The Hatewatch blog is managed by the staff of the Intelligence Project of the Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama-based civil rights organization.

Minuteman Founder Must Pay Former Close Ally He Smeared

By Hatewatch Staff on October 9, 2012 - 9:38 am, Posted in Anti-Immigrant

Jim Gilchrist, co-founder of the border-watching Minuteman Project, has never been shy about expressing his opinions, especially when it comes to his many critics. But now his pugnaciousness has cost him dearly in a long-running feud with a former Minuteman ally.

Last month, an Orange County, Calif., Superior Court judge issued a summary ruling in a series of small-claims suits, declaring that Gilchrist had indulged in “Big Lie” tactics by publicly smearing a woman named Deborah Courtney — a former key member of the board of directors of Gilchrist’s organization — and ordered him to pay her $42,501.

It’s only the latest comedown in the long and steady decline of Gilchrist’s anti-immigrant outfit. In the seven years since the Minuteman Project (MMP) made a national media splash with vigilante border watches in Arizona and elsewhere, the border-watch movement has largely fallen on hard times – and no one symbolizes that fall better than Gilchrist.

The civil-lawsuit loss was only the latest chapter in the six-year soap opera that followed the eruption of an internal feud in the ranks of the Minuteman Project in late 2006, the immediate result of which was that the MMP board – including Courtney – fired Gilchrist and assumed control of the operation.

From there, the dispute degenerated into a blizzard of lawsuits, with Gilchrist first claiming he had become the sole member of the board of directors and accusing the board of attempting to hijack his organization. He eventually dropped that suit, but the board meanwhile countered with one of its own, accusing Gilchrist and his cohorts of fraud. That lawsuit worked its way through Orange County’s court system for nearly a year before the judge in the case dismissed it, at least partially at the plaintiffs’ behest, in May 2008.

Shortly after the dismissal, the board (this time with a new lawyer) filed a fresh version of the case; that one eventually went Gilchrist’s way, and he regained full control of the MMP in December 2009. The next month, the Orange County judge hearing the matter issued a permanent injunction barring the board members from bringing any further action in the matter. In April of 2010, a jury ordered the board members to pay Gilchrist back $4,000 it had withdrawn from a bank account.

That wasn’t the end of it, though. Afterward, Gilchrist embarked on an online smear campaign against Courtney and her cohorts. After it had continued for a while, Courtney decided to put an end to it, and filed a series of defamation suits in small-claims court.

Gilchrist, the lawsuits pointed out, had described Deborah Courtney online as a criminal who had been “convicted by a jury of her peers” of committing specific federal offenses including “postal fraud,” “federal bank fraud,” “federal bank theft,” “U.S. Postal fraud,” “violations of federal Internet laws,” “interstate document fraud” and, in one particularly detailed attack, of “violating one or all of the following Federal laws: Title 18, Sections 1030, 1708, 1341, and 1342, having to do with computer fraud and Internet abuse, engaging in a fraudulent scheme to divert monies, attempting to divert U.S. Mail, and mail tampering.”

Orange County Register columnist Frank Mickadeit sat in on the proceedings in Judge Julian Bailey’s courtroom, and observed that both Gilchrist and Courtney represented themselves in the proceedings, though Gilchrist was accompanied by paralegal Brad Mailly, the brother of longtime Gilchrist attorney Guy Mailly.

Mickadeit described it like this: “Bailey went through the eight allegedly defamatory statements one by one. He asked Gilchrist why he’d made them. Gilchrist said that after the lawsuit, Courtney’s ‘propaganda campaign’ against him had been ‘so overwhelming’ that ‘I had to do something. … I had to post.’ In general, Bailey wanted Gilchrist to explain how he could characterize a civil finding under state law as a conviction for violations of federal criminal laws. Gilchrist replied that the removal of $4,000 from a bank account ‘seems to me like theft. … My understanding is that what they did was probably criminal.’”

Bailey’s ruling was scathing. “Mr. Gilchrist and Mr. Mailly incredibly asserted that the statements in question here were neither defamatory nor made with malice,” he said. “The court finds this to be an example of the Big Lie tactic that Mr. Gilchrist and Mr. Mailly believe to be an effective rhetorical device.”

  • Edwin R Williams

    You didn’t mention that Deborah Courtney worked on Judge Bailey’s election campaign or that the higher court overturned the Judge’s rulings. Kinda sloppy…

  • Charles Cloninger

    I generally, like most Americans, take a back seat during discussions of this type usually. Bit your bit was truly terrifying. To think that any rational person would suggest that we throw open the borders of the US to not only Mexicr but to Central and South America too boot is beyond my comprehension. Given your logic you must be a racist or at least geographically intolerant as you make no provision for those in Asia, Africa and other parts of the world other than the Americas. Yes, very frightening..and stupid.

  • aadila

    Jose, it has also been proven undocumented migration has been broadly favorable for the economy, and either has no effect or is even slightly positive for tax collection for the country as a whole…the latter point should be clarified that some local districts lose money, in such things as public education, however.

    Criminalization of immigration violations, as is happening now in parts of the country, for example, is basically a subsidy to builders, suppliers, and administrators of police and detention facilities. Treating immigration as a criminal rather than civil offense is the stupidest possible thing to do from a purely economic standpoint and is the most expensive possible “solution”.

    Arizona’s economy took a major hit, as did, I understand, Alabama. The Republicans have it all wrong when it comes to the effects of tighter enforcement. Take a look at this recent article from Business Week:

  • MickeyD

    Sure, bring them all in… ALL OF THEM! Now what? Who is going to feed them? Who is going to house them? Who is going to teach their children? How freaking stupid can you be? I have no issue telling them to go home and fight for their freedoms, just like our forefathers and foremothers did and just like my sons continue to do today. Go home and fix your issues! It is NOT a factor of unfair resource distribution, it is a factor that corruption has limited access to those resources in their home countries. Mexico has oil, yet the lack of access to that wealth to create a middle class has created their issues. Do not tell me Mexico or all the other countries do not have resources. Find those in these countries that deprive access to those resources, and you will find the source of poverty. Corruption and greed, not lack of resources. Corruption and greed, go home and fight for your rights, take it back, make it yours. Or sit in your squalor and leave me and my tax money alone…

  • Jose

    Wow aadila,

    Thanks for making it crystal clear to those greedy Republican bastards.

    I totally agree that it’s all about money, but I still have a wimper of hope that the radical right can turn itself around…


    maybe Im just an optimist…

  • aadila

    Jose’s right, but the argument with right wingers should be about money, not human rights since they care nothing about humanity. Actually so many are so ignorant that trying to discuss facts is usually futile.

    Of course, the good thing is that comprehensive immigration reform, the DREAM act, a pathway to citizenship, and relaxation of immigration enforcement for the misdemeanor of mere presence without a visa all make financial sense.

    E-verify has a high failure rate, and it is also an expensive bureaucratic process. It’s so typically Republican to moan about government meddling in small business, then demand that small business comply with government meddling.

    Meanwhile municipalities issue bonds to pay for police who are going around harassing Latinos and likely going to be sued. Our jails are filled to the brim, literally more that the Soviet gulag era, and we’re letting violent people off early to make room for peaceful visa offenders. Every single detention center, squad car, courtroom and adjudication costs money. Government money. Paid from taxes. More and more taxes. More and more spending.

    The kind of thing Republicans love.

  • Jose

    James, please you people have to stop being so intolerent to illegal immigrants, do you realize that 99.99% of illegal immigrants are just trying to make a better life for themselves and their family?

    If you lived in a country were 44,000 people are murdered
    by drug cartels every single year, you would want to come to this country too.

    The solution to the problem of illegal immigration is not going after the illegal immigrants, it is to establish comprehensive immigration reform.

    We need to grant illegal immigrants amnesty, and we have to, as civil rights activists, demand that illegal immigrants from Latin America, be considered political refuges, and thus grant them safe passage into the United States.

    Anything short of Amnesty is just intolerance and hateful, please people, I as a Mexican American civil rights activist, plead with you to stop the extremist anti-immigrant movement, before its to late…

  • Cheryl Williams

    It doesn’t surprise me one bit that the minutemen started in Orange County. This racist group of thugs is just one of many reasons that I am thankful that I live on the free side of the Orange Curtain. It’s nice to see that organization disintegrating. Now if we could just be rid of the neo-nazi groups and the peckerwoods, California would be a much nicer place to live in and it would be worth paying the higher cost of living here.

  • benny

    james i have also met minutemen that you claim are saintly patriots and they are nothing but a bunch of racists,neo nazis would be a more fitting name for them. they have jumped on the anti immigrant band wagon to smoke screen there hate.most of there members are nothing but a bunch of losers who will always blame someone else for the lack of success in there life.god only knows how many human beings they have murdered out in the desert.they are racist vermin on par with the taliban in the amount of hate in there souls.

  • alwesley

    If you ever meet any of the minutemen you would understand why the SPLC keeps tabs on them. The ones I met would love a chance to get away with shooting any Mexican they see. They are as racist as they come and I have meet 6 total. I have never meet one who has good motives so to hear people complain about SPLC is just showing me they don’t know anything or they are a minuteman and don’t want to be having anyone looking over their shoulder.

  • Kiwiwriter


    “‘i find it hard to understand why the SPLC calls people who watch the border and report illegal entry to border patrol as being vigilante border watchers.’

    The SPLC is a radical, leftist, open borders organization that demonizes anybody who holds opinions different than theirs.”

    Same question I ask every wingnut who moseys in here with a penknife to grind:

    Going to produce evidence for that idiocy?

    Starting off saying you’re a “libertarian” kind of poisons the well from the start. Stick to writing nasty letters to the editor of your local newspaper. That’s what libertarians are good at.

  • aadila

    “Border security” is a misleading concept because it has very little to do with borders and very much to do with economic and social conditions outside those borders.

    Human migration is just one symptom of a lack of social equity in the distribution of global resources. It is a phenomenon which has been observed throughout history whereas political borders merely reflect the post-Westphalian order. This order, like others, will eventually change and be replaced by the more natural concept of one earth, one people, indeed one universe.

    For now, there there more local opportunities there would be no reason to migrate. Were the United States an agent of peace instead of destruction, we would have much less to fear from terrorism. If a mere fraction of the capital wasted on defense were to go toward building schools, hospitals, basic sanitation and infrastructure, always with an eye toward permaculture and sustainable living systems we might have a chance at creating greater social equity on the wide scale.

    Instead we have McDonalds and similar corporations encouraging policies that deforest our planet in order to knock a nickel off the price of a hamburger. We have massive infrastructure loans that go to unsustainable policies and subsidies for political corruption, rather than micro credit and solidarity economics.

    Therefore we can see that “border security” is palliative to the greater disease of rampant individualism and the delusion of material wealth. Don’t like aliens in your neighborhood? Rooster, meet roost.

  • libertarian

    “i find it hard to understand why the SPLC calls people who watch the border and report illegal entry to border patrol as being vigilante border watchers.”

    The SPLC is a radical, leftist, open borders organization that demonizes anybody who holds opinions different than theirs.

  • Sam Molloy

    James. While I should say that I am pro immigration and not frightened of a cultural expansion toward more diversity, I do respect the opinions of people like yourself who feel border security should be improved. I do find it illogical that the Cartels would spend time and energy robbing illegal aliens.

  • Aron

    And I think of Brisenia Flores, the innocent little nine-year-old girl your idol Shawna Forde murdered.

    We have a federal Border Guard for a reason. Why is ok to have a vigilante service on the border, but not a vigilante service to replace the police?

    You people cause the bile to rise in my throat.

  • James

    vigilante border watches

    i find it hard to understand why the SPLC calls people who watch the border and report illegal entry to border patrol as being vigilante border watchers.
    there is and never will be anything wrong with americans demanding and expecting our borders to be secured. if ya think that is wrong, ask the families of those americans who have been killed on the border…. i think of Rob Krentz, murdered on his own ranch, and footprints being followed and tracked back to mexico, i think of brian terry, a border agent killed by rip crews, who work with mexican drug cartels to rob people illegally crossing into the US…