It’s not often that you come into work and find out your bosshas been thrown in jail
the night before.
Michael Lacey, the executive editor of Village Voice Media, our parent company and the guy who hired me almost ten years ago, was tossed in jail last night along with Jim Larkin, the chairman and chief executive officer.
No, the two didn’t go on a bender and tear up the town. They were both arrested for revealing grand jury secrets in a story published this week in our sister paper, the Phoenix New Times.
Phoenix New Times has been writing about the local sheriff, Joe Arpaio – “America’s toughest sheriff” --for years and it hasn’t been in a complimentary fashion. The paper has questioned Arpaio about his personal financial dealings and taken him to task for his treatment of prisoners.
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Three years ago, the paper published a story, which also ran in its online editions, that included Arpaio’s home address. There’s an obscure Arizona law barring the posting online of the home address of law enforcement officers. Fast forward to today and you have a grand jury investigation into the posting of that address.
But that’s minor in comparison to how the prosecutor in the case, said to be a friend of the Maricopa County sheriff, has sought to expand the scope of his investigation. As outlined in the New Times story, he also wants to subpoena not only the paper's editors and reporters (their notes, editing, documents, sources), but also information about its readers.
The subpoenas demand the identity, browsing proclivities and shopping habits of any online reader who looked at any part of the newspaper from January 2004 until the present.
Doing so means anyone could be investigated just for having read a story on the newspaper’s site. Which goes way beyond chilling to outrageous. That’s why my boss and the co-founder of the paper Jim Larkin stood up and talked. And that’s why they were sent to jail last night. – Margaret Downing