Onetime Minuteman leader Chris Simcox has filed papers seeking to act as his own attorney in his upcoming trial in Phoenix on child-molestation charges, raising the prospect that he could wind up cross-examining his own alleged young victims on the stand.
Simcox was arrested in July 2013 and accused of molesting his daughter and her friend at his home on two occasions when the girls were ages 6 and 5, respectively. Both are now in their preteens. The charges are all felonies, and if convicted, Simcox could spend the rest of his life in prison.
Invoking the 1975 Supreme Court ruling in Faretta v. California, Simcox on Feb. 12 filed a request with Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Jose Padilla saying that, “after conferring with his assigned attorneys in this matter,” he “invokes his right to represent himself for all further proceedings, including the jury trial set in this matter for March 2, 2015.”
Simcox has been in prison since his arrest, and the trial has been delayed multiple times, largely at Simcox’s request, as he has gone through multiple defense attorneys in the case.
Simcox is known nationally for his role as one of the two founders of the Minuteman movement, an array of armed groups that patrolled the southern border looking to apprehend migrants illegally crossing into the United States. Among other things, he became known for ridiculous statements like his claim to have seen Chinese Army soldiers massing at the American border.
Prosecutors had requested another delay in the trial earlier this month, explaining that the lead prosecutor in the case was currently in court with another case. However, Judge Padilla denied that request, so the trial is currently scheduled to begin as scheduled on March 2. However, a pretrial conference on Monday, at which Simcox and Judge Padilla are expected to establish ground rules in his attempt to represent himself, could change that schedule yet again.
According to the documents filed by prosecutors in the case, Simcox “is alleged to have digitally penetrated his biological daughter's [vagina] on two occasions, penetrated her vagina with an object on [one] occasion and to have fondled the genitals of his daughter's friend on two occasions.” He has also been charged with providing harmful materials to a minor.
Prosecutors at one time had offered Simcox a generous plea deal that would have given him a 10-year sentence. However, according to Stephen Lemons of the Phoenix New Times, the spokesman for the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office said the offer had been taken off the table.
Earlier filings made by Simcox’s attorneys suggested that he might attempt a defense based on claims that he was targeted for prosecution because of his high political and media profile. He also appeared to be claiming that the charges against him were based on evidence from a daughter who was subject to “parental alienation” because of a “contentious divorce.” The judge hearing the case at the time warned Simcox that he could not plan an attempting a “grand conspiracy” defense.
As the SPLC reported in 2005, Simcox was accused by his first wife of molesting another daughter when she was a teenager, though no complaint was ever made to police. His second wife also sought custody of their teenage son because, she said, Simcox had become violent and unpredictable. His third wife — the mother of his current accuser — took out a restraining order against Simcox in 2010 when she divorced him.