Member papers of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies (AAN) this week are providing links on their websites that direct their readers to the many places on the Internet where the home address of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio is listed.
AAN papers are doing so to show solidarity with the Phoenix New Times, which was threatened with felony prosecution for publishing Sheriff Arpaio's address on its website in 2005. After an adjoining jurisdiction declined to press charges, Arpaio's political ally, Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas, convened a grand jury to "investigate" charges the paper broke the law when it published Sheriff Arpaio's address.
Last week, Phoenix New Times' founders Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin were arrested and jailed after the paper published a story about the grand jury and subpoenas they had received that demanded detailed Internet records of any person who had visited the newspaper's website since 2004, as well as all notes and records from any reporter who had written about the sheriff in the preceding three years.
After Larkin and Lacey were arrested an outpouring of shock and anger accompanied widespread media coverage of the case. The response created a groundswell of support for New Times. The charges were dropped less than 24 hours later after Thomas admitted that his office had made "serious missteps" in the case.
"The actions of Mr. Thomas and Sheriff Arpaio in this case are beyond outrageous," said AAN Executive Director Richard Karpel. "They abused their offices by engaging in Gestapo-like tactics designed to silence a newspaper that has been highly critical of them in the past."
Added AAN First Amendment Chair Tim Redmond, executive editor of the San Francisco Bay Guardian: "Our association and its members won't tolerate this sort of attack on the right of a member paper to publish information that is and ought to be public record."
"This was a victory for the First Amendment, the constitution and for our readers right to read our newspaper without the government spying upon them," said Larkin and Lacey in a joint statement. "As the Federal press shield legislation moves from the House to the Senate, we hope people will remember what happened to reporters, editors and readers in Phoenix."
Phoenix New Times has published dozens of stories critical of both Thomas and Arpaio. In fact, the paper maintains an archive on its website of its coverage of Arpaio since he was elected sheriff in 1992:
New Times published Arpaio's home address in a story arguing that he abused a state law that allows law enforcement officials to keep their addresses from being made public. New Times said Arpaio used the law to hide nearly $1 million in cash real-estate transactions.
Thomas convened a grand jury to investigate the case even though Arpaio's home address was then and continues to be easily accessible on a number of other websites, including the Maricopa County Recorder's official website (see first link below):
aspx?CandidateId=970003&FileYear=2004 (click "2004 Financial Disclosure Statement" for PDF)
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Arpaio continues to resist New Times' request for information relating to his real estate holdings.
Here is the list of AAN papers that have agreed to post these links this week on their websites:
Artvoice (Buffalo, NY)
Boston's Weekly Dig
City Pages (Minneapolis)
Independent Weekly (Durham, NC)
Independent Weekly (Lafayette, La.)
Metro (San Jose, Calif.)
Metro (Santa Cruz, Calif.)
Metroland (Albany, NY)
Miami New Times
New Times Broward-Palm Beach
North Bay Bohemian
The Pitch (Kansas City)
The Pulse (Chattanooga, Tenn.)
The Reader (Omaha, Neb.)
Riverfront Times (St. Louis)
San Francisco Bay Guardian
Santa Barbara Independent
Santa Fe Reporter
Seven Days (Burlington, Vt.)
Shepherd Express (Milwaukee)
The Source Weekly (Bend, Ore.)
The Stranger (Seattle)
Syracuse New Times
Urban Tulsa Weekly
The Village Voice
Willamette Week (Portland, Ore.)