ALAMOSA COUNTY, Colo. (KDVR) — Facing a recall following allegations that his office repeatedly violated the rights of victims, 12th Judicial District Attorney Alonzo Payne submitted his resignation to the governor on Wednesday.
Payne had until the end of the day Wednesday to resign, otherwise, the recall process would have moved forward with a special election that would have been called in the next 90 days.
This comes after Weiser investigated the office and found Payne and his office engaged in a pattern and practice of violating the Victims Rights Act. The AG’s office has entered a three-year agreement with the DA’s office to make sure it no longer violates victims’ rights.
That agreement will shrink to a six-month agreement with Payne’s replacement. A spokesperson for the attorney general told FOX31, “If there is a new DA and a fresh start to the way the office is run, the AG wants to give that new DA a path out of the agreement. However, he/she must still be in compliance for a six-month period or else the agreement is extended until they are in compliance for six consecutive months.”
FOX31 has reported one victim’s perspective. Lani Welch said she was a victim of domestic violence, assault and stalking back in 2020. Welch told FOX31’s Courtney Fromm that Payne was dismissive and disrespectful to her when going through the legal process.
Through the Colorado Open Records Act, FOX31 has reviewed complaints submitted to the Crime Victim Services Advisory Board, which found a basis in fact in all the complaints and referred them to the attorney general for an investigation.
Below is Payne’s resignation letter, in which he said in part, “It is apparent to me that the elite of the San Luis Valley and the judicial activists amongst us do not want to see criminal justice reform enacted.” He makes no mention of the allegations his office faces, or the agreement with the attorney general.
Gov. Polis appoints Weiser as interim
Governor Jared Polis announced that Attorney General Phil Weiser will serve as the interim district attorney until a new one is appointed.
Weiser released this statement following the resignation and his appointment as interim DA.
The people of the San Luis Valley deserve a fresh start with a new district attorney. Our investigation into violations of the Victim Rights Act revealed systemic problems in the office. We expect new leadership will improve the important work of the office. Our focus has been to ensure that the DA’s office in the 12th Judicial District complies with the law and treats crime victims with respect and dignity. Our action required DA Payne to do just that. Even with a new district attorney, those requirements will continue to apply.
The Governor has asked my office to fulfill the responsibilities of the 12th Judicial District Attorney’s Office until he appoints a new DA. Our office is committed to serving the people of the San Luis Valley in this interim role as effectively as possible, and our aim is to help put a new DA on a path to success. We thank the Colorado District Attorneys’ Council and district attorneys across the state for being willing to help support the Valley, advance public safety, and protect victims during this transition.