Sheriff Joe Arpaio is well known for his stance as the self-styled toughest law enforcement officer in the U.S. and his illegal profiling of Hispanic community members in Arizona’s Maricopa County. Journalists Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin fell foul of the Sheriff in 2007 when they refused an illegal warrant that threatened the First Amendment rights of the subscribers to the pairs Phoenix New Times newspaper. After facing down the Sheriff, who was recently pardoned by President Donald Trump, Lacey and Larkin set out on a lawsuit resulting in a $3.75 million payout for their illegal imprisonment for around 24 hours beginning on the night of October 18, 2007.
There are many reasons why Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin set out to uncover the truth about Sheriff Joe Arpaio, including his many cases of abuse of power ranging from the financial irregularities at the Sheriffs Department to the abuse of human rights the Sheriff regularly took part in. After revealing the financial irregularities found at Maricopa County’s Sheriffs Department to the readers of the Phoenix New Times, Lacey and Larkin were served a warrant from a Superior Court calling for information about readers of the Phoenix New Times to be revealed.
The warrant from the Superior Court was obtained illegally and was widely criticized as an attack on the human rights and First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Alongside taking the fight to the courts of Arizona, Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin wrote about their decision to refuse the order and not reveal the IP addresses of their subscribers; the retribution from Sheriff Arpaio was swift and resulted in the arrest of both writers in night time raids on their homes in unmarked vehicles. Larkin and Lacey have described in detail the dark vehicles with tinted windows and Mexican license plates arriving to arrest them and explained how Michael Lacey explained his arrest was for “writing” to his fellow jail inmates.
Despite the best efforts of Sheriff Joe Arpaio, Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin were freed from incarceration within 24 hours and set about starting a lawsuit against those responsible for their imprisonment. Sheriff Arpaio has been proven to have targeted members of the Hispanic community and is known for starting much of the rhetoric now used to demonize an entire community in Maricopa and across the U.S.-Mexican border. The $3.75 million awarded to Larkin and Lacey is now being used to protect the human rights of Hispanic and minority groups across the Southwest as the rising right-wing in the Republican Party continues to blame the ills of the nation on immigrant groups.