Ten years ago, Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin were arrested by the Maricopa Country Enforcement Unit on the orders of the Sheriff of Maricopa County, Joe Arpaio. They were taken from their homes in Phoenix, Arizona, in the cover of the night.
The charge against them was that they had disclosed details about a grand jury investigation. The two men ran the Village Voice Media newspaper chain, where Lacey was editor and Larkin the CEO. Earlier in the day, they had published a story on the grand jury probe in their newspaper Phoenix New Times.
Lacey and Larkin protested that the case against them had been rigged by Arpaio who wanted to silence them. The New Times had been working hard to cover and expose the corruption within his department ever since he came into office in 1992.
In November of last year, Phoenix New Times revisited Larkin and Lacey’s long-standing feud with a story Front Page Confidential’s Stephen Lemons.
The story recaps the stained history of Arpaio’s years as Sheriff; recounting harrowing incidents of detainees dying in jail cells, the time he ordered expectant mothers to be shackled to their beds and various extralegal measures against political opponents. Read more: Michael Lacey | Crunchbase
Among all the sheriff’s abuses of power, his targeting of the newspapermen, and his open contempt for the Latinos who lived in his jurisdiction. The latter led to the landmark federal rights lawsuit, Melendres versus Arpaio, which he lost.
The wrongful arrests of journalists who had just been doing their job were such an outrageous violation of the First Amendment that the news spread nationwide. Within a period of 24 hours, the county attorney convened a press conference that announced the cases against the journalists had been dropped.
Five years later, Lacey and Larkin received a $3.75 million settlement by Maricopa County for their wrongful arrests. The two journalists gave the money away to the nonprofit, the Frontera Fund, an organization which fights for the rights of migrants and immigrants.
Arpaio lost the election for the post of the sheriff in 2016, and in July of last year, a judge found him guilty of criminal contempt of court that stemmed from the Melendres suit. In August of the same year, President Donald Trump, an old friend of the sheriff, pardoned him, saving him from a prison sentence.
In his article, Lemon writes that Arpaio had understood that he was in deep trouble last year, and his endorsement of Trump before the election was a calculated move to save himself. His support of Trump paid off when he received the pardon.
Michael Lacey had attended Arizona State University in late 1960’s. After dropping out in 1970, he published the first issue of Phoenix New Times along with some students. The newspaper was supposed to be a response to local media’s ultra-conservative news. Lacey became the editor of the newspaper while his friend Larkin handled the business side.
They purchased Westworld in 1983, which began an expansion that would lead to them owning a multimillion conglomerate of newspapers including Miami New Times, LA Weekly, and Village Voice in New York.
Learn more about Jim Larkin and Michael Lacey: