Monday, June 24

The Crestone Eagle is a nonprofit monthly newspaper serving Crestone and the San Luis Valley

District Attorney Alonso Payne found noncompliant with Victims’ Rights Act

The office of Attorney General Phil Weiser is investigating reports that the 12th Judicial District Attorney Alonso Payne and his staff, citing a pattern of violating victims’ rights.

Investigations by various boards and advocacy organizations indicate that Payne’s office likely violated the Victims’ Rights Act several times.

Complaints included cases involving vehicular homicide, elder abuse, domestic violence, assault of a child, and assault on a peace officer.

Of the four cases that were reviewed thus far, state officials found all four were factual. This means the victims were not consulted or treated with fairness, respect, and dignity.

On February 16 Attorney General Phil Weiser released the following statement:

“Our state constitution and laws protect crime victims and give them important rights. I am grateful to the Crime Victim Services Advisory Board for its dedication to ensuring that crime victims receive these protections and that any failures to follow the law are addressed.

“The board’s finding that the District Attorney’s Office of the 12th Judicial District repeatedly violated the Victim Rights Act is extremely troubling. As required by state law, the Governor has now referred this matter to the attorney general’s office. My office will work to ensure that the district attorney’s office fully complies with the law—either by securing the district attorney’s agreement to a strong corrective plan or by seeking a court order that will require that office to follow the law. Any solution we obtain will need to involve independent, effective, and enforceable oversight, with significant penalties for additional failures or non-compliance.

“As this process goes forward, we will remain focused on honoring the needs of crime victims and ensuring that their rights are protected.”

The Rocky Mountain Victims’ Law Center (RMvlc) submitted a complaint to the AG’s office requesting an investigation into the indifference of the DA’s office and the pattern of repeated violations of victims’ rights. The text of the complaint including details in nine cases, was posted on the RMvlc’s website and can be read, in its entirety here.

Alonzo Payne, in response to allegations, cites staffing changes recently implemented as a solution.

RMvlc asserts that problem starts with a lack of leadership and concern for community safety by its elected official, DA Alonso Payne. They further assert, “It is time for AG Weiser to step in to ensure crime victims and their rights are adequately enforced and protected in the 12th Judicial District.

RMvlc is a nonprofit law firm providing free legal services to victims of crimes throughout Colorado.

The Crime Victim Services Advisory Board is a 28-member board appointed by the Executive Director of the Colorado Department of Public Safety. The board acts in an advisory capacity to the Division of Criminal Justice.

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