Judge won’t reduce bond for man involved in police standoff
Appearing before the court via video from the Grand County Jail, Stephen Branstetter, 41, asked Judge Nicholas Catanzarite to release him on a personal recognizance bond so he could address his finances and hire a private attorney.
Branstetter, who is being held on a $500,000 bond, highlighted his deep community ties, dire financial straits and the medical concerns he said he developed in jail as reasons the judge should allow a personal recognizance bond. In a wavering voice, Branstetter told the judge he’s suffered greatly during his time in jail.
“I haven’t contracted COVID, but I have contracted a skin lesion and … I’m sitting on a donut because there’s a sore on my butt the size of a golf ball,” Branstetter said. “I would like to be able to be released and gather my finances so I can hire counsel.”
Branstetter was previously represented by a public defender but told the judge he didn’t have any confidence in his appointed lawyer and wanted to hire a private attorney. He argued that he was unable to hire a private attorney from jail without an idea of his finances.
“I have the right to have representation of my choosing,” he said. “I’m disappointed in and won’t accept representation by the public defender, who is playing my devil’s advocate.”
Both District Attorney Matt Karzen and Judge Catanzarite pushed back on Branstetter’s request. Karzen argued that despite Branstetter’s history in Grand County, he remains a threat to the community.
“My assessment is that he is currently consistently volatile and violent and cannot be trusted to follow court orders regarding firearms or the harassment of individuals,” Karzen said.
Catanzarite agreed, adding that Branstetter is able to hire a lawyer from jail, and if he can’t afford a private attorney, he can reapply for a public defender.
Finally, Catanzarite said he was done addressing Branstetter’s bond and told him to be prepared for his cases to move forward.
“I don’t think a personal recognizance bond is appropriate at this time, nor any reduction in bond,” Catanzarite said. “Your ability to obtain counsel while in custody is not significantly impaired as far as I’m concerned, and it’s certainly not a factor in releasing you or modifying the terms of your bond.”
Branstetter is scheduled to return to court Tuesday to address question about his representation.
Branstetter was arrested Dec. 1 on a charge of second-degree attempted murder and one count of refusing to leave the premises upon the request of a peace officer. In addition, Branstetter faces a felony menacing charge 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. No one was injured.
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Fifth Judicial District Attorney Heidi McCollum confirmed Monday, Oct. 18, that her office filed a single charge of felony menacing against the district’s Chief Judge Mark Thompson on Saturday, Oct. 16.