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‘Violent offenders need to be held accountable.’ New San Luis Valley DA talks prosecuting style

SAN LUIS VALLEY, Colo. (KRDO) -- Thursday, 13 Investigates spoke with the newly appointed 12th Judicial District Attorney. The San Luis Valley has been without one for weeks following the resignation of the former DA.

The 12th Judicial District Attorney's Office went without an official DA for weeks after former District Attorney Alonzo Payne resigned on July 13. Before stepping down, Payne had been at the center of a recall effort and an investigation by the Colorado Attorney General's Office.

The Colorado Attorney General's Office found that Payne had violated the rights of numerous victims.

After weeks of being run by the state, Colorado Governor Jared Polis appointed Anne Kelly, a former Boulder County deputy district attorney, to take over the legal responsibilities in the San Luis Valley Monday.

Kelly officially took over the responsibilities of the office Thursday. Looking toward the future, Kelly told 13 Investigates she plans on holding violent criminals accountable will be at the top of her list.

"Violent offenders need to be held accountable. Drug dealers need to be held accountable," said Kelly. "My office will prioritize the prosecution of homicides, violent felonies, weapons cases, domestic violence is going to be a top priority in my office."

Kelly added that she understands that there are people suffering from addiction that are incarcerated and would benefit from a second chance. She said doing this properly takes years of prosecuting experience.

"You have to have done this work to determine the difference between those individuals that need all the help and the resources we can give them to right the ship, and those individuals who we need to hold accountable," Kelly said.

One of the biggest challenges facing Kelly is the number of backlogged cases held over from Payne's tenure. She told 13 Investigates numerous warrants were not acted upon by Payne in recent years.

"Those warrants were kind of just sitting there and I had known about this issue prior to putting my name in for the appointment," Kelly explained. "It's going to take time. We can't file all of the backlogged cases at once because that creates a jam in the system."

In the next few months, Kelly said most of those cases will be filed and she will be recruiting quality prosecutors to work for her to manage the caseload and provide crime victims a sense of justice.

"They were not treated the way they deserve to be treated. Those conversations were profoundly moving for me," Kelly said.

Before throwing her hat in the ring, Kelly said she volunteered in the San Luis Valley through the Colorado District Attorney's Council. During that time, she met with crime victims to understand what they needed from a new district attorney.

"What struck me most about this valley was the incredible courage it took for this valley to come together and say enough is enough," Kelly said. "I saw the drive and passion people had for community safety and I also saw a community that really looks out for one another."

Kelly said her door is always open to any crime victims that she has not been able to speak with yet. She shared her desire to hear from community members and take advice on how her office can better serve them.

Kelly will hold the office via Polis' appointment until the end of 2022. She told 13 Investigates she will rerun for the office this November and hopes to build on the work completed in the latter months of 2022.

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Sean Rice

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

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