Alt-weeklies protest Arizona officials' abuse of power | 802 Online

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Alt-weeklies protest Arizona officials' abuse of power

Posted By on Tue, Oct 23, 2007 at 1:03 PM

Yikes! This post doesn't have much to do with the 802, but if you support governmental transparency and the freedom of the press, I think you'll find it interesting.

Below is a press release from the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies, our trade association. Apparently one of our members, the Phoenix New Times , pissed off a county sheriff a few years back. In the course of an investigation into some suspicious real estate deals, they put his home address on their website. The sheriff's home address is available elsewhere online, but he convinced a political ally to investigate the paper anyway, and last week, the Phoenix New Times founders were arrested.

A bunch of AAN members — including Seven Days — are showing solidarity with the Phoenix New Times by linking to all of these places where you can find this guy's home address online.

Here's the press release from AAN:

Member papers of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies (AAN) this weekare providing links on their websites that direct their readers to the manyplaces on the internet where the home address of Maricopa County Sheriff JoeArpaio is listed.

AAN papers are doing so to show solidarity with the Phoenix New Times, whichwas threatened with felony prosecution for publishing Sheriff Arpaio'saddress on its website in 2004. After an adjoining jurisdiction declined topress charges, Arpaio's political ally, Maricopa County Attorney AndrewThomas, convened a grand jury to "investigate" charges the paper broke thelaw when it published Sheriff Arpaio's address.

Last week, Phoenix New Times' founders Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin werearrested and jailed after the paper published a story about the grand juryand subpoenas they had received that demanded detailed internet records ofany person who had visited the newspaper's website since 2004, as well asall notes and records from any reporter who had written about the sheriff inthe preceding three years.

After Larkin and Lacey were arrested an outpouring of shock and angeraccompanied widespread media coverage of the case. The response created agroundswell of support for New Times. The charges were dropped less than 24hours later after Thomas admitted that his office had made "seriousmissteps" in the case.

"The actions of Mr. Thomas and Sheriff Arpaio in this case are beyondoutrageous," said AAN executive director Richard Karpel. "They abused theiroffices by engaging in Gestapo-like tactics designed to silence a newspaperthat has been highly critical of them in the past."

Added AAN First Amendment Chair Tim Redmond, executive editor of the SanFrancisco Bay Guardian: "Our association and its members won't tolerate thissort of attack on the right of a member paper to publish information that isand ought to be public record."

"This was a victory for the First Amendment, the constitution and for ourreaders right to read our newspaper without the government spying uponthem," said Larkin and Lacey in a joint statement. "As the federal pressshield legislation moves from the House to the Senate, we hope people willremember what happened to reporters, editors and readers in Phoenix."

Phoenix New Times has published dozens of stories critical of both Thomasand Arpaio. In fact, the paper maintains an archive on its website of itscoverage of Arpaio since he was elected sheriff in 1992.

New Times published Arpaio's home address in a story arguing that he abuseda state law that allows law enforcement officials to keep their addressesfrom being made public. New Times said Arpaio used the law to hide nearly $1million in cash real-estate transactions.

Thomas convened a grand jury to investigate the case even though Arpaio'shome address was then and continues to be easily accessible on a number ofother websites, including the Maricopa County Recorder's official website(see first link below): (click "2004 Financial Disclosure Statement" forPDF)$ref&se=$se&doby=&city=&name_style=1;;;;arpaio;;fountain%20hills;;AZ;;;;;;;;MICHAEL;;ARPAIO;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;117102576;;&2=name&3=people&4=1&5=joseph;;;;arpaio;;fountain%20hills;;AZ;;;;;;;;&rc=1

Arpaio continues to resist New Times' request for information relating tohis real estate holdings.

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About The Author

Cathy Resmer

Cathy Resmer

Deputy publisher Cathy Resmer is an organizer of the Vermont Tech Jam. She also oversees Seven Days' parenting publication, Kids VT, and created the Good Citizen Challenge, a youth civics initiative. Resmer began her career at Seven Days as a freelance writer in 2001. Hired as a staff writer in 2005, she became the publication's first online editor in 2007.

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