In a heated preliminary hearing, Montezuma County Court Judge JenniLynn Lawrence announced on Wednesday that defendant, Garrett “Ty” Baxstrom, 38, of Cortez, didn’t qualify for a court-appointed attorney.
Baxstrom is charged with one count of attempted murder as a crime of violence, two counts of assault with a deadly weapon, a count of assault to recklessly cause injury and a count of child abuse stemming from a domestic violence incident on Aug. 15 in which a 37-year-old woman was found covered in blood and dirt. She reportedly suffered gunshot injuries to her right arm and right thigh and had lacerations to her face, head, arms and back.
Lawrence said the decision about Baxtrom’s defense was based upon the findings of a court investigator assigned to review Baxstrom’s financial records.
“We need to figure out the appropriate and most fair way to move forward for Mr. Baxstrom,” Lawrence said.
Public defender Sara Hildebrand had requested a constitutional hearing on the court’s decision.
“The court’s determination that a person doesn’t qualify for court-appointed counsel should be heavily scrutinized,” Hildebrand said.
Repeatedly raising her voice, Lawrence explained that she had denied Baxstrom’s application twice before because both applications were incomplete. After Baxstrom submitted a third application, Lawrence said a court investigator determined that the defendant’s income exceeded the qualifications for a public defender.
“If we consider his last year’s tax return, he in no way qualifies for a public defender,” Lawrence said, adding that she was confused why her ruling was being questioned.
Lasting nearly a half-hour, a contentious back and forth ensued between Lawrence and Hildebrand. The court twice instructed Hildebrand to take a seat.
“Are you going to represent (Baxstrom) pro se or not?” Lawrence demanded.
Hildebrand insisted on making an oral argument as to why Baxstrom deserved a hearing.
“The public defender is to make the initial determination on indigence,” Hildebrand said, stating the court didn’t follow the legal process in making its determination.
“I’m still Mr. Baxstrom’s attorney,” Hildebrand said.
After a brief stay, Lawrence advised Hildebrand that prosecutors could only request a hearing to overturn the court’s ruling.
“Ms. Hildebrand, you do not have standing under the statute, so your request is denied,” she said.
The court then asked Baxstrom to step forward, but Hildebrand again interrupted the proceedings, requesting time for her office to review Baxtrom’s public defender application.
“Your honor, I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do here,” Baxstrom said, turning toward Hildebrand.
Lawrence subsequently advised Hildebrand again that she could appear as an independent attorney on Baxstrom’s behalf or take a seat.
“You take your pick,” Lawrence said.
“I have entered my ruling Ms. Hildebrand,” Lawrence continued. “I think that is quite clear.”
Upon advising Baxstrom of his rights, Lawrence set an appearance of counsel hearing for Dec. 2, and a preliminary hearing on Dec. 23.
According to authorities, Baxstrom reportedly fired three shotgun blasts at his common-law wife after beating her nearly unconscious. The shooting occurred at the couple’s residence on the 8000 block of U.S. 160 just after 11 p.m. on Aug. 15.
After the alleged attack, authorities said, the woman hid in a ditch for about two hours before walking to a neighbor’s home to call 911.
Baxstrom remains out of custody after posting a $250,000 bond on Aug. 27.