On October 18, 2007, a tragic event that saw two journalists Mike Lacey and Jim Larkin arrested by the Maricopa County Selective Enforcement Unit headed by the feared county sheriff Joe Arpaio happened. Mike Lacey and Jim Larkin were media executives at the Village Voice Media.
Joe Arpaio, the county sheriff, was the master mind behind the arrest of the two journalists. The reason for the arrest of the two journalists was because for a long time the Phoenix New Times Paper where the two journalists worked exposed many atrocities and misdeeds that the sheriff committed. Some of the things the Phoenix New Times reported about the sheriff include Arpaio’s role in creating anti-Mexican fear mongering and political posturing in Arizona. The paper also reported on how the sheriff mismanaged funds in the sheriff office, abused his powers against his critics and the substandard health conditions in jails under his jurisdiction. In addition, Arpaio mistreated jail inmates some even died under his watch. Arpaio according to the media house is also accused of systemic persecution, racial profiling and unconstitutional detention of the Latinos.
Lacey and Larkin were arrested for writing a cover story in the Phoenix New Times. The article revealed Arpaio’s and his allies at the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office ill intentions of subverting the Constitution by issuing a grand jury subpoenas order seeking to be provided with personal detail browsing histories and IP addresses on the newspapers writers, editors, and readers.
There was a large national outcry from the members of the public following the arrest, and within 24 hours the duo were released, and all charges dropped.
However, Larkin and Lacey filed a suit in court accusing the sheriff and the Maricopa County of illegal detention. The suit was followed by a prolonged court battle which was centered on the first amendments rights and abuse of power. In 2012 the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals found Joe Arpaio culpable of ordering the arrests of his critics and that the Lacey and Larkin were arrested without any probable cause as the office of the prosecutor sidestepped required legal procedures in serving the duo the grand jury subpoenas.
The decision by the appellate court saw Lacey and Larkin awarded a 3.7 million dollars settlement fee by Maricopa County in 2013.
Lacey and Larkin used the funds to establish the Frontera Fund which was a unique initiative that aimed at helping the larger Hispanic Community in Arizona who for a long time bore the brunt of racial segregation and civil rights abuses.