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. 

Defendant Monitored by NSA Files First-of-Its-Kind Legal Challenge

In the first filing of its kind, a criminal defendant who was notified that his communications were monitored under the FISA Amendments Act of 2008 today challenged the law’s constitutionality and the admissibility of evidence obtained under it. The defendant, Jamshid Muhtorov, is represented in the motion by the Federal Public Defender’s Office, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the ACLU of Colorado.

The motion argues that the FISA Amendments Act violates the Fourth Amendment because it permits the government to collect and access the international communications of U.S. residents in bulk, without individualized court review.

“The FISA Amendments Act affords the government virtually unfettered access to the international phone calls and emails of U.S. citizens and residents. We’ve learned over the last few months that the NSA has implemented the law in the broadest possible way, and that the rules that supposedly protect the privacy of innocent people are weak and riddled with exceptions,” said ACLU Deputy Legal Director Jameel Jaffer. “Surveillance conducted under this statute is unconstitutional, and the fruits of this surveillance must be suppressed.”

The Supreme Court dismissed the ACLU’s civil lawsuit challenging the FISA Amendments Act last February on the grounds that the ACLU’s plaintiffs – which included Amnesty International USA, Human Rights Watch, and The Nation magazine – could not prove their communications had been collected.

During the litigation, the government assured the Supreme Court that criminal defendants who were actually monitored under the statute would be given a chance to challenge its constitutionality. It was later revealed, however, that the Justice Department had a policy of concealing from criminal defendants the role that the FISA Amendments Act had played in their prosecutions. The Justice Department recently changed its policy, and Muhtorov is the first criminal defendant to receive notice that he was spied on under the law. Muhtorov, a former human rights advocate in his native Uzbekistan who was admitted to the U.S. as a political refugee, is accused of attempting and conspiring to provide material assistance to a resistance group opposed to the repressive Uzbek regime.

“For five years the government insulated this statute from judicial review by concealing from criminal defendants how the evidence against them was obtained, but the government will not be able to shield the statute from review in this case,” said Mark Silverstein, legal director of the ACLU of Colorado.

The President’s Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies, which released its report last month, found that surveillance under the law does not sufficiently protect the privacy of U.S. citizens or residents and should be subjected to a number of significant restrictions – including a bar on the government’s use of evidence obtained through such surveillance in criminal proceedings like Muhtorov’s.

Lawyers on today’s motion are Jaffer, Alex Abdo, Patrick Toomey, Brett Max Kaufman, and Nathan Freed Wessler of the national ACLU; Silverstein and Sara J. Rich of the ACLU of Colorado; and Virginia L. Grady, Brian Leedy, Kathryn Stimson and Warren R. Williamson of the Office of the Federal Public Defender for the Districts of Colorado and Wyoming.

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