Lawyer off case of man charged in police standoff |

Lawyer off case of man charged in police standoff

SWAT engages in a standoff at a home in Hot Sulphur Springs on Dec. 1. Stephen Branstetter, 41, was arrested following the standoff, during which he allegedly shot at officers.
Courtesy photo

The lawyer representing the Hot Sulphur Springs man involved in a police standoff last December has been allowed to withdraw from his former client’s cases.

In a Wednesday status conference for Stephen Brantstetter, 41, Judge Nicholas Catanzarite granted a motion to withdraw defense attorney Jacob Eppler from Branstetter’s cases after both men submitted requests to the court.

Branstetter faces a litany of charges related to multiple alleged incidents, and he has had trouble keeping a lawyer after he asked his initial public defender not to represent him.

In a previous status conference, Branstetter told the court that he felt he needed an attorney to be treated fairly in his cases.

However, in a letter to the court, Branstetter also wrote that he is no longer comfortable with Eppler and doesn’t trust him while still maintaining that he needs representation.

“I object to being forced to continue this court process without adequate counsel,” Branstetter wrote. “Regardless of my responsibility of our many disagreements, I am no longer willing to trust my defense to (Eppler’s) representation.”

A motion filed by Eppler adds that their communication isn’t productive because Branstetter doesn’t believe Eppler is competent and reacts with hostility to Eppler’s questions.

“These barriers to communication will render this attorney ineffective in representing the Defendant,” the motion reads. “This relationship is irretrievably broken.”

In addition to concerns about his representation, Branstetter again said that there is missing evidence he hasn’t received from the 14th Judicial District Attorney’s Office, including toxicology and gunshot residue reports.

Branstetter asserted that the DA’s office is intentionally withholding information to create bad blood between him and his attorneys.

However, James Hesson, from the DA’s office, told the court that prosecutors are still waiting to get those reports from the Grand County Sheriff’s Office and would upload them to the shared evidence website as soon as possible.

With the evidence addressed, Catanzarite granted the motion for Eppler to withdraw, telling Branstetter the court would appoint him another attorney.

Branstetter’s next status conference is set for March 8.

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