John Guandolo’s anti-Muslim paranoia and ill temper appear to have landed him in a heap of trouble.
Guandolo, a disgraced former FBI agent, travels the country giving anti-Muslim workshops to law enforcement agencies under the guise of counter-terrorism training seminars. His presentations are riddled with anti-Muslim conspiracy theories and overt prejudice, once saying in 2011 that mosques in America “do not have a First Amendment right to do anything.” Most recently, Guandolo delivered one of his presentations to the attendees of the National Sheriffs’ Association’s June 2017 Annual Educational & Technology Expo in Reno, Nevada. It may be his last appearance at a law enforcement event for quite some time.
While in Reno, Guandolo physically assaulted a Minnesota sheriff. The sheriff has since successfully obtained a restraining order against the noted anti-Muslim bigot.
Confidential court records sent to the Center for New Community (CNC) by an anonymous source indicate Guandolo was involved in an altercation with Hennepin County Sheriff Richard Stanek on June 28, 2017. Seeking to verify the documents, CNC staff contacted the Fourth Judicial District Court in Minnesota and were informed that all records connected to the case number listed on the documents were sealed and not subject to public disclosure. The response corroborated a detail in the documents that a judge honored the sheriff’s request that the information be kept confidential.
The Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) also confirmed the validity of the court documents to CNC staff on August 10 and provided a statement. “On June 28, 2017, Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek was physically assaulted while attending the National Sheriffs’ Association Annual Conference in Reno, Nevada,” the statement reads. “John Guandolo, of Dallas Texas, was cited for battery. Guandolo was presenting at the conference on behalf of the ‘Understanding the Threat’ organization.”
“The Hennepin County District Court has issued a Harassment Restraining Order against Guandolo. The criminal investigation is being conducted by the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office,” the HCSO added. (October 23, 2017 update: Court records indicate the Washoe County District Attorney’s Office declined to prosecute Guandolo for misdemeanor battery on September 18, 2017.)
According to the records, Guandolo and Stanek arranged to meet during the Expo at approximately 2:45 PM on June 28. A schedule published on the NSA’s website indicates that time was fifteen minutes after UTT’s presentation at the expo ended.
Tension between Stanek and Guandolo dates back to October 2016, when the latter published an article titled “In This War Minnesota’s Twin Cities Are Lost” on UTT’s website. In it, Guandolo laments the presence of mosques in Stanek’s jurisdiction and made the outlandish claim that “under the watch of Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek, the jihadi threat has increased exponentially.” Guandolo also criticizes Stanek because he “has refused briefings on the threat from UTT” and instead supposedly works “with jihadis in the community.”
During their meeting in Reno, Stanek apparently took issue with Guandolo’s allegations and, according to court records, “questioned the accuracy of the article.” Guandolo “reacted by accusing [Stanek] of supporting Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood.”
Figures within the organized anti-Muslim movement regularly and falsely smear their political opponents, claiming they support or belong to such groups. To this end, Guandolo and other anti-Muslim paranoiacs outrageously claim any interaction with Muslim civil society and advocacy organizations suggests involvement in a conspiratorial plot to destroy the United States from within.
“The conversation became contentious” following Guandolo’s allegation and he began repeatedly stating he was a combat veteran, court records reveal. Stanek accordingly “stood up and announced that the meeting was over,” to which Guandolo responded by calling Stanek a “fucking asshole” before physically confronting the sheriff.
“[Guandolo] put the palms of his hands onto [Stanek’s] chest and forcibly pushed [Stanek] causing his head to snap backwards and fall into the wall behind him,” records also reveal. Guandolo then proceeded to throw “two closed-fist punches at [Stanek] striking him once in the area of [Stanek’s] left face/chin.” The court records indicate Washoe County, Nevada Sheriff’s deputies obtained surveillance video of Guandolo punching the sheriff.
On July 19, the Fourth Judicial District Court granted a restraining order, preventing Guandolo from having any “direct or indirect contact with” Stanek, including phone calls and other forms of electronic communication. The order also prohibits Guandolo from being within a quarter-mile of Stanek’s home and within 100 feet of two government buildings in Minneapolis. The order is in effect for two years.
The incident is a disturbing example of the threat Guandolo’s conspiracy-laden anti-Muslim zeal poses. If someone like Guandolo, who UTT-produced materials identify as “a Special Deputy Sheriff in Culpeper County, Virginia,” can be so consumed with anti-Muslim fervor that he would attack a law enforcement officer he perceives as collaborating with his enemies, it raises concerns about all those participating in training courses led by him and his UTT colleagues.
The incident also raises concerns over the National Sheriff’s Association’s willingness to host Guandolo in the first place. Guandolo has been particularly active in 2017 and presented at two NSA events in the last six months This is partly due to now-former NSA President, Sheriff Greg Champagne of St. Charles Parish, Louisiana, who endorsed Guandolo and UTT in a December 2016 letter publicized by UTT. Champagne co-sponsored a UTT training in September 2016 and has encouraged his law enforcement colleagues to host UTT trainings. CNC obtained a copy of a letter written by Champagne suggesting the sheriff has tempered his support for Guandolo following the incident in Reno.
Champagne’s letter is dated June 30, 2017, two days after the altercation between Guandolo and Stanek, and indicates the Louisiana sheriff has retracted his official support for UTT as a NSA representative. The bigoted and conspiratorial content of UTT’s training seminars does not appear to be what irked Champagne. Instead, Champagne objected to the fact that Guandolo “published online comments highly critical of a fellow sheriff and board member of the National Sheriffs’ Association,” an apparent reference to Guandolo’s October 2016 article about Stanek.
The letter clarifies that Champagne’s previous endorsement, which was printed on NSA letterhead and distributed by UTT, only reflected his views “and not those of the NSA as an organization.”
“I am hereby retracting the letter I sent to you on December, 2016, and am requesting that you immediately cease using the letter in any of your printed, electronic or seminar materials,” Champagne’s letter concludes.
When reached for comment, Sheriff Champagne refused to confirm the letter’s existence or discuss any other topic with CNC staff.
NSA Executive Director Jonathan Thompson also apparently sent a message to NSA members condemning UTT on June 28, 2017, approximately six hours after the reported confrontation between Guandolo and Stanek.
“Importantly, the NSA does not endorse this organization, its principle, its messages or its materials,” Thompson writes, omitting the fact that Guandolo and UTT have presented at NSA events this year under his executive directorship. “The NSA will oppose any and every organization that attacks members of our association, our partner agencies, or law enforcement.”
Thompson’s condemnation is a crucial step in delegitimizing extremists like Guandolo within law enforcement circles. That it took Guandolo assaulting an NSA board member for the law enforcement group’s leadership to re-evaluate its relationship with UTT is certainly unfortunate. Any organization distancing itself from UTT is a welcome development. However, the NSA can and should do more to distance itself from extremist outfits like UTT. As a CNC report released last month details, the NSA has similarly collaborated with known anti-immigrant groups like the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR).
Earlier this month, Thompson dismissed the report as “a novel of fiction“ without refuting any of the facts it presents. Attempts to seek comment from Thompson via telephone regarding his organization’s association with Guandolo, UTT, and other extremist groups went unanswered at the time of publication. This post will be updated if and when a response is received.
As for Guandolo’s future, it appears he won’t be traveling to the Twin Cities anytime soon, but what about elsewhere in the country? UTT’s website indicates the organization will host a week-long “Train the Trainer” program beginning Monday, August 14, but does not provide a location. At this time, Guandolo has not responded to an email request for comment.
Affidavit and Petition for Harassment Restraining Order against Guandolo:
Order Granting Harassment Restraining Order:
Email from Johnathan Thompson to NSA membership:
Letter from Sheriff Greg Champagne to Guandolo: