DA Payne charges former DA Willett with embezzlement

Robert Willett

Charge filed day after city council considers recall campaign

ALAMOSA — Twelfth Judicial District Attorney Alonzo Payne has filed a charge of embezzlement against former District Attorney Robert Willett.

In a court document obtained by the Valley Courier from the Alamosa County Clerk, DA Payne ties the charge of embezzlement to the salary of a district attorney in the state of Colorado, citing a Colorado Revised Statute that "the compensation for his or her services [those of the District Attorney] will be no less than $130,000 per annum," and "any amount in excess of this shall be set by the board or boards of the county commissioners."

According to the document, no such amount of excess was set by the boards of county commissioners for the six counties that comprise the San Luis Valley.

Payne then alleges that Willett “unlawfully, feloniously, and knowingly converted, on Dec. 16, 2020, the public monies or property to his own use or to a use other than the public use authorized by law.”

The document lists embezzlement of public property as a class five felony.

No additional information or explanation related to the charge was included in the charging document or, according to the clerk, contained in the file available to the public such as a description of an investigation or statement of probable cause.

The date stamped on the charging document was March 3.

On March 2, the City Council of Alamosa unanimously approved on first reading an ordinance allowing the city to participate in a recall campaign of DA Payne, following an extensive list of concerns presented to the Council by the Chief of Police for the Alamosa Police Department and the Alamosa City Manager.

Should a recall campaign be successful, voters would have the opportunity to recall Payne and vote in a new district attorney.

Willett has been rumored to be interested in running for his previous office, something he confirmed with the Valley Courier on Tuesday, stating, “You may indeed say that I would be interested in running if a recall came about.”   

When asked for a response to the charges, Joe Maher, counsel for Willett, stated, “The decisions and actions of DA Payne are stunning. This is a political prosecution, and my client is looking forward to the full set of facts coming out.”

Maher is a law partner with the law firm Maher and Maher, a practice comprised of former prosecutors. 

Payne challenged the incumbent Willett in the Democratic primary held in June of 2020 and, in an upset, won the Democratic nomination. Since there was no Republican opponent listed on the ballot in the general election, Payne was announced the winner of the election in November and was sworn into office the following January.

Willett is currently serving as the Deputy District Attorney for the Fourth Judicial District in Colorado Springs.

The Valley Courier reached out to Payne with questions related to the charge but did not receive a response prior to going to press.