Published July 12, 2016
A founder of the Minuteman border watch group was sentenced Monday in Arizona to 19 years in prison after being convicted of molesting a 5-year-old girl and showing her pornography.
The sentence for Chris Simcox was ordered by Maricopa County Judge Jose Padilla, who said the crime was "the worst thing in the world" for the family of the victim.
Prosecutors had sought a 36-year sentence after arguing the 55-year-old Simcox should be kept away from children as long as possible.
Simcox, chained at the hands and feet and wearing a black and white jail uniform, declined to make a statement and shook his head as he was sentenced. He previously denied the allegations.
Prosecutor Yigael Cohen said Simcox hasn't taken responsibility for his actions. "He is not to be trusted in society. He is not to be trusted with a child," Cohen said.
Simcox escaped a mandatory life sentence after a jury in June acquitted him on a separate charge of engaging in sexual conduct with a 6-year-old girl.
Simcox made an unsuccessful attempt last year to get Padilla removed from the case, arguing that he believed the judge was a member of two Hispanic civil rights organizations and tried to help people who are in the country illegally.
Simcox isn't a lawyer but represented himself at trial. He had insisted that he should be allowed to personally question the girls on the witness stand.
The judge said questioning the girls would cause them emotional distress. In the end, Simcox got an attorney to pose the questions.
Simcox's arrest in 2013 came after his career as an advocate for tougher immigration policies had fizzled.
The Minuteman movement gained attention in 2005 when illegal immigration heated up as a national political issue. Minuteman volunteers fanned out along the nation's southern border to watch for illegal crossings and report them to federal agents.
The movement splintered after Simcox and another co-founder parted ways and headed up separate groups.
More than a decade ago, Simcox was sentenced to two years of probation for misdemeanor federal convictions that involved carrying a concealed handgun at the Coronado National Memorial near the Arizona-Mexico border.
Follow Jacques Billeaud at twitter.com/jacquesbilleaud. His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/jacques-billeaud.