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Errant Snowboarders Guilty of Trespassing

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Two snowboarders who became lost this winter, triggering a massive search and rescue operation, were found guilty Thursday of knowingly leaving the boundaries of a ski resort, a misdemeanor trespassing charge that carries a maximum sentence of up to six months in jail and a fine of $10,000.

Claudio Maluje, 28, of North Hollywood and Patrick Jenks, 24, of Glendale are due back in court July 10 for sentencing.

“We won’t be asking the judge for jail time,” said Lonnie Felker, the deputy district attorney who prosecuted the pair. “But we will be asking for restitution of the $23,000 that it cost to rescue them.”

The February rescue endeavor at Snow Crest Ski Resort, about 30 miles north of Glendale, included 65 volunteer and police and fire department searchers, as well as a county helicopter. The effort lasted more than 24 hours and “was conducted during bad weather, with a potential for avalanches,” Felker said. “It was dangerous work.”

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Jenks did not attend Thursday’s proceedings before Los Angeles Municipal Judge Barbara Lee Burke. Maluje said the verdict was “unfair and wrong.”

“It’s a sham,” he said. “I can’t believe this,” adding that he had not decided whether to appeal.

“It’s been very draining, and unfortunately, it ended up wrong,” said James Jenks, the other defendant’s father.

Patrick Jenks, who is applying to become a Los Angeles police officer, spent Thursday at an LAPD training event, his father said, explaining why his son was not present for the reading of the verdict. Although the defense contended that bad weather and lack of boundary markers and warning signs at Snow Crest led the snowboarders to unknowingly leave the ski area, jurors said they rejected that claim quickly.

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“We felt that they did go out of bounds to look for fresh powder to ski on, and that’s breaking the law,” said juror Janice Ball, 48, of Altadena. “There were signs posted, and the trails were so that you couldn’t go out of bounds without knowing it.”

The jury deliberated less than three hours over two days.

The case was followed closely by Snow Crest and other ski facilities, said Roger Wallace, the Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy who managed the search effort and was a witness for the prosecution.

“Snow Crest is going to put warnings on ski lift tickets saying that skiers are liable for leaving the boundary areas,” he said.

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