Chris Simcox's Life Arc Mirrors the Nativist Movement's Demise

Chris Simcox cleans up well. Long ago, he ditched his scraggly redneck look — worn jeans, American-flag baseball cap, unshaven face (sometimes with half a cigar in his mouth), a pistol tucked down the front of his pants — for business attire (or at least a clean, collared shirt).

On a sunny day in April 2009, dressed sharply in a gray suit with a starched, white collar and a gold silk tie, lapel sporting an American-flag pin, there was something boyish about him, despite the mustache, the new glasses, and the fact that he'd turned 48 the previous November.

If you knew nothing about Simcox's past or the reactionary, anti-immigrant minuteman movement he became identified with, you might have found him appealing. Particularly, as he faced a scrum of reporters on the lawn of the Arizona House to announce his bid to run in the Republican primary against U.S. Senator John McCain.

"I'm not a politician; that's pretty darn clear, I think," Simcox explained, family and supporters standing behind him. "We're activists, grassroots activists, and we're not at all satisfied with the representation that we have in Washington, D.C., especially our senior senator."

McCain recently had lost the 2008 presidential election to Barack Obama, and the far-right faction of the Arizona GOP was ready to be rid of him as the 2010 election approached. Viewed by GOP extremists as soft on immigration, McCain seemed vulnerable in a state where the immigration issue dominated political discourse.

And who better to take on McCain than the photogenic co-founder of the Minuteman Project — the citizen militia that became a media sensation in 2005 and catapulted Simcox, a former kindergarten teacher and wannabe actor from Los Angeles, to cable news stardom.

Fox News' Sean Hannity and CNN's Lou Dobbs were Simcox fans, and Simcox had garnered powerful allies, such as Arizona state Senator Russell Pearce, Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, County Attorney Andrew Thomas, and Colorado Congressman Tom Tancredo.

Sure, there had been dissension within the ranks of Simcox's Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, claims of financial hanky-panky, misused funds, and an "Israeli-style" border fence that morphed into a boondoggle. But Simcox, whose enemies call him "the Little Prince," was handing off the MCDC to longtime gal pal Carmen Mercer so he could run for the Senate. And it was clear that "this border-security issue," as he called it, would be front and center in his campaign. It was "the most critical issue that we face here in our state," he declared.

He vowed to "challenge McCain on this issue" and "represent working-class people . . . working Joes . . . who have put our sweat and toil in this country."

Following the speech, with his young, pretty wife, Alena, keeping watch on their two daughters nearby — one a year old, the other 2 — a reporter asked Simcox if he was anti-gay marriage.

"I'm not anti-anything," he replied, looking uncomfortable fielding a non-immigration question. "I am pro-family values and pro-husband-and-wife marriage."

A year later, Simcox's marriage was in shambles, with Alena telling the county Superior Court that Simcox, in a drunken rage, had menaced her with a gun and threatened to kill her, the children, any police who responded, and himself. She later told the Phoenix Police Department that her husband had choked and punched her and had abused her son by another marriage.

Alena was granted an order of protection against him, and she was awarded sole custody of the girls. Simcox already had dropped out of the Republican primary for the Senate in early 2010, throwing his support behind talk-show host, former congressman, and anti-immigrant extremist J.D. Hayworth, who in turn gave Simcox a job as an "adviser."

Once Simcox's alleged threats toward Alena became court record, he was booted from the Hayworth campaign, and his downward spiral continued. At one point, Simcox, crying poverty, sued Alena unsuccessfully for spousal support.

In July 2011, it got so bad that Simcox filed to have his name changed from "Christopher Allen Simcox" to "Christopher Simcox Allen," because, he told the court, "untrue Internet postings . . . impede my ability to be employed."

Simcox later withdrew the petition and seemingly kept his head down for a couple of years until he was arrested in June and accused of molesting two girls under age 10, one of them his own daughter.

Now, Simcox sits non-bondable in a jail run by his erstwhile political colleague, Arpaio. He faces prosecution by a County Attorney's Office headed by Bill Montgomery, a Minuteman supporter who once reportedly went on patrol in the desert with Simcox's group.

If found guilty of the most serious counts, Simcox faces a possible sentence of life in prison and will share the ignominy of other desert vigilantes who have victimized children, including convicted child killer Shawna Forde and late mass-murdering neo-Nazi J.T. Ready.

Whether or not he beats the rap he currently faces — a plea deal is on the table — the arc of Simcox's rise and fall mirrors the wax and wane of the anti-immigration movement he embraced.

At Villa Salerno apartments in late afternoon to early evening, children's voices greet visitors around nearly every corner.

Most of the boys and girls riding scooters or bikes, or playing on the well-manicured lawns of the complex, are South Asian. Some of the women watching over them wear saris. Around dinner time, the air is tinged with the aroma of curry.

Anglos are a distinct minority in this ethnic enclave near Tatum Boulevard and Bell Road, close to the border of Phoenix and Scottsdale. The residents decidedly are upper middle class, and there are plenty of BMWs and Mercedes-Benzes in the parking lot.

The back patio of a ground-floor apartment where Simcox lived at the time of his arrest looks out onto a gazebo and a swath of green lawn. Within eyesight is a jungle gym.

Simcox introduced himself as "Chris" to his neighbors and never said exactly what he did for a living, though he sometimes left the impression that he worked for a branch of government, according to one resident.

In fact, he worked at a Scottsdale company called iMemories, about a 10-minute drive from his apartment. The business converts home movies and photos into a digital format for customers and is affiliated with Arizona Treasurer Doug Ducey, a conservative Republican.

Considering the legal situation he finds himself in, Simcox's employment at iMemories could've been a cause for concern because family videos and photos sometimes depict children in various states of undress.

Kristen Beckman, vice president of human resources for the company, claims Simcox did not have access to such "customer assets," but she would not say how long he worked at iMemories or what exactly he did. She only disclosed that he was an "hourly employee" terminated June 5, two weeks before Phoenix police arrested him.

The company's past press releases mentioned Ducey as its "lead investor," and Ducey still is listed on the Arizona Corporation Commission's website as iMemories' board chairman, but Beckman told New Times that Ducey "stepped down from that responsibility in 2012."

Asked whether Ducey, who has formed an exploratory committee for a 2014 gubernatorial run, knew that Simcox worked for the company, Beckman's answer via e-mail was indirect.

"As with most companies," she wrote, "our board members focus on the broad strategic direction of the company and are not involved in daily operations nor personnel decisions regarding hourly employees."

Alena's order of protection against Simcox remains in place. Despite having violated that order more than once, Simcox was granted visitation rights and saw the children at least twice a week and every other weekend.

He told neighbors that he home-schooled the girls, and paperwork from Simcox's ongoing family court case with Alena suggests that the court was aware of this.

Their six-year marriage officially was over by April 2011, but issues involving custody and child support continued: Simcox owed Alena nearly $9,000 in support at one point.

Though he denied having a problem with alcohol, the court ordered him to attend 30 sessions of Alcoholics Anonymous, and he was forced to undergo counseling for domestic violence as well.

Notes from a therapist who treated Simcox in 2011 were part of the family court record. Simcox had acknowledged to the therapist problems caused by his being 20 years older than Alena.

He said he still loved Alena, despite what he termed "false allegations" of domestic violence, and told the therapist he "needed to have a family."

But in Alena's 2010 police report documenting allegations that stretched back to the previous year, she told Phoenix cops that Simcox drank heavily and often turned violent when drunk.

During one drinking session after copious amounts of Johnnie Walker, he called his family "his albatross," according to Alena, and made wild accusations that she was having an affair with his son by a previous marriage.

She told police that Simcox gave her a black eye and punched the walls of their home. She showed them fist holes made by his fists and provided a photo of herself with a black eye.

He repeatedly pointed his handgun at her, she said, at one point telling her while laughing that he was going to "love killing her."

In late August 2009, Alena said, he removed a .45-caliber revolver (which he called his "Dirty Harry" gun) from its safe and tried to hand it to her, saying, according to the police report, "he wanted Alena to shoot him in the head."

When she refused to take the firearm, the report states, "Chris became angry and threatened to shoot his entire family and any responding police officers."

During an interview with police, Simcox denied Alena's allegations.

Investigators referred the case to the County Attorney's Office for prosecution on a charge of misconduct involving weapons, but Simcox never was prosecuted. Though Alena's 8-year-old son by a previous marriage seemed to back up some of Alena's story, it mostly became her word against his, and her photos of the signs of physical abuse were several months old.

The charges of spousal abuse pale in comparison to the current charges against Simcox: six felony counts involving child molestation and sexual conduct with minors.

His accusers were three girls under 10, one of them his daughter, and the other two children of neighbors, play-pals of his kids.

Each of the children was forensically interviewed by police at the nonprofit anti-child abuse foundation Childhelp, according to a probable-cause statement authored by a Phoenix police officer on file with the court.

One child described Simcox's showing her on his computer movies in which "the boy puts his private inside the girl's private."

The child described Simcox molesting her over her clothes, "going back and forth on her private . . . with his hand."

Another victim says Simcox bribed her with candy to show him her underwear and her genitals. (Charges related to this victim apparently have been dropped.)

Simcox's child said her father put his finger inside her vagina while she was showering with her sister.

When police confronted Simcox, he denied the children's accusations, saying he believed they were "coming from his ex-wife."

But parents of two of the victims did not know Alena. And her child was not the first to report the abuse. Rather it was a playmate of one of Simcox and Alena's children.

"Christopher mentioned that he is very careful in regards to being around the kids," reads the probable-cause statement. "He doesn't even let his daughters shower at his house."

This is not the first time Simcox faced such allegations. In 2005, the Southern Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Report revealed allegations of sexual abuse by the daughter of his first ex-wife. (Simcox has three former spouses.)

After reading the allegations online, Phoenix police contacted Simcox's now-adult daughter, who repeated the allegations against her father, alleging that he molested her on two occasions during visits to see him in Los Angeles when she was 14.

One of the incidents she described involved Simcox's giving the girl a back rub that led to his rubbing "the outside of her vaginal area for about 10 seconds," before she overcame her shock and yelled at him to stop.

Simcox said he was sorry and "not to tell anyone about this," the daughter reported. She said he had been "drunk on red wine" when the molestation occurred.

She claimed her dad "did drugs and drank" during her stay at his home. And she accused him of physically abusing her and her brother.

Her brother was "manhandled and punched and slapped in the face," she said. And her father grabbed her by the throat, she said, one time elbowing her and breaking her nose.

Simcox told Phoenix cops that the allegations were investigated at the time by the Los Angeles Police Department and that his daughter recanted.

Unmentioned in the PPD's probable-cause statement are the allegations by Simcox's second ex-wife, Kim Dunbar.

When called a racist because of his anti-immigration antics, Simcox sometimes defended himself by pointing out that his second ex-wife is African-American and their son together is biracial.

But Dunbar, too, had complaints against Simcox, first reported in the 2005 Intelligence Report article by former New Times staff writers Susy Buchanan and David Holthouse.

Holthouse and Buchanan obtained the Dunbar-Simcox divorce paperwork, wherein Dunbar discussed abusive behavior by Simcox that sounds eerily familiar to Alena's allegations.

"He once took a knife and threatened to kill himself," Dunbar testified during their divorce proceedings. "When he was angry, he broke furniture, car windows; he banged his head against the wall repeatedly and punched things."

And people. Dunbar said Simcox once slapped their 4-year-old son so hard that a mark remained on the child's face for two days.

Dunbar asked Simcox to seek mental-health treatment, but he refused and she divorced him.

Simcox always said allegations of physical and sexual abuse were not true and that he never was charged with a crime.

Even regarding the current charges against him, Simcox remains defiant, pleading not guilty to all counts. (Simcox refused New Times' request for a jailhouse interview.)

And when, during a recent hearing, prosecutor Yigael Cohen told the judge there was a plea deal on the table, Simcox shook his head no, suggesting that he would rather force a trial that would require his young accusers to take the stand.

Chris Simcox is a convicted liar.

In 2004, he was found guilty of knowingly carrying a weapon a year earlier onto the Coronado National Memorial, a national park in southeast Arizona on the United States-Mexico border.

At the time, carrying a weapon on National Park Service property was illegal, and concealed on Simcox's person was his .45-caliber Firestorm pistol.

Two other men were with Simcox when he was stopped by park ranger Deborah Girard. Simcox identified himself as a member of Civil Homeland Defense, a group he founded and which preceded both the 2005 Minuteman Project and his own Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, which he created that same year.

According to a pre-sentencing report for Simcox, Girard asked the men whether they were patrolling for illegal immigrants and whether they had a permit to operate on federal land.

Simcox replied that they merely were "taking a walk" though Girard noted Simcox had a two-way radio and a GPS on him. She noticed something protruding from Simcox's waistband and asked if he was armed.

Three times she asked, and three times Simcox denied he had a gun.

"No, I'm not carrying a weapon," Simcox replied, snidely. "We're in the Coronado National Forest, aren't we?"

Girard drew her weapon and ordered the men onto their stomachs. When she lifted Simcox's shirt, she saw his .45.

Simcox was convicted of lying to a federal agent.

The U.S. Attorney's Office observed that Simcox often was armed on the border while hunting for illegal aliens and that such behavior could spawn a volatile situation.

Slamming Simcox for his "dishonesty" and lack of respect for the law and those enforcing it, the government asked for five years' probation and requested that special conditions be imposed, including prohibitions from owning a weapon, from entering a national park, and from membership in groups such as Civil Homeland Defense.

However, the judge was more lenient, sentencing Simcox to 24 months' probation, fining him $1,000, and prohibiting him from owning or using a weapon while on probation.

Simcox's contempt for authority has been a recurrent theme, in his personal life and in the Minuteman movement itself.

Indeed, the movement Simcox helped found descended from the patriot and militia movements of the 1990s, which culminated in Timothy McVeigh's 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah federal building in Oklahoma City. Much of McVeigh's distrust of the government was shared by so-called minutemen.

What inspired Simcox and others to become obsessed with illegal immigration and to track undocumented immigrants in the Arizona desert — so as to turn them over to the U.S. Border Patrol — was the 9/11 attacks.

Though the Middle Eastern men involved in 9/11 had entered the country through U.S. ports of entry and not through the Sonoran Desert, Simcox and others saw the porous U.S.-Mexico border as a major security threat. They held former President George W. Bush responsible for the "invasion" of mostly Mexican migrants, some of whom, Simcox and others argued, may have ill intent toward the United States.

Even before moving to Arizona from Los Angeles, Simcox had left a series of rambling phone messages concerning 9/11 for then-wife Kim Dunbar and their son: "I will no longer trust anyone in this country," Simcox said in one. "My life has changed forever. And if you don't get that, you are brainwashed like everyone else."

Simcox had begun collecting guns after 9/11, and on a hike through the Arizona's Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, he claimed he witnessed drug runners and realized that terrorists could enter the country through the United States' southern border.

In 2002, he moved to Tombstone and acted in the daily re-creations of the O.K. Corral shootout. After applying for a job at the small town's newspaper, the Tombstone Tumbleweed, he found that it was up for sale and purchased it with $60,000 from a cashed-in retirement fund.

The paper's focus soon turned to ranting incessantly about illegal immigration. One issue featured a call to arms in large, bold-faced type on the paper's front page.

"Enough is enough!" it cried. "Citizens Border Patrol Militia Now Forming!"

The new group's "organizational meetings" were to be held in the publication's offices, where participants would discuss "creating a citizens patrol of the Arizona/Mexico border."

Significantly, the new militia, eventually to be named Civil Homeland Defense, would help "protect your country in a time of war."

Response was tepid. During some operations, only a handful of people showed up. But other right-wingers began to show interest, and Simcox began making appearances at conservative events around the country.

According to the Anti-Defamation League's seminal 2003 study of the growing vigilante movement, Border Disputes: Armed Vigilantes in Arizona, Simcox sometimes aped "New World Order conspiracy rhetoric common in the militia movement."

For instance, the ADL quoted Simcox's speaking to an extremist anti-immigration group in California.

"There's something very fishy going on at the border," he stated. "The Mexican Army is driving American vehicles — but carrying Chinese weapons. I have personally seen what I can only believe to be Chinese troops."

Simcox's stump speeches often warned of impending violence.

"So far, we have had restraint," he told the California crowd, according to the ADL. "But I'm afraid that restraint is wearing thin. Take heed of our weapons because we're going to defend our borders by any means necessary."

In an interview with Danish filmmaker Nikolaj Vijborg, Simcox's radicalism rang loudly.

"Those guys need to be, you know, lynched," he said, apparently referring to U.S. politicians, in general. "If we're attacked again, then we need some vigilantism. Then we need some going into Washington and pulling them out of their offices . . .We need revolution then."

And about migrants themselves. They're "enemies of the state" who should be "shot on site," he told Vijborg.

Jim Gilchrist, a Vietnam veteran in California, had heard Simcox on a local radio show and became intrigued. He contacted Simcox with a plan: Why not a national recruiting drive, harkening to the early days of the American Revolution against England?

Simcox loved the idea, and the Minuteman Project was born, with e-mail alerts announcing an operation for the month of April 2005.

The new brand name sold it. And timing was perfect. Post-9/11 paranoia still was high in the country. The United States had invaded Iraq and now dealt with a deadly insurgency. President Bush had declared a War on Terror, and securing the homeland was a major preoccupation of the American public.

Simcox and Gilchrist promised thousands of participants but ended up with a couple of hundred, at best. It didn't seem to matter, though. What did matter was the attention from national news outlets such as Fox News and CNN.

Defense attorney Ray Ybarra was in law school at Stanford University at the time. A native of Douglas, he was alarmed at what he saw going on in his own backyard.

Ybarra is credited with organizing a lawsuit against Cochise County rancher Roger Barnett, who'd become infamous for threatening with guns and sometimes attacking migrants or even Latino Americans who happened to stray onto his land. The Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund took on the case, representing victims whom Ybarra located in Mexico. An $87,000 judgment ultimately was won against the Barnett clan.

More than most, Ybarra realized the danger of ill-informed, heavily armed outsiders descending on Cochise County and looking to stop an "invasion." During a fellowship from the American Civil Liberties Union, he organized a vigilante watch in the desert.

In his soon-to-be released memoir, Born on the Border, Ybarra relives his days chasing minutemen and sometimes going out on "patrol" with them, as he did more than once with Simcox.

Ybarra recalls in his book the Minuteman Project's first weekend, when there were "probably more members of the media than minutemen."

Truly, much of the hoopla around the Minuteman Project was the result of media-created hype. An ACLU report to which Ybarra and other legal observers contributed found that most journalists accepted the MMP's inflated estimates of participants, failed to note white supremacists in the mix, and ignored negative incidents, such as the arrest of one minuteman for putting migrants in his car during a patrol.

Reporters also failed to mention that this was not the first "border watch" of its kind, that the minutemen were preceded in 1977 by the Ku Klux Klan and leader David Duke, who ran a similar operation on the U.S.-Mexico border near San Diego.

Ybarra's account describes two different groups that answered the Minuteman call: oldsters content to sit in lawn chairs with binoculars and walkie-talkies, and hardcore wannabe soldiers looking to track Mexicans in the desert.

Some of the better reports on the Minutemen came from Holthouse of the SPLC and Morgan Loew of Channel 5 in Phoenix — each of whom infiltrated the group.

Holthouse described hanging out with neo-Nazis who openly displayed white-power tattoos and T-shirts and mocked Gilchrist and Simcox for playing nice for the media.

During one outing with a splinter vigilante group, Loew video-recorded minuteman Fred Puckett making claims right out of Soldier of Fortune Magazine.

"We go out in two-man teams," Puckett said at one point. "We hit 'em like we did 40 years ago in Vietnam."

Puckett, unaware he was being recorded, opined that America was "being destroyed from the inside" and that "anything south of the I-10 is a Third World country."

He added, "Once you shoot a couple of these sons of bitches, they'll think twice."

Chris Simcox and Ray Ybarra know each other about as well as two enemies can.

In addition to Ybarra's having regularly monitored Simcox's activities up close, the pair also have discussed immigration at some of the same seminars and events.

To Ybarra, speaking in a recent interview, Simcox was responsible for "mainstreaming hatred" toward Latino immigrants. Unlike most other minutemen, Simcox could rub shoulders with powerful politicians and was able to appear sane in the media.

"Pretty much every minuteman sounds reasonable for the first 20 minutes," Ybarra cracked. "If you talk to them for more than 20 minutes, that's when the crazy comes out."

Ybarra grudgingly calls Simcox's movement a success because the minutemen got what they wanted — a more militarized border.

Simcox and others tapped into growing insecurity among Anglos frightened by a burgeoning Latino population.

"Everything they were asking for in the beginning has come to fruition," he said, referring to the increased presence of federal manpower on the border, "regardless of [one leader] being in jail for being a pervert [and another] for shooting people and being on death row."

The actual Minuteman Project, however, petered out rather quickly.

Before the end of April 2005, Simcox and Gilchrist were enemies and Gilchrist returned to California, keeping the organization's name for himself.

Simcox remained in Arizona as the head of his new organization, Minuteman Civil Defense Corps.

From this point on, Simcox was dogged by allegations of financial mismanagement.

Before the breakup with Gilchrist, there were signs that Simcox improperly used donations, says David Heppler, a minuteman volunteer who assisted the group with security until he butted heads with Simcox and left.

"Checks were coming in to the Minuteman Project to Simcox's office," Heppler says. "But he was depositing those checks into his bank account. So there was no way to track where all that money went."

He also says Simcox's arrogance drove many people away.

"It was him wanting to control everything," Heppler says. "You're a grown adult, and he wants to tell you exactly what to say and do."

Both the lack of financial transparency and Simcox's imperious reaction to anyone who dared criticize him were the two most common complaints of supporters of the MCDC. Meanwhile, the organization entered a phase of expansion into Texas, Kansas, Washington, California, and New York. At one point, the MCDC claimed scores of branches nationwide.

Although President Bush criticized the "vigilantes" on the border, other politicians, such as then-California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Texas Governor Rick Perry, rushed to embrace Simcox.

He became a Fox News regular and hundreds of thousands of dollars began flowing in.

That's when Alan Keyes got into the picture.

By 2006, the Washington Times, formerly a supporter of Simcox's, ran a series of articles explaining how the MCDC had transformed into "a project of the Declaration Alliance," which the newspaper described as "part of an intricate weave of conservative organizations founded and chaired by Mr. Keyes or tied to longtime Keyes associates working with [the] MCDC."

Keyes told the Times that "his 'Declaration organizations' had become involved with [the] MCDC in 2005." He denounced those critical of the arrangement as "racists" and "unsavory fringe elements."

But increasingly, MCDC members were the ones objecting, complaining about how money was not getting directed to material and food for volunteers.

The Times noted that 97 percent of $300,000 in donations to an MCDC political action committee went for "operating expenses" provided by vendors associated with Declaration Alliance.

A scheme to build an "Israeli-style fence" on a border rancher's property blew up in Simcox's face when a Fountain Hills man sued the MCDC for $1.2 million, claiming that $100,000 he borrowed on his home to contribute to Simcox's fence project had not gone to build the fortress-like barrier but to put up a cattle barricade instead.

Rebellion in the ranks became commonplace, and Simcox retaliated with excommunications.

Phoenix minuteman Stacey O'Connell formed his own group, Patriots Border Alliance, and joined the chorus of those demanding an independent audit of the MCDC.

Simcox's fence became a joke, even to right-wingers. Fellow border vigilante Glenn Spencer of American Border Patrol scoffed online about the fence: "It wouldn't stop a tricycle."

Carmen Mercer, who had taken over the MCDC in 2009, soon became embroiled in her own scandal, when Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard named her in a lawsuit over a real estate fraud scam.

Mercer claimed she'd been duped by an acquaintance. Her name ultimately was dropped from the suit, but the PR damage was done. In March 2010, the MCDC announced its dissolution.

Simcox's Senate campaign was a bust almost from the start. Though he claimed he would not abandon the race, Simcox never inched past "undecided" in opinion polls. By the time he dropped out and endorsed Hayworth, he had raised only $110,898.

The May 2009 Arivaca killings didn't help. A botched home invasion in the small town near the border claimed the lives of 9-year-old Brisenia Flores and her father, Raul. The leader of this bloody robbery gone bad was Shawna Forde of Minuteman American Defense, or MAD.

Forde was arrested outside Spencer's ranch, and she and two others were charged with the murders. Forde now sits on Arizona's death row.

When it was learned that Forde was involved in the Arivaca slayings, the minuteman movement went into a tailspin, as Forde had ties to almost every major player, including Simcox.

In David Neiwert's definitive book on the killings, And Hell Followed with Her, Forde is identified as part of Simcox's entourage and as someone whom Simcox had considered for a leadership position in the MCDC's Washington-state branch.

It wasn't the only notorious Simcox connection. He is pictured with late neo-Nazi J.T. Ready in obscure footage showing them somewhere near the border, Ready strangely in a suit and tie and carrying an AR-15 rifle.

On May 2, 2012, Ready went on a killing spree, murdering his girlfriend, her daughter, her daughter's baby daughter, and her daughter's boyfriend before turning his gun on himself.

It is almost "the six degrees of Chris Simcox," with the "Little Prince" bridging the gap between dangerous extremists and mainstream politicians.

Simcox has twice honored Sheriff Joe Arpaio by presenting him with awards, and Simcox once participated in a roast of Arpaio in Sun City.

County Attorney Bill Montgomery spoke at an MCDC rally on a ranch near the border.

Former Colorado Congressman Tom Tancredo was an enthusiastic Simcox supporter at one time, as was Congressman Steve King of Iowa.

Will Simcox go down as hard as Forde or Ready?

He is innocent until proven guilty, and the prosecutor in his case offered him a plea bargain that had the mother of one of his alleged victims in tears. The deal is pending.

But even if Simcox wins dismissal of the charges or is found not guilty by a jury of his peers, his days as a political force are over. He is yesterday's nativist hero.

Some wonder how Forde and Simcox — who claimed they only wanted U.S. immigration statutes enforced — could wind up on the wrong end of the law themselves.

The best answer so far has come from Bill Straus, regional director of the ADL of Arizona, which has monitored Simcox and other anti-immigration zealots for years.

"That's the essence of vigilantism," Straus told New Times. "Once you begin taking the law into your own hands, you have chosen to make your own laws. When that happens, anything is possible."

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Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons