Trent Esch, 35 of Broken Bow, was arraigned in Custer County District Court Thursday morning on two felony charges: Count 1 - use of a weapon to commit a felony, and Count 2 - criminal mischief.
The charges stem from a March 18, 2012, incident in which Esch is accused of shooting at an unoccupied Custer County Deputy Sheriff's vehicle in front of the home of Deputy Sheriff Dan Spanel.
One aspect of this case that seems to have garnered a lot of media attention is the amount of Esch's bond. The bond in County Court had been set at 10 percent of $5 million. Brian Davis, attorney for Esch, argued before District Court Judge Karin Noakes Thursday that that bond is excessive and "unconstitutional."
Davis cited several cases, both local and statewide, in which he stated the charges were more severe than the ones his client faces, yet the bond in those cases was lower - in some cases more than half as much - as the bond in this case. However, Glenn Clark, attorney for the state, argued that this was strictly a vindictive act by Mr. Esch toward Deputy Spanel, dating back to an incident several months prior when Spanel had arrested Esch for refusing to submit to a chemical test as a result of DWI charges.
Clark stated that not all of the bullets allegedly fired from Esch's gun have been accounted for, saying "not all of the lead went in the car; so where did the rest of it go?" "What would have happened if the Deputy had come out?", Clark argued.
Judge Noakes said she considered the probable cause affidavit which cited the fact that Esch did turn himself in to authorities. However, she said she also considered the possibility that he may be a danger to himself or others. Noakes reduced bond for Esch to 10 percent of $2 million, which includes all of the conditions previously set by the County Court. The bond also includes a stipulation that Esch is to have no contact with Deputy Spanel or any member of Spanel's family.
Clark says he is pleased with the bond amount, while Esch told NTV News that he is disappointed the bond remains so high, calling it “crazy.”
The case was set for jury trial Oct. 9, with a pretrial hearing set for Sept. 20. Esch remains in the Custer County Jail on $2 million bond.
Several other cases were also heard in District Court Thursday. For more, see the June 7 edition of the Custer County Chief.