The Maricopa County sheriff "reacted with bluster" to the news that he was named in a suit filed yesterday by Phoenix New Times, the Arizona Republic reports. "They can't take their own medicine, so they have to be like crybabies and file a lawsuit against the sheriff and the county attorney," Arpaio says. "So you know what? I welcome the lawsuit. I welcome being sued. They're going to have to answer a lot of questions." Arpaio also defended the rationale behind the original probe. "It became a problem when they put my name illegally on the web," he says. "And that became a problem for me and my family. A big problem." New Times founder Michael Lacey defended the suit, calling the actions of Arpaio and the other defendants "unprecedented. ... They locked up journalists for something they've written, not for something they've withheld," he says.
The lawsuit, filed today in Maricopa County Superior Court, says defendants Sheriff Joe Arpaio, County Attorney Andrew Thomas, lawyer Dennis Wilenchik and two county agencies subverted "the grand jury process" and committed other wrongdoing in their probe of New Times, which led to the arrests of the paper's founders. The 34-page lawsuit also accuses the defendants of retaliatory conduct in falsely arresting Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin and in maliciously prosecuting New Times. The lawsuit does not ask for a specific amount of money, but seeks general and punitive damages, and requests a jury trial. Read more on the Phoenix New Times' blog.
"My invoking the argot of Black artists achieved a level of insensitive stupidity almost galactic in scale," writes the Village Voice Media executive editor in a blog post. "Whatever discussion lingers about the use of the words 'bitch' or 'ho' in hip-hop, comedy, film or literature, there is no question about the N-bomb coming out of the mouth of a 59-year-old white man." Lacey's post includes a link to Friday night's error-riddled FOX News segment from Hannity & Colmes about the incident.
The Village Voice Media executive editor's Friday night utterance of the "n-word" continues to be discussed in media circles and on the internet. Maricopa County attorney Andrew Thomas, who may be sued by Phoenix New Times soon, criticized Lacey's comments at a press conference on Tuesday, saying "this should be the Don Imus moment for Arizona's media," KTVK-TV reports. KTVK-TV also has the full video of the acceptance speech in which the offending comment was made. And Philadelphia City Paper publisher Paul Curci is weighing in as well, calling Lacey's comments "vicious and hateful" in an incensed letter to AAN News.
The Village Voice Media executive editor ruffled some feathers when he used the "n-word" to refer to an old friend while accepting the President's Award from the local Society of Professional Journalists chapter, the East Valley Tribune reports. "My words, meant to honor a friend, were inappropriate," Lacey says. "All present have my sincere apology. It is regrettable that any phrase of mine offended those attending a First Amendment awards banquet." In other news, Phoenix New Times will receive a Payne Award for Ethics in Journalism for standing up to last fall's grand jury probe. Lacey and VVM CEO Jim Larkin were both arrested and briefly incarcerated as a result of the probe.
Village Voice Media executive editor Mike Lacey and chairman/CEO Jim Larkin received the honor at the AZ ACLU's annual Bill of Rights dinner this weekend. They were being honored for publishing the county's illegal grand jury subpoenas against the Phoenix New Times and its readers last fall, for which the pair was ultimately arrested. But in presenting the award to the New Times founders, AZ ACLU past president John Hay explained that the well-publicized dust-up was only the tip of the iceberg. "The excuse we're using is what happened this fall when they faced down the Sheriff and the County Attorney. But they have in fact been defending civil liberties now for at least 38 years," Hay said. "So it is my pleasure to present these awards, which I think are slightly wrong. This says Civil Libertarian of the Year. I present these awards to Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin for being Civil Libertarians of the past four decades."
The paper was a finalist in the "Distinguished Service to the First Amendment" category for revealing that New Times was the target of a grand jury probe, a dust-up that resulted in the paper's founders being arrested. But despite the national honors and publicity surrounding the case, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio claims to still not know about the paper. "Is that a porno magazine?" Arpaio says in an interview with NPR, "feigning ignorance" upon reference of the publication's name. "You're talking about the weekly paper they have to give away free?" New Times founder Michael Lacey also talks to NPR about Arpaio, explaining the conditions that led to his being arrested. "What made them think they could get away with it is they've been gradually getting away with it for years here," Lacey says. "You begin with prisoners. Then you move on to Mexicans. Then you move on to editors and reporters."