- Associated Press - Monday, June 6, 2016

PHOENIX (AP) - A founder of the Minuteman border-watch movement who’s on trial on sexual abuse charges shouldn’t be believed when he questions the motives of two young girls he is accused of victimizing, a prosecutor told jurors Monday during closing arguments.

Prosecutor Yigael Cohen scoffed at Christopher Allen Simcox’s claim that the girls were pressured by adults in their lives to bring the allegations. “Why would she say these things if they didn’t happen?” Cohen said of one of the victims.

Authorities say Simcox molested a 5-year-old girl and engaged in sexual conduct with a 6-year-old girl during an 11-month period ending in May 2013.

Simcox, who isn’t a lawyer but nonetheless is representing himself, told jurors that he didn’t abuse the girls.

“I would never do such a thing,” he said. He has pleaded not guilty to charges of child molestation, sexual conduct with a minor and furnishing obscene materials to minors.

Simcox claimed that one of the victims had been coaxed to provide false allegations, drawing a strong objection from the prosecutor, who said Simcox was misstating fact.

Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Jose Padilla repeatedly warned Simcox that he couldn’t mention things in court that weren’t introduced into evidence. The judge raised the possibility of calling a mistrial after Simcox mentioned things that hadn’t been brought up in court previously.

Before closing arguments, jurors were shown a video from a police interview with one of the two girls.

The girl, who had just finished kindergarten, sat in an overstuffed living room chair as she recalled specific details of the encounter, including an allegation that Simcox had viewed adult pornography while in the presence of children.

Cohen criticized Simcox for giving inconsistent testimony, saying Simcox had denied in court that he watched pornography even though he had acknowledged doing so during a 2013 police interview.

Jurors began deliberations late Monday afternoon.

Simcox’s arrest in June 2013 came after his career an advocate for tougher immigration policies had fizzled.

The Minuteman movement stepped into the spotlight in 2005 as 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.

Simcox, who once served as publisher of the Tombstone Tumbleweed newspaper, went on to briefly enter Arizona’s 2010 U.S. Senate primary against incumbent John McCain but dropped out of the race. His name didn’t appear on the ballot.

More than a decade ago, Simcox was sentenced to two years of probation for misdemeanor convictions in federal court for carrying a concealed handgun at the Coronado National Memorial near the Arizona-Mexico border in January 2003.

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Follow Jacques Billeaud at twitter.com/jacquesbilleaud. His work can be found at https://bigstory.ap.org/content/jacques-billeaud.


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