Richard Ruelas Uriel J. Garcia Arizona Republic
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Jennifer Harrison, a leader of Arizona’s Patriot movement who has led high-profile anti-immigrant protests at the state Capitol and across Phoenix, has been charged with felony identity theft.
Harrison is accused of using hotel points that belonged to her former in-laws, using their email address to access their cellphone service account and forging a press credential to access an event at Grand Canyon University where Donald Trump Jr. was a speaker, according to paperwork filed in Maricopa County Superior Court.
Harrison was first arrested in October 2019 by Surprise police. At the police station, according to a probable cause document, she told officers she was innocent, kicked over a trash can and used profanity.
“Jennifer created a scene at the PD (police department) and in the booking room because she believes she is above the law and does not want to be treated like a criminal,” the document says.
At the request of the prosecutor’s office, Surprise police investigated further and resubmitted the case earlier this year. But the case stalled because COVID-19 forced prosecutors and the courts to prioritize cases that posed an immediate danger to the public, a spokeswoman for the prosecutor’s office said in April.
Harrison was charged in September in a direct complaint from the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office. Harrison’s initial court appearance was Oct. 14. She was released on her own recognizance and scheduled to return to court for ahearing in November.
Harrison, who was not politically active nor had even voted before the 2016 candidacy of President Donald Trump, became a public figure by sheer will. Using a megaphone and streaming video of her activities to Facebook, she gained a social media following as she antagonized individuals engaged in their own protests or, at times, simply walking the Capitol grounds.
In her protests, she often complained of the perils of unchecked illegal immigration.
In one of her protest campaigns, which would entangle her in a federal civil rights lawsuit, she fretted whether churches were properly vetting migrant families who had applied for refugee status.
Beginning in December 2018, Harrison and other self-proclaimed Patriots filmed busloads of migrants as they were led to churches across the city. The churches were helping the migrants resettle in the United States, sometimes placing them with host families who had volunteered to shelter them for a few days.
But Harrison and others thought that the migrants were gaming the system. They also thought they were witnessing a possible child sex trafficking ring. Harrison, on video streamed to her Facebook page, loudly asked whether the identities of the children and families and been verified using DNA.
Harrison settled the lawsuit with the churches, agreeing to not engage in similar harassment again.
Harrison was one of the administrators of a closed Facebook group for Patriot Movement AZ that trafficked in Islamophobia, homophobia and racism, according to an Arizona Republic investigation that reviewed thousands of postings in the group from 2016 to 2019.
Several notable Republicans were part of the group, including Dave Giles, who is seeking a seat in Congress, and Merissa Hamilton, who is running for mayor of Phoenix. Several members of the closed group have run for office or hold official positions within the Republican Party.
Harrison told The Republic that, despite her frequent posts, she did not spend that much time in the group and only occasionally moderated content that openly advocated violence.
‘I think she needs to pay for what she did’
Harrison was charged with one felony count of taking the identity of another. She refused to comment on Tuesday, deferring to her attorney, who did not respond to a request for comment.
According to Carol Harrison, the ex-mother-in-law of Jennifer Harrison, she checked her hotel points balance one day and found the account nearly drained. The points had been used for hotel reservations in California.
Carol Harrison did not return a call on Tuesday. But, in a previous interview with The Republic, she said the email for the hotel account had been changed to Jennifer Harrison’s email address. That appeared to be a way to prevent the couple from being notified that the points were being used, Carol Harrison said.
“She used all the points she could,” Carol Harrison said of Jennifer Harrison. The points were used for three nights, she said. The remaining points in the account were insufficient for an additional night, Carol Harrison said.
Jennifer Harrison attended a three-day Aftershock festival in Sacramento in October 2019, headlined by Slipknot, Blink-182 and Tool, and reviewed and photographed the event for an online magazine run by her boyfriend, Michael Pavlock.
Carol Harrison said she had initially given Jennifer Harrison access to her hotel account while she was still in a relationship with Carol Harrison’s son.
Jennifer Harrison’s dad died and the family planned a memorial service in New York. Carol Harrison said she allowed Jennifer Harrison to use the points to book rooms for family members traveling from Arizona.
The couple figured she had saved the account information for all of these years.
“She did not have permission to use them this time,” Carol Harrison said.
A Surprise Police Department detective had told the couple earlier this year that he was going to attempt to refile the case against Jennifer Harrison. But, the couple said, he sought their permission to do so.
“Go for it,” Carol Harrison said she told him. “I think she needs to pay for what she did.”
A police report released by Surprise police earlier this year included interviews with Jennifer Harrison’s two adult children and ex-husband who described Harrison as a liar, manipulator and narcissist whose political antics made her a danger to the community.
Her creation of the group AZ Patriots came as her political views grew more “radical” and were part of her efforts to become “internet famous,” the police report says.
“Jennifer Harrison has a narcissistic personality and must be the center of attention,” a Surprise police detective wrote in the report. “The information from her phone bares this out. (H)undreds and hundreds of ‘selfies,’ pictures documenting daily life, videos of Jennifer and Mikey (Harrison’s boyfriend) at the US/Mexico border, at home, at concerts, etc.”
The ex-husband said Harrison split from Patriot Movement AZ, a different group that staged protests against illegal immigration, and founded AZ Patriots so she could become “Facebook famous” and an “internet superstar,” according to the police report.
Fake news credential
Surprise police began to investigate Jennifer Harrison in September 2019, when Harrison’s former mother-in-law, Carol Harrison, reported to detectives that Jennifer Harrison had fraudulently accessed Carol’s AT&T cellphone account.
The police report says Jennifer Harrison reactivated her cellphone service but had not paid the monthly service charge or made payments on the phone.
Carol Harrison reached out to police again to report the stolen hotel points.
Then, in October 2019, Jennifer Harrison tweeted four pictures, one of which shows a media credential that mentions Reporters Without Borders, an international nonprofit organization based in Paris that advocates for freedom of the press.
She tweeted that she was at the Culture War event, a gathering hosted at Grand Canyon University at which Donald Trump Jr. was a speaker, in October 2019.
“I also verified that this credential was forged as Jennifer (Harrison) is not associated with Reporters Without Borders and the two logos at the bottom of the credential are copyrighted,” the detective wrote in his report.