New Times and two of its writers have sued Maricopa County and a special deputy county attorney in U.S. District Court, asking the judge to enjoin the defendants from violating the newspaper's constitutional rights.
As previously reported in these pages, New Times has been threatened with criminal prosecution for a felony crime because the newspaper published the home address of Sheriff Joe Arpaio in 2004 (see "Joe Strikes Back," December 21, 2006).
Phoenix lawyer Dennis Wilenchik was appointed by Maricopa County on July 11, 2007, to be the special deputy county attorney for this prosecution (see "Below the Belt," September 20).
The threats of criminal prosecution have intensified in recent weeks.
As a result, Phoenix New Times LLC and reporters Paul Rubin and John Dougherty engaged lawyers, and a complaint was filed in federal court on October 5.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
The complaint alleges that the newspaper and its reporters are suffering a "deprivation of their First Amendment rights under the United States Constitution." It alleges that the state criminal law being used by the special deputy county attorney to threaten felony prosecution (ARS Section 13-2401) "is invalid and unconstitutional because it violates the guarantees of free speech and free press under the First Amendment."
The lawsuit seeks a judgment from the court "declaring and determining that [the law] is unconstitutional and unenforceable" and seeks an injunction prohibiting authorities "from using investigative procedures and compulsion to investigate" or prosecute New Times and its writers and editors.
New Times, Dougherty, and Rubin are represented by Tom Henze of Gallager & Kennedy in Phoenix and Michael Meehan of Munger Chadwick in Tucson.
New Times cofounder and Village Voice Media Executive Editor Michael Lacey remarked, "It is extraordinary and unprecedented for a newspaper to find itself subject to criminal legal attacks for the publication of newsworthy, true facts about such a publicity-seeking, controversial elected official as Joe Arpaio. New Times has no choice but to vigorously defend its constitutional free-speech rights against those in the government who seek to abuse their power."