Gov. Jared Polis appointed Anne Kelly as the new district attorney for the San Luis Valley on Monday, weeks after the region’s elected prosecutor resigned when an investigation found he systemically violated the rights of crime victims.

Kelly will take over Thursday as district attorney in the 12th Judicial District, which covers Alamosa, Conejos, Costilla, Mineral, Rio Grande and Saguache counties.

She previously worked as a prosecutor on the Front Range, working in the 18th, 19th and 20th judicial districts, which include Weld, Arapahoe and Douglas counties, as well as Boulder, where she was credited with starting a program aimed at helping victims of domestic violence, the Daily Camera newspaper reported.

She will replace Alonzo Payne, a reform-minded prosecutor who resigned in July amid a recall effort led by the city of Alamosa and backed by residents upset with his style of prosecution, professionalism and treatment of victims — and amid an unprecedented investigation by Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser into violations of the state’s Victim Rights Act.

A day before Payne’s resignation, Weiser announced his office found Payne and his deputies repeatedly violated crime victims’ rights since taking office in January 2021 by refusing to communicate with victims, yelling at them, skipping scheduled meetings and generally treating victims with disrespect.

Weiser in July installed an independent monitor to oversee reform at the prosecutor’s office for three years — a position that will remain even with the new district attorney.

Kelly said in a statement Monday that she will focus on increasing transparency, upping engagement and communication, and being accessible to the community as she takes over the role of top prosecutor.

“…My top priority is to restore trust in the Office of the District Attorney and the criminal justice system,” she said in the statement.

The Boulder District Attorney’s Office said in a news release that Kelly, who most recently served as a senior deputy district attorney in that office, spent time working in the San Luis Valley after Payne’s resignation as part of an effort by several jurisdictions to keep the district attorney’s office running smoothly.

She “immediately recognized the need for a strong chief law enforcement officer to restore trust in the justice system” and decided to apply to become district attorney, the news release said.

Boulder County District Attorney Michael Dougherty called Kelly a “tireless advocate for justice.”

Former 12th Judicial District Attorney Eugene Farish praised Kelly’s appointment in a statement Monday, saying she was a “terrific choice” for the role.

“She will do a great job of putting together an office that is facing challenges and overcoming the backlog they are facing,” he said in the statement.

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