On Friday, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of New Mexico and other 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, Metropolitan Detention Center and the New Mexico Probation and Parole Board for what they say is retaliation, as well as claims against the New Mexico Department of Corrections for wrongful arrest and detention. The ACLU also filed a second lawsuit that is against New Mexico Corrections Department for keeping White on parole and probation three years after they say the state had no jurisdiction over him.
“Clifton White is one of the 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 was an organizer of a largely peaceful protest against racism and police brutality along Central Avenue in Albuquerque. The ACLU says APD officers were aware of White’s history of activism in New Mexico.
During the protest, officers say White of stealing a vehicle that he says he was securing for another protester after officers arrested the drivers of the vehicle and left it unattended with the keys on the roof. According to police reports, the owner of the vehicle declined to press charges and let officers know that White had not stolen it. APD Officer Geoffrey Stone sought arrest warrants related to this incident even after this information. 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” White had “tampered with the evidence” in the vehicle.
At the time of the protest, White was wrongfully on parole. Officer Stone conspired with White’s parole officer to unlawfully arrest him for technical violations of parole. White was booked into the Bernalillo County Metropolitan Detention Center on June 4, 2020, and placed in solitary confinement for fourteen days.
According to the ACLU, on the day he was booked, MDC Deputy Chief Aaron Vigil, referred to White by a racial slur in conversation with another officer.
“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.”
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.