Last week, Phoenix New Times founders Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin were arrested and jailed after the paper published a story about the grand jury and subpoenas they had received which demanded detailed Internet records of any person who had visited the newspaper’s website since 2004, as well as all notes and records from any reporter who had written about the Sheriff in the preceding three years. Here’s some of what the offending article had to say:
It is, we fear, the authorities’ belief that what you are about to read here is against the law to publish. But there are moments when civil disobedience is merely the last option. We pray that our judgment is free of arrogance.
In a breathtaking abuse of the United States Constitution, Sheriff Joe Arpaio, Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas, and their increasingly unhinged cat’s paw, special prosecutor Dennis Wilenchik, used the grand jury to subpoena “all documents related to articles and other content published by Phoenix New Times newspaper in print and on the Phoenix New Times website, regarding Sheriff Joe Arpaio from January 1, 2004 to the present.”
Many newspapers in the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies (AAN), of which The Independent is a long-time member, are providing links on their websites directing their readers to the many places on the Internet where the home address of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio is listed.
After Larkin and Lacey were arrested on October 19, an outpouring of shock and anger accompanied widespread media coverage of the case. The response created a groundswell of support for New Times. The charges were dropped less than 24 hours later after Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas admitted that his office had made “serious missteps” in the case.
“The actions of Mr. Thomas and Sheriff Arpaio in this case are beyond outrageous,” said AAN Executive Director Richard Karpel. “They abused their offices by engaging in Gestapo-like tactics designed to silence a newspaper that has been highly critical of them in the past.”
Added AAN First Amendment Chair Tim Redmond, executive editor of the San Francisco Bay Guardian: “Our association and its members won’t tolerate this sort of attack on the right of a member paper to publish information that is and ought to be public record.”
“This was a victory for the First Amendment, the constitution, and for our reader’s right to read our newspaper without the government spying upon them,” said Larkin and Lacey in a joint statement. “As the Federal press shield legislation moves from the House to the Senate, we hope people will remember what happened to reporters, editors, and readers in Phoenix.”
Phoenix New Times has published dozens of stories critical of both Thomas and Arpaio. In fact, the paper maintains an archive on its website of its coverage of Arpaio since he was elected sheriff in 1992. Here are some quotes from Sheriff Joe’s official Maricopa County website:
You probably know him as “America’s Toughest Sheriff,” a name given to him years ago by the media. It’s a name he certainly has earned as head of the nation’s third largest Sheriff’s Office which employs over 3000 people. But even before he became Sheriff in 1993, Joe Arpaio was one tough lawman…
Also impressive are the Sheriff’s get tough policies. For example, he banned smoking, coffee, movies, pornographic magazines, and unrestricted TV in all jails. He has the cheapest meals in the U.S. too. The average meal costs about 15 cents, and inmates are fed only twice daily, to cut the labor costs of meal delivery. He even stopped serving them salt and pepper to save tax payers $20,000 a year.
New Times published Arpaio’s home address in a story arguing that he abused a state law that allows law enforcement officials to keep their addresses from being made public. New Times said Arpaio used the law to hide nearly $1 million in cash real-estate transactions.
Thomas convened a grand jury to investigate the case even though Arpaio’s home address was then and continues to be easily accessible on a number of other websites, including the Maricopa County Recorder’s official website (click “2004 Financial Disclosure Statement” for PDF).
Other sites listing Sheriff Arpaio’s address:
Arpaio continues to resist New Times‘ request for information relating to his real estate holdings.
Here is the list of AAN papers that have agreed to post these links this week on their websites: Artvoice (Buffalo, NY), Arkansas Times, Birmingham Weekly, Boston Phoenix, Boston’s Weekly Dig, Cincinnati CityBeat, City Pages (Minneapolis), Dallas Observer, Houston Press, Independent Weekly (Durham, NC), Independent Weekly (Lafayette, La.), L.A. Weekly, Metro (San Jose, Calif.), Metro (Santa Cruz, Calif.), Metroland (Albany, NY), Miami New Times, Nashville Scene, New Times Broward-Palm Beach, North Bay Bohemian, OC Weekly, Philadelphia Weekly, The Pitch (Kansas City), Portland Mercury, The Pulse (Chattanooga, Tenn.), The Reader (Omaha, Neb.), Riverfront Times (St. Louis), San Francisco Bay Guardian, Santa Barbara Independent, Santa Fe Reporter, Scene (Cleveland), Seattle Weekly, Seven Days (Burlington, Vt.), SF Weekly, Shepherd Express (Milwaukee), The Source Weekly (Bend, Ore.), The Stranger (Seattle), Syracuse New Times, Tucson Weekly, Urban Tulsa Weekly, The Village Voice, Westword (Denver), Willamette Week (Portland, Ore.)
And finally, this is how AAN describes itself: “Since its founding in 1978, the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies has grown to include 130 free-circulation weekly newspapers throughout North America. More than 25 million print and online readers in markets as diverse as Memphis and Montreal, Pittsburgh and Pasadena, Chicago and Charlotte, rely on their local alternative newspaper for local news, political opinion, and arts coverage they won’t find anywhere else.”