Mortars falling in Baghdad’s Green Zone in Iraq is one reason Jason Slothouber is a new prosecutor in Aspen.
Slothouber said he intended to postpone law school in favor of a State Department job at the U.S. embassy in Baghdad. But in 2007, former President George W. Bush launched the surge, boosting troop levels in an effort to quell rising violence.
“It was right during the surge, and the government was having some problems with security in the Green Zone,” he said in a recent interview, referring to the fortified area of the Iraqi capital where the American mission was based. “The scuttlebutt I heard was that there were a lot of mortars being lobbed into the Green Zone.”
The government suspended the hiring process for new employees it was going to send to Iraq, dashing Slothouber’s chances to serve in an advisory role for the U.S. ambassador, “which would’ve been pretty cool.”
“I was disappointed because I was excited to go,” he said. But “in a way, any time you find out you’re not going to Baghdad, it’s a little bit of a sigh of relief.
“My parents definitely weren’t disappointed.”
The University of Colorado Law School accepted his last-minute application, and “it ended up working out for the best,” said Slothouber, 30.
Raised in South Dakota, he said he had a hard time choosing between a job in international politics or the judicial arena. His resume includes stints at a Middle East think tank, and law clerkships with the Senate Judiciary Committee in Washington, D.C. and a federal judge.
“I felt strongly about public service and commitment to my country, whether it was in that aspect of going [to Iraq] or working in this role here,” Slothouber said.
In the federal clerkship, he reviewed disputes that came before the judge, wrote recommendations and helped draft opinions.
“What ends up happening is you review the work of really great attorneys,” Slothouber said. “It’s a really great learning experience.”
Former District Attorney Martin Beeson hired Slothouber about four months ago, and on his first day in Aspen last week, he handled three felony advisements and then the county court docket. Andrea Bryan is Aspen’s other deputy district attorney and will be the lead felony prosecutor in the local office, though Slothouber will also handle the occasional felony case.
“I expressed some interest in the [Aspen] office” to new DA Sherry Caloia, he said. “I was attracted to Aspen both because of the culture of the city and the culture of the judicial system. I heard a lot of fantastic things about Judge [Erin Fernandez-] Ely and about Judge [Gail] Nichols.”
Slothouber said he wants to take advantage of the valley’s outdoor opportunities like skiing, rock climbing and hiking.
He said he takes an egalitarian approach to prosecuting cases in county court, which handles misdemeanors and traffic offenses. It’s important that prosecutors avoid the trap of looking at a case merely for the charges involved and forgetting the personal aspect, Slothouber said.
“That’s not to say every person just needs to get a hug,” he said. “Sometimes people do need to be punished, [but] sometimes people just need help and need to be rehabilitated in some way.
“If you’re going to be doing this job well, you need to be looking at how to help people, how to make society safer and a better place to live for everyone.”