DA critically injured in Arizona

According to local law enforcement sources, Craig Westberg, district attorney for the 6th Judicial District, suffered severe spinal injuries in a weekend biking accident in Arizona and remained in critical condition at Scottsdale Healthcare Wednesday afternoon.

Those sources indicate Westberg, 64, broke his neck in the accident and is in a coma. Westberg’s wife, Jan, a nurse employed at Mercy Regional Medical Center, was biking with him at the time of the accident and, reportedly, she kept Westberg alive until emergency personnel arrived at the scene. Indications are that Westberg has been given little chance to emerge from the coma and, if he does, that he will likely face significant paralysis.

Attempts to procure detailed information about the accident from Arizona press and law enforcement sources have, thus far, been unsuccessful.

Despite the failure to verify specifics in the matter, actions taken Monday in Durango indicate that Westberg’s tenure came to an end slightly more than one week before he was due to leave office when his four-year term was complete Tuesday, Jan. 13. Monday, district attorney-elect Todd Risberg said he was sworn in as a deputy district attorney that morning by District Judge Jeffrey Wilson, to assist with operation of the office until he is sworn in as chief prosecutor next Tuesday.

Kim Kitchen, the assistant district attorney, will head up operations in the office until Risberg takes the oath. Kitchen said Tuesday the office staff was devastated by the news of Westberg’s accident. “Keep them in your thought and prayers,” said Kitchen of the Westbergs. “We are hoping for the best.”

Westberg faced legal problems during the last year after he was arrested for driving under the influence of drugs (Ambien). He chose not to run for reelection and he pleaded guilty to the charge in October.

Westberg had a long and positive history, however, serving residents of Archuleta County, one of three counties (with La Plata and San Juan) in the 6th Judicial District, working closely with local law enforcement officials.

Recently-retired Pagosa Springs Police Chief Don Volger commented on his relationship with Westberg.

“I really admire Craig Westberg,” said Volger. “I always had a good working relationship with him and considered him a friend. I was disappointed with what happened to him over in Durango this past year; it was heartbreaking. But, he was a good attorney and he represented Pagosa Springs well. Sarah Law (former district attorney) put Pagosa Springs on the map and, as her assistant, Craig continued. When he took over, then after he was elected, he kept it up. This is sad.”

Archuleta County Sheriff Peter Gonzalez also worked with Westberg, both in the role of sheriff and as the District Attorney’s Office investigator in Archuleta County.

“He was a friend,” said Gonzalez of Westberg. “I was both an employee and a friend; we had a professional and personal relationship. My wife, Jeanne, set up Craig and his wife, Jan, on a first, blind date. My wife played matchmaker, and Craig and Jan hit it off.

“I believe he was a good district attorney,” said the sheriff. “He did a good job over here as an assistant district attorney and did a fine job as the DA. He always said, ‘I care about Pagosa Springs, Pete.’ And what he did, showed it. He set up an office here, with prosecutors, an investigator and office staff. He visited here frequently; he produced for us, and he cared.”