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March 3, 2014 0

The Arizona Effect

Josh Deinert

AP Photo/Matt York

Last week Ari­zona Gov­er­nor Jan Brewer vetoed the State’s now infa­mous “reli­gious free­dom” bill. 

The clear intent of the SB 1062 was to effec­tively allow per­sons and busi­nesses to dis­crim­i­nate against the State’s LGBT com­mu­nity by pro­vid­ing a pow­er­ful legal defense based on asser­tion of a “sin­cerely held reli­gious belief.” 

Due to its expan­sive nature, how­ever, the leg­is­la­tion would have broadly sanc­tioned religious-based dis­crim­i­na­tion whether the vic­tim was Jew­ish, Mus­lim, Protes­tant, Catholic, Mor­mon, Hindu or of no faith.   And the Anti-Defamation took a lead­er­ship role in defeat­ing this dis­crim­i­na­tory legislation.

Gov­er­nor Brewer ulti­mately vetoed SB 1062 under fierce pres­sure from the State’s civil rights and busi­ness communities.

But what hap­pens in Ari­zona does not stay in Ari­zona.  Prior to Gov­er­nor Brewer’s veto, at least twelve other states, includ­ing Geor­gia, Mis­sis­sippi, Ohio and Okla­homa, were actively con­sid­er­ing sim­i­lar leg­is­la­tion.  Due to the back­lash against SB 1062, how­ever, Geor­gia, Mis­sis­sippi, Ohio, and Okla­homa tabled their bills.  So the new talk­ing point in oppos­ing such leg­is­la­tion should be “fol­low the lead of the Ari­zona leg­is­la­ture at your peril.”

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July 18, 2013 0

Arizona Aryan Brotherhood Member Convicted Of Hate Crime For Threatening Phoenix Officer

A Phoenix jury on July 10, 2013, con­victed a self-professed mem­ber of the Ari­zona Aryan Broth­er­hood, Brian Lee Harm, of one felony count of threat­en­ing the Phoenix Police Depart­ment offi­cer who had arrested him for tres­pass­ing in August 2012.  The con­vic­tion included a hate crime enhancement.brian-lee-harm

Accord­ing to the police report filed after Harm’s arrest, the offi­cer encoun­tered Harm while respond­ing to a call about a white male wav­ing his hands in the air and yelling at pass­ing vehi­cles.   When the offi­cer found him, Harm—who matched the descrip­tion called in—was attempt­ing to force open the slid­ing glass doors of a nearby office build­ing.  The offi­cer, and a sec­ond offi­cer who soon arrived at the scene, spoke with Harm and even­tu­ally placed him under arrest for trespassing. 

Fol­low­ing his arrest, Harm became angry and abu­sive, soon laps­ing into repeated crude eth­nic slurs.  Accord­ing to the offi­cer, Harm’s rhetoric esca­lated, with Harm threat­en­ing to injure or kill the offi­cer and to “make trou­ble” for all offi­cers in the area.  When Harm stated that he was a mem­ber of the Aryan Broth­er­hood (a ref­er­ence to the Ari­zona Aryan Broth­er­hood, a large and vio­lent white suprema­cist prison gang), the offi­cer began record­ing Harm’s remarks.

Among the recorded remarks Harm made was a threat to “beat nig­ger chil­dren, too, I don’t fu–in’ care.”  Harm said that he would have “all my Broth­er­hood broth­ers” come to the neigh­bor­hood and “you’ll pay the ulti­mate price.”  He told the offi­cer that “ni—rs won’t be safe in this neigh­bor­hood” and that “it’s gonna be tough to go out to din­ner for you now.”  His remarks included many more sim­i­lar com­ments, includ­ing addi­tional threats.

Pros­e­cu­tors charged harm with felony threat­en­ing or intim­i­dat­ing as well as assist­ing a crim­i­nal street gang.  In Harm’s July 2013 trial, the jury acquit­ted Harm of the assist­ing a gang charge but found him guilty of threat­en­ing or intim­i­dat­ing.  Fur­ther­more, in the aggra­va­tion phase of delib­er­a­tions, the jury found that the offense involved the inflic­tion or threat­ened inflic­tion of seri­ous phys­i­cal injury, that the defen­dant com­mit­ted the offense with the intent to pro­mote, fur­ther or assist crim­i­nal con­duct by a crim­i­nal street gang, and that the offense was a bias crime (i.e., a hate crime).

Harm is cur­rently in the Mari­copa County Jail await­ing sentencing.

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June 20, 2013 0

Former Border Vigilante Leader Arrested For Child Molestation


Credit: Mari­copa County Sheriff’s Office

Phoenix, Ari­zona police offi­cers arrested once-prominent vig­i­lante leader Chris Sim­cox, 52, on June 19 on child molesta­tion charges.  Author­i­ties have charged Sim­cox with two counts of child molesta­tion, one count of attempted child molesta­tion, and two counts of sex­ual con­duct with a minor.  Accord­ing to police, Sim­cox had allegedly molested sev­eral vic­tims, all girls under 10 years of age, within recent months.

The arrest marked a new low for Sim­cox, who at one point in the mid-2000s achieved national noto­ri­ety for his high-profile vig­i­lante patrols along the Arizona-Mexico bor­der as one of the founders of the Min­ute­man Project.  How­ever, his fall from grace was just as rapid as his ascent.

Sim­cox spent his early adult years as a kinder­garten teacher in Cal­i­for­nia, before mov­ing to Tomb­stone, Ari­zona, where he bought a tiny news­pa­per, the Tomb­stone Tum­ble­weed, in 2002.  Sim­cox used the news­pa­per as an out­let for his anti-immigration views and soon issued a call for a “Cit­i­zens Bor­der Patrol Mili­tia” to patrol the bor­der with Mex­ico.  Sim­cox sub­se­quently started an early bor­der vig­i­lante group, Civil Home­land Defense.  By 2004, he had received pro­ba­tion and a fine fol­low­ing a con­vic­tion for car­ry­ing a firearm onto a national park.

In 2005, Sim­cox banded together with Cal­i­forn­ian Jim Gilchrist to form the Min­ute­man Project, a high-profile effort to get main­stream sup­port for bor­der vig­i­lante activ­i­ties.  In this, Sim­cox and Gilchrist were at first quite suc­cess­ful, gar­ner­ing national atten­tion and spawn­ing var­i­ous “Min­ute­man” groups across the coun­try.  For a brief period of time, Sim­cox could hob­nob with politi­cians such as Arnold Schwarzeneg­ger and Rick Perry. 

How­ever, Sim­cox and Gilchrist could not get along and parted ways, split­ting the Min­ute­man Project into two sep­a­rate orga­ni­za­tions.  Simcox’s half became the Min­ute­man Civil Defense Corps (MCDC) and focused on bor­der vig­i­lante activ­ity.  Because of Simcox’s lack of lead­er­ship skills, as well as finan­cial scan­dals, the group went into decline, shed­ding mem­bers and chap­ters.  In 2009, Sim­cox attempted a dif­fer­ent tac­tic, step­ping down from MCDC lead­er­ship and announc­ing he would attempt to unseat Ari­zona Sen­a­tor John McCain.  This was no more suc­cess­ful; by early 2010, he dropped out of the race.

The molesta­tion charges against Sim­cox are the first such crim­i­nal charges against him, but not the first alle­ga­tions against him related to chil­dren.  In 2005, Deb­o­rah Crews, one of Simcox’s ex-wives, told the South­ern Poverty Law Cen­ter that in 1998 Sim­cox allegedly “tried to molest our daugh­ter when he was intox­i­cated.”  No charges were appar­ently filed.  A sec­ond ex-wife, Kim Dun­bar, filed a suc­cess­ful legal appeal for full cus­tody of their son.  She alleged that Sim­cox had vio­lent rages, includ­ing one inci­dent in which she said Sim­cox slapped his four-year-old son hard enough to leave a mark last­ing days.

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