Imagine going to jail for something you’ve written. In this scenario you likely see yourself as the author of something that goes beyond provocative and well into harmful. Even then it’s difficult to imagine this series of events unfolding in the United States where free speech is protected under the constitution. However, this was the reality for Lacey and Larkin two journalist working for the Phoenix New Times. This outlet quickly found it’s self on the wrong side of the law as they dug for the truth and began their quest to shine a light on it. However, the authors never expected the subjects of their works to take their articles so personally and target them directly.
What was this provocative subject that landed two journalists in the big house? Sherriff Joe Arpaio and his management habits. As Sheriff Arpaio frequently encouraged officers to ignore restrictions placed on law enforcement. Arpaio prided himself on being “the toughest Sherriff”. In his quest to earn that title he frequently violated civil rights of many citizens. Additionally, he showed a casual disregard for the constitution and the restrictions on this power. Prisons under his management as held incredibly inhuman living conditions. Prisoners were often mistreated and there were many deaths among inmates that raised concerns.
Another major issue that the journalist wrote about was Sheriff Arpaio’s tendency to use his power to retaliate against critics. This is ironic as that’s exactly what Arpaio did when Larkin and Lacey authored a story for the cover of the Phoenix New Times. In this story, they pointed out Arpaio’s attack on the constitution. The subject of this story was subpoenas that were issued to look into the authors, editors, and readers of the paper seeking things such as the browsing histories and IP addresses of readers.
Personally outraged by the story Sherrif Arpaio had the writers arrested from their homes and they were sent to separate prisons. A deafening public outcry earned the writers their freedom back within 24 hours. Determined to confront the injustice the writers pursued legal action. Eventually, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in their favor, making it clear the arrest was unjust. This ruling went on to advance their future settlement in the amount of $3.7 million. This settlement was placed in the Frontera Fund where it is distributed to nonprofits helping minorities that have been victimized by Arpaio’s or other discriminatory policies.
The Frontera Fund Assists Residents of Arizona
Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin, business partners, met in college when they worked together on a school newspaper. The two dropped out to pursue journalism full time and they certainly made the right decision.
After college, the duo became co-owners of The Phoenix New Times, where they conducted investigative reports on Joe Arpaio, the sheriff of Maricopa County at the time. It didn’t take long before Joe Arpaio lost his temper and decided to illegally arrest the two journalists.
Joe Arpaio knew that arresting the two for something they wrote on their paper was a violation of the first amendment, but he didn’t care. Arpaio believed he could get away with his crimes, but he never expected the story to make national headlines. Due to an outcry from USA Today, New York Times and Washington Post, Lacey and Larkin were released almost instantly.
Lacey and Larkin ended up winning a lawsuit for 3.75 million dollars and decided to give some of that money back to the community they live in.
By working with the American Immigration Council, ACLU of Arizona, Aliento, 1070, and many more charities, Lacey and Larkin’s Frontera Fund is able to fund and provide resources that go towards bettering the lives of the residents of Arizona. They primarily provide funds towards charitable causes relating to the Latino community, but they also do work with my broader reaching charities.
The second organization they created was a replacement for their old paper. They created Front Page Confidential to give a voice to the voiceless – the victims of Arpaio. The paper publishes content pertaining to civil rights and political corruption. Lacey and Larkin want to educate the people so they won’t vote for people such as Joe Arpaio again.