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Attorney says tossing of Schlitterbahn charges 'very rare'

Schlitterbahn KC to remove Verruckt from park
Posted at 4:25 PM, Feb 22, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-22 23:22:47-05

KANSAS CITY, Kan. — The Kansas Attorney General or Wyandotte County prosecutor can still try Schlitterbahn management, despite Friday's case dismissal by a Wyandotte County judge.

"It is something that happens very rarely,” criminal defense attorney Greg Watt said. Watt has no connections to the Schlitterbahn case. "There are allegations that you see from time to time, but as far as a judge overturning a grand jury indictment you rarely see that,” said Watt.

Caleb Schwab died on Verruckt, the world’s tallest water slide.

A grand jury found probably cause for negligence.

Friday, a judge dismissed the case, saying the Kansas Attorney General’s office abused the jury process.

The judge said the state improperly used evidence, including a video and witness testimony about an unrelated case.

Watt says those factors presented to the grand jury are important because it can easily sway an option.

"They can’t make a determination that is going to be an accurate determination if they have incorrect facts, or if they have exaggerated facts," Watt said. "I think you may be seeing that in this situation, the grand jury was provided information that wasn’t grounded in the absolute truth."

Attorney David Langston, who is not representing anyone involved in the case, said the prosecution likely presented too much evidence in hopes of securing indictments.

“The fact that (the case) received the publicity it did, I think the Attorney General’s Office wanted to make sure they gave it the gravity it was due,” he said. “I think they may have thought they presented evidence that was maybe not necessary, like the videos, but that certainly wouldn’t have derailed their case.”

Langston said the decision on Friday served as a win for the defense but the defendants shouldn’t rest easy yet.

“Most certainly they could still face criminal penalties,” he said. “The case is not over.”

Moving forward, Langston told 41 Action News that both sides would closely examine their evidence and strategies.

“When I look at the video as a coach on Monday morning, I want to see what did we do right and what did we do wrong,” he said. “Let’s see what led us to this, how did we get here and what do we do to improve on it so that we don’t get here again.”

While prosecutors can refile charges, Langston estimated that it could weeks or months before new charges get announced.

In a statement Friday, Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt said the decision doesn't mean his office is finished with the case.

“We are obviously disappointed and respectfully disagree with the court’s decision. We will review the ruling carefully, including the court’s observation that the ruling ‘does not preclude the possibility that the State could continue to pursue this matter in a criminal court,’ and take a fresh look at the evidence and applicable law in this tragic and troubling case to determine the best course forward.”