VVM Executive Editor Michael Lacey talking to reporters earlier this a.m. after being released from MCSO custody.
Village Voice Media Executive Editor Michael Lacey was released from PHX's 4th Avenue Jail around 4 a.m. this morning after being arrested Thursday evening by plainclothes agents of the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office. Charged with the misdemeanor of revealing grand jury information in this week's cover story Grand Jury Targets New Times and Its Readers, Lacey was released on a $500 bond. His co-author on that story, VVM Chairman and CEO Jim Larkin was arrested on an identical misdemeanor charge Thursday evening and released hours prior to Lacey.
Unbowed and surprisingly lucid for a man who's just spent the night in jail, Lacey spoke with a gaggle of reporters including yours truly and Channel 3's Mike Watkiss. The journalist and alt-newspaper titan, who along with Larkin founded New Times in 1970 as a reaction to the war in Vietnam, vowed to continue the fight against abuses of power by County Attorney Andy Thomas, Sheriff Joe Arpaio, and Thomas' paid attack hound, lawyer Dennis Wilenchik.
"We're going to keep publishing, and with God's help, we're going to keep printing," he declared. Lacey explained the background of his arrest, and how special prosecutor Dennis Wilenchik had attempted ex parte communications with the judge overseeing a grand jury investigation of Phoenix New Times. The investigation stems from the paper publishing Sheriff Arpaio's home address online three years ago in reporter John Dougherty's column. Lacey stated that Wilenchik's brazen attempt to influence the judge in this case forced New Times' hand, resulting in Thursday's revelation of the broad grand jury subpoena.
"We're being arrested for raising hell," Lacey remarked. "It's sort of a tradition journalism has."
Lacey went on to place in context the online revelation of Arpaio's address, pointing out that Dougherty was at the time inquiring into parcels of land Arpaio paid for in cash, sometimes close to a million dollars in cash. Arpaio's real estate records were being hidden from the public, even though the Sheriff's home address was readily available in county public records and on numerous sites online.
"Our question during the election cycle was: How is it that a guy [the Sheriff] who's making $72,000 a year has nearly a million dollars in cash to invest in these parcels?" wondered Lacey.
Asked if he believed more arrests were likely, Lacey said he didn't think so.
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"The way that this operates is that they select someone to make an example out of, and they selected our organization," he replied. "Hopefully, other media organizations will begin to speak up and speak out about what's going on here.
"The problem is that it takes me being arrested for you guys to show up," he continued. "This is a story we're all involved in. Those subpoenas are what you should be writing about. The sources they want from us on all of these stories is what you should be writing about. The fact that they want to have the identity, the browsing habits, the buying habits, what shopping carts people have filled, what sites people have visited on the Web before they came to us, what sites they visited after they left us. The fact that they have subpoenaed that kind of information, all of which is in our paper and on our Web site is what the story's about. It's not about me getting out of jail at four in the morning."
To the men responsible for having him thrown in stir, Lacey responded, "I don't have anything to say to those guys. There's obviously a segment of our community that enjoys seeing law enforcement run in this manner, otherwise they would not have been elected to their posts. But we don't have to subscribe to that. We have a different point of view about that and we're publishing it. And in this instance, we got arrested for it."
It ain't often that you go downtown in the middle of the night to see your boss released from the hoosegow. Especially under these circumstances. I've read of reporters being arrested and/or incarcerated, but not newspaper owners. Maybe this is pretty normal stuff for Myanmar or Iran, however Arizona's still in the U.S. last time I checked. Someone should alert Arpaio, and send him a copy of the Bill of Rights while you're at it.