By David Schwartz
PHOENIX (Reuters) - The co-founder of the vigilante border patrol group known as the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps was sentenced on Monday to 19 1/2 years in an Arizona prison for molesting a five-year-old girl who was the friend of his daughter, prosecutors said.
Christopher Allen Simcox, 55, who helped form the Minuteman militia group in 2005, received the sentence following a hearing in Maricopa County Superior Court in Phoenix stemming from his contact with the girl between April 2012 and May 2013.
Simcox, whose group devoted itself to patrolling the United States-Mexico border in search of immigrants trying to cross illegally into Arizona and reporting them to authorities, was convicted in June on two felony counts of child molestation. He also was found guilty of a single felony count of providing obscene material to a minor.
Authorities said he molested the girl during parental visits with one of his daughters and showed the victim pornographic movies.
Simcox, who acted as his own attorney during his trial, was acquitted of three counts of the more serious offense of engaging in sexual conduct with another girl, who was six years old. Those charges carried a mandatory sentence of life in prison.
“The defendant committed unconscionable acts against a young child, the emotional and psychological effects of which she’ll have to deal with her entire life,” said County Attorney Bill Montgomery, in a statement.
“Today’s sentence won’t take back the harm he has done, but it removes the opportunity for him to prey on another child.”
Prosecutors had sought a 36 1/2 year prison sentence.
An attorney who advised Simcox during the trial could not be reached for comment. Simcox had maintained his innocence since his arrest in June 2013.
Simcox helped form a border watch group that for several years sought to highlight the U.S. government’s failure to stop the flow of undocumented immigrants across the southwestern border from Mexico.
The group patrolled in southern Arizona, reporting suspected illegal border crossers to the U.S. Border Patrol before disbanding in 2010. That same year, Simcox launched a failed bid for the U.S. Senate.
(Reporting by David Schwartz in Phoenix; Editing by Steve Gorman, Sharon Bernstein and Bill Rigby)