Jeffco's new DA focuses on same story line

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By Chris Ferguson

Newly elected District Attorney Pete Weir is close to his new job. So close, in fact, that when he and his wife, Susan, moved into their Golden home, they had to rearrange their bedroom because they could see Jefferson County’s administrative building reflected in the mirror.

Weir, who was sworn in Tuesday, has a long history with the office and in law enforcement — he has spent 34 years in the criminal justice system in jobs ranging from executive director of the state Department of Public Safety to a leadership post with the Colorado District Attorneys’ Council.

About two years ago, Weir was hired as senior chief deputy district attorney for the 1st District, with the intention of running for the top job in 2012. 

While campaigning — the Republican ran unopposed — he heard from constituents who want the DA to be singly focused on justice. 

“The sense that I get is that it’s about justice. And that can sound trite in some respects, but that really is what being a prosecutor is about,” Weir said. “And that’s why it’s the best job possible for an attorney. You get up every day and you go to work, and your sole mission is to do the right thing. I think the people of Jefferson and Gilpin counties are looking for a district attorney and deputy DAs that can distinguish between a good person who’s made a mistake and a real predator, somebody who poses a significant threat to our community.”

Weir said he tries hard to be fair-minded. 

“We recognize that people get swept into our system, sometimes for reasons out of their control, sometimes because they’ve done something that, in retrospect, they would never repeat. But then there are also folks who prey on others, and we must aggressively prosecute those individuals while having an understanding of the circumstances for others and hopefully fashion a just result for them.”

‘We can make a real difference’

Weir replaces Republican Scott Storey, who was elected in 2004 and re-elected in 2008. Storey was term-limited, and Weir said he would continue the work that Storey undertook in his two terms. Weir said he expects to make only some administrative changes.

“Scott started a (drug) recovery court that I am very supportive of, because I think that we are short-sighted if we don’t try to discriminate between the addicts, the users, and those that prey on the addictions of others — the dealers, the distributors and the manufacturers of drugs. And that’s going to be the focus of my administration.” 

Weir said the drug court represents an innovative approach to justice.

“The recovery court is a new way of looking at public safety; it’s a broader, a more progressive approach to public safety. If we look at some of the fundamental criminogenic factors and try to address some of those, it benefits the individual, but my concern is the community as a whole. And I think we are benefiting the community when we can control their addictions; they’re not burglarizing someone’s home, they’re not stealing someone’s identity, they’re not robbing a 7-Eleven to feed their addiction.”

He said he is committed to intervening in young people’s lives so they don’t commit crimes as adults.

“I feel very strongly about our juvenile justice system. I really believe that if we intervene appropriately in a juvenile’s life, we can make a real difference. If the system can provide the kind of support and resources that are needed at that stage, we’re keeping somebody out of the adult system. It doesn’t always work, but I think there are great opportunities there.

“The Juvenile Mental Health Court is a great example there. We have some juveniles that have gotten involved in our system that have significant mental health issues, but fortunately they are being identified and diagnosed early on and, hopefully, they get appropriate services and we don’t have criminal behavior later.”

Weir said he plans to continue the office’s Elder Abuse program that was instituted under his predecessor. He cites demographics that show both counties are aging.

“We want to do our best to protect our most vulnerable citizens, and that’s our elderly and our children.”

He is also prepared to deal with Amendment 64, which has legalized the possession of less than an ounce of marijuana. 

“If it’s a simple, low-level possession that would be legal under the new law, and it’s still a pending case, we would not prosecute,” said Weir. However, if there are other more serious offenses linked to possession, his office will prosecute.

Weir cited a gag order when asked about the case against Austin Sigg, who is charged as an adult in the abduction and slaying of Jessica Ridgeway, 10, who disappeared last Oct. 5. 

Big shoes to fill

Between investigators and lawyers, Weir will oversee nearly 100 officers. The office serves roughly 560,000 people in both counties. 

Weir and his wife have two adopted children, an 11-year-old son and an 8-year-old daughter.

Weir earned a bachelor’s degree from Duke University and a law degree from the University of Denver. In 1979, he started his professional career as a deputy district attorney in the 4th Judicial District in Colorado Springs. After four years, he went into private practice in Denver. In 1986, Weir was hired as a deputy district attorney for the 1st District, serving as a chief deputy district attorney for more than 10 years in two administrations. In 1999, he took a leadership post with the Colorado District Attorneys’ Council, where he represented all of Colorado’s 22 elected district attorneys. 

In 2004, Gov. Bill Owens appointed Weir as a district judge for the 1st District. He had served in that role for 2½ years when in 2007 Gov. Bill Ritter named Weir executive director of Colorado’s Department of Public Safety. In that post he had oversight of the Colorado State Patrol, Colorado Bureau of Investigation, and the Division of Criminal Justice. 

Weir worked with Ritter to reform Colorado’s sentencing system and helped develop the Colorado Commission on Criminal & Juvenile Justice, which focuses on sentencing policies and reducing recidivism. 

Chris Ferguson is a news editor for Evergreen Newspapers. E-mail news tips to chris@evergreenco.com.