Comments (0)

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.

Stories found
  1. Breathtaking Abuse of the Constitution
    Joe Arpaio, Andy Thomas and Dennis Wilenchik hit New Times with grand jury subpoenas
  2. Who's Sorry Now?
    Andy Thomas eats crow to save his political career, but wants us to apologize to Sheriff Joe. Fat chance
  3. He Just Doesn't Get It
    Dennis Wilenchik issued hugely invasive subpoenas to New Times without grand jury review
  4. 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
  5. Extraordinary Contempt
    A judge describes former Special Prosecutor Dennis Wilenchik's actions against New Times as threatening to the average citizen
  6. Enemies List
    Paranoia aside, Sheriff Joe Arpaio and County Attorney Andrew Thomas just may be targeting you
  7. Power Play
    County law enforcement's attack on the judiciary didn't work, but the war's far from over
  8. Siege Mentality
    News Sidebar
    County Attorney Andrew Thomas is attempting to capitalize on a national trend by attacking local judges
  9. Information Blockade
    The sheriff's made a career of stonewalling critical media -- the public's right to know be damned
My Voice Nation Help
Phoenix Concert Tickets

From the Print Edition

Ask a Mexican Responds to a Conspiracy Theory Rant

I am from an Arabic-speaking country. After my education is completed here, I'll return to my country or Kuala Lampur (the Garden City of Lights). Since I've been in this… More >>

Few Child Refugees Get to Stay Here Legally. Meet One of the Lucky Ones Few Child Refugees Get to Stay Here Legally. Meet One of the Lucky Ones

Darlin Adonay Peña has a headache. On a Wednesday afternoon in May, he takes a break from his job flipping burgers at a McDonald’s on Central Avenue in Phoenix to sit… More >>

Chris Simcox, Accused of Child Molestation, Has Indirect Ties to GOP Gubernatorial Candidate Doug Ducey Chris Simcox, Accused of Child Molestation, Has Indirect Ties to GOP Gubernatorial Candidate Doug Ducey

More than a year has passed since former Minuteman leader Chris Simcox was arrested on charges that he molested three minors, including one of his own daughters. Simcox has refused a… More >>

Ask a Mexican on Going Back to Europe, Tech Support, and Open Borders

I have some questions and observations. During George W. Bush's administration, there was a lot of talk for and against comprehensive immigration reform (amnesty to some). One remark that I… More >>

Cover Story: The City Drags Feet After Camelback Hiker Disappears Cover Story: The City Drags Feet After Camelback Hiker Disappears

The three-day disappearance of Eric Fernandes, a Seattle hiker who died on Camelback Mountain in May, attracted national attention — and second-guessing. Fernandes could have done more to avoid a bad… More >>

Ask a Mexican on Smoking, Shiny Objects, and Forsaking Traditions

I noticed that Mexican people don't generally smoke. Don't get me wrong — I'm not condoning smoking, but it's interesting to see how some groups do or do not smoke,… More >>