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Rick Scuteri, File, Associated Press
FILE - This May 22, 2007 file photo shows Chris Simcox, founder and President of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps, in Phoenix. Opening statements are scheduled Wednesday afternoon, May 18, 2016, at the trial of a founder of the Minuteman border-watch movement on charges that he sexually abused two young girls. Christopher Allen Simcox denies the allegations and has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

PHOENIX — The sex abuse trial for one of the founders of the Minuteman movement opened Wednesday with a prosecutor saying that the leader of the border-watch group that was briefly at the center of the nation's immigration debate a decade ago had an inappropriate love for young girls.

Christopher Allen Simcox is charged with molesting a 5-year-old girl and engaging in sexual conduct with a 6-year-old girl during an 11-month period ending in May 2013. Simcox denies the allegations.

"At the end of this trial, you will have heard evidence that establishes beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant satisfied his love of little girls," prosecutor Yigael Cohen told jurors during opening statements.

Simcox, who isn't a lawyer but is nonetheless representing himself, told jurors that he has been vilified in the past for his political views and noted that he is angry about the allegations against him. He has been jailed since his June 2013 arrest.

"If you listen to both sides, the prosecution's case will collapse like a house of cards," said Simcox, who promised to testify later at the trial.

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.

Earlier in the sex abuse case, Simcox drew the ire of prosecutors and victim representatives when he insisted that he should be allowed to personally question the girls while they take the witness stand.

Prosecutors argued that letting Simcox question the girls would cause them emotional distress. They wanted to have an attorney pose the questions on Simcox's behalf.

In the end, Simcox abandoned his plan to question the girls.