San Luis Valley District Attorney Alonzo Payne resigns

San Luis Valley District Attorney Alonzo Payne offered his resignation Wednesday to Gov. Jared Polis, according to a letter he shared with The Denver Post.

The embattled top prosecutor in the 12th Judicial District was facing a recall effort led by the city of Alamosa and backed by residents who were upset with his style of prosecution, professionalism and treatment of victims.

On Tuesday, Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser announced that his office would oversee three years of extensive reforms in Payne’s office after the prosecutor systemically violated crime victims’ rights.

In a letter of resignation Payne shared with The Post, he wrote that his resignation will take effect at 11:59 p.m. Wednesday and that it was intended to “spare the cost and divisiveness of a recall election to overturn the will of voters.”

“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 wrote. “I hope they soon realize that incarcerating the poor and underprivileged is not the solution to address the overarching poverty and substance abuse issues that are rampant in the San Luis Valley and statewide.”

The letter of resignation was addressed to Polis; a spokeswoman for the office did not immediately confirm that the letter had been received.

Lani Welch, a victim of domestic violence who found Payne to be rude and dismissive and who started the recall effort against him, said Wednesday that Payne’s resignation was “the right thing.”

“I would like to thank him for stepping up and doing the right thing for the victims and for the valley as a whole,” she said. “I now feel I finally have justice for what I have experienced for the past two years.”

Weiser’s office found Payne and his staff systemically violated the rights of crime victims by ignoring them, being rude to them, yelling at them and failing to communicate. On Tuesday, the AG’s office announced it would put in place an independent monitor to oversee reform in the prosecutor’s office. That oversight was to last three years.

Under the agreement, if Payne was removed from office, the new district attorney would be subject to the attorney general’s oversight for six months, at which point the oversight would end if the district attorney was in compliance with the reform parameters.

In addition to issues with how Payne treated victims, city officials in Alamosa were also displeased by Payne’s reform-minded approach to prosecution and believed that he did not seek severe enough penalties for people convicted of crimes. The 12th Judicial District includes Alamosa, Conejos, Costilla, Mineral, Rio Grande and Saguache counties.

This is a developing story and will be updated. 

 

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