BARABOO — The former amusement park employee who dropped a 12-year-old girl 10 stories last summer from a thrill ride in Lake Delton has pleaded no contest to a lesser charge, ending the criminal case against him.
Charles Carnell, 34, was convicted Thursday of felony second-degree reckless injury by Judge James Evenson in an agreement with the Sauk County District Attorney's office.
Carnell was sentenced to pay $268 in court fees and must give a DNA sample. The charge's maximum penalty is 12½ years in prison and $25,000.
Carnell was initially charged with first-degree reckless injury, which has a maximum penalty of $100,000 and 25 years in prison.
Teagan Marti, now 13, of Parkland, Fla., suffered a broken spine and pelvis, swelling of her brain and organ lacerations on July 30 when she fell about 100 feet to the ground from the Terminal Velocity ride at Extreme World.
A state Department of Commerce investigation found Teagan was dropped before the cage in which she was riding reached the top and before a net was in proper position. Carnell told police the normal procedure called for him to exchange "all-clear" signals with a co-worker operating the air bag and net before dropping Teagan. However, Carnell said he "blanked out" on the procedure and did not look for the all-clear before releasing the girl's harness.
Carnell's attorney, Chris Van Wagner, said their is no "win-win" in such a tragic case, but its conclusion is a relief for all involved.
"Charles is relieved that it's over for the sake of Teagan Marti, so (her family) can focus on her recovery," he said. "He prays for her every day and continues to do so."
The prosecutor in the case, Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Harper, did not return calls to comment on the agreement.
Carnell wasn't ordered to pay any restitution because that had already been addressed with the settlement last fall of a civil lawsuit between Extreme World and the Marti family. Terms of that settlement were not disclosed.
Teagan returned to Florida in September to continue her rehabilitation, and by November had regained some mobility in her arms and legs.