Sheriff’s story questioned during Bantle trial
Trial of former Steamboat police officer expected to last 3 days
Steamboat Springs — The grilling started quickly Tuesday during the first day of the Kristin Bantle trial when defense attorney Matthew Tjosvold cross-examined Routt County Sheriff Garrett Wiggins.
Bantle, a former Steamboat Springs Police Department officer, is on trial for attempt to influence a public servant, specifically Wiggins. The allegations are that Bantle lied about past drug use when she applied for a job with the Sheriff’s Office in 2013.
The charge is a Class 4 felony, and the trial is scheduled to go through Thursday.
“What this case is about is getting caught in a lie, a big lie, and a lie that’s a crime,” District Attorney Brett Barkey said to jurors during his opening statement.
Assistant District Attorney Matt Karzen was previously handling the case.
Tjosvold said Bantle readily admits she has done drugs in the past.
“A lot of what Mr. Barkey said about the document is true,” Tjosvold said. “Ms. Bantle wants you to know that she never intended to deceive anyone.”
Wiggins took the stand and outlined how Bantle’s drug use came to light and why he waited two years before revealing the past drug use to the district attorney’s office and the Steamboat Springs Police Department.
Wiggins said he waited two years because he was advised by county attorneys in 2013 that the pre-employment information was confidential and Bantle could sue if Wiggins released the information.
Wiggins said he felt obligated to get the information released after Bantle’s conduct was called into question this past June while she was assigned as the school resource officer for the Steamboat Springs School District. Wiggins’ son and a deputy’s son both reported Bantle used profanities and told inappropriate stories about police work to students.
Bantle was removed from her position as the school resource officer, and Wiggins met with Steamboat Police Department administrators. Still fearing the threat of being sued, he leaked the information by dropping a hint about Bantle having used cocaine once.
“I think my exact words were, ‘Steamboat Springs is known for its Champagne powder,'” Wiggins said. “I felt the liability was greater for me to withhold that information than to release it.”
Wiggins was trying to get a court order that would force him to release the documents and audio and video recordings related to Bantle’s pre-employment screening.
Wiggins also wrote an email to the District Attorney’s Office about Bantle’s drug use, but he did not specifically name Bantle. Wiggins wrote that Bantle lied about past drug use on the questionnaire she filled out before taking a polygraph test.
Tjosvold showed Wiggins the questionnaire that Bantle filled out, which included her past drug use. Wiggins looked confused as he reviewed the questionnaire and was quizzed by Tjosvold about why he told the District Attorney’s Office that Bantle lied on the questionnaire.
“That was the information that was provided to me,” Wiggins said.
When asked outside the courtroom about his testimony, Wiggins said he could not comment.
Another issue jurors have to consider is another questionnaire Bantle completed for the Sheriff’s Office as part of a background check. When asked about past drug use, Bantle only listed having used marijuana about six times in college.
The legality of Bantle’s past drug use is not a charge Bantle is on trial for.
“All of a sudden they found out they didn’t have a drug case, and they needed to find something else,” Tjosvold said. “They found (the charge of) attempt to influence a public servant.”
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