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.

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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. 

ACLU Sues Aurora for Brutalizing and Unlawfully Arresting Latino Man

November 20, 2018

ACLU Sues Aurora for Brutalizing and Unlawfully Arresting Latino Man

Lawsuit Alleges Widespread Pattern of Racially Biased Policing

Denver – The ACLU of Colorado sued the city of Aurora this morning on behalf of Alberto Torres, a Latino man who was illegally ordered out of his home and unjustifiably beaten by Aurora police officers who were called to investigate a noise complaint.

According to the lawsuit, Torres was fixing a car in his garage with friends when an Aurora police officer approached and illegally ordered him to step out of his home. After pausing to phone his wife to ask her to come out of the house and translate, Torres obeyed under threat of arrest.

Although Torres had been calm and respectful throughout the encounter, officers immediately put him in a twist lock and, within seconds, threw him to the ground. He screamed out in pain as officers wrenched his injured arm behind his back and then smashed his face into the ground, leaving him bloodied and bruised.

“Mr. Torres complied with the officer’s illegal command only to be met with brute force. Aurora then assigned the supervisor on the scene—who participated in the beating—to review the use of force. With the fox guarding the hen house, it is unsurprising the City of Aurora found no wrongdoing,” said ACLU Cooperating Attorney Mari Newman of Killmer, Lane & Newman, LLP.

The ACLU complaint asserts a widespread practice of racially biased policing. It describes 13 separate incidents in which Aurora police have subjected people of color to unnecessary aggression and violence, as well as illegal detention and unjustified arrest, often when the police suspected the victim, at the most, of only minor violations of the law.

“Aurora is the most racially diverse city in Colorado,” said ACLU of Colorado Legal Director Mark Silverstein. “Its residents deserve a police force that leaves residents feeling safe and secure. But in case after case after case, the Aurora police unnecessarily escalate tension, fear and violence when policing people of color, destroying community trust and leaving the community less safe. It is past time for the Aurora Police Department to retrain its officers and for the City to institute truly independent civilian oversight of the police.”

In order to justify the use of force against Torres, Aurora police falsely charged him with resisting arrest and failure to follow a lawful order, according to the lawsuit. After watching a video of the incident, a jury acquitted Torres of those charges and found him guilty only of a noise violation—a minor offense to which Mr. Torres would have readily pleaded guilty if not for the additional, more serious, and false charges.

Torres, through a translator, said: “I was just fixing a car in my garage. I wasn’t hurting anybody. But the Aurora police beat me up. They didn’t care that I was screaming in pain. Now I am afraid of the police.”

The complaint alleges that, at sentencing for the noise violation, the Aurora Municipal Judge ignored the jury’s acquittal and instead held up a photo of Torres’s battered face and warned, “when a police officer tells you to do something, you do it. As a result, this kind of stuff happens.” With these statements, the complaint asserts, the Aurora Municipal Court endorsed Aurora’s well-known custom and practice “that anything but immediate, unquestioning compliance with police orders (even if the police orders are unlawful), particularly by people of color, is met with physical aggression, excessive force, and criminal charges by Aurora police officers.”

Defendants in the lawsuit, filed in federal court in Denver, include the City of Aurora and three police officers: Ethan Yazdani, Kristi Mason, and Sergeant Reginald DePass. In addition to Silverstein and Newman, Torres’s attorneys include Andy McNulty, of Killmer, Lane, & Newman, and Rebecca T. Wallace of the ACLU of Colorado.


View the complaint:

Map of racialized policing in Aurora:
















The ACLU of Colorado is the state’s oldest civil rights organization, protecting and defending the civil rights of all Coloradans through litigation, education and advocacy.

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