Arizona Newspaper Leaders Arrested Over Story on Subpoenas

The leaders of an alternative newspaper chain were arrested after running a story about grand jury subpoenas they received seeking reporters' notes and information on who visits their Phoenix weekly's Web site.

Michael Lacey, executive editor of Village Voice Media, and Jim Larkin, CEO of the Phoenix-based chain, were arrested at their homes Thursday, the same day their story was published in the Phoenix New Times, a free, weekly alternative paper.

Capt. Paul Chagolla, a sheriff's spokesman, said Lacey and Larkin were arrested on suspicion of violating grand jury secrecy and that the arrests came at the requests of the prosecutor.

The story, titled "Breathtaking Abuse of the Constitution," said Maricopa County authorities want every story New Times has written about Sheriff Joe Arpaio since Jan. 1, 2004, and all the notes, tapes and records of the reporters.

The subpoenas also seek online profiles of anyone who read four specific articles about Arpaio and profiles of anyone who visited the paper's Web site since Jan. 1, 2004. Also sought was information on what Web users did while on the site, the story said.

Lacey told the East Valley Tribune that the New Times was fighting to quash the subpoenas, filed Aug. 24.

"It is just without precedent," Lacey said. "This isn't us overreacting."

The New Times said the subpoenas were issued to Lacey, Larkin and other staff members and stem from the paper's decision to publish Arpaio's home address more than three years ago.

Arpaio, a Republican first elected sheriff in 1992, calls himself "America's toughest sheriff" and has attracted nationwide publicity for steps such as requiring jail inmates to wear pink underwear. Arpaio said he was not allowed to comment on the case, adding, "You do know that I'm a victim in this whole thing."

Lacey and Larkin wrote that authorities would probably believe that revealing the subpoenas was against the law, "but there are moments when civil disobedience is merely the last option."

Disclosing grand jury information is punishable by up to six months in jail, $2,500 in fines for a person and $20,000 for an enterprise.

Lacey was freed on bond after his arrest but Larkin's whereabouts early Friday could not be immediately determined. The main county lockup had no information on him.

Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas declined to comment.

The Phoenix-based company was known as New Times Media until two years ago when it bought the owner of New York's venerable Village Voice and its five sister newspapers. That made it the nation's largest publisher of alternative weekly newspapers with 17 weeklies and a combined circulation of 1.8 million.

Former New Times reporter John Dougherty, whose original story about Arpaio's address sparked the controversy, said: "We're not harboring state secrets, we're not harboring terrorists, we're just straight up reporting on issues they don't want us to report on."