Did everyone see this?
The Minuteman Project, an Anatomy of a Hijacking
By Jack Sharpe
After months of defending the Minuteman Project against charlatans and con-artists, the organization and its founder, Jim Gilchrist were at their breaking point. Three of Jims once trusted advisors had attempted to hijack the name, bank accounts, domains and email lists of the Minuteman Project while orchestrating a slander campaign against Mr. Gilchrist. Many of the Minuteman Projects open border enemies in the news media intentionally mislead the public to the facts of this case to further their own agendas. I say intentionally because no real journalist would be as sloppy or selective with the truth.
For the record:
1. Jim Gilchrist is the legally recognized President of the Minuteman Project.
2. A neutral audit of the financial records has cleared Jim of any wrong doing (A PDF copy of this audit can be downloaded at Minutemanproject.com).
3. The hijackers are under court order not to represent themselves as members of the Minuteman Project.
Jim has emerged from this episode victorious, but the fight has taken its toll on the 58 year old border watchdog. When the hijackers attempted to steal the Minuteman Project they sacked the bank accounts and took the mailing lists, crippling the organization. To make matters worse, the cost to defend the Minuteman Project from the hijackers has put the organization deeply into debt; many supporters claim that this was the hijackers goal to begin with.
It seems strange that this hostile takeover attempt of the Minuteman Project happened just prior to the attempted passing of the amnesty bill, the Presidential debates and several protests to free the incarcerated border agents. It seems equally strange that three advisors out of ten would assume they had the power and mandate to seize control of a National Movement. Stranger still when you consider the fact that two of the three conspirators (Stewart and Courtney) were told that their services were no longer needed just prior to the private meeting they held at a seafood restaurant. It was then that the three of them decided to declare themselves the rightful owners of the Minuteman Project.
To understand the motives and methods of the hijackers, you need only look into their background
Although Marvin Stewart likes to represent himself as a Minister, Politician and an official in the Veterans Administration, he is in fact a fraud on all three counts. His Church, Our Lords Salvation Ministries has no members, offers no services and ministers to no one. It does, however net Mr. Stewart a few tax free dollars and a means to solicit support from the gullible. Marvin Stewart is not a member of the California Republican Party, nor even a member of the Los Angeles County Republican Party Executive Committee; he is a local volunteer central committee member in a powerless district. Marvin makes his living filing frivolous lawsuits and as an accounts receivable clerk (bill collector) at the VA hospital in Long Beach.
Deborah Peterson, AKA Deborah Courtney, AKA Debbie Sielski, AKA Anne Peters has made a reputation for herself as a charlatan and social climber. In 2004, Deborah Courtney used her special relationship with Sheriff Mike Corona to have her drunken driving, drug and weapons charges reduced to a single misdemeanor. She repaid Corona by supporting his opponent in the next election. For all Deborahs inconsistencies, she never fails to turn on her friends in a time of need.
Deborah Courtney attempted takeovers in almost every organization she has joined in the last ten years including the Aliso Viejo Republican Women Federated, the De Angelo Foundation and the Liberty Belles. It was no surprise to Orange County political insiders when they heard she had tried to steal the treasury and donor lists of the Minuteman Project. It was also no surprise to anyone that knew her that she was accused of charging the project almost $100,000, with no accomplishments to show for it (other than plagiarism and several five star hotel bills).
When Deborah Courtney started as an advisor to the Minuteman Project, she insisted that all of the advisors be given title Director and that her title be Political Director. This alone should have warned Jim Gilchrist that she was up to no good. Jim decided to allow his trusted advisors to use the title Director on the understanding that it came with no real power and could be revoked at any time.
During the time Deborah Courtney was with the Minuteman Project, she was disciplined several times for taking credit for other peoples work, charging the organization for personal expenses and never completing a task. She was removed as Jims political advisor after making a series of careless mistakes that damaged the Minuteman Projects reputation with the Republican Party. After a tearful apology (and support from Coe and Stewart), Deborah was given the task of organizing the State chapters and referring new members to the Chapter heads. Instead, Deborah began to channel new members (and their donations) to fellow conspirator, Barbara Coes organization CCIR; Jim did not discover this until several weeks after the attempted takeover.
In mid 2006, Deborah Courtney moved hijacking accomplice, Paul Sielski into her home and claimed that they had gotten married. However, Deborah is still receiving spousal support from her ex-husband and Paul still owes his ex-wife over $250,000 in back support. Deborah convinced Jim Gilchrist to hire Pauls internet security company (AACompSec) to secure the website from internet predators. Instead, Paul Sielski and his partner, Karl J. Vesterling changed the access codes to the website and diverted some of the online donations to an off-shore bank account. Paul and Karl were paid $3,500 for their services; it is still unknown how much more they stole from the donors.
The last hijacker, Barbara Coe surprised everyone when she sided with Marvin Stewart and Deborah Courtney-Peterson-Sielski-Peters. Barbara had been seen as a driving force in the movement since she wrote and became the chief proponent of Prop 187. However, as it turns out, Barbara Coe didnt write Prop 187 (Ron Prince did) and she was not the chief proponent (Dick Mountjoy was). In fact it was the California Republican Party and the California Republican Assembly that did all of the work and raised the money. What did Barbara Coe do? She took credit for the victory.
Barbara Coe built her reputation on the labor and sacrifices of patriots. She used her ill gotten cache with the liberty community to grow her organization, the California Coalition of Immigration Reform (CCIR). She neglected to inform her members that she also belonged to the Council of Concerned Citizens (CofCC), a racist group that uses the Confederate flag as its ensign. Barbara was the key note speaker at two CofCC conventions and is still a member in good standing today. Barbara neglected to tell anyone in the Minuteman Project of her connection to racist groups because she knew it wouldnt be tolerated.
Barbara Coe introduced Jim Gilchrist to CCIR and he became a regular attendee of the monthly meetings. Not knowing the truth about Barbaras past, Jim was happy to accept her support and friendship. But soon it was Jim Gilchrist that the members of CCIR came to see and the Minuteman Project they were donating to. It wasnt long before Barbara noticed that donations to CCIR were dwindling while the Minuteman Project was prospering. Barbara and Deborah Courtney hatched and implemented a plan to divert funds and volunteers from the Minuteman Project to CCIR.
The plot sickens
Barbara Coe must have known it was just a matter of time before Jim discovered that Deborah was diverting volunteers and donations to CCIR. She also knew Deborah was on thin ice with Jim; all she had to do was convince Marvin Stewart that he was next. That piece of the puzzle came from Paul Sielski, who read the truth about Stewart from an online forum; now Barbara and Deborah had the means to control Stewart, if they couldnt buy him off.
Again, each of the hijackers had something to hide and they all knew that time was running out, but they werent ready yet; they needed a few things first. Barbara Coe sent her CCIR goons to the Minuteman Project office on a day she knew that neither Jim nor Steve Eichler (Jims Chief advisor) would be there. The goons copied the mailing lists, financial records and other crucial information onto flash drives and attempted to format the hard drives. They also took files, equipment, official stationary, furniture and broke into Jims office to steal anything with his signature on it. When Jim Gilchrist heard about the break in he called Barbara Coe to ask if she knew anything about it. Barbara claimed it was to protect the Minuteman Project from Steve Eichler.
Heres where the plot gets interesting; the hijackers had to have a reason to take control of the Minuteman Project, and they needed a scapegoat. They knew that Steve Eichler had been trying to convince Mr. Gilchrist to dismiss Deborah Courtney since May, 2006. Steve Eichler had also confronted Marvin Stewart about Stewarts unauthorized spending of Minuteman Project funds for luxury items (Stewart also presented Jim Gilchrist a bill for speaking engagements). The hijackers believed that if they could drive a wedge between Eichler and Gilchrist, Jim would side with them; they could get rid of Eichler and have plenty of time to alter the records to cover their tracks. What the hijackers didnt know is that Tommy Crenshaw (Gilchrist loyalist) had recently backed up all of the files and given Jim a copy.
Jim Gilchrist immediately began reviewing the files Tommy Crenshaw had provided him a few days before. It didnt take long before he discovered the problem; someone was stealing, but it wasnt Steve Eichler. As Jim studied the books he received a call from his webmaster, Linda Muller, informing him that she had been locked out of the website. When Jim asked her who could have done such a thing Linda replied, Only Paul and I have access to change the password. It was official; Barbara Coe and Deborah Courtney were up to something.
Jim called a meeting of all parties the next day in the hope of getting some answers; it was February 2nd, 2007. The hijackers arrived together with copies of the altered documents in hand and immediately began to attack Steve Eichler; they had no idea that Jim had been reading the originals. Jim allowed the hijackers to have their say before he confronted them with copies of the original documents. Then he fired them. Deborah Courtney made one last ditch effort to blackmail Jim and Steve with threats of taking down the Minuteman Project if Jim didnt buy her off. A lesser man would have wrote a check and hoped they would go away, but not Jim Gilchrist.
And so, the war was on. The hijackers used Minuteman stationary to write up phony documents and used a scanner and laser printer to forge Jims signature. They submitted these documents to the Delaware Secretary of States office claiming to be the new board of directors of Minuteman Project; now they had the papers they needed to empty the bank accounts. The hijackers immediately changed the website; the front page had a post claiming that Jim Gilchrist had been fired and the contact page showed Marvin Stewart as the new President. The page also named Deborah Courtney as the Treasurer; a close friend of Deborah Courtneys commented that making her treasurer was like making Michael Jackson the Dean of a boys school.
As Deborah and Paul Sielski used the mailing and email list to slander Jim Gilchrist, Marvin Stewart tried to gain support from the local Republican Party. The GOP was still sore at Gilchrist for running as an Independent against John Campbell in 2005; Stewart believed he could use the Partys dislike for Gilchrist against him. However, a member/delegate of the California State Republican Party, Edwin R Williams had already warned the County Central Committee to stay clear of both sides until the matter could be sorted out in court. At the time Williams was reportedly working for the Minuteman PAC (a division of the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps), but he had once served on the Minuteman Project board as the Director of Special Projects. Edwin had warned Mr. Gilchrist about Deborah Courtney in May of 2006 when he resigned from the Minuteman Project, but he had no documented proof. It was a he said/she said situation. When asked if he believed the advisors had the power to fire Gilchrist, Williams said, They had no more power to fire Jim than I do to fire the Governor. We chose the title Director so that we could look like big shots, but Jim always had the final say in all decisions.
At the darkest hour Jims webmaster, Linda Muller was able to convince the server to freeze the Minuteman Project website until Jim could fax the paperwork, proving his ownership. It took two weeks to convince the server to issue Jim a new password; by then Linda had created a new website that featured a Hijacker Update page.
Paul Sielski was the hijackers webmaster, but he had few skills and was mostly incompetent. Paul didnt have the skill to create a new webpage, so he had all of the hijackers new domain names point to his MySpace page. Although MySpace is a good online community site, it is a poor substitute for a real website. Paul spent his time trolling for friends on MySpace, writing disjointed hate mail and making threats on online forums. Fortunately for Paul, the other hijackers were even less computer literate than he was. He lied and told them he was accomplishing important tasks, knowing they would never know the difference.
Paul posted a badly edited recording of the February 2nd, 2007 meeting on his MySpace page (minutemenfortruth.com). Of course he edited out the part where Jim fired them all and the part where Deborah became unhinged and made every threat she could think of. In fact most of the interesting parts of the meeting were removed, but what remained still made Marvin and Deborah look bad. After studying this story for the past few months, Ive come to the conclusion that Paul Sielski just isnt very bright.
Another thing the hijackers didnt know (except Deborah) is that Paul Sielski was a fugitive from the law and has a history of domestic abuse, fraud, spousal rape and battery. Paul was arrested and sent back to Maryland in July 2007, where he is awaiting trial and facing 25 years in Federal prison. You may notice that his MySpace page and the website Minutemenfortruth.com has not been updated since. So now the hijackers have no internet presence at all, except for the stolen email lists.
After the news of Pauls arrest the hijackers attorney, Jim Lacey petitioned the court to be removed from the case. He would be the first in a long line of lawyers to flee the hijackers after getting to know them. Apparently the old expression, you can get a lawyer to sue anyone for anything, may not be completely accurate.
Despite the Cease and Desist order, Deborah Courtney is still spinning lies and spewing hate through her stolen email list. Her ineloquent name calling and hateful rants have become more and more bizarre over the last few weeks. She hasnt yet learned that everything she writes has been forwarded to the Minuteman Project Attorneys who keep all such letters in a special file. The funniest thing is she apparently doesnt remember what version of her story she had already sent out to the list; her story changes from email to email.
Marvin Stewart has been taking advantage of the peoples confusion over the rightful control of the Minuteman Project. He attempted to settle a lawsuit the Minuteman Project had filed against Compton City College out of court; the trouble was, Stewart didnt file that lawsuit, Jim Gilchrist did. Once again Marvin Stewart was caught red handed committing fraud. Before this incident he had artfully avoided publicly violating the court order by calling himself, the President of the Minutemen, while having others introduce him as the President of the Minuteman Project, but now he couldnt explain away the $9,000 he attempted to con from Compton College.
Lately even Barbara Coe has distanced herself from Stewart and Courtney. Barbaras attack on Jim Gilchrist caused most of her supporters to turn their backs on her. Now CCIR is a shadow of its former self and the donations have dried up. After 20 years of taking credit for the work of others and raking in the money of well meaning patriots, Barbara Coe may be looking for a real job.
As for Jim Gilchrist, he and a few remaining advisors are trying to pick up the pieces of his shattered organization. The independent audit has returned Jims credibility, but the lawyers fees and court costs have put The Minuteman Project deeply into debt. To survive the Minuteman Project must restart fundraising efforts, rebuild their contact lists from nothing, and reconnect with the volunteers that helped Jim build the organization in the first place. That is just what Jim plans to do. When reached for comment Jim stated, this is far too important a cause to let greedy narcissists destroy it. We will move forward in this fight.
If you wish to contact Jim and The Minuteman Project, to volunteer, show support, or make a contribution, he can be reached via the official site at: www.minutemanproject.com
BTW, I thought I couldn’t tell anybody. ??????