Chris Simcox, the controversial co-founder of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps who is in prison for child sex crimes, missed his chance to challenge constitutional and due process issues in his case by failing to bring up the issues in his initial appeal back in 2016, the Arizona Court of Appeals ruled Friday.
Simcox, 59, was convicted in June 2016 by a jury in Maricopa County Superior Court of two acts of child molestation which occurred in April 2012. He was also convicted of furnishing obscene material to the same minor, a five-year-old girl.
Court records show Simcox represented himself at trial with the assistance of an advisory attorney. However, he did not have advisory counsel during the sentencing phase of his case which ended in a 19.5-year prison term that is ineligible for early release.
A court-appointed attorney filed Simcox’s initial appeal shortly after sentencing. The appeal raised only one issue: whether the trial judge erred by allowing the jury to hear evidence of other acts of child sexual abuse for which Simcox was not charged.
The court of appeals upheld the convictions and sentence, noting in its October 2017 decision that Simcox, as his own attorney at trial, failed to object during the other acts testimony. The appellate court also found that even though the trial judge made a procedural error related to the other acts issue, Simcox failed to show his defense was prejudiced by the error.
Simcox then filed a petition for post-conviction relief with the trial judge claiming he was denied due process because of his lack of legal counsel during the sentencing phase. And he alleged he was prejudiced by not having a chance to review the presentence report prepared for the judge.
The trial judge granted Simcox a hearing on the matter but ended up dismissing the post-conviction relief effort in August 2019. Simcox then represented himself once again, this time in a petition for review to the Arizona Court of Appeals.
But in a 3-0 decision released Sept. 25, the appellate judges found no basis for such an action. More importantly, the court of appeals’ decision notes Simcox’s constitutional and due process claims related to sentencing needed to have been addressed in his appeal back in 2016.
“As such, they are precluded due to Simcox’s failure to raise them on appeal,” the ruling states. “The [trial] court therefore did not abuse its discretion in dismissing the petition.”
The court of appeals’ decision takes effect Oct. 26 unless Simcox asks the Arizona Supreme Court to review the due process issues.
Court record show Simcox’s early work history included more than a decade as an elementary schoolteacher. In the early 2000s, he became an outspoken critic of law enforcement agencies and politicians for what he called the “intentional disregard” of illegal immigration and drug trafficking across the U.S. / Mexico border, particularly in Arizona.
Simcox used his position as publisher of the Tombstone Tumbleweed newspaper to promote his opinions, and was involved in the Civil Homeland Defense group as well as the Minuteman Project. However, it was his work with the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps (MCDC) which garnered him national media attention.
By early 2009, Simcox announced he was stepping down from MCDC to run against Senator John McCain. He bowed out before officially kicking off his campaign, around the same time a domestic violence allegation was made by his then-wife.
By that time Simcox appears to have run afoul with several anti-immigration and border security groups. One issue of debate was his unwillingness to divulge how he spent tens of thousands of dollars in donations over the years.
The molestation charges filed in June 2013 marked Simcox’s full fall from public favor. He is now expected to remain in custody of the Arizona Department of Corrections until August 2032.
Upon his release Simcox must serve a period of probation and register as a sex offender in whatever county he resides.