SAN LUIS VALLEY, Colo. (KRDO) -- When 12th Judicial District Attorney Anne Kelly took over from her predecessor, she admits the office was in disarray. They had a bare-bones staff of prosecuting attorneys, little funding, and a backload of cases that reached as high as 300. Now, a year later, Kelly tells 13 Investigates they are looking better than ever.
"I think that we've done good work this year. We have a lot more work to do. And I, along with my staff, are totally committed to maintaining our focus on making victims feel like they can trust the system, making victims feel like their voices are heard, and making sure that nothing like what happened before I came into office ever happens again," Kelly said.
The City spent $10,000 of taxpayer money last summer to start a recall effort against previous District Attorney Alonzo Payne.
Payne was disbarred from practicing law in Colorado after he resigned in July 2022. Then, in September, the Colorado Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel found that Payne violated crime victims' rights and "failed to consult with victims about plea deals and dismissals."
"One of the resounding comments that I received was that we just don't have any trust. We don't know what is going on there," Kelly said. "It was almost an exhausted amount of distrust and lack of hope because of what had been going on."
That's how she describes the communities view of the District Attorney's office when she took over the reins. There was work to be done and Kelly said one of her first priorities was showing that she cared about the job.
"I was an outsider from Boulder. So I needed to be able to meet to meet with victims and to meet with law enforcement agents and to meet with judges," Kelly said. "There's one thing to meet people and talk to them about what you're going to do, but then it's another thing to actually do it."
Her staff is now flush with practicing attorneys, a tall task for a DA's office that was underfunded for years. Now, Kelly was able to double her budget after she presented a comprehensive budget plan to the County Commissioner in all six counties that make up the 12th Judicial District.
"We were successful in convincing the commissioners to give us the money that we needed to then go out and recruit lawyers and pay them at a competitive salary so that we could actually attract people coming down here and have them stay here," Kelly said.
The biggest sign of improvement is the response from local law enforcement agencies, who were once very critical of Payne, are now meeting monthly with Kelly.
"We reinvigorated all law enforcement, the all valley-wide law enforcement meeting, which meets once a month, and leaders from all of our 22 agencies in the valley meet, we had a perfect attendance. I see enthusiasm, I see better cases," Kelly said.
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