On October 18, 2007, armed Maricopa County Deputies from Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s Selective Enforcement Unit arrested and handcuffed Jim Larkin and Mike Lacey. The two were executives at Village Voice Media. They were removed from their homes against their will and shoved into SUVs with Mexican plates and tinted windows. They were then booked separately in jails managed by Arpaio.
Arpaio who has dubbed himself the Toughest Sheriff in America initiated and carried out the arrests. He had long been infuriated by articles from Phoenix New Times that uncovered his transgressions. While many mainstream newspapers dismissed Arpaio as an offbeat and benign Arizona character, the Phoenix New Times showed a more sinister side. First they reported on his role in spreading fear mongering and anti-Mexican fear in Arizona. They then uncovered rampant mismanagement and financial irregularities in Arpaio’s office. The more they dug the more they uncovered. They reported on punitive abuses of power against Arpaio’s critics, deaths and mistreatment of inmates in Arpaio’s jails, deficient health standards in jails, illegal detention of Latinos and racial profiling.
Larkin and Lacey were arrested due to their investigative story on Joe Arpaio’s assault to the constitution. The story which was published the Phoenix New Times revealed how the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office in cooperation with Arpaio issued subpoenas seeking information about the paper’s readers, writers and editors. The grand jury subpoena wanted private information such as readers’ IP addresses and their personal browsing histories. Lacey and Larkin decided to write about the subpoenas rather than cave to Arpaio’s demands. A national outcry led to their release in less than 24 hours and all charges being dropped.
Lacey and Larkin’s illegal detention led to a long court case that centered on abuse of power and First Amendment rights. The Ninth Circuit of Appeals wrote that the arrests of the two journalists was a direct assault on the First Amendment. It also noted that the subpoenas were invalid because the Maricopa County prosecutor did not follow the required legal procedures. This led the court to rule that Larkin and Lacy were illegally arrested. The decision by the appellate court led to Maricopa County paying Lacey and Larkin a $3.7 million settlement.
The two journalists used the money form the settlement to start the Frontera Fund. The Fund’s main objective is to assist Arizona’s Hispanic community which has been affected most by civil right abuses and racial abuses by law enforcement in Arizona. In 2016 Arpaio lost reelection as Sherriff after he which he was found guilty of criminal contempt.