NINTH CIRCUIT ALLOWS PHOENIX NEWSPAPER TO SUE LAWYER WHO COOKED UP BOGUS SUBPOENAS
One night in 2007, deputies in riot gear arrested my middle-aged former bosses at Phoenix New Times, zip-tied their wrists, and hauled them off to jail in unmarked cars.
The reason: Mike Lacey and Jim Larkin had refused to comply with a “grand jury subpoena” issued by the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office that sought the browsing habits and internet addresses of New Times online readers. Instead of complying with the subpoena, Lacey and Larkin published it. That led to the arrests. The county attorney’s office said it was illegal to publish the contents of a grand jury subpoena.
Now, four years later, we know there was no grand jury.
The subpoenas were bogus.
They were cooked up by Dennis Wilenchik, the former boss of Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas, whom Thomas hired to go after New Times. Thomas hired Wilenchik to go after Lacey and Larkin and Phoenix New Times because the newspaper had for years written stories about Thomas’s political ally — Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. What kind of stories? You can read them here. New Times reported on alleged mismanagement and ethical violations in the sheriff’s office, and odd deaths in the sheriff’s jails.
New Times sued Thomas (he now faces disbarment for ethical violations and is no longer in office) and Arpaio and Wilenchik for the wrongful arrest and malicious prosecutions of Lacey and Larkin.
But Wilenchik, the mastermind behind the “grand jury subpoenas” could be sued, the court ruled.
Wilenchik’s boss, Thomas, was immune from the lawsuit. But he faces his own demons. Specifically, he may be disbarred.
And as for Arpaio, the feds have been investigating him for years. He may be indicted for abuse of power allegations. Three of his top aides have left the office in disgrace.
And Phoenix New Times columnists are relentlessly pushing the feds to take action.
Which isn’t surprising.