on leave this week from court and has not had reviewed the filing, which he could reject. But if the judge accepts the plea and agreement, a sentencing date will be set.
The charge carries a maximum penalty of one year in jail and a $2,000 fine.
Doda, in the filing, states the charge alleges he “failed to perceive a substantial risk of harm resulting from my conduct” and “I accept this conclusion.”
Doda also accepted law enforcement investigation reports as an “accurate description of the circumstances of the accident.” In charging documents, a crash investigation determined “with 95 percent confidence that the impact speed of the snowboarder was greater than 47 mph.”
Criminally negligent homicide accuses him of acting in a “gross deviation from the standard of care that a reasonable person would exercise,” according to court documents.
Doda “failed to perceive the substantial and unjustifiable risk that his determination to ride his snowboard straight down Laramie Bowl could and in fact did result in a deadly collision with another,” according to the charge.
Doda, of Crownsville, was 16 at the time of the crash that killed the 29-year-old Donahue.
County Attorney Steve Weichman filed the charge nearly a year after the crash based on a probe by Teton County Sheriff's Investigator Mike Carlson. The investigation involved dozens of interviews, witness statements, a crash analysis and review of video of the collision.
In an interview with sheriff’s investigators at Teton Village Clinic after the 11 a.m. collision, Doda said he rode his snowboard at a fast speed but “was not out of control” while coming down Laramie Bowl, according to court documents.
“Doda said he felt like he did not have any way of avoiding the collision between him and Donahue,” states Carlson’s affidavit of probable cause.
Witness statements summarized in Carlson’s affidavit described Doda traveling down Laramie Bowl at anywhere between 35 and 60 mph when he crashed into Donahue. Jackson Hole Scientific Investigations Inc. conducted studies resulting in a 40-page report outlining methods and conclusions for determining Doda’s speed.
The collision at the lower area of Laramie Bowl broke Doda's snowboard into two pieces. “The impact knocked Donahue out of her gloves, skis, poles, hat goggles, neck warmer and catapulted her about 25 feet down the hill,” Carlson wrote about an interview with Donahue's husband, who witnessed the crash.
Doda’s guilty plea states, in the crash, he “suffered a concussion and cannot recall the circumstances.”
But after reviewing law enforcement reports and consulting with Horn, he decided to pursue the guilty plea, according to the filing.
“I have considered with my lawyer the availability of defenses to this charge and have determined that it is in my interest to accept the accuracy of the reports and admit to the charge specified,” according to the document signed by Doda on July 21.
No other charges will result from the crash, according to the filing.