Imagine lying in bed in the middle of the night fast asleep and then the next thing you hear is a SWAT team breaking down your door, interrogating you for no legitimate reason and then cuffing you tightly and hauling you off to a twenty-four hour stay in a jail having been falsely arrested. As outrageous and horrible as it sounds that this could happen in our country in such modern times, that is exactly what occurred on the night of October 18, 2007 to two journalists working for the Two Village Voice Media Newspaper in Phoenix. Mike Lacey and Jim Larkin had invoked Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s wrath by investigating and reporting on many grievances purportedly committed by the sheriff including inmate mistreatment, racial profiling, poor inmate health conditions who weren’t receiving medical attention, financial inconsistencies and other abuses of power.
Arpaio’s in-pocket cronies at the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office allotted grand jury subpoenas illegally without merit in an attempt to seize evidence and other sources Larkin and Lacey had against the sheriff. IP addresses were seized, along with other personal and work related information. This, however, did not stop the determined journalists from exposing the information they had on him by printing the story. It was noted that during their illegal lock up, prisoners being naturally curious why two respected journalists were in jail asked the pair what they had done. They surmised nothing more than writing! The self-entitled, “Toughest Sherriff in America,” had no choice but to release Larkin and Lacey after a slew of outraged forces rallied together.
All charges against the pair were dropped, but the battle had only begun for the pair as they sued Arpaio for abuse of power and wrongful arrest. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals favored on behalf of Larkin and Lacey noting the sheriffs ominous and self-motivated obvious motives for seizing the journalist’s material and arresting them. As a result, they were awarded $3.7 million for compensation and they allocated these funds to help other victims in similar circumstances and those who Arpaio was targeting. This namely is Spanish immigrants who do not have the resources to fight Arpaio themselves. Today the Frontera Fund is stronger than ever investing in various civil rights organizations that fight discrimination and expose corruption both in the political system and by those leaders who abuse their power for personal gain.