Routt County’s new chief deputy district attorney, Matt Karzen, says he always wanted to return to Steamboat Springs, where he ski raced and went to high school.

Photo by Matt Stensland

Routt County’s new chief deputy district attorney, Matt Karzen, says he always wanted to return to Steamboat Springs, where he ski raced and went to high school.

New Routt County chief deputy district attorney settling in

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— Routt County’s new chief deputy district attorney said he became interested in the concept of justice at an early age.

As a kid, Matt Karzen said, it bothered him when he saw bullying at school. Those memories stuck with him, and he said they impacted his decision to go to law school and become a prosecutor.

“I thought it was a good way to be a stakeholder in the game of right and wrong,” Karzen said.

When a deal can't be reached

The Steamboat Pilot & Today examines the success of the 14th Judicial District Attorney's Office — which encompasses Moffat, Routt and Grand counties — after Brett Barkey put defense attorneys on notice that felony plea deals would no longer be bargains.

In the past year, there has been a complete turnover in prosecutors in the Routt County office.

Karzen is one of the three attorneys whom District Attorney Brett Barkey hired to fill those positions. Karzen will head up the 14th Judicial District’s Routt County office.

“Matt brings a wealth of experience to the office and is really a perfect fit,” Barkey said.

Karzen replaces Rusty Prindle, who unexpectedly left the District Attorney’s Office in the fall for a reason that neither Prindle nor Barkey would disclose. Prindle now is a deputy district attorney in Lake County.

Along with Karzen, Eliot Thompson was hired last year and will help prosecute felony cases. Melinda Dudley, a former cops and courts reporter for the Steamboat Pilot & Today, is handling misdemeanor cases in county court.

Karzen came to Steamboat Springs from Athens, Ga., but the move here was not a complete surprise.

Karzen graduated from The Lowell Whiteman School in 1984. After high school, Karzen attended Colorado College in Colorado Springs. He was on the Alpine ski racing team and arranged his schedule so he could race and train in Steamboat during the winter months. He worked as a pizza delivery driver to help support himself.

Karzen still has strong ties to the community. Before going to law school at the University of Denver in 1992, he was a member of Steamboat Ski Patrol.

“My plan was to try to come back up here and work in the DA’s office,” Karzen said.

He interned at the Routt County District Attorney’s Office, but it would be a couple of decades until he found a permanent position in Steamboat.

Karzen did stints at the Grand and Arapahoe County District Attorney’s offices and worked in the gang prosecution unit for the Colorado attorney general.

Karzen and his wife, Pam, moved to her hometown in Georgia, where Karzen continued working as a prosecutor before starting a defense practice in 2006.

“I’m really excited to be here,” Karzen said about his return to Routt County.

Karzen, a former distance runner who completed the Leadville Trail 100 Run in 2007, said he is looking forward to becoming a regular skier again and raising his 14-year-old son here.

“It’s a top-notch place to live,” Karzen said. “I firmly believe it’s a place of inspiration.”

Karzen, who started his job Feb. 3, said he will try to get reacquainted with the priorities in the community and the culture as he gets settled into his new position.

“I think that’s important for any prosecutor,” Karzen said.

To reach Matt Stensland, call 970-871-4247, email mstensland@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @SBTStensland

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