Colorado Rights Blog


  • 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.

  • One year ago, thousands of Coloradans marched in a historic display of resistance. At the ACLU of Colorado we carried that spirit throughout the year, fighting on many fronts for civil liberties. We won’t stop now.

  • By canceling DACA, Trump has put 800,000 young people at risk of losing their jobs and being deported from the only country they know as home. Passing the bipartisan Dream Act would protect them. We asked four Dreamers why the Dream Act is important to them and their future.


ACLU Sues to Stop Weld County Criminal Libel Investigation


January 8, 2004


The American Civil Liberties Union of Colorado (ACLU) filed suit today in federal district court seeking an emergency order to stop Weld County law enforcement authorities from pursuing a criminal investigation and prosecution of Thomas Mink, the publisher of an Internet-based publication that features satiric commentary on issues of public concern to the University of Northern Colorado (UNC) community.


The Howling Pig, which is available at, began publishing in the fall of 2003. After three issues, the lawsuit says, the Greeley Police Department appeared at Mr. Mink’s home with a search warrant, announced that they were investigating a felony charge of “criminal libel,” and confiscated Mr. Mink’s computer and all electronically-stored files and data. Police were acting on a complaint filed by Junius Peake, a well-known UNC professor who is spoofed in Mr. Mink’s publication.


Colorado’s rarely-used criminal libel statute makes it a crime to publish statements “tending to blacken the memory of one who is dead, or to impeach the honesty, integrity, virtue, or reputation or expose the natural defects of one who is alive.” A number of antiquated statutes with similar language have been held unenforceable in other states.


According to the ACLU, a criminal prosecution under Colorado’s criminal libel statute violates the right of free expression and freedom of the press. “The Howling Pig consists of satire, parody, opinion, and other expression that is fully protected by the Constitution,” said Bruce Jones, of Holland & Hart, an ACLU cooperating attorney who filed the lawsuit. “Colorado’s criminal libel statute should not and can not convert constitutionally-protected expression into a jailable offense.”


“This case illustrates the danger of permitting overbroad unconstitutional statutes to remain on the books,” said Marcy Glenn, a Holland & Hart attorney who is co-counsel for the ACLU. “Police relied on this unconstitutional statute to search Mr. Mink’s home and cart off his computer and all his files on the ground that they provide ‘evidence’ of crime.”


“There is no legitimate place for a criminal libel statute in a free society,” said Mark Silverstein, ACLU legal director. “Civil lawsuits provide an adequate remedy for defamation. No one should be threatened with jail for what they write or publish.”

The ACLU is asking for a declaratory judgment that the criminal libel statute is unconstitutional and an emergency order blocking prosecution. The lawsuit also alleges that the search and seizure violates the Fourth Amendment and seeks the immediate return of Mr. Mink’s computer and files.


Defendants in the lawsuit are Weld County District Attorney A.J. Dominguez, Jr., the City of Greeley, and Detective Ken Warren of the Greeley Police Department. The lawsuit also names John Doe #1, who is identified as the unknown assistant district attorney who reviewed the application and approved the application for search warrant.

Return to News