Alties Strike Back

Papers provide Web links to Arizona sheriff's home address


The Association of Alternative Newsweeklies (AAN) this week are providing links on their Web sites 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 such as BW are doing so to show solidarity with the Phoenix New Times, which was threatened with felony prosecution for publishing Arpaio's address on its Web site 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.

In mid-October, 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 demanding Internet records of any person who had visited the newspaper's Web site since 2004, as well as notes and records from any reporter who had written about the sheriff in the last three years.

After Larkin and Lacey were arrested, an outpouring of shock and anger accompanied widespread media coverage of the case. 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."

The alternative publishing group's First Amendment committee chairman Tim Redmond, the executive editor of the San Francisco Bay Guardian, said, "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."

Phoenix New Times has published dozens of stories critical of both Thomas and Arpaio. In fact, the paper maintains an archive on its Web site of its coverage of Arpaio since he was elected in 1992. New Times published Arpaio's home address in a story arguing that he abused a state law allowing law enforcement officials to keep their addresses private. New Times said Arpaio used the law to hide nearly $1 million in real-estate transactions.

Thomas convened a grand jury to investigate the case even though Arpaio's address was then and continues to be easily accessible on other Web sites, including the Maricopa County Recorder's official Web site. Arpaio continues to resist New Times' request for information relating to his real estate holdings.