The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

19 October 2007

The mother of all fishing expeditions

The Phoenix New Times, a metropolitan alt-weekly, has occasionally been a thorn in the side of Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, and now the man with the badge has decided it's time for payback:

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.

Which led to the following:

In a grandiose insult to the Constitution, Arpaio, [Maricopa County Attorney Andrew] Thomas, and [special prosecutor Dennis] Wilenchik used the grand jury to subpoena the online profiles of anyone who viewed four specific articles on the sheriff.

And then they raised the ante:

Energized, perhaps, by this mugging of Constitutional safeguards, Arpaio, Thomas, and Wilenchik then shot the moon. The grand jury subpoena also demands Web site profiles of anyone and everyone who visited New Times online over the past two and a half years, not merely readers who viewed articles on the sheriff.

The subpoena demands: "Any and all documents containing a compilation of aggregate information about the Phoenix New Times Web site created or prepared from January 1, 2004 to the present, including but not limited to:

A) which pages visitors access or visit on the Phoenix New Times website;

B) the total number of visitors to the Phoenix New Times website;

C) 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.);

D) the Internet Protocol address of anyone that accesses the Phoenix New Times website from January 1, 2004 to the present;

E) the domain name of anyone that has accessed the Phoenix New Times website from January 1, 2004 to the present;

F) the website a user visited prior to coming to the Phoenix New Times website;

G) the date and time of a visit by a user to the Phoenix New Times website;

H) the type of browser used by each visitor (Internet Explorer, Mozilla, Netscape Navigator, Firefox, etc.) to the Phoenix New Times website; and

I) the type of operating system used by each visitor to the Phoenix New Times website.

Inasmuch as I read the New Times piece online, I assume they want my information, and if you followed the link, they presumably want yours too. "America's Toughest Sheriff" apparently has America's Thinnest Skin.

And to prove it:

Two top executives of Village Voice Media, the parent company of the Voice, were arrested Thursday night and released from jail early Friday morning for revealing information about a secret grand jury proceeding in a story in the Phoenix New Times.

(With thanks to Coyote Blog.)

Posted at 11:54 AM to Dyssynergy

Update: The case has been dropped ... and the special prosecutor that pursued the case has been fired.

Posted by: Mel at 5:30 PM on 21 October 2007

So it has.

"It has become clear to me the investigation has gone in a direction I would not have authorized," [Andrew] Thomas said.

Translation: "I'm bailing now before the fan is struck with fecal matter."

Posted by: CGHill at 5:39 PM on 21 October 2007

Meanwhile back at the jail its "pass the green baloney" :)

Posted by: Ron at 11:17 AM on 22 October 2007