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Wills: Experience the critical factor

Naomi Havlen

To DA candidate Lawson Wills, it’s all about experience.Wills is currently the assistant district attorney of the 9th Judicial District, which comprises Pitkin, Garfield and Rio Blanco counties.The heart of his campaign is about the experience he’s gained from working for 14 years as a prosecutor.”My position is that without experience you can’t make any decisions for the office,” Wills said. “You’ve got to have someone who’s been there.”

Wills was born in Pueblo and raised in Colorado Springs, and received a degree in civil engineering from Colorado State in Fort Collins in 1980. He was an engineer for seven years with Colorado Interstate Gas Engineering before going to law school in 1987 at the University of Colorado in Boulder. Wills graduated in late 1990 and worked with the El Paso County District Attorney’s office in 1991, handling misdemeanors. With 60 attorneys, the office is one of the busiest in the state.After 15 months, Wills began to handle felony prosecution in Colorado Springs under John Suthers – the current U.S. Attorney for the district of Colorado. In September 1992 Wills was hired to the 9th Judicial District by then-DA Milt Blakey; he was promoted to the No. 2 position in the district seven years ago.Wills said he’s made an effort to try all types of cases – in the past four years he’s prosecuted a dozen local teenagers for their role in a crime spree, prosecuted a man for raping a woman in an Aspen alley and prosecuted a man later convicted for first-degree murder.He has also helped the district office work on cases in Rio Blanco and Garfield counties, and helped train both prosecutors and local law enforcement officers. Wills conducts ongoing training with the Aspen Police Department and the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office on the correct procedures for search and seizures, and report writing.”I’ve also tried to be as proactive with the community as possible. Law enforcement is very reactive – we often wait until crime occurs before we get involved,” he said.

“Here, we’ve worked on things like supporting the Right Door Project [for recovering substance abusers] and going into the schools. It helps with our visibility and educates the community about law enforcement.”Wills said he does have someone in mind for the assistant DA position if he is elected, but he didn’t want to specify. He said he would like current deputy district attorney Gail Nichols to stay with the office to handle felony cases, although he plans on having his hand in all significant cases in the district.”Pitkin and Rio Blanco [counties] are the stepchildren in the district, and Garfield County is always the heavyweight,” he said. “Through the years Pitkin and Rio Blanco [counties] have not gotten the attention that they deserve, and I intend to have a presence in all three counties.”Wills said he’s worked in the last year to be familiar with the administrative side of what the district attorney does. He also says he’s participated in the district’s budget process in the last couple of years.

He says his experience makes him a knowledgeable prosecutor, not just an aggressive one.”You have to be reasonably aggressive and know when to apply that and when not to,” he said. “If you concentrate your time and efforts on people [who have done] something with the intent of being mean, then I think you appropriately apply your resources.”Other criminals, Wills said, are guilty of making stupid mistakes and must learn from those so their conduct can be corrected. He said he wants to run the sort of office that people feel comfortable coming into without an appointment.”I’ve always believed that free communication leads to a more just result,” he said.Naomi Havlen’s e-mail address is nhavlen@aspentimes.com


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