At a pretrial conference Wednesday before Commissioner Virginia Richter, deputy county attorney Yigael Cohen signaled that the Maricopa County Attorney's Office will be offering a plea deal in the case of former minuteman leader Chris Simcox.
Simcox, 52, was arrested June 19, and is currently being held nonbondable on six felony counts related to child molestation and sexual conduct with minors under the age of 10.
Initially, the allegations involved three kindergarten-aged girls, one of them his own daughter. (Simcox was a kindergarten teacher in Los Angeles, before his move to Arizona.)
Since his arrest, the prosecution has dropped one victim -- a little girl Simcox allegedly bribed with candy to show him her underwear. Now, the other two victims in the case, each of whom say they were molested by Simcox, may be denied the justice they deserve.
The prosecutor did not describe the plea offer to the court. In fact, he said he still had to write it up for review by the defense.
And, significantly, at the mention of a plea deal, Simcox, who was standing in the jury box in stripes and shackles, shook his head, as if to reject the offer out of hand.
On any one of the class 2 felonies he's charged with, Simcox could receive life in prison, if found guilty.
And if he does not receive life, any time Simcox draws on the separate counts would have to be served consecutively. The possible sentencing range for one count is 13 to 27 years.
That's assuming he will remain charged with those separate class 2 felonies, and is found or pleads guilty.
After the hearing, outside the courtroom, I saw the prosecutor speaking with Michelle Lynch, the mother of one of Simcox's victims.
Lynch was in tears and very upset. I overheard what the prosecutor had to say to her.
"I will let your views be known," he said at one point before rushing off. "It's not set in stone."
Lynch declined comment for this report.
Whatever the plea offer is, based on Lynch's reaction to it, we can assume it is not good for the victims.
The prosecution's witness list includes Simcox's former wife Deborah Crews, who has backed up allegations that Simcox molested his then 14 year-old daughter in 1998, as well as the daughter herself, now an adult.
Phoenix Police detectives recently contacted Simcox's adult daughter, who repeated the allegations against Simcox, telling detectives that he rubbed her vaginal area on more than one occasion, was physically abusive toward her and her brother, and "did drugs and drank during her stay with him."
Her description of Simcox's sexual abuse is echoed somewhat in the forensic interviews done with the two young girls who are Simcox's current accusers.
One of Simcox's young daughters with his ex-wife Alena has alleged that Simcox molested her while she was in the shower with her sister, who is about the same age.
"She was in the shower with her sister during the incident," reads the probable cause statement on file with the court. "She stated she was getting out of the shower when her dad snuck up on her. She stated that it always burns when she pees when she comes back from her dad's house."
Simcox allegedly showed his other victim pornographic films on his computer, molesting her as they watched together.
"The victim states that these movies give her bad nightmares," states the probable cause narrative.
I have yet to find any indication that Phoenix detectives seized Simcox's computer, a possible treasure trove of evidence for an investigator.
The upper middle class apartment complex on the border of Phoenix and Scottsdale where Simcox lived is full of families and children.
According to paperwork filed by Simcox in family court on June 17, two days before his arrest, Simcox claimed to have been granted more parenting time with his two daughters. Alena was allowing him to home-school the pair, Simcox told the court.
Subsequent hearings in the matter were rendered moot by Simcox's arrest.
An irony of Simcox's current situation is that his minuteman movement was once supported by Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery.
Both the website for Simcox's now-defunct Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, and the morgue of the Tucson Citizen newspaper indicate that Montgomery participated in an "Arizona Operation Block Watch Kick-Off Rally" in 2006, when he was running as the Republican nominee for state Attorney General.
One of the photos on MCDC's site shows Montgomery speaking at the event. Other speakers included Simcox, GOP congressional candidate Randy Graf, Michelle Dallacroce from Mothers Against Illegal Aliens, and someone from the national nativist organization Federation for American Immigration Reform.
Montgomery may have gone on minuteman patrols, as well.
In a 2006 interview with Fox News' Alan Colmes and Sean Hannity, Simcox seems to indicate as much, telling the hosts that "less than 10 minutes ago" his minutemen, including "Don Goldwater and Bill Montgomery, the next governor and attorney general of Arizona," had "rescued" nine people in the desert.
Erstwhile Republican gubernatorial candidate Len Munsil also mentions the Montgomery-Simcox-minuteman connection in a 2006 blog post.
"Bill Montgomery, our Republican attorney general candidate, was with Don when the two of them met Chris Simcox and pulled a shift with the Minutemen for the very first time - in October 2005, less than one year ago!"
I asked Montgomery's flack Jerry Cobb if Montgomery had ever been a minuteman or been out on minuteman patrols, hunting for migrants in the desert.
Cobb did not respond to this inquiry.
Interestingly, Montgomery is joined at the hip to Simcox's former employer, Arizona State Treasurer Doug Ducey, owner of the Scottsdale company iMemories, where Simcox worked until a few days before his arrest.
The business has declined to say exactly what Simcox's job duties were, but it claims these did not include viewing the family photos and videos that iMemories converts to digital files for customers.
Ducey, a Republican, has announced his exploratory committee for an anticipated 2014 run for governor. He recently released a list of policy advisers, headed by former U.S. Senator Jon Kyl. Montgomery is one of them.
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This, as Montgomery's office prosecutes Simcox for child molestation. At least, one hopes it will. Though after today's proceedings, I am unsure to what degree Simcox will face judgement for what he is alleged to have done to these little children.
Addendum: I should mention that this is not Montgomery's only link to the minutemen or to right-wing extremists. In 2010, when Monty was running for county attorney, he appeared at a Tea Party rally at the ranch of racist anti-Semite minuteman Glenn Spencer, who once played host to kid-killing minutewoman Shawna Forde.
Forde, who is now on Arizona's death row for her part in a murderous 2009 home-invasion in Arivaca, was actually taken into custody by the feds right outside Spencer's ranch. Below is a YouTube video of Monty's rabble-rousing speech.