On October 18, 2007, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio sent a group of armed deputies dubbed “Selective Enforcement Unit” to handcuff and arrest Mike Lacey and Jim Larkin. The two journalists who served as Village Voice Media executives were removed from their homes in Phoenix and matched into unmarked tinted SUVs, which had Mexican license plates. The two journalists were later booked into separate jails.
The arrests had been conceived and executed by Joe Arpaio, the sheriff who had dubbed himself the America’s Toughest Sheriff. Phoenix New Times exposed the sheriff for creating anti-Mexican fear-mongering and political pomposity in Arizona. As other mainstream newspapers dismissed Joe as just a regular offbeat character in Arizona, Phoenix New Times reported his financial irregularities and mismanagement of his office. The newspaper accused Arpaio of mistreatment leading to deaths of inmates, unconstitutional detention of Latinos, and racial profiling.
Larkin and Lacey were arrested for writing a story exposing Joe’s collusion with Maricopa county attorney’s office to assault the Constitution by seeking subpoenas to detail the list of writers, editors, and readers of the newspaper. Contrary to majority expectations, Lace and Larkin wrote about the subpoena. The two journalists were released from jail within 24 hours of their arrest, and their charges dropped following a national outcry.
This illegal detention led to a prolonged court battle as Larkin and Lacey sued the county of First Amendment Violation and abuse of power. In 2012, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal concluded that the actions of Joe Arpaio were against the Constitution as he had assaulted the First Amendment. The Ninth Circuit further noted that the subpoenas served to Larkin and Lacey were illegal. The court made it clear that the two journalists were arrested without enough reasons. As a result, the court allowed the $3.7 million in settlement to be paid to Larkin and Lacey by the Maricopa County.
When they received the amount, the directed it towards the establishment of Frontera Fund, a foundation that benefits Hispanic groups that are victims of civil rights abuses and racial abuses in Arizona. Larkin stated that he was born and brought in Arizona knowing that he must help those unfortunate in life. He decided to support Mexican Immigrants after seeing the hardships they face crossing the desert to work in Arizona.
Since its birth, Frontera Fund has been fighting for the rights of Latinos. In 2014, the organization fought against politicians who were tried to imitate Arpaio. The group donated Frontera Fund dollars to all nonprofit organizations advocating for Hispanic civil rights.
Lacey and Larkin’s Newest Business Venture – Front Page Confidential
Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin are the co-owners of Front Page Confidential and the previous co-owners of The Phoenix New Times. The duo met in their college years when they teamed up to create a liberal publication to argue against their school’s conservative views towards antiwar protests. Their success in school led to them dropping out to create a legitimate newspaper.
Their newspaper caught the attention of former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and were arrested for their efforts. When The New Times published an investigative piece on assets being hidden by Joe Arpaio, the Sheriff had them arrested.
The first amendment of the U.S. Constitution is not only about the freedom of speech for an individual but also guarantees a free press. Arpaio’s actions are those of a dictator not of a democratic leader.
When it was made public that Joe Arpaio was using racial profiling as a way to determine who was a criminal or not, he was ordered by a judge to stay away from issues relating to federal immigration. Arpaio decided to take the law in his own hands and ignore the judge’s orders. He was charged with criminal contempt of court. In 2017, Joe Arpaio was finally convicted, only to be pardoned by President Trump without spending a day in jail.
Front Page Confidential isn’t the only new outlet Lacey and Larkin have created to combat the immoral behavior of Joe Arpaio and other corrupt politicians. In order to assist the Hispanic community in Arizona, Lacey and Larkin created The Frontera Fund. The organization assists other charities with the funds and resources needed to put action behind their movements. Lacey and Larkin, with the settlement received from their illegal arrest, intend to assist the same community that Joe Arpaio oppressed.