On October 2007, Jim Larkin and Michael Lacey were handcuffed and arrested by armed deputies from the feared “Selective Enforcement Unit” for Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County. The duo were the executives of Village Voice Media. On their arrest, against their will, the two were removed from their Phoenix neighborhood in unmarked SUVs featuring conspicuous Mexican license plates and dark tinted windows. Later, the two were booked into separate jails under the supervision of Joe Arpaio.
Joe Arpaio often referred to himself as the toughest Sheriff in America. The man who had instigated and carried out the arrests had been long outraged by exposes of his misdeeds by the Phoenix New Times. The daily was instrumental in reporting to the public of Arpaio’s political posturing in Arizona. Moreover, the newspaper reported of his office’s rampant mismanagement and financial irregularities, abuses of power against his critics, mistreatment, and deaths of inmates, unconstitutional detention and racial profiling of Latinos and substandard health conditions in his jails.
Ostensibly, Larkin and Lacey were arrested for having penned a cover story in the renowned Phoenix New Times, which revealed how Arpaio had been involved in the assault to the Constitution. Moreover, the story detailed how Arpaio’s friends at the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office had been involved in the issuance of grand jury subpoenas, which sought details regarding newspaper’s editors, writers, and readers, including the personal information, IP addresses and browsing the history of readers.
Following a profoundly loud national outcry from the public, all charges against Larkin and Lacey were dropped and subsequently they were released from jail. Their illegal detention set the stage for a prolonged court wrangle geared on abuse of power and First Amendment rights. The Ninth Circuit Appellate Court, in 2012, indicated that public officials ordering an immediate arrest of their critics were a direct assault on the First Amendment.
The Appeal Court’s decision facilitated a $3.7 million settlement to Larkin and Lacey by Maricopa County. The duo reserved the hefty settlement money for a unique initiative, Frontera Fund. The initiative is intended to primarily benefit the Hispanic community, which has borne the brunt and wrath of the civil rights abuses and racial animus in Arizona.