On October 18, 2007, Maricopa County Selective Enforcement Unit agents were ringing the doorbells of two journalists: Jim Larkin and Michael Lacey. Both were involved in the Village Voice Media newspaper. Jim was the executive editor while Michael was the CEO.
The agents were on orders issued by Joe Arpaio, the then Maricopa County Sheriff. This was as a result of a piece that the duo ran on the Phoenix New Times, about a probe of a grand jury into the Village Voice Media’s Phoenix New Times. However, at the time, Lacey and Larkin were not aware that the grand jury had been looking into them.
Lacey and Larkin were both dropouts of Arizona State University. Lacey was formerly from Newark, N.J., while Larkin was a native of Phoenix. They both teamed up to head the Phoenix New Times, which was a campus weekly that was struggling to stay afloat.
Lacey became the executive editor while Larking led the advertising side. The free paper quickly grew an audience and went on to explore a range of social and political issues and gained acclaim among the country’s list of alternative newspapers.
Their arrest led to a public outcry, and this led to their charges getting dropped in 24 hours. The subpoenas, which were targeting the weekly’s writers, editor, and the readers, were also quashed and this brought the curtain down on the grand jury inquiry.
Later on, an investigation revealed that the warrants had been counterfeit, having been issued by a vengeful prosecutor, and who went past legal safeguards.
Arpaio was continually getting frustrated by the increased coverage that his law enforcement tactics were getting. Since his entry into office in 1992, his law enforcement tactics had always been overly aggressive. He was the pioneer of the infamous Tent City, a jail that was made to curb the overflow from the conventional facilities.
He also detained immigrants on suspicion that they were in the country illegally. He even encouraged his employees to carry on racial profiling Latinos and exchange them over to the immigration services.
Arpaio, of course, had his days in the chamber as a result of his activities. Before 2011, the matters were addressed severally behind closed doors. However, they all came to light after Arpaio was taken to court. Read more: Lacey and Larkin Frontera Fund and Michael Lacey | Twitter
The lawsuit exposed the abysmal conditions of the inmates in Tent City, and this led to Arpaio getting charged with violating the rights of immigrant groups, especially Latinos. In spite of this expose, he remained adamant of the charges and continued with his practice until the cries of the people caught the reporters.
Lacey and Larkin went on to expose Arpaio on multiple occasions, and this led to their arrest. After their release, they filed a lawsuit against Arpaio, and this exposed even more information on his corruption and malpractices.
The suit was later settled for $3.7 million. They then used the money to found the Lacey & Larkin Frontera Fund, whose aim is to distribute the money from the settlement among Latin-American groups across the state of Arizona.