Phoenix New Times Executives, Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin were arrested last night in their homes by members of the Maricopa County Sheriff’s threat assessment team over their published article.
At the heart of this arrest is a decade old Arizona law that makes it a crime to publish the home address of a peace officer or certain other public officials on the Internet. The law has never been challenged and may well be in conflict with the First Amendment to our Constitution. That same protection applies to nobody else and may in itself violate the 14th Amendment with respect to equal protection. Because home addresses are often public records they can be found on the Internet and certainly in the files of many government agencies.
The Phoenix New Times published copies of the secret Grand Jury Subpoenas served upon them and informed their readers that the subpoenas invaded their privacy by demanding information that would reveal other sites they visit before and after the New Times.
The self-proclaimed, “America’s Toughest Sheriff”, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio is at the heart of this case because of a large number of articles critical of his administration. The New Times also published Arpaio’s home address. That’s the same address listed on public nominating petitions he’s required to make public each time he runs for office. Of course the address is in plain view of the thousands of voters that must sign the petitions.
Both Lacy and Larkin were released from the Maricopa County Jail after posting bail on the misdemeanor counts. A throng pf reporters greeted the two newspaper men as they left America’s Toughest Jail.
You are about to see a giant litigation slugfest unfold. The Players are two lightening rods of Arizona law enforcement, County Prosecutor, Andrew Thomas and Sheriff Arpaio along with two Arizona newspaper publishers. Stand by while we soon learn if the First Amendment still exists in Arizona! My money is on Freedom of The Press.
UPDATE: Today a red-faced County Attorney, Andrew Thomas announced an end to the investigation and prosecution of the New Times, Lacy and Larkin. Thomas cited numerous mistakes as his reason to drop all charges in this matter. Phoenix lawyer, Dennis Wilenchik of Wilenchik & Bartness PC has been acting as a special prosecutor on behalf of Thomas’ office. As of today that relationship has been terminated along with the Grand Jury investigation that was instigated.