During a November 4 settlement conference before Judge Joseph Welty, presiding criminal judge of the Maricopa County Superior Court, Welty described in stark terms the situation faced by former minuteman leader Chris Simcox.
Charged with multiple counts of child molestation involving two little girls, one his own daughter, he can either accept a deal from the county attorney, plead guilty to attempted molestation, and do 7 to 10 years in prison, or he can proceed to trial and risk spending the rest of his life behind bars for committing dangerous crimes against children.
Ever arrogant, even while dressed in jailhouse stripes, the man his enemies once mockingly called "the little prince" insisted that he have his day in court, despite the consequences or the fact minors will be compelled to testify against him.
"In a sense, I kind of welcome the trial," said Simcox, with the hint of a smile. "I would relish the opportunity for the truth to come out."
Simcox has been held nonbondable in county jail since he was arrested June 2013 on molestation charges involving three young girls under the age of ten, though charges involving one of the girls has since been dropped.
Currently, his trial is scheduled to begin December 17, though it's anticipated that it actually will begin sometime in January, assuming Simcox continues to reject the plea deal.
Welty warned Simcox that he found the evidence against him "damning," while telling him that he nevertheless has "every right to proceed to trial."
The judge stated that Simcox only was being offered such a generous deal from the prosecution because there was no physical evidence against him.
However, at trial, there would be the testimony of the two girls.
And a previous judge in the case already has ruled that so-called "propensity evidence" will be allowed during Simcox's trial. Such evidence goes to prove a pattern of behavior, and lets the prosecution cite acts for which the defendant is not charged.
In Simcox's case, this will include the testimony of his now-grown daughter from another marriage, who says Simcox molested her when she was 14.
Additionally, it will include the testimony of another little girl who says Simcox gave her candy in order to see her panties, as well as that of Simcox's other young daughter, who is listed as a witness.
Simcox told the judge the allegations against him were "spurious," but Welty advised Simcox that having children as his accusers will be a challenge for his defense.
"I have practiced both as a lawyer and been a judge [in such cases]," Welty explained. "And if the children can say what they said in prior reports, they generally come off pretty good."
In a memorandum submitted to the court prior to the settlement conference, Simcox's lawyers telegraphed elements of Simcox's defense, if the case proceeds to trial.
The document describes Simcox as "a high profile figure in both Arizona and national politics," who was briefly a rival to U.S. Senator John McCain in the 2010 GOP primary for Senate, before dropping out and throwing his support behind also-ran J.D. Hayworth.
The memo claims Simcox "appeared on several media outlets and received a large amount of donations."
In reality, Simcox trailed in the polls and scored just a little over $113,000 in campaign contributions. His glory days as a minuteman leader were already beginning to fade by 2010, though the Hayworth campaign gave Simcox a job, after Simcox ended his run.
That didn't last long, because the Hayworth camp fired Simcox once he was hit with an order of protection by his soon-to-be-ex-wife Alena, who accused Simcox of drug and alcohol abuse and domestic violence, saying Simcox once threatened to kill her, their kids, and any cops that came to their rescue.
Simcox was never well-liked by other nativist movement leaders, though a telegenic appearance and an ability to seem reasonable despite his extremist beliefs garnered him more than his share of media attention.
At one time relatively mainstream politicians such as Sheriff Joe Arpaio and County Attorney Bill Montgomery hobnobbed with Simcox and his fellow Mexican-haters.
Indeed, up 'til about two weeks before his arrest, Simcox had a job with iMemories, a video-to-digital conversion company for which governor-elect Doug Ducey is the principal investor and former chairman of the board.
Both Ducey and iMemories claim Ducey had no say in hiring and firing decisions for iMemories.
But one ex-iMemories employee went on the record earlier this year to tell me that Simcox in fact had unfettered access to customers' videos and could have easily taken them home with him.
Unfortunately, investigators never confiscated Simcox's computers, so we may never know what Simcox had on them.
Simcox's pre-conference defense memo also mentions Simcox's "contentious divorce" from Alena, and alleges that Simcox's two daughters were the subject of "parental alienation."
At the hearing, Judge Welty stated that Simcox's defense was suggesting some sort of "grand conspiracy at play," perhaps linked to Simcox's political career or his break from Alena.
But Welty wasn't buying it. The allegations of sexual molestation were coming from girls other than Simcox's daughters, and what he was charged with was "not a political crime."
Simcox replied that there was "evidence I have that has not been divulged," which he had been sitting on "for 504 days" since his arrest.
But Welty told Simcox he had found that when it comes to such heinous crimes, people have difficulty admitting their guilt to themselves as well as to others.
He challenged Simcox "to do what you need to do," and own up to the crime, if he was in fact guilty.
Prosecutor Yigael Cohen told the court that the plea offer would be on the table till November 11.
But at a pre-trial conference on November 12 before Judge Jose Padilla, the judge observed that the prosecution's plea offer currently remains open.
For how long, one wonders?
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