Colorado Rights Blog


  • Cedric Watkins is a father, uncle, entrepreneur-in-training, and a vital community pillar for many others. While behind bars, he has tirelessly devoted himself to serving his peers and his community. He developed gang disaffiliation programs for other incarcerated individuals and is currently involved with Defy Ventures. He sends letters and calls his daughter as much as he can.

    Cedric is currently in prison at Sterling Correctional Facility. He was convicted of aggravated robbery, burglary, kidnapping, theft and sentenced to 80 years; no one was seriously injured or killed. For comparison, a person convicted of second-degree murder in Colorado faces a maximum sentence of 48 years. Cedric has already served 20 years and has fully rehabilitated during that time.

    It’s time to bring Cedric home: Redemption is real. Clemency is compassion.

  • On November 21, 2016, 13 Aurora police officers responded to a simple noise complaint at Alberto Torres’s home. As happens all too often, Aurora police officers escalated this minor issue into a brutal affair. They beat Mr. Torres solely because he delayed exiting his garage to ask his wife to interpret for him. With that beating, the lives of Mr. Torres and every member of his family were changed and he has yet to recover. ACLU of Colorado fought to obtain justice for Mr. Torres, and Aurora has now paid him $285,000. But money is not justice, and the brutality of the Aurora Police Department against people of color has continued unabated.

    It doesn’t have to be this way.

    Imagine, if instead of 13 officers being dispatched to Mr. Torres’s home for a noise complaint, the City of Aurora sent a civilian-led response team to check on his welfare and ask that he and his friends lower their sound, resulting in a non-violent solution to a minor issue?

    ACLU Settles Case With Aurora After Police Brutalize and Unlawfully Arrest Alberto Torres

  • Hope is a discipline. It’s a commitment that together, we can create a more perfect union. We won’t rest until we fulfill the promise of equal rights for ALL people in the United States.

    Join us in our fight to fulfill this promise and move forward with hope by donating to the ACLU of Colorado. Your donation supports the ACLU’s strengths that make our work effective and collaborative.

    Donate now at

  • 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. 

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.


Read the ACLU complaint:

Visit the case page:

Return to News