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Southern Colorado DA resigns after Victim Rights Act violation

Gov. Jared Polis appointed Attorney General Phil Weiser interim district attorney for the 12th Judicial District in the San Luis Valley.

DENVER — An investigation into a district attorney in the 12th Judicial District for violations of the Victim Rights Act has led to his resignation from his position. 

The Democratic prosecutor who promised criminal justice reform in rural Colorado is out as of Wednesday. Alonzo Payne resigned with an official letter to the governor – less than two years into his first term.

Payne lost the backing of prominent Democrats as an investigation found he had ignored and mistreated crime victims. He was under scrutiny from other law enforcement – and the public.

He also faced a recall election.

The investigation by Colorado Attorney General's Office investigation found he yelled at crime victims and staff, often showed up late to meetings, missed follow-ups required by law and didn't consult victims when it came to plea deals or dismissing cases.    

The state's Crime Victim Services Advisory Board found Payne's office likely violated the law several times.

Democratic Attorney General Phil Weiser is among those who lost confidence in Payne. Weiser returned a campaign donation from Payne four months ago.

The attorney general announced an outside monitor would protect victims' rights in the San Luis Valley.

Weiser said in a statement that the people of the San Luis Valley "deserve a fresh start with a new district attorney," and that the investigation "revealed systemic problems in 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," Weiser said in the statement. 

The 12th Judicial District includes Alamosa, Conejos, Costilla, Mineral, Rio Grande and Saguache counties in southern Colorado.

Gov. Jared Polis (D) appointed Weiser to serve as interim district attorney in the 12th Judicial District until a replacement is picked. 

> The video above aired in February when the 12th Judicial DA's Office was under investigation.

PREVIOUS: State attorney general requires reforms in southern Colorado DA's office for victims' rights violations

PREVIOUS: Board finds southern Colorado DA's office repeatedly violated Victim Rights Act

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