Man arrested in police standoff pleads guilty to assault

A man charged in connection with a police standoff pleaded guilty to reduced charges on Thursday in a deal that would cap his sentence at two years.

On Thursday, Stephen Branstetter, 41, pleaded guilty to second-degree assault and prohibited use of a weapon in Grand County District Court. Judge Mary Hoak tentatively accepted the plea, but indicated she could still reject it.

“I want to review the pre-sentence report before I decide whether or not I’m going to accept the plea,” Hoak said. “I want to look at Mr. Branstetter’s background and see whether or not I think it’s appropriate.”

Branstetter was originally facing charges of second-degree attempted murder and refusing to leave the premises upon the request of a peace officer following a Dec. 1 standoff where he allegedly refused to leave his home and fired two shots at law enforcement officers.

Branstetter’s plea deal would cap any incarceration time at two years, though it gives the judge sentencing discretion beyond that. Branstetter would also serve three years parole for an assault charge.

In response to Hoak’s hesitancy to accept the plea, 14th Judicial District Attorney Matt Karzen said Branstetter has no felony criminal history and will likely benefit from mental health treatment.

“Given the information that I have, both about the facts underlying (the case) and Mr. Branstetter’s history and circumstances, I felt a felony conviction for a serious crime and a weapons offense, coupled with giving the court the opportunity, if the court finds appropriate to send him to prison for up to two years, covered all of the bases,” Karzen said.

In addition to pleading guilty, Branstetter again asked the court to reduce his bond so that he could get out of the Grand County Jail. He is currently being held on a $500,000 bond.

Branstetter’s attorney Chad Oxman reiterated Branstetter’s strong ties to Hot Sulphur Springs, said Branstetter has a job awaiting him and needs to address financial matters as the primary reasons for the bond reduction.

However, Karzen again opposed lowering bond for public safety purposes and Hoak agreed.

Branstetter is scheduled for sentencing on July 22.

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