Judge rules Jeffco sheriff, county engaged in ‘unconstitutional prior restraint’

CBS4 (Denver): A Jefferson County District Court Judge on Wednesday ruled a temporary restraining order obtained by the Jeffco sheriff and county attorney Jan. 23, preventing CBS4 from posting a news story about a Jeffco sheriffs deputy, amounted to “unconstitutional prior restraint.”

Judge Philip McNulty struck down the restraining order, allowing the television station to re-post the story about Deputy Myriah Lovato, who was charged with multiple felony counts and misdemeanors for allegedly engaging in a prohibited relationship with an inmate, smuggling contraband into the jail and allegedly sharing confidential law enforcement information with an inmate.

“We’re pleased the court upheld critical First Amendment protections and refused to allow the sheriff and the county to engage in illegal prior restraint,” said Tim Wieland, CBS4 News Director. “The report in question contained valuable information for the public about the alleged misconduct of a Jefferson County deputy.”

On Jan. 22, CBS4 legally obtained a copy of an 11 page arrest affidavit in the case of Deputy Myriah Lovato. A CBS4 reporter had requested the court file from a Jefferson County clerk, who released the file and the affidavit. CBS4 broadcast and published an online report the next day based on the affidavit. The document outlined how investigators said Lovato, a deputy working in the jail as part of the gang unit, had struck up a relationship with inmate Justice Espinoza, 34, a known gang member who was being held in the jail on kidnapping and other charges.

The report detailed how the two fondled each other and kissed in the jail, worked out a plan so Lovato — a mother of two boys and engaged to a police officer — could get a “burner” phone and receive calls from Espinoza at the jail. The two engaged in “phone sex” repeatedly according to the affidavit, with 188 phone calls during less than two months. The affidavit also indicated investigators believed that Lovato had smuggled contraband in to Espinoza, and had shared sensitive law enforcement information.

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