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  • 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 Lawsuit: Trinidad Liable for False Arrest, Malicious Prosecution, in Undercover Drug Sting

January 8, 2015

DENVER – The American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado filed suit this morning against the City of Trinidad and a pair of Trinidad detectives on behalf of two innocent women who were falsely arrested and prosecuted as part of a highly-publicized “drug sting” in December, 2013.

According to the lawsuit, detectives Phil Martin and Arsenio Vigil relied on unsubstantiated accusations made by an untrustworthy confidential informant while ignoring readily available evidence that clearly demonstrated that ACLU clients Danika Gonzales and Felicia Valdez were innocent.  According to the ACLU, these unjustified false arrests are representative of the Trinidad Police Department’s “custom, policy, and/or practice of conducting undercover stings and arrests in a manner that violates the U.S. Constitution.”

Overall, 40 individuals were arrested during Trinidad’s 2013 “drug sting,” many on the basis of false, deficient, and misleading arrest affidavits, according to the ACLU complaint.  None of the 40 arrests resulted in a drug-related conviction.

“At the Trinidad police department, it is standard operating procedure to recruit snitches of unproven and untested reliability and unleash them on the community with money and a directive to buy drugs, without the oversight, control and supervision that is regarded as standard in law enforcement circles,” said ACLU of Colorado Legal Director Mark Silverstein.  “The result is an open invitation for an opportunistic snitch to lie with impunity, to pocket the “buy” money, to skim drugs for personal use, and to settle personal scores by framing innocent persons, all while getting handsomely paid by the police. And that is what happened in this case, after the Trinidad police recruited informant Crystal Bachicha.”

The cases that relied on Bachicha’s accusations started to fall apart shortly after the “drug sting” and the arrests of 40 people.  Two people arrested for supposed drug sales to Bachicha were cleared after it was proven that they were actually in jail on the dates the sales supposedly occurred.

The lawsuit charges that Martin and Vigil sought arrest warrants based on Bachicha’s uncorroborated accusations while deliberately concealing from the judge a wealth of facts they knew would cast doubt on her credibility and motives.  In addition, the ACLU charges that the detectives laced the arrest affidavits with false and misleading assertions designed to manufacture probable cause for arrest.

Gonzalez, who had been Bachicha’s probation officer, lost her job as a result of the false arrest.  Valdez was fired from her job with the Trinidad School System, and she and her children were evicted from their federally-subsidized housing.

“The detectives turned a blind eye to multiple red flags indicating that their snitch was not trustworthy, and worse, they either ignored or downright concealed evidence that would have made clear that the snitch was lying and our clients were innocent,” said Paul Karlsgodt, of Baker Hostetler LLP, who is leading a team of ACLU cooperating attorneys litigating the case.

The suit was filed this morning in federal district court in Denver.

Resources:

Read the ACLU complaint:
http://static.aclu-co.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/Trinidad-Complaint.pdf

Visit the case page:
https://aclu-co.org/court-cases/gonzalez-v-city-trinidad/



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