While there are many journalists who go about their duties without any provocation, on October 18, 2007 Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin faced a completely different experience. That was the day that not only caused a great amount of fear for their professional lives as journalists, but also as Americans for their freedom of speech. After being violently removed from their Phoenix homes, the two were handcuffed and arrested on the orders of then Sheriff Joe Arpaio which was carried out by the Selective Enforcement Unit.
Michael and Jim were transported to separate county jails- both jails were under the authority of Sheriff Joe Arpaio. It was at that time the two Village Voice Media executives began to understand the underlying intent of the order, and the reason for their undeniable illegal arrest. During the justified reporting by the Phoenix News Times of Sheriff Arpaio’s mishandling and mistreatment of immigrants within Arizona, the Sheriff became increasingly outraged by the newspaper. The newspaper uncovered rampant abuse, deaths of inmates, racial profiling, and the alleged unconstitutional detaining of Latino’s within Arizona; all under the direction of Arpaio. Additionally, the newspaper reported documented proof of financial irregularities and extensive mismanagement by the Sheriff’s office.
The arrest of Michael and Jim came at a time when the Phoenix News Times had just released a cover story outlining the details of how the Sheriff’s department, and its allies within the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, used intimidation tactics by issuing a grand jury subpoena requesting details about the newspaper’s reporters, editors and readers, even including the browsing history and IP addresses of readers. Rather than succumb to the illegal tactics, Michael and Jim stood by their freedom of speech rights and continued to write about the failings within the Sheriff’s department.
The Phoenix communities became outraged by the arrests of the two highly-respected journalists and within 24 hours they were both released from county jail and all charges were immediately dropped. Michael and Jim decided to fight the Maricopa County for their First Amendment rights. The case ultimately reached the Nineth Court of Appeals in 2012. Subsequently, the court determined that the actions taken by Maricopa County and Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s office amounted to a “direct assault” on their First Amendment rights.
In 2013, Michael and Jim reached a settlement of $3.75 million with Maricopa County and used the funds to found the Lacey and Larkin Foundation.