Chris Simcox was the co-founder of the border-watch vigilante group Minuteman Civil Defense Corps. David Kadlubowski/The Republic
Megan Cassidy, The Republic
Chris Simcox, the former leader of the Minuteman border vigilante group, was sentenced to 19.5 years in prison Monday, bringing an end to a sex-abuse case involving two girls under 10.
A Maricopa County Superior Court jury found Simcox, 55, guilty last month of two counts of child molestation and one count of furnishing obscene material to a minor after a three-week trial. The jury composed of three women and nine men, found him not guilty on three other counts of sexual conduct with a minor — a charge that carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison.
Simcox was arrested in 2013 after two girls, ages 5 and 6, accused him of touching them inappropriately between 2012 and 2013.
Simcox was sentenced to two concurrent sentences of 17 years for each of the molestation counts and an additional 2.5-year sentence for furnishing obscene materials to a minor.
The jury’s verdict was essentially split by accuser. Simcox was convicted of all of the charges tied to the 5-year-old girl and none of those tied to the 6-year-old.
Prosecutor: 'He is not to be trusted within society'
Simcox, who represented himself in trial, declined to address the court Monday. The choice was a departure from his earlier approach, which included verbose handwritten motions and a trial defense laced with innuendos of a conspiracy against him.
Though the victim's mother submitted a statement to the court, she declined to speak at the hearing. The girl, now 9, was not present.
Maricopa County prosecutor Yigael Cohen was the only one to make a statement before the sentencing. Cohen had asked for the sentences to run consecutive to each other, which would have tacked on another 17 years.
It was clear from Simcox's pre-sentence report that he wasn't willing to take responsibility for what he had done, Cohen said. Instead, Simcox "made up a story" to explain why the victim was upset with him and would have motive to implicate him, Cohen said.
“He is not to be trusted within society. He is not to be trusted with children," Cohen said. "He should be kept away from children for as long as possible.”
An end to an emotionally charged time in court
The sentencing caps three years of emotionally charged court proceedings, which reached a boiling point last year after Simcox announced that he planned to personally cross-examine his accusers.
The intended strategy prompted various delays in the trial as prosecutors and victims’ attorneys attempted to fight it in higher courts. Simcox ultimately abandoned the plan earlier this year.
Speaking to reporters just after the hearing, the victim's mother said her daughter hasn't spoken much about the incidents but has had a great amount of support from her family. She said she recently asked her daughter if she wanted to make a victim impact statement for the sentencing.
"The only thing she said was, 'He messed with the wrong family,' " the victim's mother said.
When asked about her opinion on Simcox, the mother said she viewed him "in the same way I would view anybody who did what he did to my child. I'm glad he's gone."
Simcox first stepped onto the public stage in the mid-2000s, emerging as a firebrand amid the debate on illegal immigration in Arizona. He co-founded the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, a group that urged citizens to take it upon themselves to secure the U.S.’ southern border, and later ran a brief campaign to unseat U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.
I wonder how he will make out with the Hispanic gangs in prison?