In mid-2009, nativist leaders scrambled to distance themselves from Minuteman American Defense (MAD) founder Shawna Forde, after the immigrant-bashing former child prostitute was charged with two counts of first-degree murder in connection with the slaying of an Arizona man and his 9-year old daughter.
Few were as adamant in their repudiations of Forde – who now sits on death row for the murder of Raul and Brisenia Flores – as Minuteman Project (MMP) President Jim Gilchrist. Within hours of the announcement of her arrest, he stripped MMP’s website of its many laudatory references to Forde’s group, extended his “condolences” to the victims and “all those who have been affected by the alleged incident,” and wrote, “Jim Gilchrist’s Minuteman Project, Inc. is not affiliated with the Minuteman American Defense or Shawna Forde. The Minuteman American Defense is an independent patriot organization which participates in systematic border observation and reporting operations.”
However much Gilchrist might have wished that were true, it’s well established that he and Forde at the very least had a close working relationship. As the Southern Poverty Law Center reported in 2008, the two Minuteman leaders shared a podium at an Everett, Wash. “Illegal Immigration Summit.” And in 2009, Gilchrist defended Forde after other nativist leaders expressed doubts about her claims that she’s been raped, beaten and shot in a bizarre series of incidents in and near her Everett home. (Police eventually dropped the investigation of the reported rape, citing lack of evidence.)
In the wake of Forde’s convictions, Gilchrist has never recovered his former glory – but he has managed to distance himself somewhat from Forde and her gruesome, pointless crimes.
Or that’s the way it seemed.
In an article published this week on Alternet, veteran investigative reporter David Neiwert examines just how close the relationship between Gilchrist and Forde apparently was. The MMP founder at one point even discussed ways of funding Forde’s group, according to Neiwert’s story.
Forde formed a relationship with Gilchrist in 2007, shortly after breaking ties with Chris Simcox, head of a rival Minuteman group called the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps (MCDC), Neiwert reports. A witness who spoke with Neiwert said that Simcox “begged” Forde to stay with MCDC, but that she decided to start her own group and link up with Gilchrist instead.
In February 2008, Gilchrist made Forde his “border patrol coordinator.” That month, while riding together in a car to an appearance at Central Washington University, Gilchrist and Forde allegedly had what Neiwert describes as “a lively talk about ways they could make money — including robbing drug dealers.”
Mike Carlucci, a Seattle private investigator who drove Gilchrist and Forde to their CWU gig, described the conversation to Neiwert. “They were discussing in what I thought was a hyperbolic way, doing what she wound up doing — by taking on people who were selling drugs and taking the money from their organizations,” Neiwert quoted Carlucci as saying. “She was thinking about that shit in a role-playing way back then, and doing a gallows laugh. … It was almost like she was bouncing it off Gilchrist and seeing how he responded.”
Gilchrist, according to Neiwert, “played along and encouraged Forde’s fantasy. At no point did he ever suggest that the whole idea was completely nuts.” Relations between the two reportedly remained chummy right up to the day Forde was arrested.
Reached by Hatewatch yesterday, Gilchrist flatly denied that he had ever talked to Forde about robbing drug dealers and said she was not even in the car on the way to CWU. “This is bullshit,” Gilchrist said, adding that Forde “was just part of the audience” at the CWU talk. He also said he did not remember Carlucci driving to CWU.
But in an interview with Hatewatch today, Carlucci stood by his comments to Neiwert. “What Neiwert reported was consistent with my comments in the interview,” he said.