Lawyer representing man charged in police standoff wants off case


The man involved in a police standoff last year in Hot Sulphur Springs continues to experience issues surrounding his defense.

In a status update for Stephen Branstetter, 41, defense attorney Jacob Eppler asked Judge Nicholas Catanzarite to be withdrawn from all of Branstetter’s cases due to challenges communicating his client.

“I am unable to communicate in a productive manner with Mr. Branstetter,” Eppler told the judge. “I don’t think I can be effective in my representation as a result.”

Branstetter acknowledged a strained relationship with his counsel, claiming it stems from the 14th Judicial District Attorney’s Office withholding discovery information, such as a toxicology report.

District Attorney Matt Karzen replied that he believed all discovery had been shared with Branstetter and his attorney, but Karzen said he would check again to ensure all the information was given to the defense.

“I will check with our admin staff to make sure everything we have has been sent to Mr. Eppler,” Karzen said.

But Eppler told the judge his communication issues with Branstetter extended beyond evidentiary concerns, but he didn’t elaborate on the problems in court.

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

Catanzarite was hesitant to allow Eppler to withdraw with the judge noting Branstetter’s right to representation. Despite the frustrated relationship between Branstetter and Eppler, Branstetter told the judge he still wanted his lawyer.

“At this time, I want representation because I haven’t been able to get discovery on my own,” Branstetter said.

Warning Branstetter the state had done its duty to get him an attorney, Catanzarite decided to allow Eppler to file the motion to withdraw for the court’s consideration.

Eppler is Branstetter’s second attorney after Branstetter had his court-appointed public defender withdrawn from his cases by citing poor representation.

“If Mr. Eppler is withdrawn from this case, there will not be another attorney appointed to represent you,” Catanzarite said.

Branstetter remains in the Grand County Jail on a $500,000 bond. He will return to court on Feb. 17.

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