Documents obtained by Phoenix New Times show that the Maricopa County Attorney Office's funneled $70,000 to the Arizona Police Association over the course of two years to bring in anti-Muslim conspiracy theorist John Guandolo to train Arizona cops.
The records, which you can view at the bottom of this post, show that the APA's executive director, Levi Bolton, wrote to Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery on four separate occasions between December 2015 and February 2017, asking for help covering the costs of Guandolo's "counter-terrorism" seminars.
In all four cases, the money came from RICO funds — meaning, money seized from people suspected of committing crimes.
Guandolo has a history of making bizarre and incendiary statements. He claimed that American mosques are "organizing for armed confrontation with law enforcement." He also accused former CIA Director John Brennan of being a "secret Muslim."
The Council for American Islamic Relations has repeatedly asked the Arizona Police Association to stop letting him train cops, pointing out that Guandolo's Islamophobic rhetoric could end up putting the local Muslim community in danger.
Now, Guandolo is being accused of assaulting a Minnesota sheriff.
Imagine 2050, a project of the Chicago-based Center for New Community, which tracks anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant movements, first broke the story after receiving confidential court records from an anonymous source.
Those records show that Hennepin County Sheriff Richard Stanek was granted a restraining order against Guandolo after the two crossed paths at the National Sheriff's Association meeting in Reno, Nevada.
Imagine 2050 explains:
Tension between Stanek and Guandolo dates back to October 2016, when the latter published an article titled “In This War Minnesota’s Twin Cities Are Lost” on UTT’s website. In it, Guandolo laments the presence of mosques in Stanek’s jurisdiction and made the outlandish claim that “under the watch of Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek, the jihadi threat has increased exponentially.” Guandolo also criticizes Stanek because he “has refused briefings on the threat from UTT” and instead supposedly works “with jihadis in the community.”
During their meeting in Reno, Stanek apparently took issue with Guandolo’s allegations and, according to court records, “questioned the accuracy of the article.” Guandolo “reacted by accusing [Stanek] of supporting Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood.”
Because, obviously, anyone who disagrees with you is in bed with Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood.
“The conversation became contentious” following Guandolo’s allegation and he began repeatedly stating he was a combat veteran, court records reveal. Stanek accordingly “stood up and announced that the meeting was over,” to which Guandolo responded by calling Stanek a “fucking asshole” before physically confronting the sheriff.
“[Guandolo] put the palms of his hands onto [Stanek’s] chest and forcibly pushed [Stanek] causing his head to snap backwards and fall into the wall behind him,” records also reveal. Guandolo then proceeded to throw “two closed-fist punches at [Stanek] striking him once in the area of [Stanek’s] left face/chin.” The court records indicate Washoe County, Nevada, Sheriff’s deputies obtained surveillance video of Guandolo punching the sheriff.
Stanek's office later issued a statement saying that he'd been assaulted and that Guandolo had been cited for battery. According to Imagine 2050, the terms of the restraining order prevents Guandolo from contacting Stanek for two years, and bans him from getting within a quarter-mile of Stanek's home or within 100 feet of two government buildings in Minneapolis.
Meanwhile, on Friday night, Understanding the Threat sent out an email blast claiming that Stanek had been the one to assault Guandolo, not the other way around.
"The sheriff physically roughed up Mr. Guandolo after his demands for removal of critical comments from the UTT website were declined," wrote John Andrews, a former Colorado state senator who describes himself as the chairman of UTT's National Advisory board.
He added, "The whole thing appears to have been a setup instigated by Muslim Brotherhood sympathizers to impede UTT's growing national influence as a truth-teller against jihad and sharia in the US homeland."
So how does Bill Montgomery feel about this news? His office has a standing policy that it doesn't comment to Phoenix New Times, but he appears to be on the defensive, after spending six hours on Friday getting into Twitter fights with reporters.
The drama started when Arizona Daily Star columnist Tim Steller shared a link to the Imagine 2050 story and wrote, "If this is true, it's dismaying that [Montgomery] paid this guy for training AZ cops, treated him as an expert."
Montgomery replied, "What's even more disappointing is jumping to conclusions about what I hosted, when, and for what. But don't let facts slow you down."
After Steller sent him a link to our previous story about the MCAO sponsoring a Guandolo-led training seminar for Arizona cops this past May, Montgomery wrote back, "I hosted 1 training back in 2014. Training on radical Islamism does not = anti-Muslim." He added in a separate tweet, "And don't rely on the NT as a source for anything about my office."
A couple of points here. First of all, yes, it's technically true that the Maricopa County Attorney's Office only hosted one training back in 2014. (For anyone keeping score, that one cost taxpayers $40,000.) What Montgomery isn't saying is that it was a complete PR disaster. Since then, they've let the Arizona Police Association be the host, while quietly providing the funding.
Also, yes, it is possible to train police officers to circumvent a terrorist attack without smearing all Muslims in the process. In fact, considering that the vast majority of Muslims condemn all forms of terrorism, that shouldn't be too hard to do. You could even probably find yourself an expert who speaks Arabic, which Guandolo doesn't.
12 News/KPNX's Brahm Resnik apparently made the same records request we did, because he jumped into the mix, telling Montgomery, "I asked your office to document all grants for John Guandolo training courses. Response: $70,000 on 4 courses."
Montgomery shot back: "I'll have to check into what you actually asked for and how we responded. You've had trouble accurately reporting on this in the past."
In his next tweet, he claimed, "I only directly spent a fraction of that once. Don't confuse grant for training with hiring."
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Again, this is a highly technical distinction, and one that doesn't really make much sense: Why is it any better if you didn't "directly" spend the money?
But if it sounds as if Montgomery is using semantics to distance himself from Guandolo, think again. He also defended the training seminar he'd paid for back in 2014, saying that it "didn't involve conspiracy theories" and had been "vetted inside/outside [the] Beltway." Which is an utterly meaningless statement, but okay.
Anyway, here are the records supplied in response to our request for "documents, including invoices, purchase orders or contracts involving any business entity operated by John Guandolo, including Guandolo Associates":