Struggles, triumphs for Hotsenpiller: Outgoing district lawyer displays on profession | Native Information Tales

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Struggles, triumphs for Hotsenpiller: Outgoing district attorney reflects on career | Local News Stories

Dan Hotsenpiller, the outgoing District Attorney for the 7th Judicial District, has made a number of changes as he prepares for his career transition to Assistant Director of the Law Enforcement Academy.

Hotsenpiller is leaving office in January due to time constraints and is no longer directly involved in criminal law for the first time since 1994.

“I’m very excited about this,” said Hotsenpiller of his upcoming role as part-time assistant director at the Technical College of the Rockies, where he will also serve as an instructor.

“I believe that any elected prosecutor should devote time and resources to assisting law enforcement education. Now I can make it more meaningful and more targeted. “

Hotsenpiller first served as an assistant district attorney with the prosecution in 1994 when he was also serving cases in the western end of Montrose County from Telluride. He moved to the Delta office in 1996, where he was assisted by a part-time prosecutor and an administrative clerk. There are now four assistant prosecutors in this office, proof of just how busy the case numbers have got, even though Delta was not free of serious crimes even then.

“I have district court, which means everything,” said Hotsenpiller – adult and juvenile crimes and misdemeanors, all sexual offenses, all kinds of cases. The small court was busy and saw more than 400 crimes in a year.

“I remember meeting that number. Delta has historically been involved in violent crime, and it was then as it is now, “Hotsenpiller said.

These cases included the murder of Delta teenager Cindy Booth, who was successfully prosecuted even though her body was not recovered.

In 2000, Hotsenpiller joined the Montrose office as a district attorney for criminal offenses. In 2004 he left for Delman and Hotsenpiller’s private practice, where he was primarily responsible for criminal defense. Although he ended up finding that he preferred to be prosecuted, Hotsenpiller said the experience was priceless.

“You develop a very strong personal relationship with some of your customers. You try to help them. I learned a lot. I’m a far better prosecutor after serving as a defense attorney, ”he said.

A shocking turn of events in 2010 brought him back to the prosecutor’s office. That year, the sitting district attorney was charged with extortion and illegal sexual contact against three employees in the office. The Colorado Attorney General took office because the then prosecutor was unable to perform his duties while his case was pending, which ultimately resulted in an Alford plea and a four-year suspended sentence and suspension.

Senior District Judge Steven Patrick wanted to appoint Hotsenpiller to run the office under a statute requiring the absence of an elected district attorney.

“It was kind of weird, to say the least,” said Hotsenpiller. Although Patrick signed an order, it did not go into effect because the seated prosecutor resigned. The date of his resignation was effective on the day John Hickenlooper took office as governor, which meant that the outgoing governor did not have legal authority to appoint anyone as the vacancy would not occur during his tenure.

Hickenlooper finally appointed Hotsenpiller to the office on January 25, 2011. Hotsenpiller then ran for election for the next regular DA race.

He said he doesn’t have a keen sense of what he’s getting into in terms of work ethic and tarnished confidence. In his ignorance, he once asked a co-worker to come into his office only to refuse that person. Another employee said the person could not bear to go to this office because they were sexually victims there.

“I did not know that; I didn’t know what happened. That was one of the moments when I really realized what I didn’t know, ”said Hotsenpiller. “This office was literally a crime scene.”

He gathered the staff and just let everyone talk. “I tried to tell them that they all had jobs and that they didn’t have to worry. We wanted to find out how we should move forward together. The environment in the office had created a lot of uncertainty. There was a lot of bullying management that was causing stress for people. I wanted to try to change that. “

He thinks the office has changed for the better.

“I am proud that it is a very effective prosecutor right now. I think it will stay that way, ”said Hotsenpiller.

He said it was important to improve services to crime victims, which was done under the guidance of attorney Aimee English and those who work in victim services. Although there is always room for improvement and not all victims are happy, Hotsenpiller has been able to hire more staff to do more for the victims. “That was a priority and I’m proud of it,” he said, also extolling the transition from paper records to electronic records under Sherry McKenzie’s leadership.

Hotsenpiller also said investigative services have improved under Duane Morton’s leadership.

“We’ve really improved our communications with law enforcement. Here, too, we’re not as good as we want, but we’re much better than we were, ”said Hotsenpiller.

Although it took some time, the ability to keep track of larger cases has also increased. During his tenure, the DA office charged a Gunnison woman (who has since deceased) and her daughter with the death of her son / brother. the stabbing murder of a Delta County woman; four out of five accused in the death of two children in a religious enclave in Norwood; and in the prosecution of a wealthy Texan man in the death of his wife, which ended in two trials and was not tried again.

Hotsenpiller was also the special prosecutor in the Durango murder of Nicole Redhorse, which was tried twice on appeal.

“You look back and the ability of this office to pursue larger cases is well established,” said Hotsenpiller.

It’s also a good move to get Seth Ryan, who will soon be sworn in as the new district attorney, to pursue sex crimes, Hotsenpiller said, though not everyone was happy here either.

“Many people in the community were very frustrated that I did not have a wand to follow up on these cases as soon as I was appointed. I don’t have a wand, ”he said. “It was a lot of work and the key to it was when Seth agreed to take the time.”

Other changes affecting the DA office included relocating the Montrose division to a separate, new annex and courthouse in Gunnison, as well as redesigns in other counties, most recently ongoing upgrades in Delta.

Support from the district government has also increased, said Hotsenpiller.

Working “no question” with your employees and making positive differences for them is the most important part of the job, he said.

The hard part? The system doesn’t always work fast – if the system moves too fast it can come at the cost of equity.

“I think we have to get that back into balance. I think there needs to be a very serious discussion about the state of the criminal justice system. The fact is, we spend a lot of money and a lot of time, and I don’t think we’re very effective. “

Hotsenpiller said the way domestic violence cases are handled hasn’t changed much in his 27 years as a prosecutor. Although substance abuse is a public health issue, it is still a criminal justice issue and both systems need to do more to address it, he also said.

Leaving the office, he looks forward to his opportunity at the college and working with the Attorney General to revise and redesign the Police Academy’s curriculum over the next five years.

“That is exciting. I am firmly convinced that we can improve the training and support of police officers,” said Hotsenpiller.

Katharhynn Heidelberg is the assistant editor and senior writer for the Montrose Daily Press. Follow her on Twitter, @kathMDP.

Katharhynn Heidelberg is the assistant editor and senior writer for the Montrose Daily Press. Follow her on Twitter, @kathMDP.