22 October 2007

Corrupt Maricopa County DA and Sherrif Back Down from Confrontation with a Press

A Breathtaking Abuse of the Constitution

The object of this story, the Phoenix New Times, got the hed for this story correct when they called it Breathtaking Abuse of the Constitution.

The story begins a few years back, when the The Phoenix New Times, a Phoenix, AZ alternative newspaper began looking into the affairs of the very prominent, and very controversial Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio*, and found that since his election as sheriff, he has accumulated millions of dollars in real estate investments on a $78,000 sheriff's salary, and he used "an arcane statute meant to conceal home addresses of law enforcement officials to shield his investments."

In commenting on Arpaio's extensive real estate holdings, the New Times published his home address in an OP/ED on their web page, to show how this information was already publicly available, and the Arpaio filed a criminal complaint with the DA, Andrew Thomas, who appointed one of his cronies, Dennis Wilenchik, as special prosecutors, to see if there was a violation of the law in publishing this information.

Then, in a stunning abuse of the grand jury process, Wilenchik issued a grand jury subpoena to the Phoenix New Times, requesting:
  • "all documents related to articles and other content published by Phoenix New Times newspaper in print and on the Phoenix New Times website, regarding Sheriff Joe Arpaio from January 1, 2004 to the present."
  • Detailed information on every person who has visited the Phoenix New Times web site since 2004.
    • which pages visitors access or visit on the Phoenix New Times website;
    • the total number of visitors to the Phoenix New Times website;
    • information obtained from 'cookies,' including, but not limited to, authentication, tracking, and maintaining specific information about users (site preferences, contents of electronic shopping carts, etc.);
    • the Internet Protocol address of anyone that accesses the Phoenix New Times website from January 1, 2004 to the present;
    • the domain name of anyone that has accessed the Phoenix New Times website from January 1, 2004 to the present;
    • the website a user visited prior to coming to the Phoenix New Times website;
    • the date and time of a visit by a user to the Phoenix New Times website;
    • the type of browser used by each visitor (Internet Explorer, Mozilla, Netscape Navigator, Firefox, etc.) to the Phoenix New Times website; and
    • the type of operating system used by each visitor to the Phoenix New Times website."
The publishers of the paper, published that they had been subpoenaed, along with this analysis of the entire affair:
The seemingly picayune matter of Sheriff Arpaio's home address getting printed at the bottom of an opinion column on our Internet site — and the very real issue of commercial property investments the sheriff hid from public view — have now erupted into a courtroom donnybrook against a backdrop of illegal immigration disputes, Mexican drug cartels, the Minutemen, political ambition, and turf disputes between prosecutors and the judiciary.
What's more, the special prosecutor attempted to use a third party to set up an ex parte meeting with the judge supervising the grand jury, in direct violation of the most basic canons of legal ethics.

Well, the newspaper, or more specifically its founders Michael Lacey, the executive editor, and Jim Larkin, chief executive, had had enough, so they published about the secret grand jury subpoena, and they were promptly arrested.

Well, if they wanted news of the subpoena, and abuse of the grand jury process, covered up, they got it wrong, because, it got coverage from the New York Times here, and here, Slate, and (FINALLY) the Arizona Republic, to name a few.

At this point, realizing that they were completely screwed, Thomas ended the investigation, with much press coverage. As an poster on the New Times web site said, "Not surprising. Cockroaches never do like being exposed to daylight."

*He has created a jail tent city, and sold himself as the "America's toughest sheriff".
Who appears to be so close to Arpaio that they could share a bathroom stall with Senator Larry Craig.
No, there wasn't. You know the first amendment allows for reporting stuff like this. It's news, and furthermore, it is germane, as they are covering the corrupt sheriff's real estate holdings, which include his house, which he has covered up by misusing a that refers only to his home.

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