Mike Lacey and Jim Larkin are two reporters that started the Frontera Fund in Arizona with money they won in a civil lawsuit against former sheriff Joe Arpaio and Maricopa County, Arizona where Arpaio was elected to county office until 2016, when he was voted out by the people in Maricopa County.
Lacey and Larkin were arrested on October 18th in 2007 for running a story about Arpaio and the County. The two had published scathing reports in the Phoenix New Times about various violation by the sheriffs office. These allegations included racial profiling, inhumane prison facilities, injury and death of inmates, illegal detention of U.S. citizens and profiling Hispanic citizens and immigrants.
As a retaliation against the Phoenix New Times and its staff Arpaio convinced County prosecutors to obtain a Grand Jury Warrant that would give the sheriff access to all electronic communications of the paper and its employees. When presented with this warrant Lacey and Larking decided not to comply. In fact they wrote an article for the Phoenix New Times about the illegal warrant.
This was too much for Arpaio, who ordered the two arrested. Using his infamous “Selective Enforcement Unit” to perform the arrest Arpaio had his two biggest critics put in separate jails for exercising theit 1st Amendment Rights.
A national uproar forced Arpaio to release both reporters within 24 hours and drop all charges. This incident was crucial in bringing Arpaio into the national spotlight where he delighted in proclaiming himself “America’s Toughest Sheriff” on national news. When asked why he was in jail, Lacey told other prisoners, “Writing.”
Lacey and Larkin were freed but they were not content to let the matter be. Taking Maricopa County to civil court they argued in front of the 9th Circuit Court in their multi-year suit.
Deciding for Lacey and Larkin and making Maricopa County pay the two $3.7 million in damages, the 9th Circuit Court wrote that they could not conceive of a more direct or blatant attack on the 1st Amendment. The Court also noted that the original arrest warrant was never valid as the County prosecutor failed to follow proper procedure when attaining the warrant.
Lacey and Larkin turned the money over to their new charity, the Frontera Fund. Frontera provides financial assistance to Hispanics is need in Arizona. They turned the incident into a chance to help.