The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office is knocking on New Times’ door again.
Investigators from the MCSO’s Special Victims Unit contacted staff writer Stephen Lemons following Thursday's arrest of activist Jarrett Maupin II. The detectives asked that Lemons come to MCSO offices for questioning about what the former mayoral candidate and member of the Phoenix Union High School governing board may have claimed to him about Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon.
The MCSO says it arrested Maupin, 20, on misdemeanor charges of making a false report about the mayor, and he was booked into county jail.
In fact, sources did attempt to peddle a derogatory story about the mayor to New Times last year. But despite offers of confidentiality, no corroboration of any sort was ever produced, and New Times abandoned the matter.
Maupin’s name never appeared on the city election ballot against Gordon, because the incumbent’s campaign was able to legally invalidate his nomination petitions.
New Times attorney Steve Suskin today contacted an MCSO detective, who said that Lemons’ cooperation in the investigation of Maupin’s claims was “entirely voluntary.” That request for cooperation has been declined, citing the Arizona journalists’ shield law.
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A report in the Arizona Republic today said that sheriff’s detectives spent eight months investigating Maupin’s contentions, but were unable to corroborate anything.
Gordon and Sheriff Joe Arpaio have been at odds for months, after the mayor criticized the sheriff’s immigration sweeps, contending that they constitute racial profiling. Gordon angered Arpaio by asking for a federal investigation into the constitutionality of the roundups. New Times has been told that the FBI is looking into Gordon’s concerns.
In October, 2007, New Times executive editor Michael Lacey and CEO Jim Larkin were jerked out of their homes in the middle of the night by members of the sheriff’s Special Enforcement Unit and jailed for hours after they wrote a story about abusive grand jury subpoenas seeking privileged information about the paper's reporters and editors and about it's online readers. It turned out that grand jury rules had been violated, and the matter was later dropped by County Attorney Andrew Thomas after a public outcry over the arrests.
Now, it appears the MCSO wants to probe New Times for what it didn’t write. – Rick Barrs