Larimer County judge rules there is probable cause in assault charge against former Loveland police officer Austin Hopp

Eighth Judicial District Judge Michelle Brinegar has ruled there is probable cause for the assault charge in the criminal case against Austin Hopp, the former Loveland Police Department officer who arrested Karen Garner in 2020. The parties involved in the case will return to court in late September for an arraignment hearing to decide how to move forward.

Hopp was criminally charged by the Larimer County District Attorney’s Office for the arrest of Garner, a now 74-year-old woman with dementia, in April following the release of a lawsuit from Sarah Schielke and the Life and Liberty Law Office claiming excessive use of force in Garner’s arrest.

The former LPD officer has been charged with second-degree assault causing serious bodily injury, a class 3 felony; attempt to influence a public servant, a class 4 felony; and official misconduct, a class 2 misdemeanor for his arrest of Garner last year.

While Hopp appeared for a preliminary hearing Aug. 19, Brinegar postponed her ruling in the case to allow her more time to comb through the lengthy video evidence that was submitted in the case, which she said she had gotten through most of but not all of.

In a brief hearing Monday morning, Brinegar said after fully reviewing all the evidence that had been submitted as well as taking into account the testimony and examination from the preliminary hearing that there is probable cause for the assault count against Hopp.

Brinegar said the assault charge was the only one being considered in the preliminary hearing. Hopp still faces the other two charges, attempt to influence a public servant and official misconduct, as well.

Jonathan Datz, Hopp’s attorney, requested that the court set a new hearing date with plenty of time to go over what he called “substantial new discovery” that he is expecting very soon. He later added this discovery consists of “hours upon hours of multimedia” and could prove as exculpatory evidence against the other two counts Hopp faces.

Assistant district attorney Matt Maillaro clarified that this substantial discovery is expected to come from the internal investigation the LPD launched following the Critical Incident Response Team investigation into the arrest.

The city of Loveland announced in June that Hillard Heintze — “one of the nation’s leading law enforcement and public safety consulting firms,” the city said — is conducting a professional standards investigation regarding the Garner arrest and is also assessing the department’s policies, practices and procedures.

Brinegar set the case to return at 4 p.m. Sept. 29 for an arraignment hearing to decide where to go next in the case. She said that if the hope is to return to trial, the earliest it could begin would be early next year based on the court’s current schedule.

“I am going to set it in for trial as early as possible in 2022,” Brinegar said, adding that will be the case if the defense wishes to take the case to trial.

Alongside the case against Hopp, former LPD officer Daria Jalali faces a criminal case of her own for her connection to the arrest.

Jalali appeared in court Aug. 10 and will be returning to court at 1:45 p.m. Oct. 13. She has been charged with failure to report an excessive use of force, a class 1 misdemeanor; failure to intervene in the use of excessive force, a class 1 misdemeanor; and first-degree official misconduct, a class 2 misdemeanor.

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