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Colorado Attorney General says San Luis Valley’s District Attorney violated victim rights

DENVER, Colo. (KRDO) -- After a seven-month investigation, the Colorado Attorney General has found the San Luis Valley District Attorney repeatedly violated the rights of crime victims.

Tuesday, Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser said the 12th Judicial District Attorney, Alonzo Payne, "routinely failed to communicate with victims, consult with them about plea deals or case dismissals, or treat them with respect and dignity."

Now, Weiser announced new oversight authority over Payne. According to the Attorney General's Office, this is the first time in Colorado in the VRA’s 30-year history that the attorney general has been required to enforce compliance with the law. 

"Not only have I not seen victims rights act violations of this magnitude but in the entirety of the victims rights act in Colorado history, we have never gotten to this point," Weiser said.

The 12th Judicial District Attorney's Office now must:

  • Retain an outside monitor, chosen by the State and funded by the DA’s office, to oversee the office’s future compliance with the VRA. The DA’s office will provide full access to its documents and personnel to the monitor.
  • Review and revise its VRA policy as well as create procedures for contacting victims in a timely manner.
  • Adopt and implement new mandatory training for employees to ensure compliance with the office’s new policies and procedures.
  • Revise the office’s website, create new informational materials, and notify victims of their VRA rights.
  • Conduct quarterly meetings with staff and stakeholders, including law enforcement partners, to improve communication about VRA compliance and office operations relating to VRA cases.

13 Investigates has learned that multiple victims in the San Luis Valley have filed complaints with the AG's office claiming Payne violated their rights.

"What you endured during the criminal justice system is wrong. It violated the law. It depends to be corrected," AG Weiser said to those victims.

One of those victims, Matthew Maka, spoke exclusively to 13 Investigates on June 30 about his case, where Payne dismissed his case against his wishes. Maka was shot in 2020 outside a Dollar General in Saguache County. The suspect, Joseph Taylor, was arrested on attempted murder charges.

However, on June 10, 2022, DA Payne dropped the charges.

"The DA is supposed to represent me and be my attorney and looking for my best interest when he clearly is not doing anything of that," Maka said. "As the victim, I shouldn't be telling you what to do. It's your job to listen to the 911 call, it's your job to talk to my wife, it's your job to get my side of the story and the other guys."

The Attorney General's Office said the new oversight is a three-year agreement with Payne.

The compliance will not be enforced by a court or specific judge. However, Weiser said it could reach that level if Payne's office does not come into substantial compliance.

Alonzo Payne has not replied to multiple emails and phone calls from 13 Investigates. However, Maka has expressed his sincere disappointment with how his case has been handled, along with numerous others in Southern Colorado.

"I don't feel like a victim. I feel like I am actually the one that did the crime. He made me sound like I am a criminal," Maka said. "He let so many cases go and didn't care so how is that fair for him to keep being in office and keep doing what he's doing? He should be disbarred."

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Sean Rice

Sean is reporter with the 13 Investigates team. Learn more about him here.

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