October eighteenth two thousand and seven will forever remain an unforgettable day for Village Voice Media Arizona based journalists Mike Lacey and Jim Larkin. It was the day that Maricopa County feared selective enforcement unit armed deputies forcibly arrested the two journalists from their homes and booked them in separate jails.
They were accused of exposing the man who termed himself as the toughest American sheriff, Arizona’s Joe Arpaio misdeeds in the Phoenix News-Times. When other Arizona based newspapers dismissed the Arizona sheriff as just another benign and offbeat character, the two journalists regularly wrote about him, and the role played by him in fostering the fear for Mexicans and political posturing in the city of Arizona.
Misdeeds Of The Sheriff
They wrote of how the sheriff office funds were mismanaged and the existing financial irregularities. They also highlighted how the office of the sheriff abused its power when it came to the sheriffs. They also wrote about; the unhealthy conditions of the jails in the county, the mistreatment, and deaths that often occurred in the sheriff managed jails, systematic persecution, detention of the Latinos and racial profiling all encouraged by the sheriff.
The main story that landed the two journalists in jail was their exposal of subpoenas that were issued to the grand jury by the sheriff’s office that sought details of Phoenix News-Times reporters, editors, and readers who wrote and read stories written by the newspaper. According to the subpoenas, Joe Arpaio allies wanted to know even the readers IP addresses and their search histories.The arrest of the two leads to a public outcry that saw the two released from jail and their charges dropped. However, the detention of the two journalists saw the onset of a lengthy court battle that was based on the violation of the First Amendment rights and the abuse of power by the sheriff.
The Court Of Appellate Verdict
According to the Ninth Court of Appeals 2012 verdict, the arrest of the two journalist by the public official due to them being critics of the Sheriff was a great assault on the First Amendment. Further, the subpoenas served by the grand jury on the two journalists were not valid as the right legal procedures were not followed. This verdict led the two journalists to be awarded a three-point seven million settlement by the county of Maricopa in 2013.
The Frontera Fund Is Born
Larkin and Lacey in a show of great sacrifice and humanity set up the Frontera fund and gave out the settlement to the fund. The fund was set up to largely be of benefit to the Hispanic community who were the frequent victims of racial discrimination and abuse of human rights at Arizona. The two have continually awarded donations to nonprofit human rights groups in the Hispanic community since 2014. This has greatly encouraged more tolerance and better treatment of the Mexican immigrants in the Arizona community.
Jim Larkin and Michael Lacey To Carry on Journalism Besides Fontera Fund
Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin, are the founders of Fontera fund, a non-profit organization aimed to supports and fund immigrants-right organizations within Arizona. Fontera fund majorly works with organizations that support and fight for the rights of the Hispanic and Latino immigrants. These two people people groups have mostly faced discrimination from the law enforcers, and public officials. The grants given by Larkin and Lacey are already playing a major role in assisting them.
Larkin and Lacey started the Fontera Fund after they received the $3.75 million payment from Maricopa County in 2012. This is after they were unrightfully arrested from their homes in Pheonix by the county’s enforcement unit following the order of the by then conty sheriff, Joe Arpaio.
By then, Larkin and Lacey were working with the Village Voice Media newspaper. Larkin was the company,s CEO, while Lacey was the executive editor. Prior to the arrest, the company had published about a grand jury probe in one of the company’s publications, the Phoenix New Times, exposing the questionable operations of the Sheriff Arpaio and his team. This was not the first time, these journalists were doing it and Arpaio was already eyeing them.
However, the arrest of Larkin and Lacey didn’t work but rather drew the attention of the media and the population at large. Within 24 hours, the two journalists were released but that did not end there, for they filed a law-suit against Arpaio. In 2012 the court found Arpaio and his government to have violated the First Ammendment, ordering him to make a lumpsum compensation to the two New Times executives.
Though since the establishment of Fontera Fund the two ceased journalism, they are looking forward to resume back. Recently, they launched the Front Page Confidential. This is a website that gives coverage of the First Ammendment as well as threats to free speech.