Special prosecutor appointed in embezzlement case against former DA Willett
By Owen Woods | firstname.lastname@example.org
A case of alleged embezzlement against former 12th Judicial District Attorney Robert Willett will proceed in district court and with a special prosecutor appointed following court proceedings Wednesday.
Willett appeared virtually in court with his attorney, Joseph Maher, who initially filed a motion to dismiss the case due to the lack of a special prosecutor.
The motion was denied after District Court Chief Judge Michael Gonzales appointed Henry Solano, the district attorney for the 3rd Judicial District, as special prosecutor on Tuesday.
Solano said, “I think it’s timely for me as special prosecutor to proceed rather than trying to refile after a dismissal.”
“Given that I did sign the order yesterday for the appointment of special prosecutor, I do find the motion to dismiss, while though appropriate at the time, is now a moot issue and I am denying that request to dismiss at this time, based upon the non-appointment of the special prosecutor,” said Judge Gonzales.
Maher filed a not guilty plea and a motion for the case to go to pre-trial readiness and trial. The prosecution and defense were able to discuss the matter of the disposition and found common ground in allowing this case to move ahead faster in district court.
“Mr. Maher and I had a chance to speak yesterday and do understand that given the combined nature of everything, that time is of the essence,” said Solano.
Judge Gonzales gave the defense until May 30 to file any motions and arranged for June 1 to be the hearing of the setting of the motions and setting of the jury trial.
Willett faces a single count of felony embezzlement of public property filed in March by 12th Judicial District Attorney Alonzo Payne. Willett and Payne ran against each other in the 2020 Democratic primary election, which Payne won with 62 percent of the vote and then ran unopposed in the November general election.
Payne’s time as district attorney since the election has been marred by controversy around allegations of “indifference and a pattern of repeated violations of crime victims’ rights” leveled by the Rocky Mountain Victims Law Center, and an effort by the city of Alamosa to recall Payne for not vigorously pursuing alleged drug criminals and animal abusers, among other complaints.
Attorney General Phil Weiser is investigating the allegations made by the Rocky Mountain Victims Law Center against Payne. The city of Alamosa, meanwhile, is trying to secure enough signatures to get a recall of Payne on the November ballot.