District Attorney's staff shortage forcing victims to wait for justice

The DA's office says they have seen staff shortages before, but never so few new applications coming in
Posted at 5:33 PM, Sep 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-28 19:33:09-04

PUEBLO — Pueblo's District Attorney's office is down 20% of their attorneys and, as a result, trials are being delayed.

"We've had attorney shortages before, so that's not new and we've handled that. What's new is the lack of applications," said 10th Judicial District Attorney Jeff Chostner.

"We're kind of going deeper in the job pool in terms of where they are in their careers, and catching them a little earlier than we normally would," said Chostner, who is looking at hiring attorneys currently in college or awaiting their bar results due to the lack of interest the job opening are seeing.

Chostner is trying to fill 5 vacant spots of the 23 attorney positions he has in his office.

As a result of the staff shortages, cases are moving more slowly when it comes to getting them to trial.

Sherry Engen lost her daughter, Shaleen Cruz, in a fatal car accident back in April 2021. Cruz's ex-boyfriend was allegedly driving recklessly during and argument with Cruz and crashed the car, killing her.

"It's been probably a good 90 days of postponements, a couple of setting hearings have been postponed twice already," said Engen, referring to the case's current status.

"The poor DA's office, they're understaffed. You know, they're overwhelmed with all the violence going on now," said Engen.

The trial against Christopher Sais, the former Pueblo massage therapist accused of sexual misconduct, was originally slated to begin at the end of August. It is now scheduled to begin on October 26.

Chostner says Pueblo's situation is not unique to the rest of Colorado.

"In a sense I wish it was a local problem, because I don't want to see the rest of the state hurting, but the fact of the matter is we're all hurting."

However, when asked if some criminals are being let off easily as a result of the staffing issue, Chostner assured that is not the case.

"I know in other jurisdictions that has happened, where the DA has had to go to the County Commissioners and say - We're not going to take these kind of cases anymore, we just don't have the staff to do it - We have not arrived at that decision in Pueblo County."

Chostner says anyone who has concerns about the delays or the way the office is operating during the labor shortage is welcome to contact them and visit the office for a tour.