It was 1972 when Jim Larkin teamed up with Michael Lacey to start Phoenix New Times. Both men dropped out of Arizona State University to dedicate themselves to this work. Their newspaper was a weekly that intended to counter the views being expressed by the ultra-conservative media in Arizona at the time. Those were the days of heated student protest against America’s involvement in Vietnam.
As time went on, they found success in their endeavor. By 1983 Larkin and Lacey’s media empire began showing signs of the growth to come as they acquired their second newspaper, Westward (Denver, Colorado’s news-and-arts weekly). There would be several others after that: LA Weekly, Miami Times, and eventually the motherload – New York City’s Village Voice.
Jim Larkin was the CEO, and Michael Lacey was the executive editor of their company known as Village Voice Media Holdings. That all meant nothing on October 18th, 2007 when “America’s Toughest Sheriff,” Joe Arpaio, sent his deputies in unmarked vehicles to collect them from their homes in handcuffs during the night.
Sheriff Arpaio, who had served Maricopa County, Arizona in that capacity since 1993, conjured up a scheme to arrest Larkin and Lacey. The problem is that he had no probable cause to detain them. The news of the arrest sparked a firestorm of public outrage. Within 24 hours the county’s attorney assembled a press conference to announce that he had dismissed the case.
Investigators later discovered that Sheriff Arpaio had gone after the newspapermen due to a story that had just appeared in their local publication.
The Sheriff became angered at the disclosure that a grand jury subpoena was demanding the paper provide names of its writers, editors, and readers. Without question, the sheriff’s orders were an abuse of power and an assault on the first amendment.
The whole fiasco was nothing more than Arpaio’s desire to get even with Larkin, and Lacey. The sheriff had a vendetta against the pair because of their endless scrutiny of his department.
There is a track record of friction extending back to 1992 in the archives of Phoenix New Times. There you will find investigative journalism disclosing the most egregious cases of misconduct and abuse by the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Department. The pattern consistently showed a bias against Latinos.
The antagonism of Sheriff Arpaio toward the Latino community of Maricopa County eventually led to a momentous lawsuit, Melendres v. Arpaio. The Sheriff lost this case. The judge charged him with contempt of court stemming from the proceedings.
Lucky for Arpaio President Trump later pardoned him due to their warm relationship which developed while Mr. Trump was on the campaign trail during the previous year. Read more: Village Voice Media | Wikipedia and Michael Lacey | Twitter
The voters were not as kind to 85-year-old Joe Arpaio. After 27 years they had enough. The people of Maricopa County have elected to pass the badge to a new sheriff.
As for Larkin and Lacey, they sued Maricopa County for false arrest. Five years after the incident they were awarded $3.75 million in damages. They used the settlement to establish a non-profit, the Frontera Fund. The fund’s purpose is to protect the same people Arpaio profiled.
Learn more about Jim Larkin and Michael Lacey: