MONTROSE – No one knows what will happen after Montrose District Attorney Myrl Serra stands trial for unlawful sexual conduct and other charges, but in the meantime, a new DA has been appointed.
Attorney Dan Hotsenpiller will fill Serra’s shoes, and will be sworn in on Jan. 10. Hotsenpiller was appointed to the position by Judge J. Steven Patrick last week.
In his administrative order, Patrick wrote that while the court considered appointing from within the DA’s office, “this would only compound the existing shortage of attorneys to try cases in the 11 courts in the district.”
Assistant DA Jerry Montgomery couldn’t be tapped for the job since he is leaving the office in January to become a Montrose County judge, replacing retiring judge John Mitchell.
In choosing Hotsenpiller, Patrick wrote that the court had conferred with three prior district attorneys for the district as well as district judges, as well as county attorneys and county managers, law enforcement and private attorneys.
Hotsenpiller’s resume indicates his qualifications for the job. During the past five years, Hotsenpiller has been in private practice, after working for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Grand Junction for about a year. He was Assistant DA in the Seventh Judicial District for 10 years. He graduated from the University of Colorado Law School in 1988 where he was a member of the Order of the Coif. He is currently chair of the board of directors of both the Midwestern Colorado Center for Mental Health and Dolphin House Child Advocacy Center.
In a statement, Hotsenpiller said he will work hard to earn support and trust and restore pubic confidence in his office.
“I fully intend to support the hard work of the dedicated, talented attorneys and staff that are the current DA’s office,” he said. “To be effective, a district attorney needs the support and trust of law enforcement, victim’s advocates, the defense bar, probation, juvenile services, and many, many others whose lives are devoted to making criminal justice work right.”
Hotsenpiller said he was honored to be asked and privileged to serve the people of the district.
In the meantime, Serra remains on full salary. As an elected official, he cannot be put on leave or suspension, but cannot perform his duties because he is barred from entering the premises of the district attorney.
In addition to charges of felony unlawful sexual conduct, Serra is also charged with misdemeanor charges of indecent exposure, unlawful sexual conduct and criminal extortion. He was arrested in September and released on a $5,000 bond.
Serra is scheduled to appear for a preliminary hearing on Feb. 11 at the Mesa County Justice Center in Grand Junction. Robert Shapiro, First Assistant Attorney General for the state, will prosecute the case.
Hotsenpiller’s appointment is open-ended, and no one know what will happen once the trial is over, even if Serra is acquitted, said Edward “Jim” Clayton, chief administrator for the Seventh Judicial District.
“This appointment is to fill the time from Jan. 10 until the proper officer is back in the job,” Clayton said. “How that ends up and how that works, I really can’t even speculate on, if he’s convicted or if he’s not…He is only prohibited from doing his job because of his charges.”