Probation for third defendant in Skyline Parkway beating
By Tom Olsen
Duluth News Tribune
Both men struggling to fight back tears, Jason Carlsness looked Alan Lane in the eyes Friday in a Duluth courtroom and sobbed as he told Lane over and over how sorry he was for not doing more to help his severely beaten brother.
Jason Lane now requires near constant supervision as a result of the traumatic brain injury he suffered during the April 21, 2013, beating along Skyline Parkway.
“I know God knows, and the other people there know what happened. No one else knows the whole truth,” Carlsness said. “I held your brother in my arms. They left him for dead and I was screaming for them to go back. His head was like a bowl of Jell-O. I cleared his airway and I held him in my arms.”
But Carlsness did not call 911 or encourage the people he was with to take Lane to a hospital for medical treatment, and later destroyed evidence that could tie him to beating. For that, he pleaded guilty earlier this month to aiding an offender as an accomplice after the fact.
On Friday, Judge Heather Sweetland gave Carlsness a final chance to turn his life around. She stayed a 45-month prison sentence for seven years of probation and ordered that Carlsness seek treatment for chemical dependency and mental health issues.
In granting probation, Sweetland cited Carlsness’ genuine appearance of remorse and the fact that he voluntarily testified at a co-defendant’s jury trial in January.
“Of all the attorneys present, of all the people in the legal field, I don’t think we had ever seen that happen,” she said. “It took real guts and real courage to do that.”
Terms of the probation include serving one year at either the St. Louis County Jail or the Northeast Regional Corrections Center. He was immediately taken into custody after the hearing.
Carlsness also must remain law-abiding and abstain from the use of alcohol or mood-altering substances. Sweetland warned him that any violation would result in him being sent to prison.
“I’m concerned that if I send you to prison, you’ll get out and have the same issues,” the judge said. “I think supervision for you is a really good option.”
Carlsness, who did not know Lane before the night of the incident, testified that he was a passenger in a car with Lane when an argument broke out. The driver of the vehicle, Chad Siegel, pulled over at an overlook along Skyline, and then Lane was pulled from the vehicle and beaten.
The three defendants — Carlsness, Siegel and Terrance Yance — each told accounts that varied significantly, placing most of the blame on one another. Lane was initially left on the side of the road, but the men went back and picked him up. He was brought to two residences and cleaned up before he was finally taken to the hospital by other friends.
Carlsness testified at Siegel’s trial, saying he felt it was the “right thing to do,” even though he had the right to remain silent. He said he didn’t take part in Lane’s beating, but did regret not doing more to ensure Lane got timely medical treatment.
Prosecutor Kristen Swanson commended Carlsness for testifying and admitting to his role. But she said the fact of the matter remained that Lane’s injuries probably are more severe today because of the approximately four hours it took for him to receive treatment. Carlsness also destroyed the jacket he was wearing, hampering the law enforcement investigation, she said.
Swanson asked that Carlsness serve 45 months in prison, the top guideline sentence. She said he has been on probation for most of his adult life and has continuously racked up violations.
“When you’re facing prison, you need to walk the walk, and that’s not happening,” she said. “Complying with probation has not been a priority for him.”
Defense attorney Jill Eichenwald told the court that while Carlsness hasn’t been a “rock star” on probation, he has been going to treatment and remained sober. She cited a large support network of friends and family members in arguing that he would be particularly amenable to probation.
Eichenwald said his actions that night also speak to his character.
“He was in a situation where he had the ability to fight or flee, and he fled,” she said of the beating. “Does he wish he had made that call or stood up to those people? Of course he does in retrospect.”
Carlsness was the final defendant to be sentenced. Yance and Siegel are serving 14- and 16-year sentences, respectively, on first-degree assault convictions.