He was called America’s Toughest Sheriff. Others called him America’s Worth Sheriff. For many Latinos, Joe Arpaio was a symbol of the prejudice and oppression for millions of people from Mexico to Peru.
And two media executives decided enough was enough. What followed was a decade-long fight between a dogged media company and a corrupt law enforcement department.
The story started when Village Voice Executives Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin were illegally arrested for writing an unfavorable story about the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Department. Learn more about James Larkin and Michael Lacey: http://www.bizjournals.com/phoenix/potmsearch/detail/submission/6427818/Michael_Lacey and http://www.laceyandlarkinfronterafund.org/about-lacey-larkin-frontera-fund/michael-lacey/
The two men were arrested in a bizarre morning raid that stunned the people of Maricopa County as well as the nation. After a national outcry, the two media executives were released, without any charges, less than 24 hours later.
What seemed like an act out of an oppressive third world country shined a harsh light on the goings of Sheriff Arpaio’s law enforcement organization. The arrest was considered by many to be one of the most outrageous violations of the First Amendment right to a free press. Read more: Phoenix New Times | Wikipedia and Lacey and Larkin Frontera Fund
In fact, the arrest could be considered sort of a turning point. It wasn’t very long afterward that the Justice Department began to take action against Sheriff Arpaio and his corrupt law enforcement department.
Not one to ever back down from a fight, Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin turned the tables on Sheriff Arpaio and sued his Sheriff’s department for the illegal arrest. In what seemed like sweet justice, the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Department was compelled to settle with the two media executives for $3.75 million dollars.
While no one would have blamed Lacey and Larkin if they had pocketed the money, the two executives decided to put their new found money to good work. The media executives used the settlement cash to launch the Frontera Fund, a non-profit organization dedicated to fighting for the rights of migrants and immigrants across the country.
As the fund launched, the tide really did seem to turn in Maricopa County. The citizens denied Joe Arpaio a seventh term as Sheriff. Soon afterward, Joe Arpaio was convicted of obstruction of justice. While Mr. Arpaio was eventually pardoned by President Trump, it seemed like the days of “tent cities” and humiliating chain gangs were, at the very least, over in Maricopa County.
However, for Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin, the fight was not over. The Frontera Fund is currently helping migrants and immigrants deal with the new “Trump Era” of mass deportations and increased oppression of migrant workers.
America’s Freedom is only as strong as the freedom it extends to its most vulnerable citizen. And Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin are ready to use the Frontera Fund to fight the next Joe Arpaio wherever he may pop up.