Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Minuteman founder Jim Gilchrist's ties to Shawna Forde were close right up to her arrest for murder

-- by Dave

A couple of weeks ago, when Harvard University withdrew its invitation to Minuteman founder Jim Gilchrist to speak at a forum on immigration, Gilchrist could be heard whining that he was being unfairly smeared for his incendiary rhetoric.

Neil Cavuto, for instance, hosted Gilchrist on his Fox News show Oct. 16, and mostly blew sunshine up Gilchrist's butt, talking about how he was a war hero, and didn't those mean students know he had fought for their free-speech rights, blah blah blah. Then he added:

Cavuto: What the kids were saying in those pre-law classes was that you were going around, rounding up at the border illegal immigrants, was tantamount to, uh, physical abuse, some of them were saying. And that you were advocating violence. Now, I know that's not your schtick, or what you're saying, and it's a gross exaggeration of what you do -- that was the kids' position. What do you make of that?

Gilchrist: Ah, the kid is, obviously he's stupid. And if anyone should be banned and barred from Harvard University, it should be a student that stupid.

Somehow, that level of discourse is about the kind of reply we've come to expect from Jim Gilchrist. Because the problem isn't, as Cavuto put it, that Gilchrist is "advocating violence". Rather, as we've explained, the problem is that his rhetoric creates permission for violence, and his real-life activities help produce real-life violence -- including the murders of a 9-year-old girl and her father. That, as we reported, was the key reason for Harvard declining its invitation.

What may have been the deciding factor, it turns out, may have been Jim Gilchrist's history of bad judgment catching up to him -- namely, his long association with Shawna Forde, the leader of a gang of "tacital" Minutemen who, in a failed effort to finance their activities through robbery, shot and killed a 9-year-old girl and her father late at night in their home in cold blood.

Of course, we're already noted Fox's extreme allergy to reporting this story. So it's not surprising that Cavuto was utterly unaware of this dimension of the story. And it's a far more substantial matter than Gilchrist has been willing to admit.

My friend Scott North at the Everett Herald recently published a riveting account of just how deeply Gilchrist and Forde were intertwined. Indeed, he was working to help promote her "work" on the border intensely during the two weeks between the murders and Forde's arrest -- and may have tipped her off that she was being sought by federal SWAT teams:

Jim Gilchrist counts himself among those fooled by Forde.

He stuck with her when some questioned her methods. He stood by her through the blood and tumult in Everett that started last December. He remained her ally right up until the day she was arrested in connection with the two murders in Arivaca, Ariz.

"If she hadn't been able to use me she would have used somebody else," Gilchrist said. "It is so unfortunate because I really thought this person, in spite of her checkered past had, in lieu of a better term, 'found Jesus' and really wanted to be a do-gooder."

Gilchrist said he was oblivious to the behind-the-scenes drama at his 2007 speech in Everett. He'd never met Forde before she e-mailed to arrange his travel. He was impressed by her and her fledgling Minutemen operation and donated the money he was paid to cover his travel expenses to Everett -- cash that actually came from Parris.

Gilchrist gave that money to Forde.

Forde arrived in Gilchrist's life at a time when his running feud with Simcox and other Minutemen leaders left him in need of allies.

He communicated with Forde largely by e-mail, telling her he admired her dedication. Forde praised Gilchrist for being controversial.

"You are a powerful man when in name only you can stir a state," Forde wrote. "I just am amazed sometimes. I've never been attacked so much for a associate. But you are my friend and I'm proud to be associated with you so (expletive) 'em!!"

By early 2008 Gilchrist had made Forde the Minuteman Project's border patrol coordinator. He sent volunteers her way, telling them she "is one tough lady." Forde's role in bringing Gilchrist to Everett was noted in a profile of Minutemen figures around the country prepared by the Southern Poverty Law Center, a high-profile Alabama-based civil-rights watchdog group.

Gilchrist now says his only concerns about Forde revolved around her claims that she was using "undercover" tactics to infiltrate border-area drug traffickers.

"I really thought that she was getting into the wrong crowd and was going to end up murdered," he said.

Gilchrist stood by Forde when her ex-husband was shot, after her reported rape and after her mysterious shooting, when she was wounded in the arm. When The Herald in February revealed Forde's history of childhood felonies and teenage prostitution, Gilchrist said what mattered more was her ability to overcome a troubled past.

"She is no whiner," he wrote at the time. "She is a stoic struggler who has chosen to put country, community and a yearning for a civilized society ahead of avarice and self-glorifying ego."

Gilchrist remained in touch with Forde after she left Everett without giving detectives a chance to question her closely about the attempted murder of her ex-husband.

On the Minuteman Project Web site, Gilchrist continued to post press releases and Forde's dispatches detailing her Arizona border exploits.

One of the last arrived on May 31, just hours after the Arivaca killings.

Forde reported that she and her group had been in "boots on the ground" patrols of the border for eight days and had observed thousands of pounds of dope being smuggled into the country.

"A (sic) American family was murdered 2 days ago including a 9 year old girl," Forde wrote. "Territory issue's (sic) are now spilling over like fire on the US side and leaving Americans so afraid they will not even allow their names to be printed in any press releases."

In a few days Gilchrist began receiving e-mails from a Minuteman in Tucson who had previously let Forde's teenage daughter live at his home. The man asked Gilchrist why a SWAT team had shown up at his door looking for Forde.

"I called her," Gilchrist said. "She was as calm as can be."

Forde told him there was no cause for worry. The man, she said, was a disgruntled former member of her group.

At the same time, though, she was sending out a list of 17 people around the country she wanted contacted if she was arrested or killed. After her arrest, Gilchrist learned he was 10th on her list.

He and Steve Eichler, executive director of the Minuteman Project, almost certainly were among the last people Forde e-mailed before her June 12 arrest. They talked about adding her and her officers to their Web site's list of national Minutemen leaders.

"The border is going to be HOT. Good things to come my brother," Forde wrote Eichler that morning. She was in police handcuffs later that day.

Gilchrist has since scrubbed references to Forde from his Web site. He says she appears to have cloaked her true self behind the Minutemen movement.

Gilchrist complained to Neil Cavuto in that Oct. 16 appearance that he was being "deprived of my free speech" by the Harvard withdrawal. But the Harvard student organization was just doing its due diligence. It's one thing to invite someone who has controversial ideas; it's entirely another to legitimize someone actively associated with terroristic murders.

Moreover, Gilchrist is still free to speak as he pleases wherever he likes, but those rights don't guarantee him the opportunity to speak at Harvard. Free-speech rights, after all, are all about government censorship, not the due discretion of private or academic organizations.

Cross-posted at Crooks and Liars.

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