Scant Regard for a Free Press

Contrary to newswire accounts, our lawsuit against Sheriff Joe Arpaio, County Attorney Andrew Thomas, and former special prosecutor Dennis Wilenchik is not dead, though parts of it have been compromised by a new ruling.

What is true is that Federal Court Judge Susan Bolton found little wrong with this cadre of law enforcement officials' arrest of journalists for writing a story that revealed the existence of an illegal grand jury.

This ruling is not a surprise.

Before she became a judge, Susan Bolton unsuccessfully sued New Times over a story she felt should not have been published. Her ruling in the current case is consistent with her scant regard for the First Amendment and the rights of a free press.

Despite her blatant hostility, the facts have not changed.

The sheriff used an unconstitutional state statute to hide his real estate speculation. He left his home address — the basis of the state statute — in the public record yet hid his investments. (Hell, Arpaio printed his home address on his recent nominating petitions.) Yet when this newspaper printed the same address on its Web site as part of an investigation into his land deals, law enforcement sought the identity of New Times' readers and knocked upon our doors in the middle of the night to arrest us.

The conduct of Wilenchik and Thomas was so pernicious that they became the subject of an ongoing investigation by the state bar of Arizona ("Wilenchik's a Liar, and There's More," November 15, 2007).

Wilenchik issued grand jury subpoenas without a grand jury. Superior Court Judge Anna Baca, who presides over the county's grand juries, ruled that Wilenchik violated state grand jury laws and that his behavior in this case was "highly inappropriate."

Apparently Thomas, Arpaio and Wilenchik administrate the sort of civil society that Judge Bolton endorses.

 
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