Former police officer charged with felony denied preliminary hearing

Matt Stensland
Kristin Bantle
Courtesy Photo

— A judge has ruled that former Steamboat Springs Police Department officer Kristin Bantle is not entitled to a preliminary hearing related to a felony charge filed against her.

Bantle’s two-hour preliminary hearing was scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, but the time will now be used for a status conference.

Bantle has been charged with attempt to influence a public servant related to providing false information on an employment application submitted to the Routt County Sheriff’s Office. According to a report prepared by a District Attorney’s Office investigator, Bantle lied about past drug use.

During Bantle’s initial Aug. 12 court appearance, prosecutors objected to Bantle being afforded a preliminary hearing.

Because of the class of felony, Bantle is not automatically entitled to a preliminary hearing.

On Aug. 21, the prosecution changed its mind and did not object to a preliminary hearing.

During a preliminary hearing, evidence is presented, and the judge decides whether there is probable cause for the case to go to trial.

In a court document dated Sept. 4, Bantle’s attorney, Matt Tjosvold, informed Judge Shelley Hill that both sides agreed to have a preliminary hearing. He wrote that Bantle’s right to a preliminary hearing is rooted in the U.S. Constitution.

Citing a court case, he wrote that Bantle has an interest in “weeding out groundless and unsupported charges and in relieving herself of the degradation and expense of a criminal trial.”

Tjosvold wrote that the court’s interest in “promoting judicial economy will be served if this court follows through with the currently scheduled preliminary hearing. Should no probable cause be found, then no further proceedings in the matter will be necessary. And, if probable cause is found, then the testimony that is offered at the hearing may allow the parties to achieve a negotiated resolution, obviating the need for trial.”

Hill wrote in her ruling Tuesday that after reviewing the police report, she determined that there is probable cause for the prosecution.

Hill wrote that Bantle is not entitled to a preliminary hearing according to rules governing court proceedings.

“We are surprised by the judge’s decision, given the previous order to grant the hearing,” Tjosvold said Tuesday. “We are reviewing our remedies and will respond accordingly.”

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

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