Nathan Phillips, the Native American activist who falsely accused Covington Catholic High School students of blocking him during a confrontation he initiated, has a criminal record — including assault and escape from jail — and appears to have misrepresented his military service.
Phillips, 63, suggested high school junior Nick Sandmann, the teenager at the center of the viral encounter after separate D.C. rallies, face expulsion for failing to "accept any responsibility” or apologize to Phillips publicly.
In his own teenage years and early 20s, Phillips, using his adoptive name Nathaniel R. Stanard, was charged with escaping from prison, assault, and several alcohol-related crimes, according to local news reports at the time from his hometown of Lincoln, Neb.
Phillips, who was 19 at the time, was “charged with escaping from the Nebraska Penal Complex where he was confined May 3,” according to a May 9, 1974, article in the Lincoln Star. The court approved a bond of $500 and set a preliminary hearing for May 14.
He pleaded guilty to assault on June 19, 1974, and was fined $200. In addition, he was charged with underage possession of alcohol in 1972, 1973, and 1975, as well as negligent driving. A destruction of property charge against him was dropped in August 1973, but Phillips was sentenced to one year probation for a related charge of alcohol possession by a minor. In December 1978, he was charged with driving without a license.
Phillips also appears to have misrepresented his military service in the U.S. Marines. In April, he was quoted by Vogue as saying: "You know, I’m from Vietnam times. I’m what they call a recon ranger. That was my role."
In fact, Phillips spent most of his time in the Marines as a refrigerator technician after initially being an anti-tank missileman for four months. Phillips, then named “Stanard,” was not deployed outside the U.S. and never saw combat, according to the Marine Corps.
Military records provided to the Washington Examiner show that Phillips served in the Marine Corps Reserve between 1972 to 1976 and held the rank of private, E-1, on April 18, 1975. According to records obtained by former Navy SEAL Don Shipley, Phillips was listed as Absent Without Leave (AWOL) three times.
The Lakota People’s Law Project, some of whose members participated in the Indigenous Peoples' March with Phillips and later encountered the Covington students who had taken part in the March for Life, described Phillips as a Vietnam veteran.
That was incorrect, but Phillips himself appeared not to have claimed he was in Vietnam, repeatedly describing himself in interviews as a “Vietnam times veteran." In 2000, however, he described himself to the Washington Post as having been "a Marine Corps infantryman," without mentioning that for the vast majority of his service he had been a refrigerator technician.
Phillips did not respond to questions about his military record discrepancies or his criminal record.
In an interview on Sunday with Rewire News, Phillips criticized the Covington Catholic students for their behavior, saying Native American children would not be allowed to act that way.
“We’re indigenous. We’re different than that. When we see our youth going the wrong way, we will go up and say, 'You are doing the wrong thing there nephew, or grandson,'" he said. “This is just the wrong way. I tell them, 'This is the way you have to behave. This is wrong, this is right. You gotta do it a certain way. We have protocols.'”
“You know, if [the Covington Catholic student] was my child, I would not be happy with the school officials right now to allow my child to behave that way. I don’t care if my child is that way,” added Phillips. “When he’s out in public, he’d better behave.”
Phillips has described being forcibly taken from his birth family at the age of five and struggling with alcoholism as a young man before becoming sober. He has also spent much of his life agitating for Native American causes and seeking his own identity as a member of the Omaha Tribe.
He told CNN this week: "I was raised away from my family. I was put in foster care and so I didn't have a traditional indigenous upbringing. I was brought up just like these young guys were brought up. Well, maybe I wasn't Catholic school, but I was public school.
"And when I went back home to my reservation and I ask questions — 'Do you have an Indian name? Do you know where I could get some moccasins?' ... I wanted to know, and that cousin of mine that was sitting there, standing there and I was asking him these questions. He says, 'Go home, white boy.' That hurt."