Sheriff Joe: Target Practice

Maricopa County law enforcement violated the constitutional rights of this newspaper’s readers in October. Using secret grand jury subpoenas, County Attorney Andrew Thomas sought records that would reveal the identity of anyone who’d looked at New Times online in the past four years. When the paper’s leaders revealed the grand jury probe in a cover story, sheriff’s deputies arrested them.

The assault on New Times began in 2004 when the paper published Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s address as part of an investigation into his hidden commercial real estate transactions. Arpaio demanded that the newspaper be prosecuted under an arcane statute that makes it illegal to publish law enforcement officers’ addresses in cyberspace, even though that data is readily available on government Web sites and is perfectly legal to publish on newsprint.

Thomas responded by appointing a special prosecutor, who demanded not only the records and e-mails of the paper’s writers and editors — but also sought sensitive information on the Internet-viewing habits of our readers. On October 18, New Times published a cover story revealing the invasive subpoenas.

That story violated grand jury secrecy statutes, but the revelations in the article, compounded by the subsequent arrest of Village Voice Executive Editor Michael Lacey and CEO Jim Larkin, sparked public outrage. County Attorney Thomas fired the special prosecutor and dropped all charges. He also abandoned the Arpaio-inspired probe of the paper.

As the smoke began to clear, this newspaper began a series, “Target Practice.” The project sprang from a fundamental question: Why did law enforcement — the sheriff and the county attorney — believe they could force a newspaper to reveal the identities and habits of the publication’s readers?

Our investigation has made one thing clear: Maricopa County’s sheriff has a vivid history of ignoring the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. He’s trampled the rights of prisoners, political enemies, and media critics. In partnership with the county attorney, the pair have expanded their enemies list to include the judiciary and immigrants. Private citizens and their Internet-viewing records were merely the latest victims in a long line.

"Target Practice” seeks to explain how we arrived at this moment.

  • Breathtaking Abuse of the Constitution

    Joe Arpaio, Andy Thomas and Dennis Wilenchik hit New Times with grand jury subpoenas

    October 18, 2007
    This newspaper and its editorial staff — both current and former — are the targets of unprecedented grand jury... More >>
  • Who's Sorry Now?

    Andy Thomas eats crow to save his political career, but wants us to apologize to Sheriff Joe. Fat chance

    October 25, 2007
    Looking pale and uncharacteristically gun-shy, Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas approached the podium in his... More >>
  • He Just Doesn't Get It

    Dennis Wilenchik issued hugely invasive subpoenas to New Times without grand jury review

    November 01, 2007
    Disgraced "special prosecutor" Dennis Wilenchik responded last week to critics with a talking-in-tongues defense... More >>
  • Wilenchik's a Liar, and There's More

    Besides personally demanding our arrests, Andy Thomas' special prosecutor sought to bankrupt New Times over a misdemeanor and lock up our lawyers

    November 15, 2007
    Special Prosecutor Dennis Wilenchik sought to put this newspaper out of business by going after our financial... More >>
  • Enemies List

    Paranoia aside, Sheriff Joe Arpaio and County Attorney Andrew Thomas just may be targeting you

    November 29, 2007
    Unless you live under a rock, you know Sheriff Joe Arpaio: He's the aging lawman with a doughy face you see on TV,... More >>
  • Extraordinary Contempt

    A judge describes former Special Prosecutor Dennis Wilenchiks actions against New Times as threatening to the average citizen

    November 29, 2007
    Judge Anna Baca delivered her stern rebuke in genteel tones. She described the abuses of the grand jury process committed... More >>
  • Siege Mentality

    County Attorney Andrew Thomas is attempting to capitalize on a national trend by attacking local judges

    December 06, 2007
    Ruth McGregor, chief justice of the Arizona Supreme Court, says politicians and special interest groups are attacking the... More >>
  • Power Play

    County law enforcement's attack on the judiciary didn't work, but the war's far from over

    December 06, 2007
    Maricopa County law enforcement violated the constitutional rights of this newspaper and its readers in October, going so... More >>
  • Information Blockade

    The sheriff's made a career of stonewalling critical media — the public's right to know be damned

    December 13, 2007
    Maricopa County law enforcement violated the constitutional rights of this newspaper and its readers in October, going so... More >>
  • Inmates' Rights Lawsuit Languishes

    The unresolved Hart vs. Hill suit was filed 30 years ago in federal court. It brings up the same jailhouse abuses that occur today

    December 20, 2007
    The lawyer behind the arrests of New Times executives Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin is central in a seminal lawsuit... More >>
  • Inhumanity Has a Price

    Corpses, a flesh-eating virus, the most-sued sheriff in America. Lawsuits against Joe Arpaio have cost us $41 million, so far

    December 20, 2007
    Maricopa County law enforcement violated the constitutional rights of this newspaper's readers in October. Using secret... More >>
  • Dead End

    Beaten, hanged, strangled, and ignored, these men and a woman lost their lives in Sheriff Joe Arpaio's custody

    December 20, 2007
    • On March 26, 1996, Jose Rodriquez, 39, died in a pool of his own vomit on a jail floor. His cries for help went... More >>
  • Cyberspace Invaders

    County law enforcement's seeking more and more Web site information to mount investigations against private citizens

    December 20, 2007
    Maricopa County law enforcement officials are increasingly turning to the Internet to target private individuals they... More >>
  • Our Community Under Siege

    Where do we turn when law enforcement threatens citizens like a grim force of nature?

    December 27, 2007
    County Attorney Andrew Thomas has not issued a single grand jury subpoena in the wake of the fallout from my arrest and... More >>
  • Flushing Them Out

    Joe Arpaio and Andrew Thomas are teaching the rest of the nation how to terrorize illegal immigrants

    December 27, 2007
    Daniela's world is very small. Though she was born in Mexico and traveled thousands of miles to Phoenix, she might never... More >>
  • Dennis the Menace

    Arpaio's lawyer can't explain away his fudged résumé

    December 27, 2007
    On October 19, the day after New Times' owners were arrested, the county attorney very publicly fired special prosecutor... More >>
  • Money Shot

    If Maricopa County supervisors wanted to go after Sheriff Joe Arpaio, they could. They could focus on his office's finances

    December 27, 2007
    Sheriff Joe Arpaio has long maintained that he's accountable to the people — but the people's accountants are a... More >>
  • Alien Nation

    Anti-immigrant sentiments are nothing new in America

    December 27, 2007
    Though Arizona is considered ground zero for the current debate surrounding illegal immigration, this is not a new fight.... More >>
  • The Pink Negro: As an Ivy League Lawyer, is President Barack Obama Hard Enough to Confront the Evil Personified by Sheriff Joe Arpaio?

    December 10, 2009
    President Barack Obama gracefully accepted the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo, Norway. Here, in Phoenix, Arizona, we... More >>
  • The American Artist: A Naturalized Citizen, Painter, and Valley Legal-System Translator, Ramon Delgadillo Was Refused Entry to Arpaio's Jail Because He Didn't Carry Proof of Citizenship

    December 17, 2009
    Editor's note: This is one of a group of individual accounts of racial profiling by Sheriff Joe Arpaio's forces. Ramon... More >>
  • Is Nothing Sacred?: Apparently Not in Joe Arpaio and Andrew Thomas’ Wacked Legal World

    December 24, 2009
    Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Gary Donahoe could not be more different from Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Donahoe is as... More >>
  • Feedback from the Issue of Thursday, December 31, 2009

    December 31, 2009
    MELLOW PINK The president isn't the enemy here: I read your article about Barack Obama's lack of impetuosity concerning... More >>
  • The Nooses Must Be Cut Down

    Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk provided the blade. Now it's up to AG Goddard and President Obama to use it

    December 31, 2009
    Sheriff Joe Arpaio and Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas have defiled our town square with hanging corpses: five... More >>
  • Andrew Thomas May End Up Disbarred, But He Really Belongs in a Prison Cell

    December 09, 2010
    CHICKENS COME HOME Embattled ex-Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas' recent, crybaby press conference on the steps of... More >>
  • The Feds Have Evidence That Joe Arpaio Broke the Law -- When Will The Indictments Come?

    May 26, 2011
    Soon after becoming head of the Maricopa Anti-Corruption Enforcement team under Sheriff Joe Arpaio, Bill Knight became... More >>
  • The Feds Proved Themselves a Cage of Cowardly Lions in the Arpaio Investigation

    September 06, 2012
    At the conclusion of her four-page letter to Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery, explaining the Arizona U.S.... More >>
  • Arpaio Fires Up Hispanic-Hunting Raids, Going After the Smallest Fish He Can Find

    July 25, 2013
    So here's a question for Sheriff Joe Arpaio and his enabler, Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery: After 73... More >>
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