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District Attorney in Montezuma County to run for election in November

Christian Hatfield, who was appointed by Gov. Jared Polis last year, is running for election in November. (Christian Hatfield for DA)
Christian Hatfield was appointed by Gov. Jared Polis in 2023

Christian Hatfield, the 22nd Judicial District attorney, who was appointed by Gov. Jared Polis last year, has announced that he will seek election in November, facing challenger Jeremy Reed, a former deputy DA.

Hatfield shared that when he was in private practice with Assistant District Attorney Jason Eley early last year, he planned on being Eley’s assistant if he were to become the DA in Durango. Instead, Polis asked Hatfield to move to Cortez and become the DA.

Speaking about his short time in office, Hatfield said he was proud of staff recruiting, hiring and retention in the office, as well as clearing a large number of the district’s homicide cases.

“So for about six months, there were only two real attorneys in the office and they didn’t have the capacity to try serious felony cases, so the Attorney General’s Office was running the office,” Hatfield told The Journal. “So when I got there, Jason (Eley) and I immediately started trying cases, and I started recruiting, hiring and retaining people, and we cleared almost the entire backlog of six or seven homicide cases.”

The homicide cases include the People v. Boyd, People v. Garcia and People v. Chilleen, which was a seven-count vehicular homicide trial that is nearing its completion.

  • Shyanne Boyd, 16, of Cortez pleaded guilty to two separate charges in June after being accused of stabbing and killing her mother, Shaylie Lynn Boyd, on July 29, 2022.
  • Joyce Marie Garcia, 54, of Lewis was sentenced in March to 25 years in prison after pleading guilty in to first-degree murder in the death of her husband, Alfredo Luis Garcia, 57, who had been shot twice in the head on May 1 and left for dead near the Bradfield Bridge.
  • Scott Edouard Chilleen of Mancos was convicted of vehicular homicide in January in Cortez for killing a passenger in a crash on Colorado Highway 184 in 2021 and awaits sentencing this summer.

“I really think that the community is safer and we’ve tried some other serious felony cases on those, so we cleared the backlog,” Hatfield said. “We hired a number of good people, and now we have the ability to try any case that comes our way.”

Hatfield also spoke of the district’s diversion program and the successful grant funding that has been awarded to help keep up the work of the diversion program.

“I personally think that our diversion program is one of the best in the state and maybe the country,” Hatfield said.

In a diversion program, low-level, first-time and juvenile offenders receive treatment services for mental health, drug and alcohol issues to help them out of the justice system.

When enrolled in the program, the defendant enters a contract with the diversion system to receive its services. Once the diversion department determines the person’s underlying problem, they help them find services to deal with that issue.

If the defendant completes the program, their case is dismissed.

“We get all those people all the services we can to keep them from ever returning to the justice system, which makes everybody better, including the defendants,” Hatfield said.

Before coming to Durango and Cortez, Hatfield started out as a district attorney general in Boston after a stint in the Army.

He also attended Vermont Law School in South Royalton, obtained a master’s in liberal studies at St. John’s College in Santa Fe, and a bachelors in English at Reed College in Portland, Oregon.

Later, he was appointed district defender by former Gov. Bill Richardson in New Mexico.

He has nearly 30 years of legal experience and has lived in the Southwest for more than 20 years.

According to his website, he “enjoys outdoor adventures with his wife and two children,” skiing, running, scuba diving, as time on the lake with his Labrador retriever, Arvid.

“This is my third stint in public service,” Hatfield said. “I’ve been appointed by two governors and one attorney general so far.”

“I’ve spent approximately half my life doing private practice work where I did criminal defense, complex civil work and I worked in small, medium and large law firms,” Hatfield continued. I’ve tried about 200 cases.”

Hatfield also touched on the number of drug-related cases in the district, acknowledging that fentanyl “has become a huge issue.”

“We are, first of all, attacking addiction at a low level by getting people treatment,” Hatfield said. “And then high-level distribution by getting those people in prison. There are certainly relatively large amounts of drugs that move through Cortez, and we’ve been managing to catch some of those people. We’re attacking that situation with everything we have.”

Hatfield shared that he takes a three-tier approach to crime.

Tier one involves identifying low-level and first-time offenders, working to help them receive the aid needed to no longer return to the justice system. Tier two identifies those who have been involved with the justice system before and need a higher level of supervision, and the third tier are in the top 5% of criminal offenders who commit the most serious crimes.

“Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty,” Hatfield said. “Complex issues surrounding the criminal justice system will always exist, and crime will never be eliminated from society. However, we’ve made significant progress, and Montezuma and Dolores County residents are safer because of our vigilance and dedication to bringing offenders to justice. I’m proud of our work for victims and the community, and I look forward to continuing.”