DA candidates differ on 9th’s reputation | AspenTimes.com

DA candidates differ on 9th’s reputation

Naomi HavlenAspen Times writer

Strong differences between the two candidates running for district attorney of the 9th Judicial District came out during a discussion on GrassRoots TV yesterday.Colleen Truden and Lawson Wills, appearing on the Andrew Kole Show, sparred over the district’s reputation with law enforcement.Truden said prosecutors’ relationship with law enforcement agencies in the district are “deteriorating rapidly.”She said she’s heard through various sources in law enforcement that people aren’t satisfied with how the current district attorney’s office is handling cases. But she didn’t specify cases or who she has spoken to.Wills, however, said any problems with the district have been “really overstated.” He said he hasn’t seen any mounting disagreement between prosecutors and police.”The DA acts as part of a checks-and-balances system with law enforcement, a gatekeeper to the judicial system, and there are times when we have to decide if we’re going to pursue cases,” he said.This was the first opportunity for each candidate to discuss their platform together for an Aspen audience, since efforts for a formal debate fell through. The show aired last night at 10 and will air again this morning at 8.Each candidate was asked what they have to offer the district that their opponent doesn’t, as well as the current status of illegal drug activity and arrests in the valley.”I have leadership skills to run the DA’s office. I think he hasn’t had the opportunity to develop those like I did,” Truden said, going on to describe her 22-year legal career, which includes working as an attorney for federal and state courts.When Kole asked Truden if she primarily sees the district attorney’s job as a management position, Truden said the position is “extremely administration oriented,” but acknowledges that she would have to be capable of going to trial.When Kole asked Wills if Truden would be a better leader than he would in the district attorney’s position, Wills replied, “No way.””I’ve walked in the shoes of a prosecutor for 14 years,” he said. “What you are [as DA] is the team leader for 10 attorneys, and the office saw 6,200 cases last year. There are a lot of questions about cases and evidence, and you need to lead these 10 attorneys. How you could do that without ever being a prosecutor is impossible to believe.”The question of experience is one that has come to the forefront of the race. Wills, the assistant district attorney, asserted that he has copious experience as a prosecutor. Truden said she’s worked for a number of judges in the past and has handled trials as part of her own private practice.”[Being district attorney] takes a lot more leadership skills than telling the deputy DAs how to handle cases and trials,” she said. “You do that sometimes, but that’s also what you have a chief deputy DA and an assistant DA for.”Kole also focused on the status of the Two Rivers Drug Enforcement Team, or TRIDENT, which current District Attorney Mac Myers withdrew his office from earlier this year. Recently, Myers released a statement about the various reasons for the departure, citing questionable use of undercover investigations and incomplete reporting practices.Truden did not want to speak about what happened between Myers and the TRIDENT board, but did say she feels that Myers in his statement “attacked the two large law enforcement agencies who are most supportive of my campaign.” Myers has endorsed Wills as his successor.”I am supportive of drug task force programs like TRIDENT, and it has been effective to reduce drugs,” she said. “It interrupts the drug trade. I’d like to talk to TRIDENT about their philosophy and work with their board.”Wills said he supported Myer’s decision to depart from TRIDENT, but said that the drug enforcement team has been restructuring itself in the past several months and the board is trying to reform its practices, which he supports.The primary election for the 9th Judicial District Attorney is Aug. 10. Both Truden and Wills are registered Republicans and no Democrats have stepped forward as challengers, meaning the results on Aug. 10 will determine the next district attorney, barring a write-in candidate in November.Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is nhavlen@aspentimes.com

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