Lacey and Larkin: Fighting for Freedom

The fight for freedom is an ongoing battle, and law enforcers are supposed to protect those rights. Sadly, sometimes they’re the ones attacking those rights. In October 2007, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio sent his most forceful deputies to drag Village Voice Media executives Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin from their homes. Read more: Michael Lacey | Facebook

What was reported as a simple arrest was closer to a dramatic kidnapping. The two men were forced into unmarked SUVs with non-U.S. license plates and tinted windows and taken to separate jails, where they were later booked on trumped-up charges. Additionally, both jails were managed by Sheriff Arpaio.

While the reports about the arrest were shallow, to say the least, the truth was that Sheriff Arpaio set up the whole thing. Sheriff Arpaio viewed himself as the toughest sheriff in the country and a hero of sorts. Meanwhile, Phoenix New Times, a local paper owned by Lacey and Larkin, reported a completely different story.

Sheriff Arpaio became enraged by the paper’s allegations, calling him a corrupt officer. New Times cited many instances where Arpaio abused his authority, including acts of racial profiling, mistreating jail inmates, and showing extreme prejudice toward Latinos.

When the story finally broke national news, the national outcry for justice was staggering. People weren’t upset that he arrested two reporters.

They were upset at why he arrested them and how he got away with doing so. Arpaio hit Lacey and Larkin with a subpoena demanding that they hand over all the material and company records.

The shocking part of the subpoena is that it also demanded the identities of any readers of New Times that may have read the negative things about Sheriff Arpaio. Since this whole ordeal, Lacey and Larkin have sued Maricopa County and won over $3 million. They use that money to start a human rights fund called the Lacey & Larkin Frontera Fund.

Michael Lacey felt the relief of justice when the state paid out. All the money was donated to local migrant rights groups and free speech support organizations. Lacey’s been going toe-to-toe with Arizona’s conservative beliefs for over 40 years. He started back in the 70s after writing a paper about the media’s misrepresentation of campus antiwar protests.

That’s the same time he met Jim Larkin. The two instantly hit it off, even dropping out of college together to start their paper. Eventually, their little grew into a multimillion-dollar media conglomerate.