Colorado Rights Blog


  • Anthony Martinez is 84-years-old and suffering from renal failure, as well as other serious medical conditions including dementia. He is currently incarcerated in the Sterling Correctional Facility, site of one of Colorado’s largest COVID-19 outbreaks with almost 600 active COVID-19 cases. He and his family are understandably terrified that he will catch the virus and die.

    In the midst of this public health crisis, incarcerated people as vulnerable as Anthony, could and should be immediately released to safely live out their remaining years with family.

    Read more about Anthony Martinez and other at-risk incarcerated people. 

  • Ronald Johnson is pre-diabetic, suffers from asthma and high blood pressure, and regularly uses an inhaler to breathe. His age and respiratory ailments put him at risk of serious illness and death if he contracts COVID-19. With over hundreds of active cases in Colorado’s prisons, his family fears he will not make it out alive. His daughter, Amber, says, “In prison, he can’t protect himself and he can’t social distance. My deep fear is that my dad will die in prison. That is an awful, traumatic reality to consider. My chest is tight just thinking about how quickly it spreads and how vulnerable he is.”

    Governor Hickenlooper shortened his sentence following testimony from family, friends and correctional officers advocating for his early release. Yet, he is still eight years away from parole. While he remains in prison, COVID-19 continues to spread. Ronald’s three siblings, four children and four grandchildren are desperate for his release.

    Read more about Ronald Johnson and other at-risk incarcerated people.

  • Tuesday Olson knew her pregnancy was in trouble and tried to access hospital care as soon as possible. But there was a problem: she was in jail. This is her story.
  • It’s time to end the death penalty in Colorado. Family members who lost loved ones to murder speak out against an unjust and broken system.

ACLU Heads to Court on Motion to Dismiss Case of Fort Collins Man Who Was a Victim of the City’s Camping Ban

DENVER – The ACLU of Colorado announced that it will present evidence tomorrow, May 7 in Fort Collins Municipal Court in support of its motion to dismiss the prosecution of Adam Wiemold, a homeless man who is charged with illegal “camping” by Fort Collins police for sleeping in his vehicle at a designated rest area where truck drivers regularly rest in their vehicles with impunity.

“I was sleeping in my vehicle because, even with a full-time job, I just didn’t make enough money to pay my bills and pay rent,” Wiemold said. “It shouldn’t be a crime to be homeless or to simply sleep. But, in Fort Collins, it is.”

Fort Collins has been criticized for its vigorous enforcement of its citywide anti-camping ordinance, which forbids sleeping in public spaces, including inside a person’s own legally-parked vehicle. The Fort Collins Homeless Coalition has documented an almost 500% increase in citations under the ordinance, with 413 prosecutions initiated in 2017.

Critics of such camping ordinances scored a recent victory when a federal circuit court of appeals ruled in an Idaho case that it violates the Constitution to prosecute persons for sleeping outside when they have no other choice, such as when indoor shelters are full. The influential ruling has already prompted some cities to amend their anti-camping ordinances to make exceptions when shelters are full, but Fort Collins makes no exception. ACLU of Colorado attorneys will rely on that decision in Wiemold’s case — the first Colorado case to invoke that widely-watched court ruling.

“On the night Mr. Wiemold was charged with sleeping in his vehicle, the shelters were full,” said ACLU Legal Director Mark Silverstein. “Our client had no choice but to sleep outside. He is not being prosecuted for a crime; he is being prosecuted for being poor. In Fort Collins, apparently, poor is a four-letter word.”

ACLU lawyers will also argue that the case against Mr. Wiemold must be thrown out on grounds of unconstitutional selective prosecution. Police communications and additional evidence will show that the police operation that snared Mr. Wiemold was deliberately targeted at homeless persons, while interstate truckers engaged in the same conduct at the same rest area were left undisturbed.

“Sleeping in one’s car is not a luxury,” said Adam Frank, who will argue for Mr. Wiemold as an ACLU cooperating attorney. “It’s a last resort. To selectively punish some people for simply trying to sleep and survive is the very definition of cruel and unusual.”

Attorneys for both sides will present evidence at the Municipal Court, Fort Collins, Colorado on May 7 at 1 p.m.

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