Phoenix New Times a Target of Grand Jury Probe

October 18, 2007
For Immediate Release

In an unprecedented action, Phoenix New Times revealed in the current issue that Maricopa County grand jury subpoenas target the paper’s editors and reporters — and, incredibly, its readers.

The grand jury subpoenas demand the identity, browsing proclivities and shopping habits of any online reader who looked at any part of the newspaper from January 2004 until the present.

The incredibly sweeping subpoenas also demand from reporters and editors all documents, records, interviews, sources and editing notes from all journalists who worked on any story about Sheriff Joe Arpaio, “America’s toughest Sheriff.”

By revealing the existence of the grand jury and details of its proceedings the paper exposes itself to potential criminal penalties including fines and jail time.

However, the paper felt it had no choice given apparent constitutional abuses on the part of prosecutors, who are handling the prosecution more as a vendetta than as a serious legal proceeding.

This concern reached a tipping point October 11 when the judge presiding over the grand jury revealed that she’d received a phone call suggesting that she meet quietly with the prosecutor in the case.

Reached at home the previous evening Judge Anna Baca explained that a heavily connected political player claimed that Special prosecutor Dennis Wilenchik wanted a meeting. In court the judge labeled the behavior of the grand jury prosecutor “highly inappropriate.”

Faced with the prospect of a secret grand jury probe employing remarkably abusive subpoenas with little regard for the Constitution under the direction of a prosecutor who’d made a clumsy attempt to get to the judge, New Times reluctantly decided to go public.

The 3 year old story that triggered grand jury subpoenas focused upon Sheriff Arpaio hiding nearly $1 million cash in commercial real estate investments. The ploy involved Arpaio invoking an arcane law that allows law enforcement to mask their home address in county records.

When New Times detailed these tactics the paper printed Arpaio’s home address. While there was nothing illegal about printing the Sheriff’s address, there is yet another obscure state statute that makes posting the address on the web a crime. (This despite the Sheriff’s home address being posted on several government web sites such as the Arizona Corporation Commission.)

Like all modern newspapers, New Times archives its content on the internet.

It is the internet posting of the Sheriff’s address, not the million dollars the Sheriff hid, that prosecutors are pursuing 3 years after the crime.

Read this week’s story

Browse the archive of New Times‘ Sheriff Joe Arpaio coverage

Michael Lacey
Executive Editor
michael.lacey (at)