ALBUQUERQUE, NM - Today, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of New Mexico and cooperating attorneys filed two lawsuits in the First and Second Judicial District Courts on behalf of local activist and organizer, Clifton White. The first lawsuit brings claims against officers of the Albuquerque Police Department (APD), Metropolitan Detention Center, and the New Mexico Probation and Parole Board for retaliation, as well as claims against the New Mexico Department of Corrections for wrongful arrest and detention. The second lawsuit is against New Mexico Corrections Department actors for keeping him on parole and probation three years after the state had no jurisdiction over him.
“Clifton White is one of countless Black men in America whose life circumstances bring them into the criminal legal system and his story shows how every instrument of this system worked against him to keep him in an endless cycle of incarceration from the time he was just eighteen years old, even after he completed his sentence” said Leon Howard, Legal Director at the ACLU of New Mexico. “We are doing everything we can to achieve justice for Mr. White.”
On May 28, 2020, in the wake of the tragic murder of George Floyd, Mr. White organized a largely peaceful protest against racism and police brutality along Central Avenue in Albuquerque. Albuquerque Police Department officers were aware of Mr. White’s history of activism in New Mexico.
During the protest, officers accused Mr. White of stealing a vehicle that he was securing for another protester after officers arrested the drivers of the vehicle and left it unattended with the keys on the roof. The owner of the vehicle declined to press charges and let officers know that Mr. White had not stolen it. Even with this information, APD Officer Geoffrey Stone sought arrest warrants related to this incident. After a search warrant of the vehicle was granted the day after the protest, Officer Stone concluded, without any other evidence, that because it was “very clean” Mr. White had “tampered with evidence” in the vehicle.
At the time of the protest, Mr. White was wrongfully on parole. Officer Stone conspired with Mr. White’s parole officer to unlawfully arrest him for technical violations of parole. Mr. White was booked into the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Detention Center on June 4, 2020 and placed in solitary confinement for fourteen days.
On the day he was booked, MDC Deputy Chief Aaron Vigil, referred to Mr. White by a racial slur in conversation with another officer. Deputy Chief Aaron Vigil was in a position of power and had a hand in the decision to place Mr. White in segregation.
“The APD officers involved in this case were angered by the Black Lives Matter movement and retaliated against Mr. White for his involvement in protected protest activities,” said Britany Schaffer, a cooperating attorney in the case. “These officers had no lawful authority to investigate and arrest Mr. White for technical parole violations.”
Mr. White remained incarcerated from June 4, 2020, until October 29, 2020, when his counsel filed a motion with the court in his original criminal case based setting forth that the State had no jurisdiction over him and was unlawfully keeping him on probation.
“For Mr. White, like many Black men in America, it is impossible to make amends for youthful mistakes and move beyond governmental control of liberty,” said Frank Davis, a cooperating attorney in the case. “When Mr. White exercised his first amendment rights to air grievances against law enforcement’s treatment of People of Color, they retaliated against him by arresting him.”
Britany Schaffer of the Law Office of Ahmad Assed and Associates and Frank T. Davis of Freedman Boyd Hollander Goldberg Urias & Ward PA are cooperating attorneys in the case.
Copies of the full complaints can be found below.