LOVELAND, Colo. (KDVR) — The former Loveland police officer involved in the arrest of 73-year-old Karen Garner, who suffers from dementia, could be eligible to get into a halfway house earlier than violent offenders, based on Colorado law.
Garner’s family reached out to the Problem Solvers when they got a spontaneous notice of a hearing with Weld County Community Corrections for Austin Hopp, who was sentenced to five years in prison in May of 2022.
According to state statute, the Department of Corrections has to refer offenders in its system to Community Corrections, often referred to as a “halfway house,” a specific time period ahead of an inmate’s parole eligibility date.
Violent offenders must be referred nine months prior to their parole eligibility date. Non-violent offenders must be referred 19 months prior to that date. Hopp is eligible for parole on July 4, 2024.
Under the law, Hopp’s crime is not considered a crime of violence, despite pleading guilty to second-degree assault – strangulation.
Other forms of second-degree assault are considered crimes of violence, but only if they cause serious bodily injury to an on-duty peace officer, firefighter or EMT.
Second-degree assaults committed during the commission of other crimes including murder, robbery, arson, burglary and more are also considered crimes of violence or second-degree assault with a deadly weapon.
Shannon Steward, Garner’s daughter-in-law, got a surprise notice of Hopp’s hearing with Weld County Community Corrections this week.
“We’ve gone through the investigations, the external investigations, the press conferences, the hearings, the pre-trial, the plea bargain where they went from 8-10 years and cut his sentence down to 2-5, and so our expectations were what’s in black and white is this will not rear its ugly head until 2024,” Steward said. “And now we’re being asked to attend another hearing. These are hours of driving, days off of work, not sure what to expect.”
The hearing is scheduled for Feb. 15, and the official referral went through Jan. 4, 19 months prior to his parole eligibility date.
A spokesperson for the 8th Judicial District told the Problem Solvers they are reaching out to the Garner family, and are often not consulted for referrals to Community Corrections. The DA’s office said it opposes the move so early in this case.
A spokesperson for the Colorado Department of Corrections explained the process.
“Per state statute, Mr. Hopp is eligible for a referral to Community Corrections. If the inmate is accepted into a community custody facility, they will still be on inmate status. He is not eligible for parole. The local Community Corrections Board will determine whether or not to accept him into community corrections. CDOC does not make that determination,” Annie Skinner told FOX31.