Judge again denies bond reduction to man charged in police standoff
A Hot Sulphur Springs man is on the brink of losing everything, his attorney shared during an impassioned, yet unsuccessful plea for a reduced bond in Grand County Court on Tuesday.
Defense attorney Chad Oxman is representing Stephen Branstetter, 41, who was arrested Dec. 1 following a standoff with police at his home. Branstetter is being held at the Grand County Jail on a half million dollar bond.
On Tuesday, Oxman told Judge Nicholas Catanzarite that Branstetter was requesting a reduced bond so that he could seek mental health treatment, see his son and address his imperiled finances.
“He is on the verge of losing everything he has built up over the years,” Oxman said as Branstetter began to cry. “He has a house that he can almost see from the jail. It’s a stone’s throw from the courthouse, and his house is about to go into foreclosure.”
Oxman requested the $520,000 in bonds from Branstetter’s two cases be reduced to $20,000. He described a safety net awaiting Branstetter outside jail that included family support, a job and weekly therapy.
“It appears that Mr. Branstetter has had some sort of epiphany because he has acknowledged to me that there were some mental health issues at play,” Oxman said. “Mr. Branstetter is screaming for help, Judge … He is really taking the onus upon himself to make positive change, but he can’t do that while he’s in the custody of the jail.”
Branstetter also asked the judge to allow him to return to work and his family. He also emphasized his love for his community.
“I want to focus on regaining control of my life and my mental health, which I know will greatly benefit from the reconnection with my child, and I can’t do that in here,” Branstetter said with his voice cracking. “I don’t see that there’s a path forward in this jail.”
In response, 14th Judicial District Attorney Matt Karzen commended Branstetter’s efforts but raised concerns about his risk to the community and public safety considering the charges against Branstetter.
Karzen acknowledged there were no great options in this situation as he lobbied the judge not to reduce Branstetter’s bond.
“Mr. Branstetter has demonstrated a history of volatility that I just don’t see how a bond reduction and release could work without too high of a risk that he would confront some triggering event that would cause him to move off the path he’s on and result in more violence,” Karzen said. “I find myself with no other option than to recommend against the bond reduction.”
Though Catanzarite was sympathetic to Branstetter’s plight, the judge ultimately agreed with Karzen that the risk was too high.
“It doesn’t give me any pleasure to see Mr. Branstetter sitting in jail for 127 days, but I really do have to take seriously the risk to community safety,” Catanzarite said. “Given that risk, it’s just too great to reduce bond in these cases at this point.”
Tuesday’s hearing was the second time Branstetter has been denied a bond reduction in these cases. Branstetter originally asked for a personal recognizance bond in January.
Branstetter faces charges of second-degree attempted murder and refusing to leave the premises upon the request of a peace officer from the standoff. In addition, Branstetter faces a felony charge of menacing from an alleged threat he made leading to a warrant for his arrest.
The standoff occurred when police went to Branstetter’s house to deliver the warrant on Dec. 1. During the incident, Branstetter allegedly refused to come outside and fired two shots at law enforcement offices. Branstetter eventually gave up and was arrested without anyone being injured.
He will be back in court for a preliminary hearing on May 3.
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