On day charges are dropped, Schlitterbahn co-owner’s attorney questions how case got this far

KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- On Friday a judge tossed out the case against Schlitterbahn's co-owner and employees accused in Caleb Schawb's death on Verruckt. One of their attorneys wondered aloud to FOX4 how charges were ever filed in the first place.

The surprising ruling pointed to "misleading evidence", and the judge ruled it affected the grand jury's decision to indict. Co-owner Jeff Henry's attorney, Carl Cornwell, said this case should never have seen a grand jury in the first place.

"I do not understand why the civil case was not enough," Cornwell told FOX4.

The attorney continued that had the circumstances been different, the case would not have gone this far.

"Now, and I did not at first, I do now believe if this had been a young white average, black average, Hispanic average kid... same thing, that this would have never been filed," Cornwell said.

When asked twice if he thought the case had to do with Caleb's dad Scott Schwab's political standing, Cornwell said it absolutely did not.

"I'm not saying his father had anything to do with it, not saying that at all," Cornwell said.

"It just, as I look at the case, with everything that was done, as I've looked at thousands and thousands of pages with great attorneys I was privileged to work with, I don't know why it was filed folks. I don't know who pushed this, why was it pushed, this makes no sense to me."

Ultimately, Judge Robert Burns decided the Travel Channel video, which prosecutors showed as evidence to a grand jury, gave a false impression about how the park operated. The judge also pointed to testimony about a 2013 death at a Schlitterbahn water park in Texas.

Judge Burns said that testimony was prejudicial and not relevant to this case.

"You were only smart enough to figure out what you were given, and they were given crap. And that is the kind of case they had. Judge Burns just flushed it," Cornwell said.

Former Kansas Attorney General Paul Morrison said he thinks from the very beginning prosecutors were in too deep.

"When they charged those men with second-degree murder, I always felt like that was bit of an over-reach honestly," he said. "Reckless second-degree murder is a very serious charge."

As for what happens next, the Wyandotte County District Attorney's Office can either take the evidence to a different grand jury, or file a criminal complaint and potentially go to trial.

As for the Kansas Attorney General's office, which prosecuted this case, Derek Schmidt declined interview requests. He did release this statement:

“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.”

Schlitterbahn released a statement saying they welcome today's decision and are thankful for the support and encouragement they received. The company says it doesn't have any announcement about when the park will reopen this spring.

Schlitterbahn/Verruckt Timeline:

The Schlitterbahn water park in Kansas City, Kan., opened in 2009.

The announcement for the building of the Verruckt occurred in 2012.

After multiple delays, Verruckt opened in July, 2014.

Court documents showed injuries occurred almost immediately after opening.

Caleb Schwab died in August 2016, 10 days after a brake-mat failed according to investigators.

The Schwab family reached a civil settlement in 2017.

Grand jurors handed up the criminal indictments in March of 2018.

Two maintenance workers charged in the case were acquitted last summer.

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