18th Judicial District Attorney’s Office honors victims rights advocates


2023 award winners with 18th Judicial DA John Kellner. From left to right, Jacob Swartz, Bob Friel, John Kellner, Lisa Gramer, Karen Vallely, Jodi Byrnes-Klaus, Shara Smith, Dilpreet Jammu, and Jeremy Shaver.

The PACE Center in Parker was the setting for the April 27 18th Judicial DA’s Office annual awards ceremony for people and organizations who go the extra mile to represent, support, protect, and honor victims of crime.

District Attorney John Kellner said the name of the program, “Survivor Voices: Elevate, Engage, Effect Change, speaks to what so many people in this room have dedicated their professional lives to.” He continued, “These are the people who go the extra mile, or the extra ten miles,” pointing also to laws to benefit crime victims that have been passed “as a direct result of advocacy by people in this room,” including legal changes pertaining to hate crimes and to juveniles.

The 2023 award winners, and the categories in which they won, all announced at the ceremony, were:

  • Non-Profit: Hate Free Colorado represented by Shara Smith and Dilpreet Jammu of the Interfaith Alliance and Jeremy Shaver of the Anti-Defamation League Rocky Mountain Region
  • Outstanding Victim Service:  Jodi Byrnes-Klaus, Forensic Interviewer at Sungate Kids-Child Abuse Awareness, Support & Advocacy
  • Law Enforcement Officer: Detective Jake Swartz, Aurora Police Dept.
  • Law Enforcement Advocate: Melissa Potestio, Elbert County Sheriff’s Office
  • District Attorney Support Staff: Karen Vallely
  • District Attorney Prosecutor: Lisa Gramer
  • District Attorney Investigator: Bob Friel
  • District Attorney Victim Witness Service: Misty Armijo

Attending the ceremony to support the victims and their advocates were Centennial Mayor Pro Tem Richard Holt, Arapahoe County Commissioners Leslie Summey and Bill Holen, with his wife Debi, who was a violent crime victim, and Douglas County Commissioners Lora Thomas and Abe Laydon.