In the early 70s, Michael and Jim decided to offer Phoenix area readers an alternative to the surrounding media’s right-wing ultra-conservative reporting. They were among the students at Arizona State starting a free weekly alternative anti-war newspaper called the Phoenix New Times.
With Michael Lacey as the head reporter and Jim Larkin serving as business manager and selling advertising, the tabloid soon gained a reputation for extensive, informative, investigative in-depth reporting about public issues of the time.
In 2005, a U.S. Army Reserve Sergeant named Patrick Haab was driving along Interstate 8 in rural Arizona when he pulled into a public rest stop to take a break. While sitting at the rest stop, Sgt. Haab saw seven men leave a building and climb into an SUV. Believing them to be illegal aliens, Haab moved his car to prevent them from leaving, then approached the SUV on foot waving a pistol and ordering the occupants out of the SUV and onto the ground.
While holding the men at gunpoint, Haab called the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office and reported that he was holding what he believed to be illegal immigrants until law enforcement could get there and arrest them.
Instead, Haab himself was arrested, and Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio described Haab’s actions as both dangerous and illegal. Arpaio went on to say that Haab could not be sure that the men were in the country illegally and that civilians should never act as law enforcement.
Arpaio was shocked when all charges against Haab were dropped and public opinion became strongly anti-migrant. As a result, he courted voters by becoming strongly anti-immigrant, going so far as to arrest legal migrants and even American citizens of Hispanic descent. Lacey, Larkin, and the Phoenix New Times became, in Lacey’s words, “a constant thorn in Arpaio’s side.” They revealed that on a salary of $78,000 a year, Arpaio had purchased $700,000 worth of commercial property throughout Maricopa County
The Phoenix New Times exposed conditions in Arpaio’s jail, and the fence enclosed tent city he affectionately called his “concentration camp, including meals of green bologna and rotten fruit, and daily conditions including brutal beatings. Read more: Michael Lacey | Crunchbase and Lacey and Larkin Frontera Fund
For years, Arpaio banned New Times’ reporters from his press conferences, ignored their requests for records under the Freedom of Information Act, and repeatedly threatened to arrest reporters. This came to a head during the night of October 18, 2007, when plainclothes detectives from the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, driving SUVs with tinted windows and Mexican license plates placed them under arrest.
After the public criticisms that followed, Lacey and Larkin were released without charges being filed, and soon filed countersuits for false arrest for what they called “the trumped-up charges.” Maricopa County Commissioners voted to settle out of court for $3.7 million dollars.