Trotzig retires from practicing law

Posted June 13, 2019 at 5:00 am

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By Julie Ann Madden

He’s taking his “law” memories with him as he begins the next chapter in his life — retirement.

Longtime Akron/Le Mars attorney Mat Trotzig officially entered that chapter with a retirement party May 31 as he bid farewell to his fellow law partners, legal staff and clients.

Topping his memories are two cases he prosecuted while as a deputy states attorney/states attorney in the Minnehaha County States Attorney’s Office.

Calling it the “most unique” case, Trotzig was the attorney who prosecuted Randy Closs — a man convicted on burglary and theft charges but suspected of nearly 100 crimes involving killing dogs, raping women, and numerous other vandalisms, arsons, and thefts in eastern Sioux Falls, S.D., around the Interstate-229 corridor.

Closs was suspected of mutilating a former teacher’s dog and the dog of a former attorney who had represented him in juvenile court.

“We couldn’t prove (the other crimes),” said Trotzig, noting they had “quite a sentencing hearing” with Closs, age 21, initially pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.

“There was a question of his competency to stand trial — a debate on whether or not he was competent,” he said, explaining they appealed the case to the S.D. Supreme Court to determine which standard to use to determine competency. “The law was a little vague but the appeal ended up being moot because a psychiatrist said he is now competent.”

At the 1984 trial, Closs was convicted and sentenced to serve the maximum on both charges, a total of 25 years. Closs has since been released from prison and resides in a Yankton, S.D., facility.

According to a 2018 KELOLAND news report, Over the years many people have said Closs is too dangerous to be out on the streets. He had a strong potential of killing someone if he was ever released from prison. Since leaving prison, he’s been staying at the Human Services Center in Yankton, S.D.

The other “interesting” case Trotzig prosecuted was of Jack O’Connor, a man convicted of stealing about $100,000 worth of food stamps and selling them.

O’Connor had been sent to the penitentiary many times and was known as a “jailhouse lawyer,” said Trotzig. “After he got out of the penitentiary, he worked as a paralegal for a local attorney but there was burglary in a Department of Human Services office where food stamps were kept. The safe was peeled open and food stamps taken.”

“Detectives and law enforcement strongly suspected Jack was behind the crime and eventual fencing of the food stamps,” said Trotzig. “We had to get evidence of whether he did it.”

To get the evidence, law enforcement used the then brand-new wiretap laws to gather the evidence. Trotzig prosecuted the case in a two-week trial that convicted O’Connor.

Another memory is going up against South Dakota’s pretty famous attorney, Carleton R. “Tex” Hoy, in a manslaughter — vehicular homicide case.

“In the legal business, everything’s a fight,” said Trotzig, who has been practicing law exactly 40 years this month. “The only thing that’s not a fight is when we do adoptions. Everybody’s happy when we do an adoption — nothing adversarial. That’s a nice, pleasant experience. Otherwise, everything else we do is a fight.

“Forty years is long enough,” said the 66-year-old attorney. “A lot of attorneys don’t retire. They just keep working and I said I was never going to do that.”

All of his siblings, who are younger than him, have been retired for some time, he said. “It’s time to join the ranks — find out what it’s like.”

His wife, Gail, is joining him on the retirement journey.

The Akron Class of 1971 alum earned his bachelor’s degree majoring in Mathematics and Psychology and minoring in Education from the University of South Dakota.

During his first year of teaching Mathematics at Red Oak School, his wife told him she thought he’d be “pretty good at practicing law.”

“You don’t necessarily have to have a pre-law program in order to go to law school,” said Trotzig, who followed his wife’s suggestion.

He studied law one year at Creighton University in Omaha, Neb., before the newlyweds returned to the USD campus. His wife as an assistant professor of Dental Hygiene, and he as a student. Trotzig finished his juris doctorate degree at USD, graduating in May 1979.

Trotzig started his law career as a clerk to five S.D. Second Judicial Circuit Court judges. It was a temporary position and when an opening later in the year for a Minnehaha County deputy states attorney became available, Trotzig took it.

For four years, Trotzig was a deputy states attorney who served as states attorney when the states attorney was indicted for allegedly lying to a grand jury about whether or not he used drugs at a party.

“It was a very political thing,” said Trotzig. “He was not convicted.”

It was just a few months later that Trotzig joined the Le Mars law firm where he spent the rest of his law career.

Trotzig replaced Attorney Charlie Down who had retired. Trotzig joined Attorneys Rich Bauerly and Mark Hemingson in June 1984.

During his 40-year career, Trotzig performed about every type of legal law — from personal injury, litigation and criminal law to family law, business/corporate law, estate planning, real estate law and taxes. He didn’t do debtor bankruptcy or workmen’s compensation cases.

“In general practice, you do everything,” said Trotzig, “and in a county seat in a small town, you pretty much had to do just about everything.”

“I’ve got really great memories of working with attorneys in Sioux Falls,” said Trotzig. “I got just tremendous experience working in the States Attorney’s Office up there.”

“I’m going to miss everybody around here,” said Trotzig. “I’m going to miss the clients…a lot.”

The Trotzigs are moving to the Denver, Colo., metro area to be close to their children: Kristin and her husband, Matt Overton; and Dane and his wife, Chelsea Trotzig. They have three grandchildren: Liam and Olivia Overton and Talulah Trotzig.

“The kids and grandkids are too far away,” said Trotzig. “There are things we want to do…travelling, golfing…we both decided it’s time to move on.”

The Trotzigs will celebrate their 43rd wedding anniversary next month.

The Akron Law Office will continue to be open Tuesdays — just like it’s been since 1970 — in the same location, 221 Reed St. with dad-daughter attorney duo Craig Bauerly and Kelsey Bauerly-Langel.

“We really value our relationship with the town of Akron and our clients over there,” said Trotzig

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