On October 18, 2007, Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin were unlawfully arrested by armed deputies from Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s Maricopa County’s “Selective Enforcement Unit”. The two Phoenix Times writers were illegally removed from from their homes in the Phoenix-area put into dark, unmarked SUVs with and transported, separated and booked into two different jails that operate under Arapio’s supervision.
Joe Arpaio, the sheriff who ordered and carried out the arrest of Lacey and Larkin, has a reputation operating in unethical ways and had recently been covered in a Phoenix Times article. “America’s Toughest Sheriff”, a name Arapio gave himself, had became outraged by Phoenix New Times stories that uncovered all of his evil practices to it’s readers. The Phoenix New Times reported on the dysfunctional system Arpaio had in place and excessive abuse of power including; mismanagement, poor health conditions within Arpaio’s jail, deaths of jail inmates, and Arpaio’s racial profiling and illegal arrest and detainment of Latinos.
The article that leads to the arrest of Lacey and Larkin was a cover story in Phoenix New Times that revealed how Arpaio illegally issued grand jury subpoenas in an attempt to attain details about the newspaper’s writers, editors, and readers. To add to the already repeated abuse to the legal system Arpaio attained readers’ personal browsing histories and IP addresses. Instead of giving in to Arpaio’s illegal orders to Lacey and Larkin wrote about it in the Phoenix Times which would lead to their arrest.
After an immediate national response in disfavor of the arrest, Lacey and Larkin were released within 24 hours and all charges against them were dropped.
The illegal arrest and detention of Lacey and Larkin sparked a year long court battle based on the premises of First Amendment rights and abuse of power. The Ninth Circuit came to the conclusion that the subpoenas ordered by Arpaio were illegal and never went through the proper legal procedures in order to be granted. That conclusion deemed Lacey and Larkin’s arrest unlawful as it occurred without any probable cause.
The court’s decision resulted in a $3.7 million settlement in favor of Lacey and Larkin. Inspired by their own personal fight against their rights being violated the two started the Lacey and Larkin Frontera Fund. The group’s intentions were to benefit the Hispanic community in Arizona have been and currently are victims of racial discrimination and civil rights violations. Since the launching of the fund, the group has begun funding groups with similar purposes that feel can benefit from their help.