New Times is hardly the only Arpaio critic. See this Amnesty International condemnation of the treatment of inmates in Maricopa County jails.
The subpoena that Larkin and Lacey are waving like a Fourth of July flag grows out of a trumped-up criminal investigation of New Times for publishing Sheriff Joe's home address three years ago on its Web site as part of its investigation of his real estate deals (see "Sheriff Joe's Real Estate Game," by John Dougherty, July 1, 2004). Arpaio and the county prosecutor, whom New Times admires in the same manner it does Arpaio, say its publication violates state law, hence the grand jury investigation. Like a colossal fishing trawler, the subpoena also demands all notes, records, documents, e-mails, files, etc. related to several New Times articles about Arpaio.
How difficult is it to find Arpaio's home address? It took me five minutes of Web plinking, and I didn't need New Times to find it.
Not since Br'er Rabbit conned Br'er Fox into tossing him into the briar patch has a trickster been as happy as Larkin and Lacey are today. Prior to the arrest, the dispute was local. Today, Larkin and Lacey are national First Amendment martyrs, and the silly law they violated is about to be punctured by the free-speech lobby and every columnist with a keyboard. The law prohibits publication of home addresses on the Web only, not in print or via broadcast. At this late date, it's hard to imagine an appeals court denying Web journalism (is there any other kind?) parity with print and broadcast journalism. That law will soon be history.
The publicity raised by the arrests will bring new national scrutiny and ridicule to Arpaio. Also under the national magnifying glass will be the special prosecutor, whom New Times accuses of misconduct in a lawsuit. (Here's the early local coverage of the story from the Arizona Republic and the East Valley Tribune and the national take from the New York Times, USA Today, and Editor & Publisher.)
Lacey promises his usual unyielding, principled stand against the transgressions of the corrupt and powerful.
"It's going to take them forever to get that information about our readers," Lacey said to me in a phone call. "But your stuff I gave them immediately."
Addendum, Oct. 20: Dang, the First Amendment battle has been averted! Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas has dropped charges against Larkin and Lacey and has recommended that special prosecutor Dennis Wilenchik be removed from his position. But the story doesn't end there. The Arizona Republicreports that "Wilenchik and Thomas are now the subjects of legal and ethical complaints with the State Bar of Arizona.
Never pick a fight with people who buy their whiskey by the truckload, their ink by the tanker, and their pixels at wholesale. Send subpoenas to firstname.lastname@example.org. (E-mail may be quoted by name in "The Fray," Slate's readers' forum, in a future article, or elsewhere unless the writer stipulates otherwise. Permanent disclosure: Slate is owned by the Washington Post Co.)