Civil Liberties Courts Free Speech Freedom of Information Media

New Times and the Wrath of Crazy Joe Arpaio


As you go into the weekend
, this is a wild ride of a story that is definitely worth reading. Most of the events have occurred in the last 48-hours. Here are the high points:

On Thursday, night the two chief execs of Phoenix New Times, Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin—guys whose company, New Times Media, also happens to own the LA Weekly, OC Weekly, and the Village Voice—were arrested in Phoenix by the Maricopa County sheriff’s deputies on charges of revealing grand jury information.

But, before we get to the grand jury info and the arrest, a little back story:

In 2004 and 2005, New Times did several articles investigating
the famously colorful Sheriff of Maricopa County, Joe Arpaio.

And Joe really, really, REALLY
didn’t like that.

For those of you unfamiliar,
Joe Arpaio has long been a media darling for his quirky “tough-on-crime” methods, which include making jail prisoners wear pink underwear, putting them on stripe-suited “chain gangs,” having them sleep in tents in inclement weather, making them eat outdated and green-tinged bologna, and so on. If Joe Arpaio didn’t exist, someone would make him up.

Yet, although Arpaio presents himself as an amusing and eccentric tough dude
able to give the bad guys what they deserve, there have been far darker stories of abuses, injuries and deaths at the hands of deputies in his jails, political dirty tricks, plus a string of curious financial dealings—all of which the alternative newspaper dutifully and rightly dug into. Here’s how former Phoenix New Times reporter (now Village Voice editor) Tony Ortega explains it:

Taking advantage of post-9/11 privacy statutes, for example, Arpaio had convinced the county to remove from public view records of the million-dollar commercial real-estate transactions he was making. How,[New Times reporter] Dougherty wondered, was a modestly paid county sheriff making those kinds of deals?

The issue that triggered the grand jury and the appointment of, in all seriousness, a special prosecutor (a person named Dennis Wilenchik who was supposedly hand chosen by Sheriff Joe, and is incidentally under investigation by the Arizona Bar) is the fact that the Phoenix New Times published Joe’s home address in one of their articles.

Nevermind that the thing is easily available
online. (I found it here in less than three minutes. The property is listed under his wife Ava’s name. And a quick cross-check turned this up to verify it.)

Reality be damned, Jumping Joe persuaded the Maricopa County Attorney to charge New Times and reporter Dougherty with a felony for listing the address. And then came the Grand Jury and the subpoena delivered to New Times.

And what a subpoena it was!

The thing not only demanded all reporters’ notes and the like regarding any past article done on Arpaio from 2004 forward, but incredibly also required that Phoenix New Times turn over the IP. addresses of all the online readers of the publication since Jan. 1, 2004, plus their Internet domain names, browsers types, and a list of other Web sites they visited before reading New Times.


All because New Times published Joltin’ Joe’s home address.

Excessive? Overeaching. A tad unconstitutional maybe?

The New Times head guys decided
enough was enough….. and published the contents of the subpoena Thursday morning, under their own byline. Thursday night, Sheriff’s deputies showed up at both men’s house and hauled them off to County lockup. (No word yet on whether they were allowed to keep their own underwear or whether pink undies were involved.)

All day Friday, after the word got out,
the media frenzy heated up to the point that even the New York Times did a story.

Finally, the press attention had its effect. By Friday afternoon, the Maricopa County Attorney decided that maybe this whole thing wasn’t making him look all that good. So he dropped the various charges, as the Arizona Republic reports here.

Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas announced Friday afternoon that he was dismissing the case against New Times and that no charges would be pursued against the editors and writers involved in the case.

Thomas also said he was dismissing special prosecutor Dennis Wilenchik, who had pursued the case on the county’s behalf.

Thomas said that mistakes were made, that the case had been grossly mishandled and that he was uncomfortable with where the case had gone.

Uh, you got that right, Andy. A little late. But better than not at all.


  • Too bad that this reporter had to be a test case, but I’d LOVE for these search engines to be declared illegal for reasons exactly like this. Allowing anyone from crooks (from here to Nigeria to Bin Laden’s cave), ID thieves, busybody neighbors and those with malicious intent to harm, to have this much info online is a moral crime. I HOPE there is a legal challenge which requires people to opt out UNLESS they give permission, not the other way around.

    Meanwhile, the DA Cooley, FEDS, gov’t at all levels, bemoans the surge in ID thefts and goes after thieves AFTER the fact. HELLO.

    Journalist’s “right to know” be damned: they’ve abused the privilege too much. And in this age with internet blogs and “journalists” who claim the status by virtue of having a computer, it’s over the top. (I’ve been a journalist myself for major papers incl. freelanced for the LAT before I had to give it up for financial reasons — and still believe this. And I find a lot of “investigative journalists” to be the most pushy, obnoxious and insensitive people around.)

    The guys sounds like a kook otherwise, and he should probably be prosecuted for making prisoners risk food poisening and hypothermia (tying in to your previous article re: the kid killed by vicious guards), but that’s another issue.

    There is also a suit against the Daily News for publishing the names and salaries of DWP employees, even though they’re technically public record — but the intent was to inflict humiliation on the subjects. IF they’d published names, phone numbers and DOB’s, DWP would have won their suit for sure, public records or not. I WISH a powerful organization like their union would have a chance to go to bat on this.

  • My only complaint is that I live in Pinal County instead of Maricopa and can’t vote for him. We need more like him. Keep up the good work, Joe! … and don’t worry about these silly blogs that try to berate you.

  • I’m sure Sheriff Joe Arpaio would love a postcard with your comments, be sure to send these to:
    12808 N Via Del Sol, Fountain Hills, AZ 85268.
    By the way, isn’t it a lovely neighborhood the good sheriff lives in?

  • Celeste, anybody who watches the news, knows of Joe Arpaio, he loves to be on television. He was even on television inviting Paris Hilton for a “visit”, he had to jump on that media frenzy. I’m sure he has been sued more times than any other Sheriff in the country for his wacky ways. Here is a video clip from his “sing for better food contest”, and notice the infamous jail outfits, which I think are ok.

    Arizona’s Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio and L. A. County Sheriff Leroy Baca take each other to task over how they must deal with operating their respective jail systems in a seven minute Full Disclosure Network® video news blog.

    Here is a blog which really gets Sheriff’s Joe Arpaio pink underwear in a bunch, I saw this site featured on a news story of Sheriff Joe.

  • Funny how the left, which is so sure that Patriot Act is an excuse to trample our personal freedoms rather than actually stop terrorists before they do their delightful deeds (not that vigilence isn’t necessary against abuse, it always is) are in such an indignant snit and so intent on publishing personal data of their ideological enemies, violating their privacy and dignity way beyond what they accuse the gov’t of doing, by claiming “the greater good.”

    God forbid they should not be allowed to show up on their doorsteps and make harassing phone calls and send similar “postcards” as their own “constitutional rights.” Right now when groups do this the victim can seek a restraining order (PETA for e.g. loves to show up in front of the homes of even relatives of those whose animal activities they oppose) but there should be a stop put to it by not allowing public info to be public anymore. There has been noise in this area, and those search engines have questionable legality:

    Let’s invite a huge lawsuit, and overturn the leftie judges who made this possible. Give out their home addresses, phone numbers and that of their relatives, and call and show up there to protest until they see the light.

  • Listener, sometimes brevity leads to pointless noise. But if your intent is to support published invasions of privacy (can’t tell) go ahead and post your home phone and address, and we can get back to you for clarifications. I also don’t notice the New Times reporter and editors, and their supportive “journalists” and leftist judges, doing the same. That should be a prerequisite to publishing that of victims.
    After all, it’s all “public info” and fair game, no?

  • maggie is correct, and the phrase “indignent snit” does describe the political left.

    The left tries first to discredit an opponent with personal attacks, no matter how unrelated to the matter at hand, try to shout him down, and then resort to trying to destroy that person’s life, whether it’s outing or smearing with personal information. It’s like a hoard of emotional gays with an agenda carrying torches while going to destroy the monster and screaming in their high pitched hysterical voices. That’s what people do who have no moral compass to lead them.

    Yes, “snit” is the perfect word.

    Of course, Celeste joins in by not only saying that she can find the personal information, but she actually publishes it herself.

    I don’t care for that sheriff (pink underwear?), I don’t care for the Village Voice, and I really don’t care for The NY Times. But, I do care about people doing what’s right and for arguing issues on their merits rather than being so low class as to try to destroy someone’s life merely because they disagree with him.

    And, if you get into a snit over this comment, you reinforce my point.

  • Maggie, I’ve come to the conclusion that privacy is a thing of the past. I’m not saying that this is good, just that it’s true. We can rant and rave and object all we want. But it’s how it is.

    You can find my address using a variety of search engines plus my first and last name. And that isn’t going to change any time soon, trust me.

    My attitude at this point is that there are more important things to worry about.

    In terms of Joe Arpaio, the issue with New Times was that he used a law that was intended for other purposes to block access to his financial holdings. I’m sorry but as an elected official, his finances must be open to scrutiny. Don’t like it? Don’t run for office.

    Woody, for the record, I didn’t publish Sheriff Joe’s address. I linked to it to demonstrated that it was out there without New Times publishing it. Plus, the fact that I could do it in—no kidding—less than three minutes without using any special Lexis-Nexis accounts, simply showed that the charges were bogus from a practical standpoint, and the result of a vendetta on the part of Joe Arpaio because one of the local papers had the nerve to look into the questionable areas of his life and work—which is, by the way, their job.

  • Celeste, “I’ve come to the conclusion that privacy is a thing of the past…We can rant and rave and object all we want.”

    Damn right I will, and no, I won’t trust you that nothing will change. Enough people are realizing that this leads to ID theft, loss of quality of life, even danger.

    You are panicked because as a “journalist,” you couldn’t stand not being able to pry as much as you want. Journalists have gotten away with way too much for too long, claiming First Amendment “rights.”

    Tim Rutten had a piece in LAT Calendar yesterday, saying that since we don’t want gov’t determining which journalists are genuinely deserving of the Shield Law vs. bloggers “with three dedicated readers intent on returning to the Gold Standard,” we should let them ALL have benefit of it. He observes that unlike lawyers, doctors or even dental hygenists or personal trainers, journalists are not licensed or registered by anyone, and have no prerequites of any sort of education. His argument can be turned back on him: it’s precisely for this reason, and the fact that the blogger or “journalist” desperate to make a name by sensationalizing someone’s life, can print anything from anyone regardless of appropriateness or decency, let alone concern with their and their family’s personal safety or — god forbid, that “thing of the past,” privacy of any kind — that “journalists” are forcing gov’t to awkwardly nudge themselves into this issue.

    Meanwhile, there is a Times business writer who was the victim of ID theft in part due to the wide availability of too much “public info” who is fighting on the other end. Along with the slowly awakening DA’s ofc and the feds.

    The Daily News got into a snit over the DWP’s lawsuit, but public opinion was way, way opposed to what they had done.

    No, the charges are NOT “bogus,” and Woody is right (except for the gratuitous ref’s to the gay stuff — Woody, that kind of thing makes it easy for the left to discredit anything you say) and the people with a vendetta are the New Times writer and her editors. What they did, they did to try to ruin his life, as Woody says, no way does it have anything whatsoever with “doing their job” or looking “into the questionable areas of his life and work.” The fact that you can try to argue that…! Giving out the home address was gratuitous and just nasty.

    Damn right I’m going to keep fighting self-righteous, holier than thou “journalists” and if anyone tried to ruin my life by publishing my personal info, I’d be sure theirs was published all over the place, arrange for letters and calls just as they’re hoping their victim will receive (the obvious intent of the New Times, to swamp Joe with critics writing to him, maybe harassing him in front of his home). And if I’m mad enough, a friendly little group camped outside the person’s home, explaining why such spite wasn’t a good idea, maybe with megaphones. You can trust me, there is a pushback, there will be more and more lawsuits.

    By the way, since you assert there is NO privacy, where do you draw the line? Some wacko who really doesn’t like someone hanging around in front of his/her home to follow their kid to school or on a local playdate or walk? Chasing his wife while she walks their dog? But hey, you’re not causing any of that, just making it very, very easy.

    Sorry, Celeste, but you’re showing that however earnest and mild-mannered someone might seem to their friends, when it comes to people they don’t like, anyone who dons the mantle of “journalist” comes up with any excuse to do anything they want to anyone. Public officials do NOT sign on to have their personal rights and safety threatened beyond certain things like financial disclosure. In fact, there is a federal law prohibiting the publication of info that compromises the privacy and safety of a public official.

    (Maybe you guys are part of the reason they have to then get restraining orders and have extra police detail?)

  • Maggie, I don’t agree with sensationalist journalism that pries into the private lives of public figures and/or public servants, just for prying sake.

    However, when there’s the suggestion that an elected official is having funds pour into his office that then are unaccounted for, and that same public official is buying properties that stray into the million dollar range when his salary doesn’t reflect that kind of access to funds, it should be examined. Period. To not do so, is not responsible.

    By the way, the center of my post—doesn’t have to do with the criminal charges or the arrest—but is about the questionably constitutional overreaching on the part of the “special prosecutor” who wanted to invade your privacy and mine if we’d happened to ever go to the Phoenix New Times website.

    Your fight with me is misplaced. for one thing, I’d challenge you to find a clip of mine in the last 30 years in which I’ve used the cover of journalism to inappropriately invade someone’s privacy or to print something that ought not to be printed.

    I can think of one time I arguably did it—at the urging of the subject herself. Margaret Trudeau, the former wife of the then Prime Minister of Canada, told me that she’d had an illegal abortion. There was a lot more to the story, that’s too long to tell here. (Part of it was that the aborting resulted in her having RH negative disease, thus in a later circumstance, after she had her first kid, she almost bled out a few days after delivering.) In any case, she wanted the story out for a variety of reasons, although she’d never told it. I printed it I felt it was poignant, and it pointed to a very human experience with which a lot of woman have struggled. However, I didn’t think through the consequences it might have.

    And then it hit the wires around the world and caused a scandal in Catholic Quebec.

    Margaret later lied about the whole thing on talk shows, and said she told me in confidence and that I betrayed her, yadda, yadda, yadd. But I had tapes that proved otherwise.

    On the other hand, she told me something else in the course of the interviews, that was a far larger bombshell, which I did choose to withhold because it would have been ruinous to someone else in public office whose life she had no right to wreck—although she wanted that out too. But I realized her judgment sucked because, frankly, she was an emotional mess at the time, and doing too many drugs, and didn’t know when to shut up.

    Some reporters are jerks. But most of us make choices every week, month, year to protectively withhold information to avoid doing harm, while at the same time working not to pull punches when facts need to get out. Sometimes we call it wrong. But we do our damnedest not to.

  • Celeste, there was very recently a local case where the Beverly Hills City Attorney subpoen’d records from LAist over a thread re: a run-in w/ a cop and a bicyclist, alleging that some supporters of the bikers had called in threats and may have also been posting on that story. Yes, very alarming: but even more so, is that your internet provider has a record of all the websites you’ve visited, and if they’re also your ph/cable provider, know all about your life and contacts, and sell that stuff commercially. It can be made available to law enforcement; scary as that is their “marketing” you at will is worse (the LAT ran an Opinion about how people don’t realize this is going on and SHOULD rise up against the practice), it gives you a legit agency you can confront over the matter. I’m more scared of blanket laws “shielding” any self-styled blogger.

    I see your home add./ph but wouldn’t post it without a good reason, and I’m not convinced there was a good reason to do so w/ Joe’s. Salary alone is no indication of graft; people make wise investments, have equity in prev. homes, speaking fees, etc. If there is evidence of graft, that should be proven. I’m just crusading (yes you can call it that) to make people/journalists rethink consequences of what they do. This is another case where technology has overtaken the ethics of the situation, e.g. w/ cloning and other science.

    I’ve worked hard to remove most of my data from these search engines, after being subject to unwelcome snooping and even people showing up at my house. People need to be aware that even if your ph/add are unlisted, banks, etc. are selling info about you and in Calif. we can opt out IF we take pro-active, cumbersome measures. I want the burden to fall upon the institutions to get our permission, instead.

    As for your last para: when reporters are left to their own honor system, and there is no regulation, licensing of any kind other than what has traditionally been the self-restraint of MSM, there is a very slippery slope.

    With even MSM writers like Rutten arguing that they should NOT get special privileges over the blogger w/ three readers, because he doesn’t want gov’t setting criteria for who is a journalist, we’ve seen this means, the MSM has quickly sunk to the level of the bloggers (as with the Mayor/Mirthala case, after some bloggers “broke” the story leaving the MSM to “catch up”). We can’t put the genie back in the bottle. And some bloggers operate for the sole purpose of carrying out personal vendettas.

    I’m glad to see you’re from the “old school” of journalism, but many people at all types of media aren’t any more. We need to hold them closely accountable, and if this New Times case makes them think twice, then good.

  • maggie, lefties don’t discredit what I say. If I say something offensive to them, no matter how true, they just attempt to use that to change the argument that they can’t win. They almost never agree with me, anyway. So, I have no desire to be politically correct and let them keep me from speaking my mind, and I enjoy listening to their nonsensical whines.

    I’ve found from my former dealings with lefties at Marc Cooper’s that if you keep insisting that they answer the question, rather than attack an individual or change the argument, that they get trapped and lose. Of course, like Ann Coulter said, arguing with a liberal is like dealing with someone with ADD. Out of courtesy to Marc, I just quit commenting there, which they wouldn’t do because of a total lack of class.

    They changed the subject, usually to me, by losing their tempers and going ballistic, which took me to likening them to a bunch of emotional, hysterical semi-men, screeching in high pitched voices, which is true and which comes through so clear just in their comments. Their theme song is Shania Twain’s “I Feel Like a Woman.” They like that video with the guys in the back licking their lips.

    Have you never seen a gay man get upset and threatening revenge? If so, you know what I mean. They’re worse than a scorned woman. That also describes The NY Times and the liberal media.

    Celeste, you could have said that the information about the sheriff’s address was readily available without actually producing the evidence. We don’t expect, and you don’t provide, such exacting evidence on everything. Don’t emulate Rosie O’Donnell.

    The title of your post could have been more easily reversed to say “Joe Arpaio and the Wrath of Crazy New Times.”

  • Thinking of you Celeste as I monitor the news about the Malibu fires.

    I used to teach an essay of yours about one of the big fires up there…it was in an anthology about California.

    Take care.

  • Where are the fires in relation to your home Celeste? I tried to tell, but wasn’t sure. I’m waiting for New Times to get the confidential information on that. I hope that you’re in a safe zone. I promise, the fires were not started by the vast right-wing conspiracy.

  • Yes all the lefties drink the same Kool-Aid and act the same way. And yes even all gay men, black men, Latino men all act the same way. They are al part of the “Kool-Aid” top-secret genetic programming project.

  • Thanks Rebel Girl and Woody,

    We’re okay at the moment although only residents are allowed in and out of Topanga right now, and the canyon north of us has been evacuated—although, I think, just as a precautionary measure. But it lets us know that the winds are not blowing in a helpful direction. Most of my friend who have horses have already moved them.

    I’m going to do a post about it a little later and may put up part of that essay that you mentioned, RG. It was written right after the ’93 Topanga/Malibu fire.

    Whenever the Santa Ana’s are this bad it brings out the crazies and we all get extremely jittery.

    Working on a deadline. Back later on.

    But thanks for checking in.

  • I remember your insight about your Limoges – it inspired me to use my good stuff almost daily.

    I went through the Laguna fire in ’93 and know how it is. We won’t sleep well tonight, living where we do.

    I’m going to go find that Didion essay that begins with the winds. And Chandler. Good company.

  • The L A Times update on the fire has a reader blog asking how people are dealing with it. Quite a few reverse-racist comments like why do “rich White people” get “the cavalry” to put out the fires when katrina didn’t; who cares about million dollar homes burning down, it will teach “them” a lesson in humility; why aren’t there blacks and Latinos in Malibu, until then let them burn, etc. (for the record there are some, incl. a mobile home park) — Other readers call these people out, and point out their spiteful and jealous nature. Scary. It’s a microcosm of society today. (And those people become “shield law” protected bloggers, too.)

  • Raymond Chandler:

    There was a desert wind blowing that night. It was one of those hot dry Santa Anas that come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your skin itch. On nights like that every booze party ends in a fight. Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husbands’ necks. Anything can happen. You can even get a full glass of beer at a cocktail lounge.
    — “Red Wind”

  • Woody, I know what you’re getting at: our marble-mouthed Gov Arnold called them “girlie men,” not to high acclaim. And gay men are comic foils and fashionistas (Vanessa Williams’ asst in Ugly Betty), Queer Eye for the Straight Guy…but still. And I’d not mention Ann Coulter if you want to stand as the southern gent in the face of a rude, crude Rosie O’Donnell world. (Which most journalists & bloggers typify these days.) But you are an original — and sure do force the “leftie clones” like L A Res or ric and reg to lay out their agendas.

  • “plus their Internet domain names, browsers types, and a list of other Web sites they visited before reading New Times.”

    For those who have not run a website, the above data is stored by all competent website managers to determine who is linking to them and possibly if their advertising is working.

  • Pokey, didn’t know website mgrs have data re: other Web sites visited, really? I know the provider does and sells all that along w/ cable/pay per view and phone call info. So it’s all there and collected already — info that’s easy to be abused.
    The Times ran a piece about how this stuff should be under a real “shield law” to protect our privacy. Privacy, please…

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