U.S. Press Freedom Tracker

Colorado judge strikes down order preventing CBS4 from publishing

Incident Details

Date of Incident
January 23, 2019
Denver, Colorado

Prior Restraint

Status of Prior Restraint
Struck down
Mistakenly Released Materials?
January 23, 2019

A Jefferson County, Colorado, sheriff and county attorney obtained an order prohibiting local CBS station, CBS4, from publishing a story on the grounds that an affidavit used in the report should not have been released.

A Jefferson County District Court Judge struck the order down on Jan. 27, 2019, finding it an unconstitutional case of prior restraint.

According to its own report, CBS4 requested a court file in the case of a sheriff’s deputy that had been charged for an alleged relationship with an inmate at a local jail. On Jan. 22, it received both the file and a copy of an affidavit.

The affidavit, according to the report, outlines how Myriah Lovato, a deputy working in the jail as part of the gang unit, had struck up a relationship an inmate, a “known gang member.”

On Jan. 23, a Jefferson county sheriff and the county attorney obtained a signed order from a judge that the affidavit had been disclosed inadvertently and should have been sealed.

“The Sheriff is deeply concerned that the release of this information, as well as additional details contained in the affidavit but not yet released by CBS, will compromise related criminal investigations throughout the State of Colorado, the prosecution of Lovato’s case, and the safety of individuals involved in these investigations,” reads the order.

The newsroom initially complied with the order and removed the report while CBS attorneys fought to challenge it. It re-published following the judge’s order to vacate.

U.S. Supreme Court precedent has held that prior restraint — in which government officials seek to block information from becoming public — is unconstitutional in all but the most extreme circumstances.

The U.S. Press Freedom Tracker catalogues press freedom violations in the United States. Email tips to [email protected].