The “toughest Sheriff in America,” Joe Arpaio has been pardoned from all federal charges and free to go back to his normal life. This pardon comes after years of court cases and charges involving Arpaio and the police department in Maricopa County. Arpaio continued to follow illegal practices such as racial profiling for traffic stops and unlawful searches, even after being warned by state and federal courts.
Two men, Jim Larkin and Michael Lacey were some of the first journalists to expose Arpaio in Maricopa County. Read more: Jim Larkin | Crunchbase
Lacey and Larkin were co-owners of a media group called the Village Voice with publications like the Phoenix Sun. This media group was determined to shine a spotlight on the corrupt actions of Arpaio and his police department. The paper published specific stories about illegal traffic stops of Hispanics and Latinos and unlawful searches without warrants or cause of action. They did not shy away from publishing the truth, no matter the danger they felt.
The Phoenix Sun became a thorn in the side of Sheriff Arpaio and with the help of his friends in the County Attorney’s office, a Grand Jury was convened to investigate Lacey and Larkin, the newspapers, its reporters, and readers.
When the men discovered the grand jury process, they reported the news to all of its subscribers. Angered by the publicity, Arpaio had Lacey and Larkin arrested at their respective homes in October of 2007. Both men were placed in jail without knowing what the charges were. Supporters demanded their release and they were sent home after only one day in jail.
Jim Larkin and Michael Lacey were not satisfied with their release and soon began a long court case that would go through local and state courts. Lacey and Larkin spoke out about their first amendment rights being violated and in the end, they did win a settlement from Maricopa County of over $3.7 million dollars. The 9th Court of Appeals awarded this amount for unjust arrest without cause.
Lacey and Larkin took the money from their settlement and created the Frontera Fund, which fights for first amendment rights, as well as civil and human rights. This organization is a strong advocate for the rights of Hispanics and Latinos, not just in Arizona but throughout the United States. The founders want to ensure that minority groups are aware of their rights and place in the justice system.
It is disappointing to see men like Joe Arpaio be excused for years of unfair treatment of others and abuse of power. Arpaio is no longer sheriff of Maricopa County-he lost the election in 2016 after 24 years in the position.
Some find hope in that development in Arizona and we should all find hope in men like Jim Larkin and Michael Lacey, who have devoted their personal and business lives to helping those who can’t stand up for themselves. In the end, it will be these men who shape our country and not those who resort to intimidation and prejudice.
Learn more about Jim Larkin and Michael Lacey: