Mike Lacey and Jim Larkin, Village Voice Media Executives, were arrested by a “Selective Enforcement Unit” put together by Joe Arpaio and forcibly removed from their Phoenix-area homes on October 18, 2007. They were pushed into an unmarked SUV with tinted windows and Mexican license plates and booked into different jails that are managed by Arpaio. Initiated and driven by Arpaio, a man who calls himself “America’s Toughest Sheriff” the arrests were motivated by his being angry at his misdeeds being written about in stories published in Phoenix New Times. The newspaper exposed Arpaio’s role in creating an anti-Mexican climate, and when mainstream newspapers tried to write Arpaio up as a benign, misunderstood sheriff, Phoenix New Times reported the opposite. By exposing mismanagement and financial irregularities in Arpaio’s office and abuse of power that was aimed at Arpaio’s critics, the news organization revealed his true nature and uncovered poor health conditions his jails as well as poor treatment of inmates.
The arrest of Larkin and Lacey is being connected to a cover story they wrote in Phoenix New Times that showed how friends of Joe Arpaio’s inside the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office issued grand jury subpoenas aimed at uncovering details about Phoenix New Times readers, editors, and writers. This included private information like the IP addresses and personal browsing history of some of the newspaper’s readers. Instead of being intimidated by Arpaio, Larkin and Lacey wrote a story about the incidents. Larkin and Lacey were released within less than 24 hours of being put in jail due to a large national outcry.
Their illegal jailing started a long court battle concerned with abuse of power and First Amendment rights. The Ninth Court of Appeals, in 2012, noted released a statement that expressed their surprise at the assault on the First Amendment rights that were violated when Arpaio used his power to have his critics arrested. The court also recognized the illegitimacy of the grand jury subpoenas that had been served to Larkin and Lacey; the reason being that the prosecutor had ignored legal procedures and arrested Larkin and Lacey without probable cause.
Eventually, in 2013, Maricopa County paid $3.7 million in settlement funds to Larkin and Lacey, which they donated to the Frontera Fund, which is an initiative that helps the Latino community against civil rights abuses in Arizona. While sheriff Joe Arpaio is busy demonizing and detaining Mexican migrants, Larkin and Lacey are helping them.