An 18-year-old woman accused of shoving her 16-year-old friend off the Moulton Falls bridge in August was arraigned on a criminal charge of reckless endangerment this morning in Clark County District Court.
Tay’Lor Smith entered a not-guilty plea to the charge, a gross misdemeanor, which carries a maximum penalty of up to a year in jail and/or a $5,000 fine. The information listing the charge says she engaged “in conduct which did create a substantial risk of death or serious physical injury to another person.”
Smith is accused of pushing Jordan Holgerson of Kalama off the bridge at Moulton Falls Regional Park after the girl planned to voluntarily jump off but hesitated.
Holgerson was standing on the edge of the bridge when she was pushed and fell more than 50 feet into the East Fork of the Lewis River. She belly-flopped into the water and broke as many as six ribs and punctured both of her lungs in the fall.
During a press conference at PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center in Vancouver, where Holgerson was recovering right after the incident, a trauma surgeon said it may take months for the teen to fully heal.
A 10-second video clip of the Aug. 7 incident, captured by a cellphone, went viral online, drawing national attention to the case and calls for Smith’s prosecution. The Clark County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office opted to pursue a charge of reckless endangerment about 1½ weeks later.
Smith appeared on “Good Morning America” the same day the prosecutor’s office decided to pursue the charge. In the interview, she said she didn’t consider the repercussions of her actions beforehand.
Her arraignment Friday morning drew a large crowd to Judge Darvin J. Zimmerman’s courtroom. The group included family of Smith, as well as Holgerson and a contingent of her supporters.
Zimmerman asked Smith if she already hired an attorney. She said no, and after being screened, was granted court-appointed counsel. The screening process for a lawyer took about 10 minutes.
Smith started to make her way back into the courtroom but turned around and went out in the hall. As she navigated through the crowd around the door, she said, “I feel like I’m going to pass out.” Her attorney, Nathan Pliska with Vancouver Defenders, took her into a side room to talk.
The scene in and outside of the courtroom was chaotic. Multiple media outlets were present, including several Portland TV stations.
When her hearing resumed, the judge granted Smith supervised release. She is not to have contact with Holgerson and cannot leave the area except to attend school in Lane County, Ore. Deputy Prosecutor Laurel Smith, no relation, said Tay’Lor Smith has no known criminal history. She will be back in court Dec. 4
Smith made a quick exit from the Clark County Courthouse after her hearing and walked next door to the sheriff’s office with her attorney.
According to an affidavit of probable cause filed in support of the charge, Holgerson, Smith and several friends drove to Moulton Falls park on the day of the incident. While there, Holgerson said she watched a friend jump from the bridge and wanted to try it herself. However, once at the top, she had second thoughts about jumping.
The court document details the fall as seen in the cellphone video, which begins with Holgerson standing on the edge of the bridge.
“While standing on the edge (Tay’Lor) Smith can be seen reaching over the bridge railing and shoving Jordan Holgerson off of the bridge and into the river,” the affidavit says.
Holgerson reportedly told Clark County sheriff’s deputies in an interview that Smith pushed her, and the push was unwanted. During Smith’s interview with law enforcement, she admitted to pushing Holgerson but added, “She did so in an attempt to help (Holgerson) overcome her fear and not to injure her,” court records state.