Kristin Bantle visits her supporters after her Aug. 12 court hearing at the Routt County Justice Center.

Matt Stensland/ file photo

Matt Stensland/ file photo

Kristin Bantle visits her supporters after her Aug. 12 court hearing at the Routt County Justice Center.

Court procedure in Bantle case called into question

Advertisement

A Steamboat Springs attorney on Thursday discussed why a preliminary hearing might have favored the former Steamboat Springs Police Department officer charged with a felony.

photo

Kristin Bantle

Kris Hammond has had several clients who have been charged with felony attempt to influence a public servant, the same crime that Kristin Bantle has been charged with by the Routt County District Attorney's Office.

"I don't know of one case where this charge has made it past halftime at a trial," Hammond said.

According to the charge and court documents, Bantle was charged with the Class 4 felony for providing false information related to drug use on an employment application submitted to the Sheriff's Office in 2013.

According to Colorado Revised Statutes, the definition of the attempt to influence a public servant charge is, “any person who attempts to influence any public servant by means of deceit or by threat of violence or economic reprisal against any person or property, with the intent thereby to alter or affect the public servant's decision, vote, opinion, or action concerning any matter which is to be considered or performed by him or the agency or body of which he is a member.”

"It's bribing a public official," Hammond said.

The definition of the charge is broad, and prosecutors locally have tried to apply it in several ways.

In one case, Hammond said he had a client who was charged with attempt to influence a public servant because of threats his client made to a police officer. Hammond said the prosecutor's reasoning was that by making the threat while in custody, the client was trying to get the officer to set him free.

"The judges are saying 'no, that's not what this charge is,'" Hammond said. "It's just a misuse of the charge. That's what I think, and that's what the judges think too."

Hammond said that by holding a preliminary hearing, a defense attorney can get the issue before a judge early in the process with the hope that the judge will dismiss the charge.

Procedure called into question

A preliminary hearing for Bantle was scheduled for Wednesday but ultimately did not happen, and the case was set for trial.

It was disappointing for Bantle as well as her attorney, Matt Tjosvold.

According to state laws, people charged with a Class 4, 5 or 6 felony are only entitled to a preliminary hearing if they are in custody. Because of that, prosecutors initially objected to holding the hearing. The case was then moved from county court to district court. The prosecution then changed its mind about allowing the hearing, and Hill, a district court judge, scheduled the hearing, which is rarely held in district court.

On Monday, Hill wrote in an order that the court should not have granted a preliminary hearing in the “absence of some sort of factual inquiry.” She ordered the prosecution to file "some sort of factual basis for the charge immediately."

The prosecution submitted a report prepared by the District Attorney Office's investigator, and then Hill ruled there was probable cause for prosecution. She stated Bantle was not entitled to a preliminary hearing.

In a motion submitted to the court, Tjosvold asked Hill to reconsider. Tjosvold wrote that he and Bantle expended substantial resources preparing for the hearing, and Tjosvold took issue with Hill making a decision based on the report supplied by the prosecution.

"The court's review of a hearsay document, without the constitutionally protected benefit of defendant's right to confront witnesses, without the procedural benefit of an open and public hearing on the issue, without the procedural benefit of argument from counsel is inappropriate," Tjosvold wrote.

Tjosvold wrote that Hill had no authority to make a probable cause determination while reviewing the prosecution-supplied report in her chambers.

"The court's decision to vacate the preliminary hearing in this matter less than 24 hours before it was scheduled to commence — without the request of either party, and in the manner performed — was not supported in law and was inappropriate," Tjosvold wrote.

Hill denied Tjosvold's request for Hill to reconsider denying the preliminary hearing.

During the time allotted for the preliminary hearing Wednesday, Bantle pleaded not guilty, and a three-day jury trial was scheduled to begin Dec. 1.

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247, email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @SBTStensland

Comments

Peter Arnold 1 year ago

The tactic of charging officer Bantle was just another attempt to intimidate her into resigning from her position and going away quietly. What the prosecutor, the sheriff, and everyone else involved has failed to realize is that this is only going to get costlier for the taxpayer as time goes by. Call your county commissioner, call the judge, call anyone and end this frivolous pursuit of intimidation and mockery of the justice system.

1

Peter Arnold 1 year ago

In an attempt to really give the public a clearer picture of just what Kristin Bantle did to help clean house at the SSPD, I will post the letter she wrote to the city council shortly after former detective Dave Kleiber sent his letter detailing rampant sexism within the SSPD along with a hostile work environment which bred years of low morale and employee turnover. The letter that Dave sent in and Kristin Bantle's corroboration of the problems with the two top commanders in the SSPD led to the investigation being conducted and now four people being removed from their positions both willingly or by generous severance. In return information from an interview conducted by Sheriff Wiggins was turned over to the prosecutor who has run with what many will see as a malicious attempt to ruin this gal's life. Well, mission accomplished Garrett. Great job Brett Barkey. I hope you enjoy your $80,000 in hush money Deb. And Tony, I don't know what to say to you. You are an attorney and your job is to uphold the law and you failed to defend the civil rights of my friend. Kristin Bantle should have been protected in this house cleaning and in the end it has cost more taxpayer dollars because just a few people were unwilling to take a stand for what is right. This city deserves better than to be lied to and told to look the other way while you all whitewash this sad state affairs. In the end the charges will be dismissed, Kristin Bantle will spend thousands to clear her name, and you can have your revenge for her taking down a little piece of the good old boys club. Every last one of you who sits in silence and has failed to come to the defense of this woman should be ashamed.

The next few posts will be the letter Kristin Bantle sent to the city council after her private meeting with Deb and Tony when asked to testify regarding one the numerous excessive force lawsuits being brought against the SSPD. She asked for whistle blower status during this meeting and instead was eventually reassigned to patrol from the school resource officer position and subsequently suspended and fired for what in the end could have been handled internally. Let me remind you the order of things here once again. Kleiber letter delivered to city council, Bantle confirms much of what is in letter regarding hostile and sexist work environment, investigation ensues, Chief Rae resigns, Deputy Chief Delvalle resigns, City Manager is fired with large severance of $80K, and now the city attorney, Tony Lettunich, has resigned. Along the way Kristin Bantle's career as the token woman in the SSPD is shattered along with her possible future in law enforcement because of a group of vindictive men.

0

Peter Arnold 1 year ago

Kristin Bantle's letter to the city council dated 3/25/15

Steamboat Springs City Council,

I have been a police officer for over 16 years and have spent the last four years of my career at the Steamboat Springs Police Department(SSPD).  Being a police officer is a very difficult and at times very rewarding job.  I can proudly say that I have saved lives and risked my own during my tenure.   I have seen and witnessed far more horrific things than is healthy to talk about.   I have been threatened and cursed at by someone I am trying to help and spit on and kicked while arresting someone that has harmed others.  I have interviewed young victims of unspeakable abuse and hugged a sobbing mother while notifying her that her child has died.  The environment which police officers work in can be very scary and hostile at times and I accept that reality, but what I do not accept is working for a leadership structure that creates a work environment that is verbally abusive, disrespectful, discriminatory, and does not put people and safety first.

I first sensed something was wrong at the SSPD when two officers were dismissed from duty at my first staff meeting. This was a red flag for me because at my interview the now Chief of Police told me turnover was very rare. Since then we have lost almost 15 officers to turnover for one reason or another. (“The number one internal factor affecting an employee’s decision to stay or leave a job is the relationship he or she has with his or her immediate supervisor. One of the greatest crises facing law enforcement agencies in the near future is the failure to develop leadership potential of officers throughout the entire organization.” Dwayne Orrick Best Practices Guide for Recruitment, Retention, and Turnover of Law Enforcement Personnel). I have not yet worked at the SSPD fully staffed.

0

Peter Arnold 1 year ago

At my former department I had earned the rank of Sergeant and was responsible for the supervision of several officers that we call the “crew”. The crews were assigned to the Sergeants based on age and experience in an effort to improve safety, public service and mentoring for newer officers. Day or night shift, I was required to work with my crew as a team and subsequently I evaluated the people I worked with. The SSPD does not have crews. The SSPD does not require supervisors to work nights. The SSPD does not even require the supervisor to work with the officers they are evaluating. At times it has been difficult to know who is my supervisor is and this creates frustration and discontentment. (“People do not leave jobs, they leave managers.” Beverly Kaye and Sharon Jordon-Evans, Love’em or Lose’em Getting Good People to Stay). The most concerning scheduling issue to me is that at one of the most potentially dangerous times for officers, midnight to 4am, often no supervisors or senior officers are on duty to train, defuse situations, and mentor new officers. When asked why we schedule the way we do, I was told “that’s the way we’ve always done it.” In a department with high turnover this scheduling practice is dangerous to officers and citizens and should be viewed as a reckless management style.

Another red flag that came up was the lack of technology. I started my career in one of the poorest counties in the state of Michigan and remember opening the trunk of my patrol car and inserting a VHS tape into the recorder for my dash cam. With the wealth at hand in Steamboat, it was clear to me that the leadership of the SSPD had made a conscious decision to not provide their officers with one of the most important safety and prosecutorial tools I have ever used. This was confirmed while attending a staff meeting that the Chief said “over my dead body will we have cameras”. I will defer to Deb Hinsvark to explain why we now have cameras. The other major technological deficit was the lack of computers in the patrol cars. To be fair, computers were in the process of being fitted to the cars at the time of my arrival at the SSPD, but this was only after they had become commonplace for a decade throughout the country.

0

Peter Arnold 1 year ago

One of my first trainings at the SSPD was something called Krav Maga. As an officer trained in years of defense tactics as well as a self defense instructor using PPCT techniques, (pressure point control techniques), I was uncomfortable with the level of force I was being trained in. I talked to my trainer about my concerns, specifically about the level of force I was being encouraged to use. For example, I was advised to “make a fist to punch people in the face” as a means of control. I have never struck someone in the face, let alone made a fist to punch people. I have never felt the need to be so aggressive. This tactic is also referred to as “strike first and strike hard”. After the training my knuckles were left bruised and bloodied. I suggested to the now Chief about incorporating PPCT techniques but was dismissed. Even after four excessive force lawsuits the department as a whole has not received de-escalation training.

I largely attribute these lawsuits to:

  1. The departments’ emphasis on the use of physical violence training and no de-escalation training.
  2. The lack of consistent supervision and mentoring, (inexperienced and poorly trained officers).
  3. The lack of cameras (everyone acts different if they know they are being filmed)
  4. Leadership that breeds an “Us against them” ethos.
0

Peter Arnold 1 year ago

The lack of transparency within the SSPD is a common theme. I have applied several times for promotions at the SSPD. I believe my experience, education, and skill set are an ideal match for the SSPD to leverage my assets to make the police department more productive. I tested and interviewed several times and was determined by the leadership not to be the most qualified candidate. Each time I was given little or no feedback and was never shown the results of the process, therefore never given an opportunity to improve on my weaknesses and ultimately improve the department as a whole. After some frustration, I began questioning my way up the chain of command to learn more about my deficiencies. I received useless feedback from my Sergeant and Captain so I questioned the Chief Deputy. The Chief Deputy told me two things, he could not show me my written test score because the test and results had to be sent back to the testing company and that I did not do well on my oral interview. I asked if my testing matrix was retained in my file and was told we do not use a matrix and nothing was in my file. After that meeting I contacted a citizen that sat in on the oral interview and he informed me, I did great. Next was the Chief, upon questioning him about the process, including the lack of a matrix, he told me the promotional process was ultimately up to him to subjectively select the candidate he believed would be the best fit. Through my follow up I have concluded the Chief Deputy lied to me about not having the test scores in an effort to hide the results and the department discriminated against me based on my gender. I have since been moved to the position of School Resource Officer (SRO) and that process did have a matrix involved. I will once again defer to Deb Hinsvark to shed light on what caused the change in procedure. In addition to this promotional process that appeared to be cloaked in secrecy, predetermined outcomes and ripe with liability, I was told the department’s policy of keeping positive feedback letters from citizens, collaborators, and other organization in a special personnel file had been discontinued. The SSPD does not only not keep positive letters about the staff, they even fail to notify those commended that a letter even existed.

0

Peter Arnold 1 year ago

A culture of fear and intimidation rules over the SSPD and is surrounded by inconsistency, chosen favorites and contempt for outsiders. This starts with the Chief and is pushed down through the ranks. I have sat at many staff meetings listening to profane shouting and rants about one issue or another. I have witnessed the Chief break down, unable to speak, because he was incapable of controlling his emotions. I have listened to field training officers demean and belittle new hires that they are charged with building up and instilling confidence. The tone from the Chief is “it’s us against them” and if you don’t agree with him on an issue than “it’s him against you”. I have sat in community meetings and heard sexist remarks made by the SSPD leadership. I have talked with officers in training that were afraid to go to the restroom because their field training officer told her she took too long. I have spoken with community leaders that avoid the SSPD leadership because of the dismissive and condescending tone they have encountered.

I believe the citizens of our community, the employees of your City and visitors to the Yampa Valley deserve the best we have to offer. I have witnessed many people harmed over the past several years as a result of the actions or inactions of the leadership of SSPD. Not only have the taxpayers been financially burdened with lawsuits and turnover. Many of the young men and women that trust the City of Steamboat Springs to provide them with a safe, healthy and positive work environment have been betrayed. I am embarrassed that people have been emotionally abused and physically assaulted by Police Officers because of a violent and paranoid ethos cast down through the chain of command. Allowing people with power to wield that power unchecked can have long lasting devastating consequences and our community will pay the price well into the future. Law enforcement should be about safety and accountability. For the safety of our community it is time to hold those responsible accountable.

0

Peter Arnold 1 year ago

I respectfully request a fair and unbiased investigation of the management practices and conduct of Joel Rae and Bob DelValle. Given the fact that Joel Rae and Bob DelValle have created the hostile work environment at the SSPD, I believe the Chief and the Deputy Chief should be immediately relieved of their duties until the investigation is complete.

I realize that some issues and details might have been left out, but this process is nerve wracking and exhausting for me. I wish you all the best in dealing with this mess and I am at your service when ever needed.

With all that being said, I still love my job and my community and I am proud of the people I work with and damn proud of the job I do!

Respectfully,

Officer Kristin Bantle Steamboat Springs Police Department (SRO) 3/25/2015

0

Peter Arnold 1 year ago

And here we are still allowing men with power to wield it unchecked in the courts no less. Garrett Wiggins you should be removed from your position and removed from any supervisory role in law enforcement for your part in this operation to ruin this gal's life. Brett Barkey you should be disbarred and never allowed to practice law again for you part in this malicious prosecution of a woman who stood up for what is right. I urge the people of this county to stand up and do something in defense of what is right.

"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing."

Edmund Burke

0

Peter Arnold 1 year ago

And if you think the halls of the SSPD have been thoroughly expunged of all who are complicit in the destruction of this woman's career think again. Every last one of the officers who have sat in silence throughout this entire affair are culpable for Kristin's demise. Jerry DeLong, our temporary chief, has been complicit in this effort to discredit Kristin from the very beginning. He is complicit in sitting on a report which likely reflects poorly on many more individuals in this mess. He sits on a report and hides behind lawyerly speak from our soon to be former city attorney calling it confidential personnel matters. I don't envy your predicament. Whether or not you feel you have been unfairly stuck in this position Chief, in the end you are coming across to many of us as just another one of the boys in the club. I can only hope that the changes to come in the SSPD will prevent further abuse of power by your successors and that a diverse and compassionate police force will become the norm in Steamboat Springs rather than what has been decribed by some as a para-military group. Judging by the rifle squad called out to respond to the Wal-Mart scene last week maybe Nuanes was right in her findings on that point.

0

Peter Arnold 1 year ago

Legal bills for Kristin's defense have already exceeded $10K and likely to go much higher in her effort to clear her name and restore her reputation. Please help with whatever you can to end this frivolous case.

https://www.gofundme.com/pf3f2juw

Anything helps

0

Requires free registration

Posting comments requires a free account and verification.