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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Alt-weeklies protest Arizona officials' abuse of power

Yikes! This post doesn't have much to do with the 802, but if you support governmental transparency and the freedom of the press, I think you'll find it interesting.

Below is a press release from the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies, our trade association. Apparently one of our members, the Phoenix New Times , pissed off a county sheriff a few years back. In the course of an investigation into some suspicious real estate deals, they put his home address on their website. The sheriff's home address is available elsewhere online, but he convinced a political ally to investigate the paper anyway, and last week, the Phoenix New Times founders were arrested.

A bunch of AAN members — including Seven Days — are showing solidarity with the Phoenix New Times by linking to all of these places where you can find this guy's home address online.

Here's the press release from AAN:

Member papers of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies (AAN) this week are providing links on their websites that direct their readers to the many places on the internet where the home address of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio is listed.

AAN papers are doing so to show solidarity with the Phoenix New Times, which was threatened with felony prosecution for publishing Sheriff Arpaio's address on its website in 2004. After an adjoining jurisdiction declined to press charges, Arpaio's political ally, Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas, convened a grand jury to "investigate" charges the paper broke the law when it published Sheriff Arpaio's address.

Last week, Phoenix New Times' founders Michael Lacey and Jim Larkin were arrested and jailed after the paper published a story about the grand jury and subpoenas they had received that demanded detailed internet records of any person who had visited the newspaper's website since 2004, as well as all notes and records from any reporter who had written about the sheriff in the preceding three years.

After Larkin and Lacey were arrested an outpouring of shock and anger accompanied widespread media coverage of the case. The response created a groundswell of support for New Times. The charges were dropped less than 24 hours later after Thomas admitted that his office had made "serious missteps" in the case.

"The actions of Mr. Thomas and Sheriff Arpaio in this case are beyond outrageous," said AAN executive director Richard Karpel. "They abused their offices by engaging in Gestapo-like tactics designed to silence a newspaper that has been highly critical of them in the past."

Added AAN First Amendment Chair Tim Redmond, executive editor of the San Francisco Bay Guardian: "Our association and its members won't tolerate this sort of attack on the right of a member paper to publish information that is and ought to be public record."

"This was a victory for the First Amendment, the constitution and for our readers right to read our newspaper without the government spying upon them," said Larkin and Lacey in a joint statement. "As the federal press shield legislation moves from the House to the Senate, we hope people will remember what happened to reporters, editors and readers in Phoenix."

Phoenix New Times has published dozens of stories critical of both Thomas and Arpaio. In fact, the paper maintains an archive on its website of its coverage of Arpaio since he was elected sheriff in 1992.

New Times published Arpaio's home address in a story arguing that he abused a state law that allows law enforcement officials to keep their addresses from being made public. New Times said Arpaio used the law to hide nearly $1 million in cash real-estate transactions.

Thomas convened a grand jury to investigate the case even though Arpaio's home address was then and continues to be easily accessible on a number of other websites, including the Maricopa County Recorder's official website (see first link below):

recorder.maricopa.gov/CampaignFinance/CampFinDocsSelect.aspx?Candidat eId=970003&FileYear=2004 (click "2004 Financial Disclosure Statement" for PDF)


www.zabasearch.com/query1_zaba.php?sname=arpaio&state=AZ&ref=$ref&se= $se&doby=&city=&name_style=1

www.usa-people-search.com/order.aspx?city=Fountain%20Hills&st=az&fn=J oseph&mn=&ln=Arpaio&searchpID=117102576

www.privateeye.com/(S(4pwn0l55tzc0sqfr4yy5ju45))/Search/SearchResults .aspx?vw=people&input=name&fn=joseph&mn=&ln=arpaio&city=fountain%20hills&sta te=AZ&criteria=joseph;;;;arpaio;;fountain%20hills;;AZ;;;;;;

www.voompeople.com/order.asp?1=JOSEPH;;MICHAEL;;ARPAIO;;;;;;;;;;;;;;; ;;;117102576;;&2=name&3=people&4=1&5=joseph;;;;arpaio;;fountain%20hills;;AZ; ;;;;;;;&rc=1

Arpaio continues to resist New Times' request for information relating to his real estate holdings.

October 23, 2007 at 01:03 PM in House Rules | Permalink


So how does that solve anything? It seems extremely immature to do something like that...

Posted by: Alexander | Oct 25, 2007 9:47:23 AM


When a publication publishes a public figure's home address that is readily available online, that's not only okay but is deserving of massive re-linking to the sources of that home address and publicizing that act in a manner that furthers the distribution of that information because of the reaction of that official, all in the interest of "solidarity."

When we published the home address of an anti-gay extremist that was readily available as a part of a public record of a public appearance that he'd made you said that "in a state that prizes its tradition of civil political discourse, these tactics go against the grain." Never mind that unlike in the story above, Kevin Blier's home address was a part of the statement he had made at public meeting.

Maybe that First Amendment hair splitting all arose from the false notion that a free press is the somehow a more important part of the First Amendment that deserves greater respect than the free speech right of the public that includes bloggers.

Posted by: Blier Watch | Oct 26, 2007 7:22:59 PM

Sorry, BW, I think this is a different case.

The Phoenix New Times published a public official's home address as part of an investigation into his real estate dealings -- apparently there's a law in Arizona that keeps the address of law enforcement officers private. The paper in Arizona was charging that the sheriff was misusing the law to hide his own criminal activity.

They published his home address as part of that investigation, and that public official used the power of his office to punish them. The AAN papers published the links to his address to show that it was widely available elsewhere.

Incidentally, the Phoenix New Times is now challenging the Arizona law in court.

You published Kevin Blier's home address -- and promoted it on Google -- because you disagree with his politics.

I just don't see a compelling case for letting everyone know exactly where he lives. If he were running for the Brandon school board but actually living in Middlebury, then yes, that would have been appropriate. But he appears to be a law-abiding citizen whose "crime" has been to advocate for his beliefs. I disagree with the guy, but I don't think he deserves the same treatment as the AZ sheriff.

Posted by: Cathy Resmer | Oct 27, 2007 11:35:25 AM

You're opinion as to why his address was published is your own and is incorrect.

All the records we have reproduced were done so as completely as possible so that there would be no question about context and so that the records, and we were coming across a lot back then, would be there for the future. Blier and his group began to scrub the record back then, so there is no question that we were correct to memorialize what we found out about a religious right, anti-gay/lesbian, political thug who we also learned was identified by a co-conspirator in a felony case to have had foreknowledge of that crime.

Whether you see or saw a compelling case is and was irrelevant. You'd missed a lot back then about Blier.

But please, do hairsplit away. That's always good for the First Amendment.

Posted by: Blier Watch | Oct 27, 2007 2:56:25 PM

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