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Late in the day on 10-28-2007 Mike Lacey and Jim Larkin were both resting at their homes. Around the same time, both hard armed Maricopa County deputies show up to arrest them. These deputies were from the “Selective Enforcement Unit” that then Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio had created. Both Lacey and Larkin, who were Village Voice Media executives, were handcuffed, arrested, and taken to prison. Both ended up in jails that Joe Arpaio managed.
Sheriff Arpaio was the one who instigated these arrests. He didn’t like the stories about him that often appeared in the pages of the New Times, a local independent newspaper. There were articles in the newspaper that exposed Arpaio’s political posturing and how he used anti-Mexican fear-mongering campaigns on a regular basis. They also wrote articles about how his office had financial irregularities and other mismanagement issues. Health conditions were deplorable in the prisons he ran and he directed his officers to use racial profiling to arrest people and then would have them unconstitutionally locked up.
The claim that Sheriff Arpaio made about arresting Jim Larkin and Mikey Lacey was that they had written a story about how some of the sheriff’s allies in the Attorney’s Office of the county had issued grand jury subpoenas against the New Times. The subpoena wanted to know everything about the newspaper’s employees and even get the IP addresses and browsing histories of everyone that had read the stories on the New Time’s online edition.
Larkin and Lacy had the charges dropped and they were quickly released from jail after people around the nation were in an uproar about this. They sued the county for what had been done. The suit went all the way up to an appellate court which ruled that the county had to pay them $3.7 million for what they had done.
Seeking to do good with the money, Lacy and Larkin set up The Frontera Fund with the money. This fund supports others who face the oppression of their rights in Arizona. This includes everything from first amendment rights to the human rights of immigrants and migrants. It specifically was built to benefit the large Hispanic population that makes their home in Arizona. The goal is that their civil rights quit being abused by those in governmental positions. Thankfully Arpaio no longer serves as a sheriff in Maricopa County but, unfortunately, there are too many in power with similar mindsets.