An Arizona militia founder’s efforts to cross-examine his accusers in a child-molestation case appear to have succeeded after the Arizona Supreme Court declined to hear the accuser’s attorney’s arguments for why he should not be allowed to question the children in trial.
On Wednesday, a Maricopa County Superior Court judge set an early April date for Chris Simcox’s trial to open on allegations that he molested the children, gave them obscene materials and engaged in sexual conduct with them, though an alleged victim’s attorney signaled that he would file yet another appeal with the U.S. Supreme Court.
A trial has been delayed multiple times as prosecutors and Simcox debate the rights of the accuser vs. the accused.
In 2013, Simcox was arrested on suspicion of molesting two girls, ages 5 and 6. He elected to represent himself in the case and announced this year that would include him personally questioning the girls while they are on the witness stand.
It’s likely a precedent-setting case. Prosecutors this spring said they were unaware of any trial in Arizona that has included all of these factors: a self-representing defendant, in a sexual-abuse case, personally cross-examining a minor accuser.
Prosecutors and victims’ attorney immediately moved to block this scenario, saying it was Simcox’s attempt to manipulate and intimidate the children.
Simcox argued that would violate his right to a fair trial and to confront his accusers.
Maricopa County superior Court Judge Jose Padilla ruled in favor of Simcox. Arizona Court of Appeals judges backed Padilla’s ruling, but said Padilla could hold a hearing to listen to evidence on whether the children would be traumatized by Simcox’s questioning.
Prosecutors called in an expert witness, who testified before Padilla this summer. The result was a slightly modified order, allowing one of the alleged victims to testify via closed-circuit. The other girl will still be required to take the stand.
A separate hearing is scheduled for Jan. 29, in which Simcox will ask to be allowed to introduce evidence that another person is actually the one responsible for molesting the girls.
Jack Wilenchik, an attorney appearing on behalf of one of the alleged victims, said he plans to file an appeal in the U.S. Supreme Court. He will ask for a trial delay in the meantime.
“We’re doing anything and everything we can do to get justice here,” he said.