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Robbery suspect granted reduced bond

February 3, 2017

A Portage man arrested with his brother in connection with a July home invasion and robbery has been granted a reduced cash bond as he pursues representing himself in court.

Austan Bardell, 18, appeared in a bond hearing in Columbia County Circuit Court via video from Columbia County Jail on Wednesday, requesting a reconsideration of his $25,000 cash bond.

Despite a confused opening to proceedings, including Bardell’s stand-by defense attorney not being present, the hearing went forward.

“I was never notified of this court date, but I would like to move forward if that is possible,” said Bardell. Given that a stand-by attorney is provided to give assistance while someone acts as their own attorney, Judge Todd Hepler told Bardell that it was up to him whether he wanted to continue.

“I’m not a danger to society and I am not doing this to avoid prosecution,” said Bardell. “I am prosecuting my own affairs in this matter and in order to properly represent myself, I require reasonable bond and I feel that an $8,000 bond would be much more reasonable than $25,000.”

Assistant District Attorney Cliff Burdon argued Bardell, who has been in jail for about six months, would represent an above-average bail risk, as he is facing a potential sentence of more than 25 years in prison on felony charges of armed robbery, impersonating an officer in a crime, along with misdemeanor bail jumping.

The case stems from an incident in which the Portage Police Department responded to a reported break-in on East Conant Street. According to court documents, the residents were woken by a noise in the house, finding three people in the living room claiming to be police.

One of the three pointed what appeared to be a small-caliber handgun, later identified as a replica air gun, at the man and his girlfriend, yelling at them to get on the floor. The couple reportedly declined to comply, remaining where they were while another of the robbers cleared the cash out of one of their drawers.

Officers arrived from the Police Department and the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office. The Portage K9 unit located Skylar Bardell, 22, in the woods behind the property, while his brother Austan and another 15-year-old suspect were located in Mauston later that day.

The state might have been amenable to reducing Bardell’s bond or agreeing to a signature bond, Burdon explained, if the situation were like that of his brother, who was released in September following a court hearing in which he entered a plea of no-contest and agreed to an arrangement in which he would be required to comply with a substance abuse treatment program.

“Again, I am not a flight risk to avoid prosecution. I’ve lived in Portage for over 10 years now,” said Bardell when asked if he had further arguments. “I’m prosecuting my own affairs in this matter, and I’m not a danger to society. There is no credible evidence and the allegations on the record are frivolous and fraudulent. It is very difficult to represent myself from inside Columbia County Jail.”

Hepler agreed to a lower bond, noting that $8,000 cash would likely be significant enough that Bardell would not skip out if released.

As of the end of Thursday, Bardell had not posted bond and was scheduled to next appear in court March 15.